After fighting to protect the United States, some veterans return to college may face academic struggles and a challenging transition into civilian life.
Veterans, who once trained vigorously to maintain the U.S. national defense, are now choosing a non-combatant life of studying, classes and homework. However, not all veterans are prepared for the shocking reality of civilian-student life once he or she is discharged from the armed forces.
Brittany Hogue, junior nursing major, was deployed for six months as Air Transportation personnel. After her return, she made the decision to stay in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.
Immediately, she said, she was determined to live a normal life by returning to college. Hogue said the shift from military to civilian life did not settle well and forced her to take a year off from school.
“I could not deal with people — that was the hard thing — and when I tried to study, my brain would say, ‘Nu-uh,’” Hogue said. “When I was driving, I was more agitated than normal and that is from the precursor of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which a lot of vets get after they come back.”
Hogue is on her second attempt returning to school at California Baptist University. Although she said she began opening her eyes to a more positive mindset, she said she encounters personal challenges.
Hogue said veterans have a different perspective of semi-normal civilian life because soldiers are conditioned to never break his or her role and embrace a demanding lifestyle.
Coast Guard veterans, such as Sarah Weber, clinical psychology doctorate student, has also re-enrolled in college.
“It was a shock how out of place I felt with everything that was going on here,” Weber said. “I had really high standards for everything I did like work, my sense of duty to the people and to my country. It was not as demanded of me here, so I suddenly felt like I didn’t have a purpose.”
Although she said student life was nearly impossible with a loss of identity, Weber found a ray of light. She said the Veterans Resource Center at CBU has aided her success and positive outlook in getting accustomed to student life.
“My work ethic is fantastic and there is a sense of purpose,” Weber said. “I try harder, value (my education) more and value the teachers so the whole educational experience has been more positive thanks to the military.”
Jay Villasenor, U.S. Army veteran and academic records coordinator for Veteran Services, has mentored many students toward accomplishing their academic and social goals. Through years of experience, he said he acknowledges how crucial the Veterans Resource Center can be for those who have experienced war firsthand.
“They are so reluctant not to tell if they have any financial problems, homework problems and major problems,” Villasenor said. “They would rather talk to a veteran like themselves.”
With the support of other veterans and faculties, the post-military life for veterans at CBU has improved immensely. Veterans can struggle with adapting to civilian life while fighting a constant battle at home and on-campus. To fully embrace the student life, they learn to cope and grasp all the military has taught them.