If you haven’t figured it out yet, my boyfriend James is a cadet at the US Military Academy at West Point. Something that we always discuss is the differences between life at the academy and my more traditional university. While we always describe classes or teachers to each other, it doesn’t fully translate. That’s why I was really excited that I got the chance to see what his daily life was like over Spring Break.
This semester James is an exchange student, for lack of a different term, at the US Air Force Academy (USAFA). Unlike West Point, USAFA allows cadets to bring visitors to school, if you get permission of course. I got a quick run-down of what I would be going to/seeing before I got there, the most memorable thing he told me: “You need to meet me at 7:15 am at the latest.”
The last time I was at school at 7 am was senior year of high school. I have issues with 9:30 classes, so 7:15 was going to be hard. I arrived on time, despite the snowstorm in Colorado Springs, and waited in the car while James ate breakfast. Then off to class we go.
All of James’ classes were math related, so I was lost about 50% of the day since I haven’t taken a math class since the summer of 2005 (Trig/some Pre-Calc). I won’t bore you with all the nitty-gritty details of his classes, but there were some key observations that I made.
- Time is key. All tardies need to be excused ahead of time.
- Every class begins with one of the cadets calling it to attention.
- “War” stories are common tangents.
- I really don’t understand math that is all theoretical.
- Uniforms, uniforms, uniforms, uniforms (obviously).
- Plebes/freshmen that bring snacks to lunch are awesome (Thanks for the Thin Mints and Pepsi!)
- Dorm/barrack furniture is basically the same, except James’ bed has tons of storage that I’m jealous of/could totally use.
- Bugle calls (pre-recorded) instead of bells ala high school or the NYU timekeeper near Silver or just the good old-fashioned clock in my classes.
- The actual learning/teaching/discussions: totally the same (of course).
It was great to see what his daily life was like. I didn’t see his PT routine or normal military duties, since it was the day before his Spring Break, but it was good to see what he does day-to-day. I got a sense of his workload, what goes on in his classes, what happens if you don’t show up/don’t do work, etc. The days are way more regimented and professors have slightly different expectations of cadets, but at the end of the day it’s college too, just in a military setting. I guess that seems obvious, but it was so much more clear living it for a day.