Matthew Gardner of Aurora spent a few weeks this summer in Guatemala through the University of Dayton's military cultural immersion program.

He is one of 13 cadets in the University of Dayton's Army Reserve Officer Training Corps who participated in the Army's Cultural Understanding and Language Proficiency program.

The cadets spent up to four weeks immersed in a foreign culture, practicing leadership skills, learning more about how other others around the world view the U.S. and, in the process, learning more about themselves.

"Every cadet we've placed in the CULP program has come back and said it was a life-changing experience," said LTC Daniel Redden, professor of military science and leadership and commander of the Army ROTC program at the University of Dayton.

"It broadens their horizons and exposes them to ways they can make a difference, through simple actions."

The missions are designed to immerse ROTC cadets in various languages, cultures and socioeconomic situations so the cadets can learn, through personal experience, respect and appreciation that theirs is not the only culture in the world.

About 1,400 cadets from colleges across the U.S. participated in CULP in more than 40 countries.