Friday, February 27, 2015

Senior Year in 7 Easy Steps

If you are a plebe, prospective plebe, or plebe parent, check out this link for “Plebe Year in 8 Easy Steps”: Plebes, don’t worry about the little details in here, it will befuddle your mind. Focus on short-term goals, and keep the big picture in mind. For others, read on. Congratulations! You have 36 months under your belt. Sea Year really did help to break up the time. You haven’t been on campus for a full year since plebedom, so the next 350 days might seem a bit long. But at least you know that you’ll have shore leave…(liberty is the landlubbing plebe word for it)…on the weekends. The stages below do not apply to Straight Deck majors. Those lucky 50 are rumored to and even sometimes feel bored. The time that others spend studying can be applied to networking with recent alumni on weekday nights. Yes, the shipping industry still retains some of the Mad-Men era charm of neat-dressed weeknight dinners with contacts. Joy When you get back from summer duties in July (or, if you’re lucky, summer break), pack a nice suit and tie, a Hawaiian shirt, and a favorite mai tai glass. Pick a roommate that you will share this year’s adventures with. You’ll need to start the year off on a good foot. Luau, Ring Dance, and 300 Nights await you in the first 30 days back. You’ll meet old friends from the other ‘split’ that you haven’t seen in 2 years. Soccer players will meet their wrestler friends. Old roommates reunite and forget the trivial trifles of the past. What a joy. “Ring Dance” is a rite of passage. I had a classmate, set-back from the Class of 2014 for a dubious reason. He was privileged to wear his class ring, and we could only wait to cross the bar. Leading up to this weekend, the plebes cheer the senior class on. I won’t go into deep detail, so that future classes can enjoy the mystique surrounding the weekend. As a dinner dance whose origins came from a different era of earlier elopement and marriage, there is a shortage of young women, and ladies from the second class are certain to receive an invitation. Then you have “300 nights”, paid for by class fundraising over the past 2 years, is the afterglow to the aura of “Ring Dance”. You have the freedom of choice. After sea projects are graded, most set-backs to the next graduating class, or dismissals, are the result of personal behavior. This contrasts with the plebe days, when even good students closely monitored their grade point averages to prevent the set-back. That said, a midshipman (other than perhaps the straight deckie) will fail classes if he or she uses all the liberty granted to seniors. Disillusionment Many faculty members are Kings Point graduates themselves, and live vicariously each year at this time. They will also cut the Senior class some slack so as to allow for full enjoyment of these events. But this first month comes to an end, and the faculty members remember their higher calling to uphold the academic reputation of the Academy. Project deadlines in quick succession, and tests, quizzes, and lab reports. For most engineers, first trimester senior year is the most difficult of them. There are times that I looked at the silver ring on my finger and thought about how I received in on credit. I would not earn the metal until graduation day: (for example, the Naval Academy limits midshipmen to wearing the class ring for 15 days after their ring dance). This lustrium ring is the battle ring, and worn day-to-day. The gold ring is for festive or solemn occasions, and retains an air of high dignity. Fall break allows Seniors 5 business days to catch up on unfinished business. While most beaks between trimesters are for pure R&R- no books- the Capstone project for engineers is a rare course that continues through two trimesters. Living in the Moment Under the trimester system, the 2nd trimester is chop-sueyed. It begins right at Veteran’s Day, stops two weeks later for Thanksgiving, resumes for three weeks, then cuts off for the Christmas and Hanukah holidays. Because of my engagement with the Choir and other activities, it was a busy time for me; a few late nights as well. But it was manageable, and temporary. Formal meals in Dress Blues and gold ring, swilled with egg nog. Christmas decorations in the barracks, and the 172 foot flagpole decked out in lights. As plebes, you go out on every liberty in Dress Blues, which I feel diminishes a younger midshipman’s reverence for this uniform. The city is festive this time of year, and most plebes enjoy the season as well. Grin and Bear Most of my high school friends were out-of-town for the Christmas break, so as far as social life, I was ready to go back to the Academy after running down my Christmas to-do list, and spending sufficient time with family. New Year’s was a festive occasion; because 2015 will be the year I graduate and start a career. The universal response to how long the break was: “too short”. Amazingly, you’re halfway through the trimester at this point. If you did well in classes up to this point, you have a solid footing. But the last 9 weeks of the trimester will come at you fast. Perhaps a snow day will give you time to finish up on homework. You have come to terms with the social contract of Senior life: work for the prize. Graduation is ‘just’ six months away. To convenience hard-studying Seniors, some beer-hearty midshipmen enjoy the privilege of pub night- yes, beer and wine on campus, and for seniors only. This is an anachronism and tradition that only small colleges have today. At the Academies which have it, the pub is a force protection measure: Based on research at the larger service academies, it was shown that an on-campus pub reduced DUIs (and subsequent expulsion from the Academy). Again, straight deckies will serenade the night away, and engineers tend to come in for a nightcap after 9:30pm. Deckie midshipmen look forward to the two three-day weekends before spring break. For southerners, and future Texas, the ski slopes of New England are particularly appealing. For the Class of 2015, it will be the first time to enjoy the Super Bowl in its entirety off-campus. For many, it will be the first Super Bowl as trusted adults. Last Hurrah As a plebe, spring break was a liberating experience: a time spent with newfound friends. The privileges of recognition were right around the corner, and regimentally-oriented Senior was foolish to enforce all but the most important plebe rules after Spring Break. As a second classman, spring break was a 3-day weekend between exams and the 3rd trimester on account of government shutdown earlier in the year. For Senior Year, it will be the last break as college students, and the last break that everyone is “available” for. After graduation, many go their own ways. The Deckies had laughed for the past 2 years, but they know that crying is around the corner… license prep. Victory is for the Prepared The midshipman’s 12th trimester is abbreviated, and ends around Memorial Day. This short trimester covers unfinished odds and ends. For me, this includes Naval Science and Firefighting. The short trimester is not so much as a congratulation for making it so far, but as preparation for what is ahead. There are some privileges for attending Kings Point over other Service Academies, but an easy exit is not one for Kings Pointers. Celebrations and TGIFs get quieter as this final trimester moves on. I predict that my 22nd birthday in mid-April will be one of those last Saturday evenings in Manhattan. What is the big deal? Coast Guard licensing: the final judgment week. It is possible to memorize the answer to every question, but the books are just too thick! You will have to rely on fundamentals. For midshipmen who have diligently paid their dues Senior Year, Preparation Week for Coast Guard License tests is just studying for a big test. For the others, it can be sleepless nights. The goal is to pass all tests on the first try, so that you can ring the bell of victory with all your classmates. In a turn of fate, Engineers are more likely than deckies to pass on the first time. In past years, I made pocket cash by driving victorious seniors to and from local watering holes. One teacher remarked that this night was the only time in his life he over-imbibed. Take into heart the term “Be Smart”. Don’t do anything stupid. Midshipmen have had their hearts broken through over-exuberance. You are too close to throw it all away. By the way, Coast Guard Cadets don’t take these licensing exams as a prerequisite to graduation. Satisfaction You finished. Share it with friends and family. Plan your choreography, and take a victory trip to Manhattan. When you get to your first “real” job- the one with a real paycheck- you’ll experience the sunken-stomach feeling of feeling inept: of being at the bottom of the totem pole. But now’s not the time to think about it. Look at the 18-year old incoming plebe candidates of the Class of 2019, and look in the mirror. See how far you’ve come.