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Mental Health

How Soldiers Adjust to College Life

What’s a one-word description of military boot camp from a young man who has lived through it? Intense; and even that doesn’t quite do it justice. Still, many young adults who enlist directly after high school feel that the military-experience will add much-needed structure and discipline to their lives, not to mention give them the opportunity to have the money to pay for college. Moving from a strictly organized military lifestyle to the relaxed feel of a college campus, however, can put an extreme added pressure on students who were once soldiers.

Why they enlist

At only 17, Aaron Hudson needed parental consent when he enlisted in the Marines. At 18, he left for boot-camp. “I knew I wasn’t ready for college,” Aaron said. “I was anxious to get out of high school and wanted no part of a classroom anywhere in the near future.” Like Aaron, after high school, Jacob Pascale felt that his life was not going the way he had planned. It only took two weeks of studying computer science at a local community college for Jacob to decide that the military was a more worthwhile investment of his time. At 19, Jacob joined the United States Air Force. In less than one year, he completed basic and technical training and was deployed to Japan. While many students choose to enlist directly after high school, for some, it takes going to college before they realize they want to join the military. Kuande LaMonte Hall was one of these students. He attended college before deciding to join the Marines. “I had a very decent beginning but really lost my focus and desire to want to be in school,” Kuande said. As his grades began to slip, Kuande decided it would be best to take a break from the academic world for a while. He worked at a few different jobs but, at 26, found himself laid-off and without a college degree. “I wanted to go back to school but knew I needed to get my mind right,” Kuande said. At 27, he was sent off to boot camp for the Marine Corps reserve. So what happens when, after months or even years of military service, these young men return to civilian life, and enter the world of college?

The transition into college-life

One thing you learn while in the Marines, Aaron says, is to adapt and overcome. “During war, you may come across a situation that doesn’t go according to plan,” Aaron said. “You have to adapt to change and overcome any obstacles.” This was the approach he took in dealing with his transition from the Marines to college. For Aaron, boot camp was no summer vacation. “Emotions were always high,” he said. “You never knew what was next on the agenda for that day.” In his military lifestyle, he was surrounded by mindsets that were focused and analytical. In college, the people around him are young, and, for the most part, undecided about their life goals. “I had eight years experience in the Marines, married, with a daughter,” Aaron said. “I was focused in what I needed to do with my life.” His plan is clear; theirs is not. Jacob’s transition to college-life was bittersweet. After spending a year “standing like a pole and saluting officers,” it was difficult for him to see the disrespect students sometimes have for their professors. In school, Jacob often hears students complain about problems that, to him, seem trivial. “The stressful environment that any veteran has been through is much more intense [than what most civilians have experienced], especially our generation’s teens,” he added. So, how does experiencing military life help these students deal with the stress of college?

Military skills in a college world

Kuande’s involvement in the military helped make things easier as he transitioned into college life. As a Marine, he grew accustomed to structure and organization. Now, as a student, he uses these skills to prioritize work or projects that are assigned in classes. Since his first attempt at college, what’s different about Kuande? His perspective, he says. “I realize that nothing could be more difficult than the trials of war and the family separation I faced,” Kuande said. Although he is back in school, Kuande is still an active-duty Marine. He is taking courses in the Photojournalism program at Syracuse University to develop his skills as a Combat Correspondent. Both Jacob and Aaron are no longer involved in military service, but they have not forgotten the skills they learned while enlisted. “To this day, I make better choices because of the discipline I have,” Aaron says. “I’ve learned to pick and choose my battles wisely.” Maybe that’s something the cast of “The Jersey Shore” could benefit from learning. Sources: Kuande LaMonte Hall – Syracuse University Jacob Pascale – SU Aaron Hudson – SU

Heather is a 2012 graduate of Syracuse University's Newhouse School with a degree in Magazine Journalism. Growing up in southern Vermont, she learned to appreciate the New England small-town life. During her time at SU she served as Editor-in-Chief of What the Health magazine on her college campus and was a member of the Syracuse chapter of ED2010. This summer Heather is exploring the world of digital entrepreneurship at the Tech Garden in Syracuse, NY where she is Co-Founder of Scrapsule.com. Aside from social media and home decor, she loves vintage jewelry, strawberry banana smoothies, running, and autumn in Vermont.
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