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cadet blogs

Fifteen Things I Didn't Expect to Learn at West Point

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2016) Permanent link   All Posts
Frost Photo Going on exchange to another service academy is a unique opportunity that I'm lucky to get to experience. After six weeks of being at West Point, I've finally settled into a schedule with classes and grown closer with the triathlon team. Here are some things that I've learned and experienced over the past several weeks:

 

  1. At less than 5,000 cadets, West Point would be considered a small college to anyone, but it still seems ginormous to a Coastie. And, when everyone asks what the biggest difference between West Point and Coast Guard, the answer is the size every time.
  2. Thinking that because you are just one in a sea of 4.5 thousand, no one will notice you is the biggest lie you could tell yourself because navy blue ODUs do not blend in at all with Army green ACUs. You can be pinpointed from a mile away.
  3. Submersing yourself in a new environment is more challenging than expected, and it gives you a renewed understanding for what the 4/c are going through.
  4. No one understands how you talk; they don't understand your saltiness. The "deck" becomes merely the floor, "p-ways" are hallways, "bulkheads" are hallways, and "shipmates" are battle buddies.
  5. Everything has an acronym, and it's impossible to keep track of them.
  6. People will and do look at you like you have two heads for saying "Bears!" And "Go Bears!" to everything, and it's impossible to explain what needs no explanation to any CGA cadet.
  7. All 2/c cadets a called "cows." It's weird.
  8. You salute without a cover on in the Army and in both gym gear and cadet casual (a.k.a. rec gear).
  9. People will ask you what branch you are going into, and they are blown away when you say your options are flight school, deck watch officer, engineering officer in training, or sector. You quickly learn it's not worth trying to explain that it's not really "branching" like it is in the Army.
  10. Everyone thinks that "The Guardian" is representative of the entire Coast Guard, and they ask you every time if you're going to be Ashton Kutcher.
  11. You will spend all your money at Starbucks and the cadet restaurant, especially if you live closer to it than the mess hall, like me.
  12. Optional breakfast is the greatest thing a cadet could ask for, and West Point does it right. We're talking Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, granola, Nutella, Starbucks iced and hot coffee... It's good. However, you will quickly miss the wardroom dinner selection.
  13. A lot of really awesome speakers come to talk to cadets almost every week, and they are opportunities that you want to take advantage of.
  14. There are so many club sports teams and clubs to join. Joining the triathlon team here has been my best decision yet. You meet amazing people that are completely welcoming to exchangers, and it gives you a close-knit group to experience the semester with.
  15. You learn a lot about yourself. You learn how you handle change when you feel like you're the only one going through it, you learn what a different service values compares to the Coast Guard, and compared to your own, you learn how to lead others when you still need guidance yourself, and you learn how to learn from those whom you lead.

 

More about Christi.