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Reconcile

(The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link   All Posts
 Justin Sherman The transition into college life was abrupt and shocking—R-Day and Swab Summer—but I also had a pretty long orientation (seven weeks long!). Therefore at times I find it difficult to truly feel like I’m in college.

One night this summer, a 2011 graduate of the Academy spoke to my company before Taps; he told us that no matter what we did, we could never make the Academy a civilian college because the rules and culture among the cadets prohibited the type of atmosphere you’d find in civilian colleges and universities. Nevertheless, I’ve spent the last month and a half trying to reconcile my understanding of what “regular” college is supposed to look and feel like and what it’s like here. These are my ideas so far—but let me warn you, some of these are a bit of a stretch.

What’s does everyone talk about when they talk about college? Parties. Yup, we still have parties here, just not the type you’d expect. How about shoe and boot shining parties. There are also study parties and morale parties, too.

Like regular college students, we still live off crackers and peanut butter and Chinese food delivery because it’s too inconvenient to go to the dining hall (especially for us fourth class since we have to “square meals”), even though our wardroom (dining hall) is in the same building as our rooms.

We can still sleep in—if we’re awarded a late rack—but sleeping in means sleeping until 0745 (7:45 AM). We still have class schedules that give us an afternoon or morning (or both) off.

We still have to do our own laundry and manage our money. OK, so finding a job to earn a paycheck isn’t our biggest concern (it’s a bit easier for us than at other universities…).

We still have a residence assistant, or at least the closest thing to it. For the fourth class (4/c), our RA is a special second class (2/c) called the guidon. Our guidon checks the condition of our room: swept and buffed or vacuumed, trash out, clothes and other gear stowed and put away in their proper places; the guidon also ensures that we 4/c are completing our duties, including doing well in our classes and is in charge of any necessary discipline. But the guidon isn’t the only one who monitors these things. We have three more RA’s which we call masters at arms (MAAs) who also check the condition of all the rooms in our wing area of Chase Hall.

We still have the challenge of learning to live with a roommate, of keeping both halves of the room clean (thankfully, we have to keep our rooms clean and neat), of feeling bad for staying up late working on homework while your roommate is trying to sleep. I am fortunate, my roommate, Ryan, is a great guy who is fine with my keeping the desk lamp on while he falls asleep. Because we have to get up by 0600 for formation—unless one of us is taking a late rack—we never have to worry about getting up earlier than the other and waking him.

I’m pretty proud of my list of comparisons, but despite the similarities with what I pictured to be a regular college, I still don’t feel as if I’m actually in college. Maybe it’s because my classes and course schedule don’t feel much different from what it was like in high school. Or maybe it’s the fact that every day I am reminded that we’re not typical college students and that the Coast Guard Academy is a more than an ordinary college. No, it’s a military academy and far from any mainstream image of a college. Each day, with our military trainings and obligations added to our already busy schedule, I can’t forget that I’m in the Coast Guard. I think it’s time to find a new idea about what my college experience—or should I say my officer training experience, is going to be like.

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