By Jeremy Azurin
Throughout my freshman year, I’ve heard many responses to what people think “college life” is. Some define it as a constant party with independence, student loans, Greek life, and the state of perpetually being broke. Others say it’s filled with all-nighters, coffee, learning, internships, broadening worldviews, and more parties. Some have said their view changed from their expectations as a high school student, and others have said it was exactly what they predicted. I, however, came in with zero expectations and quickly found out that everyone was right: it is a party filled with debt and caffeine. But at the same time you will learn plenty both in and out of the classroom.
What most people don’t mention, however, is that college life can include military life as well. For those who will be partaking the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program, college will be all of the above plus waking up earlier than the break of dawn for drills and intense physical training in order to become our nation’s next leaders, all before your first class (at noon!). This fall, close to 400 new cadets will enter Virginia Tech to live an alternative college experience where we will learn from military experts and participate in mandatory Corps labs while fostering relationships with students both civilian and non-civilian.
At Virginia Tech, you’re either enrolled in the Military Track, where you’re affiliated with the Air Force, Army, Navy, or Marine Option ROTC; or, if you’re like me, under the Civilian Track, where you’ll participate in [most of] the same activities as those on the Military Track. The only difference is that Civilian Track cadets aren’t obligated to serve in the military after graduation. But aside from that, all students will be living, eating, and training together, regardless of what option you’re on. Both tracks cultivate a sense of character and integrity along with camaraderie between the other cadets and prepare you for a life of service, leadership, and discipline – all while receiving a top-notch education.
Whether it’s for military experience, leadership enrichment, or monetary reasons, those of us in the Corps of Cadets all share a common trait: a life-long commitment to service. I’m transferring to Virginia Tech as a cadet this fall on the Civilian Track where I’ll be a sophomore academically but a freshman in the Corps. I’ve already had a year of the “traditional” college experience and, truth be told, I’m looking to spend the next three years in an alternative environment. My time in the Corps is a way to devote myself to helping others by first helping myself. The training, discipline, and mandatory corps labs and lectures are only half of this packaged deal; it’s the internal motivation, commitment, discipline, and struggle that attracts me and ultimately defines my desire to become the best leader I can be.
When I tell people I’m willingly living the military life, people usually look at me in disbelief, followed by questions such as, “Does that mean you won’t be partying? Are people going to be yelling at you all of the time? Is your entire schedule regimented? Will you spend your weekends and summers training? Will you learn how to shoot things?! Do you want to be a freshman again?!” and I’ll respond with, “Anything can happen.”
I knew what I was getting myself into when I was applying and deliberately chose to live my college years this way because of the discipline and leadership that comes with cadet life, along with the obvious emphasis of service, which is literally Virginia Tech’s Motto: Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). So yes, partying will be limited, but I’ll get over it; people will yell, but that’s expected; my schedule will be regimented, just the way I like it; and yes, if it means enduring the Corps with a great group of students, I don’t mind being a freshman again. If it means giving my blood, sweat, and tears, as long as I’m out there giving 110% of my strength, willpower, and abilities, I have no regrets.
So here’s to a great year all of the cadets entering this fall at Virginia Tech, the other senior military colleges, the military academies, and those in the nationwide ROTC program. Good luck, stay safe, don’t give up, and learn. Keep on learning. Ut Prosim.
Jeremy Azurin is a D.C. native majoring in geography at Virginia Tech where he will be a cadet this fall with Virginia Tech’s Corps of Cadets. Jeremy can be reached here. He wants to thank all of those who have served, are currently serving, and will serve this country in one way or another, especially those who will enter military academies or ROTC programs this fall.