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The Next Adventure

(Overcoming Challenges, Life as a Junior Officer, Class of 2014) Permanent link
Lukasik Photo Post-graduation, I’ve found myself in a strange period of limbo. While most of my classmates have reported in to their new ensign billets and started work out in the fleets, my orders are still pending. I know where I’m going and what I’ll be doing; I’m just anxiously waiting official clearance to go. In the meantime, here I am, back at the Academy for a somewhat-awkward two-something-week period, waiting for my next adventure to start.

 

At the end of April, I received an email from the U.S. Fulbright Commission saying that I had been selected to receive a 2014 U.S. Student Award to study in Mauritius. Since that time, life has been an absolute whirlwind of paperwork and preparation and anticipation. Reply to the Fulbright Commission; fill out their paperwork; notify my Coast Guard chain of command; fill out their paperwork; get screened for an OCONUS billet; attend the Fulbright Orientation; meet at Coast Guard Headquarters; and, in the meantime, arrange for an apartment, university enrollment, a car, a bank account, a cell phone, and all other things necessary for life in a tiny island country in the middle of the Indian Ocean. My post-grad leave period has not been restful, but it’s been as exciting as it has been baffling. At the Academy, our instructors and mentors always implied that being an ensign is in large part an exercise in figuring out how to do tasks that you’ve never learned how to do with very little help or instruction. If that’s true, then I’ve dived right into ensign life headfirst!

 

This isn’t to say, however, that I’ve been entirely without help. There are two real ways to get through a task you have no idea what you’re doing: stumble through with trial-and-error, or, make a connection with someone who does know what they’re doing. In the past couple of months, I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with people who were not only able to help me but were generously willing to take time out of their day to help me with this mind-boggling moving-abroad process. I owe a special thanks to LT Stephen Elliott and his family. LT Elliott, coincidentally, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Mauritius back in 2005 (I wish I’d known that when I was applying!) and his wife’s family lives on the island. They’ve been enormously helpful in guiding me through the ins and outs of moving to an remote island far off the sub-Saharan African mainland and giving me some idea of what to expect when I arrive. I can’t say that the prospect of moving to a dot of an island on the other side of the world isn’t daunting still, but with the help of LT Elliott and family, it’s become a little less scary.

 

I’m supposed to receive my official orders this week, as my original orders to Sector New York were finally cancelled this past week so that the new ones could be processed. As soon as I have those in hand, I’ll be booking the soonest possible flight to take me away from the U.S. for the next two years and off to my new home in Mauritius.

 

The Fulbright Scholarship will cover the first nine months of my studies, but the Coast Guard has authorized me to stay in Mauritius for two years so that I can complete a Master’s degree, for the duration of which I’ll be relying on my ensign salary to cover tuition and living (thankfully both are relatively low overseas!). I’ll spend two years pursuing a part-time M.A. in Economics from the University of Mauritius and also working part-time as an intern at the Maurice Ile Durable Commission, a government-sponsored sustainability initiative for the island. In the meantime, partially in conjunction with my Master’s thesis but somewhat in extension of it, I will be researching the marine and coastal space use conflicts of the artisanal fishing industry and the growing tourist industry in Mauritius in hopes of helping these competing sectors achieve a more sustainable system of resource usage in the future. This will, interestingly enough, bring me into contact with our service’s parallel on the other side of the world – the Mauritian Coast Guard. Our services have had very little interaction in the past, but I’m excited to see how they operate and if there’s any potential for greater exchange in the future.

 

Of course, the Fulbright experience isn’t all about work; it’s designed to promote both academic and cultural exchange, and Fulbright students and scholars are expected to get involved in the local community as much as possible. This is the part that makes the experience exciting, and I’ve already looked into a number of great outlets to get to know the island and its people better. Mauritius is considered a tropical paradise, and outdoor recreation is huge. From an active mountain biking and cycling community, to scuba diving groups, to hiking tours, there seems to be no lack of collections of people getting together to explore all of the natural wonders Mauritius has to offer. I hope to keep up my triathlon training as well, and if there’s not a team present on the island, I’ll start one!

 

I’ll do my best to maintain this blog while abroad. I know as a cadet applying for scholarships that I would have liked to have had the chance to hear about the experiences of Coasties going off on experiences such as Fulbright, so I’ll be here as a resource for any others following the same path. Anyone in the Honors Program or others who have questions about Fulbright or study abroad opportunities, never hesitate to email me at Jessica.D.Lukasik@uscga.edu.

 

 


More about Jessie.

 

For Sail

(Athletics, Class of 2014) Permanent link
Capuzzi Photo Life here at the Coast Guard Academy is stressful, and that’s putting it mildly. It’s kind of like a tug-of-war, only instead of just two sides, there are like twenty, all pulling on you and competing for your most precious commodity: your time. One of the best escapes we have from the everyday grind is our sports program. In my case, that would be the Varsity Offshore Sailing Team.

 

Before I came to the Academy, I had never sailed a day in my life. When I saw the fantastic facilities and equipment the sailing programs had, I knew I wanted to give it a shot. Fortunately, during Swab Summer, everyone learns some sailing basics. It can be kind of nerve-racking, since they give you some basics and then put you in a boat and say, “go!” I wasn’t particularly good at it (lots of capsizing), but I enjoyed being on the water.

 

Toward the end of Swab Summer, you’re afforded the opportunity to go to what is called coach’s time. It’s kind of like a sample of each sport. I decided to go to the Offshore Sailing Team coach’s time. My rationale was that they sailed bigger boats than the Intercollegiate Dinghy Team, so I could sail with a lot of upperclassmen and learn from them.

 

Nearly four years later, I look back on this as one of the best decisions I made at the Academy and in life in general. I’ve raced in Annapolis. I’ve raced in Los Angeles. I’ve raced all the way from Newport to Bermuda. I’ve been to some of the nicest yacht clubs in the world. I’ve met some of the best sailors in the world, including Olympians and America’s Cup winners. My membership on the team has allowed me to do so many things that I otherwise would not have gotten the opportunity to do.

 

As you can probably imagine, sailing can be cost-prohibitive. Boats are expensive. The Coast Guard Academy has a large fleet that you get to use for free! J/70s. Colgate 26s. Leadership 44s. A J/44. And soon a Melges 32. I can’t imagine ever having more access to sailboats than I have right now.

 

Don’t think the Offshore Sailing Team is a place to take a boat out for a pleasure cruise, however. Four days a week, we’re practicing hard on the Thames River, refining our skills and developing new ones. There’s a new regatta almost every weekend, so we always have to be training. The commitment is big, but the reward is much bigger.

 

One of my favorite things about the sailing team is how it makes me forget about Academy life. For two hours a day, I’m not a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy, but simply a sailor on the Thames River. And that is how I keep my sanity.

 

To wrap this up, if you should find yourself coming to the Academy, I would highly encourage you to give Offshore Sailing a try. In every sense of the word, it can take you places.

 

 


More about Nick.

 

Best Night of My Life

(Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
Mason Photo March. What a month! It started out with billet night, which I can safely say was, by far, the BEST NIGHT OF MY ENTIRE LIFE. I am going to Sunny San Diego, California with my boyfriend! We got co-located, which was our main priority, and I get to go back to my home state. I would have been happy with absolutely anywhere Nicko and I were placed together, but I am extra happy that I get to be near my family again in California. We only put two locations on the West Coast (Oregon and San Diego) and San Diego was last on our list of 42 places. Everything else was on the East Coast to stay closer to Nicko’s family, and because there were better options for co-location. I have been away for five years, and I’m ready to be close to home again for a couple years. My little sister lives six hours away in Arizona, and my parents are a 1.5 hour flight plus 3 hour drive away! I am sad that Nicko has to move so far away from his family, though. I know they are going to miss each other so much. They’ve lived 10 minutes down the road for the past three years, so they’ve definitely gotten used to having the whole family around. Especially since his brother also goes to school here with us. It’s definitely a bittersweet situation. However, I’m glad Nicko is going to get to spend more time with my family. I have gotten to know his family very well over the past couple years, and I would love for him to be able to do the same.

 

Ok, enough about that. Let’s talk Haiti! This trip was so much different than my trip last year. Last time there were mostly girls, and this trip had a pretty even mix of guys and girls. And the age range was more spread out, whereas last year most of us were in our 20s. I got to be with Haitian children that I had grown close to last year, and it was so heartwarming to see that they were doing well. I missed them so much! We camped out on top of a remote mountain and helped start the foundation of a new church. We also held clinics and gave out medication to those who needed it. It was so rewarding. I definitely got my share of sun while I shoveled concrete into buckets in the 100-degree weather in no shade! The way they do things over there is so different, and much more physically taxing, but I loved it. We were carrying rocks up from the bottom of the hill, carrying buckets of water from the creek, and mixing dirt in with the water and cement right on the ground. Then we made a daisy chain of people passing rocks and bucket of concrete to fill in the trench where the walls would be placed. It was awesome. We also held Bible studies in the evening with their future pastors and church leaders that were from the ages of 18 to 24. The pastor there said we revolutionized the way their pastors would be teaching for years to come. I can’t think of anything more rewarding than that!

 

I also had my surgery this month. It went well, but I can definitely say it is a challenge to get around the Academy with crutches and one working leg. There are no elevators in my wing of the barracks, so I’ve had to master getting up and down the stairs. Definitely a great workout… The medication they put me on for pain was making me throw up and itch all over, so they gave me meds to combat that. I’ve reached the point where it isn’t working well enough to make it worth it, so I’m just going to grin and bear it and have stopped taking the meds. Plus, it made it very hard to focus in class!

 

Only a couple more months and I’ll have my degree! Let’s just hope that comes with a commission! I guess I’ll know soon enough.

 

 


More about Ally.

 

A Wild Ride

(Academics, Extracurricular Activities and Faith-Based Involvement, Overcoming Challenges, Class of 2014) Permanent link
Mason Photo One of the coolest things I did this month was going on my Capstone trip to San Juan. It was so much fun! We had a meeting with the engineering officers on base, and the rest of our time was spent soaking in the sun and dancing. Our trip also took place over Super Bowl Sunday, so we got to enjoy that as well. I really missed the island, but every time I go back I find new things that I love about it. It would definitely be a challenge to live there, since the lifestyle is SO different from “the mainland” but I love the food, the beach, the sun, and the colors! The culture always amazes me. I’m pretty sure every woman in Puerto Rico could be a professional dancer. The way they move is mesmerizing.

 

For some bittersweet news, I’ve found out that I have to have surgery on my ankle from when I tore my ATFL last semester. However, I’m financially tied into going to Haiti again for a mission trip over spring break, so I have to wait until the middle of March. This wouldn’t be a problem for any other year, but my commissioning date is hanging in the balance! Basically if I am not healed enough to go onboard a ship and work by graduation (May 21st) I have to stay here at the Academy until I am, which means I can’t take my 30 days of leave until I am ready to commission, and that could potentially affect my billet. But I’m going to stay positive and hope for the best. Everything happens for a reason right? So if I do have to stay here for a while after, I’ll just have to make the best of it.

 

This next month will be the most exciting until graduation. Billets! And Haiti! And Surgery! It’s going to be a wild ride.

 

 


More about Ally.

 

The Long Blue Line

(Choosing the Coast Guard Academy, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2014) Permanent link
Keith Photo Classes finished? Check.

 

Capstone presentation? Check.

 

PCS paperwork? Check.

 

As the days wind down to graduation, it’s so strange to think that I only have 19 more days in Chase Hall. In some ways, it’s bittersweet because I will be leaving all of the amazing friends and mentors that I have met along the way of this journey, but I know that we will again cross paths at some point.

 

I am incredibly excited (and almost in disbelief) that I will be graduating in a few short weeks and commissioning as an ensign in the Coast Guard! Especially with an electrical engineering degree. You see, I originally came in as a government major but decided to take on the challenges of engineering. Even though I’ve always enjoyed writing, I thought I would be better off if I stretched myself intellectually and learned more about math, science, and the technological world in which we live. It’s been the hardest thing that I have done to this point, and there have certainly been times where I thought I would fail out, but I’m confident that all of the things that I’ve learned will be useful as a junior officer – and it’s not even all technical. The ability to work together as a team to solve a problem, to think of an idea and actually create it in the real world, to keep pushing even though the end doesn’t seem in sight…those are the things that I will be taking out of the gates of this Academy, all thanks to studying engineering.

 

The section chief of my major, a Commander (O-5) just had his retirement ceremony in the lobby of Mac Hall and it dawned to me how unique this Academy and organization, as well as the continuity of the Long Blue Line, is. Days after he leaves the organization, my classmates and I will official enter it and begin our service as officers. While it’s sad that the Great Class of 2014 will be scattered throughout the country, and will never again be together as a whole, I know that we will get to see and experience amazing things while carrying out the missions our country has tasked us with. Several of my mentors from the classes of 2011 and 2012 have already left their ships and are well onto their second tours. My friends from 2013 are a year in and will be showing us the ropes while assigned to our ships. And those from 2015, 2016, and 2017 will be here, working through this 200 week program that is the USCGA. For those fortunate enough to be coming in as the Class of 2018, get excited. You’re in for one life-changing journey, one that I would do all over again.

 

 


More about Jordan.