How much do you know about Madagascar?
One State College Area High School graduate got an up close encounter with the world’s 46th largest country and fourth largest island.
Ty Millward admitted he didn’t know much about the country.
“I saw those cartoon movies,” he said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘I don’t even know where Madagascar is.’”
Millward, who is the starting 174-pound wrestler for West Virginia University, is a cadet in the college’s ROTC program. Over the summer, he took part in the Cultural Understanding Language Proficiency program, which allows cadets in ROTC programs from all over the United States to take trips to different countries around the world. It immerses them into a different culture for about a month. Millward said he had team members from Western Kentucky, South Florida, Oklahoma State and Hofstra with him during his time.
“They (Army) are trying to develop more adaptive and culturally understanding leaders,” Millward said. “You get to work with other militaries, learn about other people’s culture and make some friends. I think there was 38-42 different countries you could go to.”
Millward said he had to choose a continent he wanted to visit.
He chose Africa, basing his decision on his grandfather’s trip to Kenya.
“He brought back pictures,” Millward said. “I just think there is so much history and importance going on over in Africa. It was just something I wanted to experience, so I put that down.”
Two months after applying for the program, Millward learned he was chosen and was on his way toward his dream.
He was supposed to go Angola.
However, plans changed and the coordinators had to cancel the trip. Heartbreak quickly changed to joy for Millward.
“I was upset,” he said. “Two days after (the trip was canceled), they made me aware that they are willing to send people who were supposed to go to Angola to Madagascar and they asked me if I wanted to go. I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll go,’ and did some research and was really excited.”
Millward said his trip began in South Africa. He went on a tour of Johannesburg — the capital of the Gauteng province.
He basically felt right at home.
“It was beautiful,” he said. “The roads were amazing and there was KFC there too. It was almost like the United States.”
He got a cultural shock when he stepped off the plane in Madagascar. He couldn’t get over the size of the airport and how loose the security was there.
On his way to his hotel in the country’s capital of Antananarivo, it didn’t get any better.
“I was blown back by the shacks along the side of the road and how many people there were,” Millward said. “They were like either stuffed in vans or riding bikes or walking and carrying things on their heads. I was just in complete shock for the first three days I was there, for sure.”
It was his first trip out of the United States.
Millward made sure to make the most of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by taking it all in and learning as much as possible.
“Definitely being in a third-world country is very humbling,” he said. “It really opened my eyes at how thankful and grateful I am for all of the things that I have. Also, how lucky I am to be an American citizen.”
Millward is now focusing on wrestling.
He is 1-5 on the young season for the Mountaineers.
Millward’s season might not be going as he would like, but he doesn’t let anything get him down now.
“I think about it all the time,” he said of his Madagascar trip. “Everyday I can wake up and if I’m having a bad day, I kind of just think back to some of the days where I woke up over there at four in the morning and some of the kids haven’t eaten but they are running around the town with a smile on their face.
“Things like that can definitely brighten my day and make me know that things aren’t that bad and I can carry on.”