Two British exchange students are enrolled at VMI this fall – and both spent the first month of the semester adjusting not only to one of the hottest Virginia Septembers in recent memory, but also to the VMI way of doing things.
Sam Berry, a fusilier, or private, in the Royal Welsh Army, a regiment of the British Army, and his longtime friend Oliver Flack, an officer cadet who will also enter the British Army, came to VMI from the University of Salford, Manchester, U.K.
Both Berry and Flack are enrolled in the University Officers Training Course, which is the British equivalent of ROTC. Salford has no military affiliation, so Berry and Flack take their UOTC training at a military barracks site away from the university.
“You have university life and you have military life, and they’re kind of separate,” explained Flack. Coming to VMI, he noted, was a way for him and Berry to integrate the military and academic portions of their lives.
“Since we’re both at a civilian college or university, it kind of made sense to come to a more military-focused environment,” explained Flack. “You can work on some skills while studying.”
For his part, Berry noted that the British Army expects its officers to be “cultured, well-rounded people” and that with this goal in mind, travel is encouraged.
While at VMI, both are training with the Army ROTC, and both have found the transition rather seamless.
“It just seems like I fit,” noted Berry. “It seems like back home.” This summer, before arriving at VMI, he joined a U.S. Army unit training in Michigan and likewise found the training well in line with his expectations. NATO member nations, he commented, seem to have more similarities than differences in their military training.
Academics, though, have been a big surprise. Both Berry and Flack explained that under the British university system, there is no homework. Students are expected to keep up with the reading for each class during the semester, but no one is checking to make sure they do so. There’s one essay required per class and one exam.