I spent this past weekend in Vienna with three guys from The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina. I knew it would be interesting and I would hear a lot about their school, but I didn’t expect to learn so much. Here are ten things that really stuck out to me.
1. It’s not Citadel. It’s The Citadel. They will correct you each and every time you say it wrong. I even got corrected while on the phone with my mom. Save yourself and always use the definite article.
2. It’s not a part of their life, it’s their whole life. Everything they talk about is somehow related to The Citadel. I went in to the weekend never having heard of their school and came out knowing more than I ever needed. If you are wondering the best way to polish brass hit me up.
3. Time is a luxury. At The Citadel, they have little to no free time. While they are studying abroad, they have more free time than they probably do in all four years of college combined. And let me tell you, they take full advantage of it. We left Salzburg Friday morning at 8:00 am and didn’t get back to our hostel until 3:00 am that night. We slept in an hour later than planned (11 am) and then left to explore the city for the day. The next morning we took the 7:30 am train back to Salzburg. Sleep is for the weak.
4. (Most) of them are insanely good at directions. They always knew where they were going, even though we’d only been to Vienna once and were on a guided bus tour for half of it. We never had to stop and ask anyone for directions. We never took the wrong train or went to the wrong stop. This was especially great for me because I have no sense of direction.
5. The food at The Citadel is terrible. Meals consist of powered eggs, instant grits, salad, and burgers so greasy the buns are soggy. My stomach churns just thinking about it.
6. Despite (or maybe because of) the food, they are extremely health-conscious. Normal college guys wouldn’t think twice about eating greasy junk food and sugar all day, but normal college guys don’t go through the obscene amount of training that The Citadel guys do. They call candy fat nasty because “when you eat a lot of it you get fat, and then you look nasty.”
7. They also worry about their futures. Just because they go to a military college doesn’t mean they are free from the omnipresent stress of the future the rest of us constantly suffer from. There are various factors that can determine their success. From what I learned over the weekend, the biggest fear is not getting a contract and therefore having to enlist.
8. They’re some of the most respectful people you’ll ever meet. This one is obvious, but nevertheless noteworthy. Having grown up in Northern California, where the majority of the guys in my town where self-centered, impolite jerks, I had little faith in the male species. It wasn’t until I went to college at University of Texas that I realized chivalry is not, in fact, dead. You just have to know where to find it. The respect and manners that stem from The Citadel are probably a combination of its location and core values. Regardless of the reasoning, it was comforting to see such respect.
9. They’re really curious about the mundane details of a “normal” college. My friend asked me to give a detailed description of a normal day for me at UT. When I told him I usually take an afternoon nap he was surprised. Then I told him how much free time I have and he was astounded. It made me realize I should never complain about how much work or studying I have, because they have the same amount plus hours of training.
10. Their bond is stronger than anything you’ll ever experience. After being in Vienna for an hour we met up with another guy from The Citadel who is studying there for the semester. He and my friend had never really met before and within a matter of hours were best friends. Without knowing this, someone easily could have assumed they’d known each other for years. As much as I tried to learn about The Citadel and be a part of their conversations, I knew I would never fully understand what it’s like there. Even though they are in different companies they all go through the same intense training, sleepless nights, and overwhelming workloads which gives them a bond that no outsider will ever share.
A brief note: This is obviously a generalization based on three average, or what I assume to be average, students from The Citadel. I have never visited The Citadel, nor do I personally know everyone who goes there. As with any situation, there are exceptions to these descriptions. This post was intended to share my impression of their experience at The Citadel, not typecast the entire student body.