Get out of the Student Veteran LoungeWe published this on April 11, 2016,
The student veteran lounge is a sanctuary for many veterans, a place where the smokin’ and jokin’ continues. The appeal of the lounge is understandable. College can be an intimidating place for college freshman, especially the nontraditional one. The student veteran lounge is a place to relax and feel that military camaraderie many veterans miss after leaving service. That said, get out of the student veteran lounge!
Veterans enjoy going to the lounge to hang out and plan events. That is the purpose of the lounge; however, if you find yourself studying in the lounge, get out of there. For starters, you are not experiencing everything college has to offer. More importantly, you are probably underachieving in your classes.
Let’s be honest; many of us joined the military because we did not want to go to college. I hated school. After high school, I went to one semester of college, hated it and dropped out. I worked for a brief time before joining the Army. Many veterans have similar stories. A cluster of veterans like me in a small room attempting to study is a recipe for disaster.
Was smokin’ and jokin’ mentioned? Many veterans attempt to study in the lounge. Inevitably, a planned two hour study session turns into two hours of shenanigans, which isn’t very surprising if you recall what happens when a bunch of 20-somethings are stuck in the motor pool on Friday evening waiting for the Company Commander to arrive for final formation. These veterans barely graduate with a 2.0 G.P.A.; or worse, they drop out. This is no way to treat the amazing benefits of the G.I. bill. Even if you are getting A’s and B’s, I still recommend getting out of the lounge.
College is supposed to be an experience, albeit a different one for student veterans. We probably do not need to “find ourselves.” (Your significant other may not approve of you going to school to find yourself, while he or she is at home attempting to find the kids.) There is also no time for taking classes because they sound interesting. That said, it is extremely beneficial to experience college with non-veteran undergrads. If you are thinking, “they don’t understand my experience,” remove that thought from your brain.
All college students, in general, have the same goal – graduate with a job offer. Your fellow undergrads have their own stories, and many will not care that you are a veteran. The only way your classmates will know that you are a veteran is if you tell them. I had group projects where after working together for a whole semester my teammates did not know I was a veteran. Group projects are annoying, but they will help you get out of the lounge and continue the transition to civilian life.
Here’s a newsflash – it is likely that most of your coworkers will not be veterans. Not one other person in my department is a veteran, and there are 2 other veterans that work on the entire floor. Except for a monthly veteran employee resource group meeting, I interact exclusively with non-veterans every day. If for some reason you are wary of your civilian counterparts, college is a great place to remove that thought from your mind, but you have to get out of the lounge for this to occur.
The student veteran lounge is very valuable for beginning the transition from military life to college life. In my experience, and from what I have heard, many colleges are making the student veteran lounge a permanent room, unlike other clubs that have to change rooms every year. This is a great benefit, but the lounge must not turn into a veteran fortress of solitude. The student veteran lounge is a great place to begin transitioning; outside the lounge is where the transitioning is completed. Leave the smokin’ and jokin’ in the lounge, take the studying to the library.
Aaron Hartfield served in the Army from August 2005 to August 2011. He deployed with the 19th Engineer Battalion out of Fort Knox to Iraq from 2006 to 2007, and then to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010. He graduated in May 2015 from Baruch College, which is located in New York City. He currently lives and works in Houston, Texas.