Culture shock is the catch phrase used by student veterans transitioning from military careers to college life. Stay ahead of the most common challenges with the following tips:
Student veterans, on average, are older than their civilian student counterparts. They often have difficulty relating to others because of the extreme nature of their experiences, and it can be tough to find other veteran students. These factors can lead student veterans to isolation and dissatisfaction with the campus climate.
What veterans can do: Link up with the Student Veteran Organization (SVO), which most campuses have in place already. Connect with fellow veterans on campus and seek out veteran faculty and staff. Make face-to-face contact with a Veteran Affairs Representative, who may be a good resource for upcoming events and how to get in touch with other student veterans.
Teach and Practice Respect When it Comes to Politics
Colleges and universities are often a more liberal environment than the military. When politics come up at school, it can be a difficult topic for veterans to deal with. Regardless of the student veteran’s ideology, a criticism of the military can feel like a personal attack. Unfortunately, there will still be times individuals will say callous and insensitive things.
What veterans can do: Don’t make it personal, despite how personal it feels. Often individuals say offensive things because they’re not aware of how it sounds. Use this as a teaching opportunity to explain your point of view. Make an on-the-spot correction, and teach them in a non-physical manner. Invite them to check out What Not to Ask a Veteran (and of course, What to Say to a Veteran!).
Adapt to the Learning Environment
It may have been a few years or a few decades since the veteran has been in the classroom. Some students will have difficulty adjusting to the changes. The military often teaches in a format of showing how a task is done and then allowing for hands-on practice to master the task, with clear learning objectives ahead of time.
In the university setting, professors teach differently. Many styles don’t follow the format veterans are used to. Learning objectives are often outlined in the syllabus at the beginning of the semester, but are not always clear in each class. Comparatively, it may feel like there is a complete lack of structure.
What veterans can do: Use adaptability skills for the diversified classroom environment and teaching styles. Use all available resources such as text books, power point printouts, lecture notes, and class forums. Look into free resources available on campus such as writing labs, tutors, supplemental instruction, academic advisors and workshops. If you have a medical, psychiatric or communication disability, take advantage of study disability services during the challenging transition.
And don’t forget to visit student blogger Harry Chang’s HealthyU™ blog for quick tips for university success.
Create Your Own Structure
The campus culture may shock some students coming from the highly regimented and disciplined environment of the military, where every minute is accounted for and there is a directive of how each minute will be spent. When the veteran transitions to college life it may seem they have too much time on their hands.
What veterans can do: Create your own structure through time management. Get a planner and input all school information including classes, assignments and appointments. Input all medical, financial and VA appointments. Then set aside time for self-care: exercise, SVO, alone time, family, studying, counseling and hobbies. Scheduling is great for reducing school stress and prioritizing needs.