On Thursday, we got up really early (4:30 for me) and left at 6:00 to drive down to Blacksburg for a college visit. Good thing we had all that practice of getting up and out early when we were trying for space-a flights back in February! I will say I am SO glad we made that trip back in February when I was not very far along. This time getting up so early and driving a lot about did me in!
Anyhow, the night before Bob had gotten home really, really late with Anna and Micah after this big baseball game adventure. We had been planning on making it down to Tech by 10:00 to go to an information session about the Corps of Cadets, but Bob and I decided we would just skip it and sleep in a little bit longer. We neglected to tell Luke, however, so at 4:20 or so he came in and asked if we were leaving anytime soon. I mumbled something about leaving later, but I did wake up enough to realize I had to pee, and if I got up to do that, I might as well shower and just get up.
So we were able to make it (barely) in time for the Corps session, and we were so glad we didn't miss it, because it was very informative! Luke, Nathan, and I went. One of the things I stayed up late doing the night before was printing off maps and whatnot, so we were able to drive directly over to the building we needed to be at. An active duty Naval officer (sorry--I simply can not keep Navy ranks straight!) in the chain of command there gave the briefing, and she talked a mile a minute, packing in all sorts of information.
There are about 1,076 cadets in the corps, which means there are hundreds of leadership positions in charge of 30 or more people. You can be in the Corps without being in ROTC, and 30% take this civilian leadership track. She said Air Force had the best 3 year ROTC scholarships, and they have the 6th largest AF ROTC detachment in the US.
When you get there, you are put into a freshman company of 30 people (your "buds"), and you become really, really close with them. In fact, after the first 6 weeks you get some passes to go no more than 50 miles from campus, but the catch is all 30 of you have to be together. The first year sounded a ton easier than an academy--really only the first 6 weeks are very restricted (no TV/music in rooms, no going off campus, etc.).
She talked a lot about how the Corps tries to help make the academic transition from high school to college easier. They give you a planner and help you plan out each day from all of your syllabi. They put you into a study group with 5 other freshmen in your major, along with a sophomore who is also in the same major, to help you with assignments and whatever you don't understand. You have to study 2 hours for each hour of class, and there are designated study hours in the Corps dorms. She went on for awhile, and it really did sound like good support.
She talked really fast, but even so, she ran later than we expected, and as soon as she wrapped it up, we had to bolt over to an engineering information session that started at 11:15, so we didn't get to talk anymore with her or ask any questions, which was too bad. She was really nice!
The engineering session mainly just talked about the different engineering majors offered at Tech. We did find out that most ROTC students who are also engineering majors take 5 years to finish. This was surprising, since the Corps lady didn't say a word about it, but it was confirmed by several people. We were impressed by the rigor of the engineering program, as well as by all the project opportunities for the students. The only problem with the session was that the room was about 100 degrees, I had left my water bottle in the car when we bolted out to the first session, and I thought I was going to pass out! I ate a protein bar, but still--I was very glad when it was over! Nathan did say after the session that he thought he would stop saying he was planning on majoring in electrical engineering, but rather just "engineering", since there were other choices that really interested him as well.
We caught up with Bob and the rest of the kids, who had eaten while we were in the 2 sessions, and they took us over to Taco Bell so we could grab a quick bite. Then it was off to a meeting with one of the Air Force ROTC officers, a captain. He was very nice, but he was not really talkative or much into volunteering any extra information. He showed us a powerpoint presentation on the detachment there (which confirmed the 5 year engineering thing and explained how it worked), and answered a few questions we came up with, but that was it. He definitely didn't initiate any conversation! The meeting only took about 30 minutes.
Next, we met up with a cadet named Joe who is a junior there currently on an Army ROTC scholarship. Lynnea hooked us up with him, and what a blessing that was! Originally, we had planned to visit UVa this day, but Nathan is not remotely interested in going there, so we ended up deciding to do this visit instead. But by the time we decided, there were no more slots available for the campus walking orientation tour, and I was so disappointed. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, however. Joe took us on a personal tour of the whole campus from a Corps/ROTC perspective, which was much more helpful than some generic tour! He was just so very nice! We really enjoyed our time with him. He was in the middle of inspecting some rooms when we finished up with the ROTC guy, so we got to tag along with him while he finished, seeing the rooms and talking to other cadets. It was so nice! We were really impressed by the atmosphere in the Corps. Everyone was so friendly, and they seemed genuinely happy to be there. It was really nice seeing all the uniforms around campus too, especially around the "upper quad" where the Corps dorms are, which is really close to the engineering/math buildings. You definitely won't stick out like a sore thumb just because you are in ROTC, like in schools with a really small detachment. One small cool detail--the dorm we were in is called "Monteith Hall"--my grandparents' last name!
The campus is really pretty, and we were there on an absolutely beautiful spring day. But you will have to google if you are curious because I did not take one single picture the entire day. I guess I was just really, really tired! Tons of students were hanging out on the drill field in the center of campus. I really love the style of architecture they have gone with--sort of old English look, I guess you would call it. They are in the process of tearing down and rebuilding the Corps dorms and classroom buildings. They have torn down one main dorm, and it is supposed to be rebuilt and finished fall 2016. The whole project is supposed to be finished fall of 2019.
Joe had to go to another class at 3:15, so after thanking him profusely for sharing his time and experience, we met back up with Bob and everyone else. They had been enjoying the drill field as well, flying a kite and eating apples! Then we headed over to the house of Rob and Chandra Enos, who are part of the Valor ministry to the Corps. Valor is the military ministry arm of "Cru", which used to be Campus Crusade. They used to work at White Sulphur Springs, so it was so fun to catch up with them, as well as get their take on the Corps. It is so nice to know that if Nathan went there, he would already know people in ministry and be able to plug right in there.
We left Blacksburg around 5:30 to drive to Charlottesville, where we spent the night before touring Monticello on Friday with Rivendell. It was an absolutely exhausting day (for me, anyway), but it was very much worth it. Nathan and Luke both were very excited about Virginia Tech, saying they could definitely see themselves there. Our next college stop is VMI, so it will be very interesting to see how that compares!