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Winter Has Come

(Choosing the Academy, Just for Fun, Class of 2023) Permanent link
Joshua Orbe

It is hard for me to believe that I have been at the Academy for five months now. I have had so many life-changing experiences in my time here. I have taken in all the sights of New York with Glee and have traveled north to Montreal with the Windjammers. From first arriving, to starting Swab Summer, getting to Flag Day and Eagle; from starting of school, to performing at the Alumni Homecoming and seeing my mom on Parents’ Weekend, I have seen myself and the people around me grow and change like the seasons.

Speaking of changing seasons, it is so cold now. I have to put on many more layers. I have never seen snow like this before. One would expect someone that has never seen snow before would find it magical and picturesque. It was when the first flakes fell. The campus looked so beautiful. My amazement would not last though. While taking a nap one day, a snowstorm rolled into New London. When I woke up, the view outside my window scared me. The parade field was pure white, buried in snow. Streets, trees, and statues were covered. It frightened me. Maybe I watch too many apocalypse movies.

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A Home Away From Home

(Choosing the Academy, Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2023) Permanent link
Joshua Orbe

By November, I began to really feel the rigors of academics. I started longing for a break and it came with my first ever leave in my cadet career, Thanksgiving leave. I spent my first Thanksgiving at my sponsor family’s house. We ate a lovely meal and watched movies in Mystic where we ran into a celebrity! After enjoying that much needed break I looked back and reflected on how much of an impact my sponsor family has had on me. I really feel at home with them and consider them to be my extended family. I cannot begin to imagine how much harder of a time I would have had adjusting to life here were it not for their support and encouragement, and for them opening up their house and family to me and my sponsor brothers. I truly believe that it is crucial to the success of cadets that live far from the Academy to get that support that the Sponsor Family Program offers. It is good to have a place outside Chase Hall where you can relax and take care of yourself more. It is also beneficial to international cadets in particular because we get to experience the culture and see what the daily life of an American family is like.

My sponsor family brought me to see all the movies I missed, helped me get a phone, joined me shopping for school supplies, got me in touch with my parents, delivered my letters to them for me, and of course gave me lots of snacks. I was able to survive Swab Summer largely because of their help. Homesickness, the biggest threat to the morale of an international cadet, was barely an issue for me. To this day, my sponsor family continues to accompany me on my cadet journey, through the highs and lows.

I highly encourage international cadets and anyone else far from home to consider getting a sponsor family. The bonds you form with them will be one you carry beyond your cadet career.

MORE ABOUT JOSH

Finishing the Semester

(Choosing the Academy, Just for Fun, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Erin Holland

This morning I took my last final and am currently sitting at the airport waiting to board my flight. The relief from being officially done with finals is one of the best feelings. This was a tough semester, but I finished strong and am excited to get home. It is crazy that I am halfway done with my junior year at the CGA, and it has caused me to reflect on my experience thus far. Getting accepted into the Academy is hard. Like, really hard. You have to be in the top half of your class, be involved in extracurricular activities, and write a ton of application essays and get recommendation letters. If you do get accepted, you begin to prepare for Swab Summer. Swab Summer is a scary thought and it’ll hang over your head until you are sitting in Billard Hall listening for your new company to be called. During Swab Summer, you will be questioning whether this was the right decision until you find your groove and resolve to keep going. Swab Summer DOES end even thought it seems to last forever. Here’s the scary news. The application process is the easy part. Swab Summer is the easy part. The hard part is the school year. The hard part is struggling with academics and being away from home and family for over six months. The hard part is failing tests and figuring out how you are going to balance academics, military obligations, talking to your family, and squeezing in any time for yourself. 4/c year is full of time-consuming tasks and obligations that seem ridiculous half the time, and it will test your patience and desire to be at the Academy. You will call your family and friends to tell them about your week or different things you did, and they probably won’t understand. The Academy is a unique place that no one truly understands unless they attended themselves. I’m not being a debby downer or trying to dissuade you from coming here, but I am being realistic about the process. It is really hard. You will be mentally and physically tested every day, and it will be up to you to figure out if it is worth it. Only you can decide to make it through the Academy and stick with it through the good times and the bad times. That being said, I have had some amazing times at the Academy. I have made the best friends I have ever had. I have traveled all over the world on a sailing vessel. I was stationed in SoCal for a summer. I’ve been able to ski in the winter with my best friends and have gone camping and hiking. I have never regretted my decision to attend the CGA. This place is not for everyone, but if you really want it, the long days will be worth it.

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Learning to Love Both of Your “Homes”

(Choosing the Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Annabella Farabaugh

I just got back from Thanksgiving break at my house in Atlanta, Georgia. My parents, grandparents, and family friends all got together for a delicious dinner. I got to pet my German Shepherd, Eliot, and go for a few runs in my neighborhood. I always love getting to go home! This time was a little different though. I realized that over the past 2.5 years at the Academy my attitude about leave periods has changed a lot. In the first year, I couldn’t wait to go home (which hasn’t changed) but I dreaded going back to the Academy. The Academy felt like so much work (which it still is) and nowhere near as fun as being at home. The more I’ve been here though, the more this place has become my home. Cadets joke about never calling the Academy and the barracks “home” but, I think there is some danger in that. As a 4/c you are mostly just following the rules and doing your job. You are still finding your group of friends and your place in the class. But, as 4/c year comes to and close, you experience 3/c summer, become a 3/c, experience cadre summer, and then become a 2/c you end up so invested in the Academy. Everyone finds their tribe. You start to form a place here – you start to understand that you fill a unique spot and the Academy would not be the same without you!

For me, there are many reasons that I have learned to love my second “home.” Even though it could never compare to the freedom of being at home in civies with my family, there’s a lot to love here. I think the key part is that, over time, the Academy has become more mine than theirs. Shifting my personal opinion and role from an underclassman following the rules to an upperclassman invested in making the Academy into the place I think it should be – that mindset made the difference. The basketball team has been a positive experience for me since Swab Summer- what’s changed is my own investment in the team. Ownership and contribution to the team made me even more excited to be here. Choosing to be onboard and having the opportunity to learn from fantastic teammates and coaches helped me feel embraced by the different groups. Getting to be a part of the team is an honor and I have always loved coming back for that. But, feeling that I have the power to influence the team has made me a lot more excited to come back. Creating lifelong friends is a great part of the Academy, too. I made some of my strongest and closest friends as a 3/c and we remain close. They are more than enough reason to love coming back from leave. Getting into major specific classes made life more enjoyable and helped me remember the bigger picture of why I came here. Cadre summer revitalized my love for what we do and my desire to get better every day. Seeing your swabs walk around as 4/c, you just want nothing but the best for them. When my Academy experience changed from me surviving and watching out for myself to me striving to be better and caring deeply about others’ development, I started loving coming back. Even the day after Christmas. Once I chose to be invested here, the Academy became my second home. An officer visited us for a Corps-wide recently and said “Love this place and it will love you back.” In my time here, that has made all the difference. And, it offers a great life lesson – if you never buy into where you are, you will never get any payout. Master Chief Verhulst shared a quote with me recently “Better to light a match, than curse the darkness.” At the Academy and in the world, we spend too much time complaining about what is wrong instead of having the courage and energy to change what we can. Investment, in myself and in others, and ownership of my own actions, of the organizations I take part in, of my own role – that’s what made me love the Academy.

MORE ABOUT ANNABELLA

Me, an International Cadet

(Choosing the Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2023) Permanent link
Joshua Orbe

Coming here as an International cadet, I did not know what to expect. I had an idea of what I was getting into from my experiences as a cadet back home, but when I arrived, I was still blown away by how different the whole environment was compared to home.

I had grown up imagining what the U.S. would be like and I was not disappointed. Everything here is bigger, and the cities, roads, sidewalks and buildings are all so sophisticated.

I was not comfortable speaking English outside of my family and there I was on 01 July 2019, halfway across the world, thrust into one of the best colleges in America, waiting outside Roland Hall and making conversation with America’s best and brightest while waiting for Swab Summer to start. My classmates intimidated me. Every one of them seemed to be the golden boy or girl of their school. Over the course of the summer, my intimidation would turn into respect, and my shipmates became some of my best friends.

Swab summer for me was an enjoyable experience. It had its ups and downs but looking back on it, I only remember the good times. What really gets you through it is the people around you: your shipmates, company mates, your roommate, the Health Services staff at the clinic, the AIMsters and CGAS you meet and swap stories with, the civilians around base that never fail to smile at you even on the worst of days, the ladies and gents in the wardroom, your sponsor family, the chaplains, the officers, chiefs and senior chiefs, and of course your cadre, who are there to train you but are also your mentors.

The support system at the Academy is the best I have ever seen. I appreciate everyone that helped me make it here and I would like to thank the people who continue to give me the will and the drive to carry on at this fine institution. I wish the members of the class of 2024 good luck; I look forward to meeting you!

MORE ABOUT JOSH

A Rewarding Experience

(Choosing the Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2020) Permanent link
Jasmine Rodriguez

Having the opportunity to hear Major General Bolden speak to the corps was inspiring and rewarding. The moment he walked on the stage, Maj. Gen. Bolden made it clear that his presentation was to be informal and informative. His personal anecdotes paired with a powerful slideshow not only encouraged the progression of space exploration, but of international unity. He shared deeply emotional private stories and encouraged us all not to take for granted the opportunities we have at the Coast Guard Academy. It was truly an edifying experience, and I hope to utilize his quotes, stories, and suggested reads (Hidden Figures and We Are All the Same) to guide myself and possibly others through our cadet careers.

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Learning to Love Living in New London, Connecticut

(Choosing the Academy, Just for Fun, Class of 2021) Permanent link
Annabella Farabaugh

If you Google the top 10 things to do in New London, Connecticut, three of the suggestions are taking a ferry out of New London. As someone who lived in the heart of Atlanta, I saw New London as a blip of a cold coastal town best to be avoided. Originally, the three suggested locations for the Academy were California, Florida, and Connecticut. I’m really not sure how we ended up here.

However, the more I’ve chosen to engage with New London, the more I’ve begun to like it. As a 4/c, I mostly just went to Crystal Mall, Target, Texas Roadhouse, or Moe’s – all stops off the highway along the liberty bus route. This year I started exploring some of the closer places. I’ve spent many weekend mornings and afternoons walking into New London to find a new place to eat or a café to do homework. So far, one of my favorite places is Washington Street Coffee House, which has amazing food, great coffee, and even a comedy night once a month. Muddy Waters is another good coffee house to do homework or enjoy breakfast. There’s an interesting record store that hosts live music on the weekends, two yoga studios, a store that grows coral reefs for aquariums, and a few thrift stores. I like to eat at Right Path Organic Café, an all vegan restaurant that has the best chocolate chip cookies and one of my favorite meals – the Perspective bowl. Fiddleheads Co-op, a locally owned co-operative with their own kitchen, is another one of my favorite places to shop. I started walking places instead of taking an Uber or the liberty bus because of the sense of independence, self-sufficiency, and the relaxation of listening to music while I walk.

Before I came to the Academy, I went to college part time at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Go Jackets!) and worked 30 hours a week at a restaurant. My dorm room, my job, and my house were all within three or four miles of one another and I ended up biking, walking, and running everywhere instead of driving. I realized that it was very relaxing and made me a lot happier than driving in downtown Atlanta traffic (unsurprisingly). I came to love Atlanta even more than I had before, mostly because walking through an area over and over gives you a better sense of oneness and ownership of the place you live in. As cadets aspiring to be officers, we can expect to be stationed in many different places. Developing the habit of getting to know the place you live in and learning to love it – no matter where you are – can help you build confidence and happiness in your day-to-day life.

MORE ABOUT ANNABELLA

Opening a Window

(Choosing the Academy, Class of 2022) Permanent link
Ryan Taylor

Every one of the past 17 years, a new window has been opened to me, now with a remarkable view of the life of a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy. Having grown up locally, my family hosted new sponsor cadets every year. Talking with them about the experiences, challenges, and opportunities presented by the Academy painted a clear picture of the life of a cadet. This experience gave me a fantastic feel for what to expect, making my decision to attend much easier.

My goal as a blogger for the Academy is to give perspective students and their families the same glimpse into life at the Academy that I was afforded. While it is impossible to speak with each person individually, blogging is a way to share my experiences with them. Additionally, the opportunity to provide applicants or those interested in the Academy with my contact information makes me excited to communicate one-on-one with those hoping to learn more.

Lastly, throughout my time in middle and high school my family traveled during the summer and would keep a blog of our escapades. We took turns writing one entry a day and posting it with photos so that close friends and family could follow along. I was delighted when it was my turn to write and relished the opportunity to craft words in a way that accurately represented my experiences and emotions. Being a cadet blogger would allow me to continue my love of blogging with the added challenges of a broader audience and representation of the Academy.

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