This summer I had the opportunity to travel to Fort Knox, Ky., the United States’ largest Army base, which exposed me to new viewpoints on life.
I was one of 25 interns hired to work in the public affairs office for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Cadet Command. While this experience was incredible in itself, perhaps the most rewarding lesson of my internship was being in a different part of the country during a summer of major news events and discussing them with interns from around the country.
During the summer there were three major events that created discussion among my peers and made me consider other viewpoints besides my own.
The first was when gay marriage was legalized in all 50 states. It was exciting to experience the sort of atmosphere this created on the base. For example, a couple of interns were from the New York and Washington, D.C., areas – two places where gay pride events have been celebrated for a number of years. The interns were overjoyed and celebrated this win for the movement. Both of them had participated in gay rights events, and to see them hear the news first-hand was an experience I will never forget.
The next major event was the shooting in Chattanooga, Tenn., at a Navy military recruiting facility. I happened to be near Chattanooga just a day before, and working for another branch of military struck a sadness around the base. This event sparked many conversations about gun control and safety, not only for the base but also for our individual campuses. In this case, many interns came from areas where mass shootings have happened and there were nights spent discussing gun control on campus, a topic still prevalent at the University of South Dakota.
When the church shooting in neighboring Charleston, S.C., took place, similar discussions about gun control occurred. An issue even larger than guns though was the subject of racism. I had an eye-opening experience being down South during this event, because I was able to experience first-hand the anger this event sparked and the unique facts I learned.
One of the interns who was from Georgia told me in some high schools in the South there are still segregated proms, a fact which both blew my mind and broke my heart to hear. Another intern, who was from South Carolina, said there are still separations among different races in his high school and college because “that’s just the way it is.” These are issues that I’ve never personally experienced and was news to me as well as other interns from around the country.
Overall, my experiences this summer socializing with people from different parts of the country was rewarding. I was able to learn about different ways of life around the country, different political stances and gain a better understand how issues in the news affect residents of different states.
I wholeheartedly encourage students to travel during their college years to get a similar experience. Whether it be in the U.S. or to another country, it is a chance to open your eyes to the way the world works and how other people think.