From the Warzone to the Classroom

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From the Warzone to the Classroom

Three students talk about transitioning back into civilian life and hitting the books after deployment.

Student Veterans from the war zone

Published in MediaPlanet.com

Mediaplanet: What was the biggest obstacle you faced when transitioning back into civilian life?

Ashley Parker-Roman: My biggest obstacles were time management and adjusting to college life. Coming to Drexel as an older, nontraditional student was intimidating, but with the flexible modality options and support I received they helped me succeed. I used it as an opportunity to challenge myself and to disprove some common misconceptions about the post 9-11 veteran.

Lissette Matos Minehart: You deploy. You come back. Suddenly you’re not with your unit, your family. You can feel isolated. The biggest obstacle was re-integrating into society. For example, I’m not quite as outgoing, and don’t put myself or my children into crowded situations. You have to learn to mentally adapt.

Rachel Kennedy: I was unable to get a job right away, and it was hard to convert my military skills to civilian skills applicable in a work setting. Without an advanced education, my employment options were limited. I realized I needed a college education, but I did not know where to start.

MP: What role did your education institution play in helping to improve your transition back home?

APR: Drexel played a significant role in my re-transitioning. Drexel is truly establishing itself as a veteran friendly institution and I’m deeply honored to be a student here. It’s wonderful having the backing of a university that cares about veterans, our success and our ability to enrich its community.

LMM: At first, I was overwhelmed. Then I found JU’s Student Veterans of America chapter and connected with other veterans. Our shooting team also helped me find a new “family” and not just be a face in the crowd. And the VA reps and faculty here also gave me one-on-one time.

RK: Penn Foster offered an affordable way to graduate quickly and receive a quality education. I earned my Legal Secretary Career Diploma and sent off dozens of applications for entry-level legal assistant positions. I got a job as a legal coordinator for the State of Georgia.

MP: Why do you believe it is important for our veterans to receive an education after the military?

APR: I came to college with a degree of life experience, but during college I learned lessons and acquired skills that can only come from obtaining a college education. The Post 9-11 GI Bill gives veterans the opportunity to earn a degree and is a benefit every veteran should use.

LMM: The military gives you a lot of know-how, but sometimes those skills – say you were a tank driver – don’t translate to the real world. Education sharpens and expands those talents so that a business understands your potential. They may have the next Steve Jobs sitting there and not even realize it.

RK: The job market is so slim, and everyone seems to be fighting for the same type of work. In a military town, you are also competing with civilians and other military veterans. Employers are looking for people that have training, as well as documented education pertaining to the job position.

MP: What kind of skills did you learn in the military that you’ve been able to utilize and/or apply to your life now?

APR: The military is great for learning discipline and structure. In the Navy, I learned time management, how to perform under tremendous amounts of pressure and team work. I think these are wonderful skills that I have been able to apply to both my academic and professional life.

LMM: I learned tolerance. It’s natural—humans don’t like everyone we meet—but you must get along and see all perspectives to accomplish a common goal. I also learned patience. The real world stops spinning on deployment. Back home, the music changes. Shows and gas prices change. You have to readjust.

RK: I learned that integrity is important, and when you make your resume, you want to show potential bosses that you are honest from the beginning. No one is going to better your life. You have to take the initiative and become the person that you were destined to become.


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