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Returning to School as a Veteran

It’s been a long time since I've been back at school. Ten years to be exact.

I was afforded the opportunity to go back to school because I qualified for vocational rehabilitation after having my third surgery on my right shoulder. During my time in the U.S. Army, I had injured my shoulder on a mountain climbing training exercise. It took two surgeries, one year apart, and two or so years afterwards before I recovered enough to use my shoulder normally. After many years, my shoulder joint had deteriorated enough to require the third surgery. As a result, I qualified under the Veterans Administration Chapter 31 to go back to school. I decided to take the opportunity. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I could do it or knew what to expect.

It had taken me well over ten years to complete my associate’s (AA) degree in music education at Miami Dade College. During that time, I got involved with the computer field and became a Microsoft Certified Professional in addition to obtaining a host of industry standard certifications that secured my future in the information technologies field for many years. I thought I could do well without the AA degree.

Eventually, I decided it was time to obtain my AA degree just to have it under my belt. The one thing that was holding me up was math. I had put my AA degree on the back burner because I was afraid of math, but once I decided to tackle it I found that it wasn’t all that hard. I quickly completed my math courses and graduated with my AA in 2008.

In 2011, the company I had been working at for 12 years was bought out. As a result of the buyout, I was laid off along with many other employees. I spent two years looking for a job in my field but could not find one. I decided to try a different track and became a yoga instructor, since I’d been a practicing yogi since the early 1990s. I found that through yoga, I was helping people improve their lives. I had found a new calling: helping people. I had been doing that in the computer field, but this was more personal and at a deeper level.

When I had my third shoulder surgery and the opportunity to go back to school came up, I thought that an education in psychology would enable me to continue my commitment to helping people find a way out of suffering, and so I dove deep into my schooling. My experience here at Albizu University has been wonderful. I find the teachers to be very helpful. I feel welcomed and enjoy making new friends. I enjoy my studies and completing my assignments as well. I have learned so much since my first class, six semesters ago.

One thing I can say if you’re thinking about going back to school as a veteran is to pace yourself. Choosing whether you’re going to be a part-time or full-time student depends on what’s happening in your life. If you are a very busy person, part-time is the mode for you, and if you have time to spare throughout the day, then you might want to consider full-time. So, what is the difference between a part-time and full-time schedule? A full-time schedule consists of at least four classes or more, whereas a part-time schedule consists of up to three classes. Choose a schedule that allows you to you have enough time to study. Depending on your course load, you may find yourself needing at least 20 hours or more of study time per week.

Be sure to use the tutoring service that the university provides. Get phone numbers from your classmates in case you miss a class and need to find out what happened. Also, get to know your peer mentors. They can point you to the right resources or help you navigate basic problems you may encounter during your semester. They are here to help, so be sure to look them up.

Believing in yourself is the most important quality you can have to get you through. Remember, you don’t have to do it alone. Use the tutoring services, get peer mentor support, get to know your fellow students, and talk with your teachers. All these things will help you have a better experience going back to school as a veteran. Albizu University is here to help you succeed.

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