February was a month of making some pretty big decisions – ones that will determine the exact path of my Academy journey from this point forward. That’s what this time—that is, the second semester of third class year—is all about. We are almost halfway done with our Academy experience (in May we will “celebrate” our 100th week in the training program—but more on that later!), so it’s time to start thinking about our course as we navigate the last two years at the Academy before heading out of the “harbor” (the Academy) and into the “open ocean” (Coast Guard fleet). Ok, enough of the cheesy analogies.
February was actually capped by the two big decisions. The first decision came at the beginning of the month. We, the third class, are preparing for this upcoming summer when we will be cadre—trainers, leaders of the incoming class. Long story short, I had to decide between being a cadre here in Chase Hall (the main “drill sergeants” of Swab Summer) or go on Eagle, the Coast Guard’s training vessel. I’ve always wanted to be a Swab Summer cadre, ever since going through it myself. Why? Well, it seemed fun. It was in the spotlight. But (another long story short) the fall semester showed me that there is more to the Academy experience than being in the spotlight and doing what is fun. It’s about stretching oneself outside of our comfort zone. Yes, being a Chase Hall cadre would have been a challenge for me, but Eagle will be even that more out of my comfort zone (and I’m super excited for the opportunity!). I actually had a spreadsheet that I made comparing all the cadre positions—there were actually 11 to choose from. See, 2/c summer isn’t just about being a cadre. That’s only three weeks long. There are eight other weeks of training programs (and three weeks of leave/vacation). My spreadsheet basically assessed how my being in each cadre section would affect which programs (and other opportunities) I could participate in. While Chase Hall cadre was first choice, Eagle actually tied for first! When my company, Foxtrot Company, was looking for volunteers to go on Eagle, I offered to go. By doing so, I was able to confirm (for the most part) doing the programs and participating in the special opportunities that I wanted—I wasn’t certain that I would be selected to be Chase Hall cadre. I am very pleased with my decision, and I can’t wait until this summer. Eagle is going to be so much fun, and I can’t wait to interact with the swabs in that context. I’ve heard that being on Eagle as a cadre is much different than being a swab or being a 3/c. Some cadets are of the opinion that going to Eagle as a cadre is “taking the hit” for the company, but really, I’m taking the opportunity!
My second big decision—er, should I say “major” decision—came at the very end of the month. I finally decided on a major! Ever since the first semester of my 4/c year, I had a hard time deciding which major I was going to choose at the Academy. I applied to the Academy indicating that I wanted to major in marine and environmental science (MES). I was (and still am) very passionate about keeping the environment safe. I love going out and making a difference for the planet. I figured that I’d get to do that the most with the MES major. Yes, we get to do that a little, but not as much as I would have liked. Also, I really, really enjoyed my math classes. As one of my teachers told me, “I can really tell you love the material. You are always so happy in class.” I thought about that. I didn’t feel as excited for my MES classes as I did in my math classes (corresponding to the Operations Research and Computer Analysis [ORCA] major). I had toyed with the idea of double majoring, and I am on track to do that. The issue is that if I did double major, I would have little to no time to do anything else extracurricular. Not to mention no free time, no down-time, no me-time—whatever you want to call it. I like to parody songs and mess around on the piano and design t-shirts or posters from time to time. As one of my friends pointed out (actually, 3/c Luke Carani – he’s also a cadet blogger, so be sure to check out his posts. They’re great!), if I double majored, I would not even have time to do stuff like that. So that was how I decided to not double major. I had realized that the reason (or, one of the reasons) I was double majoring was because I couldn’t make a decision. Now I was faced with that decision. The more I learned about the MES major, the more I had a hard time finding the right “track” for me. In MES there are three tracks – biological environmental, chemical environmental, and physical oceanography – and we have to pick two. I want to go into physics, so I figured I would do the chemical track (they take theory-focused chemistry classes, as opposed to applied) because that was similar to physics. But I couldn’t decide my other track. Biological didn’t really help me with physics, and while doing the physical oceanography classes I would be studying fluid motion (useful in physics), I didn’t enjoy those classes (not to mention having a rough time in them last semester). I kept holding tightly to the MES major because I thought that science major would help me if I go into physics for graduate school. As the physics teachers told me, because I didn’t have a physics degree (undergraduate), I would still be limited. No matter what major I chose to do here, I would still have to go into applied physics for my graduate program. If I wanted pure physics, that would have to wait until my Ph.D. This information was actually a relief, surprisingly. It meant that I could do ORCA and still be as “well off” as if I had done MES. So, I decided to major in Operations Research and Computer Analysis. I’m excited for this major—there is a lot of new information that I will be learning. I can’t wait for my future classes! I’m confident that I made the right decision and will enjoy the rest of my academic experience here.
Well, now we’re into March and moving rapidly forward. The firsties (1/c cadets) find out their first assignments on Thursday! Crazy how quickly the year is drawing to an end. Just one quarter left! It’s going fast, which means that spring will be coming soon, and with that warmth and renewal. Will write again soon!
More about Justin.