Friday, April 18, 2014

VMI Visit

Tuesday we continued our tour of colleges, visiting Virginia Military Institute (VMI).  We had originally planned that we all would go, just like the Va Tech visit, but then the weather forecast was terrible, predicting rain and a cold front coming in all day.  So we decided the better part of valor was to have Bob stay home with all the younger kids, and just Nathan, Luke, and I make the trip!  Good thing too, because the day turned out to be just as miserable as predicted, weather-wise, LOL.  No kite flying on the drill field would have happened Tuesday!

We left at 7:00 and got to Lexington a little after 10:00.  We met our friends, Tim and Amy P. and their daughters, at the house of Tim's sponsor mom from when he was a cadet at VMI.  Tim and Amy volunteered to take us on a driving tour of Lexington and the campus, and, since there were only 3 of us, we all fit in their van!  It was wonderful!  I really liked the town of Lexington.  It had a really nice feel to it, and of course I loved driving around and seeing all the old houses and buildings!  VMI is on a hill right next to another school, Washington and Lee, which also used to be an all-male school.  I'm not sure who ever thought it was a good idea to put 2 all-male institutions right next to each other, especially with one being military.  There were apparently the occasional brawl.  Who would have thought?  But now they are both co-ed, and I think they co-exist up on the hill nicely, LOL.

Being up on a hill was really nice, I thought, because it gave some definition away from the town, unlike UVa, where the students were just swarming all over the streets, and it seemed like the city was encroaching on the campus (or more likely, the campus was encroaching on the city!).  I really liked the architectural look of VMI too--like a castle!  It was good that Tim could drive us around so we could really get a feel for the whole campus, even the sports fields and obstacle courses behind the main campus part.
After our driving tour, we picked up pizza and went back to the sponsor mom's house to eat that really quickly.  Then it was back to the campus for a walking tour.  Thankfully the rain held off pretty much during the tour, so we didn't get soaked.  A junior history/English major gave the tour, and he was really good--funny too!  He told us he wasn't really a tour guide, but he definitely gave us a good feel for life at VMI.  We were all so impressed by all the traditions there.  I'm pretty familiar with USAFA traditions, who the buildings are named for, etc., but this was all totally new!  And everything goes back so far!  Christine asked about "Confederacy stuff", but we definitely did not get that vibe at all.  When the guide was talking about a huge painting in their chapel building of the New Market Battle of the Civil War, where cadets (some as young as 13) actually saw combat and performed very heroically, he said that regardless of politics, what they did there was be courageous, take initiative, sacrifice, etc.--in other words, demonstrate the qualities that VMI is trying to instill in people.  So it was a really interesting tour.

After the tour, we went up to the math department to visit a professor who was a classmate of Tim's.  He was really nice, and it seemed to me that he would be a really good professor.  In fact, he said the math department was filled with really great professors (he excluded himself, LOL), and this year they were graduating something like 44 math majors, which really is pretty good for a school of just around 2000!  Math is not usually the most popular of majors!  We discussed how Va Tech is having most engineering majors in ROTC take 5 years, while VMI definitely does not give that option.  He admitted that engineering was definitely harder at a place like VMI, since you had to take more classes at a time, as well as deal with all the yelling and stuff from upperclassmen during the first year, especially.  He said that was why some people changed majors to math, LOL.  We didn't get to talk to an AF ROTC guy this trip, but I was wondering if that didn't explain why the Va Tech Corps lady (a lt. commander, I found out, thanks to Tim and his knowledge of Navy ranks!) was saying that Tech had such a higher rate of getting cadets into field training slots--the cadets there would have better grades than VMI cadets, since they have less pressures on them.  Interesting thing to consider, if in fact that is true.  We'll definitely ask that question when we do talk to an AF ROTC person up there!  Nathan is planning on going back in the fall to spend the night, and he will need to set up an interview as well, so we will be back down there, for sure.  Nathan is definitely still very interested in VMI!
After the tour, we visited the VMI Museum especially so we could see a model of a cadet room.  It was good to be able to see what people when when they talk about "rolling up the hay"!  Cadets sleep on these mattress things (used to be filled with hay), that they roll up during the day (done each morning before inspection) and that are put out on folding cots during the night.  Since 3 people are assigned to a room, it's a good things the beds are up out of the way during the day so they have enough room to move around!   The other exhibits were interesting too--so much history!  We bought a few things at the gift shop and then headed outside to take pictures.  We discovered that the rain had really started coming down while we were in the museum, and I definitely should have taken pictures during the tour!  Oh well.  So I only got these 2 pictures.  In the picture right above, Nathan and Luke are in front of a statue called "Virginia Mourning Her Dead", which is right in front of their engineering building.

After saying goodbye to the P's, Nathan drove us all the way back home, which was nice because I find that I am just really tired in the afternoons, and I knew I wouldn't be that safe of a driver, especially in the rain.  Then we were back to our usual schedule, rushing off to CAP, giving baths to the little kids, etc.  But it was a really great day, and I really enjoyed the time just with Nathan and Luke!

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