When I graduated high school I never believed that I would have been through what I have been through to this date. I knew I wanted a military college experience and that is exactly what I got. I thought I had my life planned out and that I was going to be an Army officer in four years. And now looking back….I could not have been more wrong.
For starters, I knew when I got to VMI (Virginia Military Institute) on that hot day in August of 2011, that the next four years were not going to be easy and I knew the first year was going to be the hardest and most challenging obstacle I was ever going to face… and it certainly was. However, I didn’t know how traumatic it was going to be nor did I know that the next four years were going to challenge me in different ways.
The first year at VMI is known as your rat year. The ratline was definitely the most traumatic experience I have had in college. It challenges you physically, mentally, and emotionally and most people do not make it through. It is a system that breaks you down in order to build you back up. The first week itself is very rigorous because you get little sleep, you PT (physical training) a lot, and you are constantly getting yelled at by your cadre. You are made to think and feel that you are at the bottom of the totem pole and that you are actually a rat. Additionally, you are made to walk a certain way in barracks and eat a certain way in the mess hall and the funny thing is, is that these did not even surprise me. I knew I had signed up for it and had even seen it at another military college I had visited.
The thing that shocked me the most was the lack of respect they had for females that attended the school and the maturity level of the so called “men” that the institute is so keen on producing since 1839. Surprisingly, during the ratline I only had one instance of where I was treated rudely because I was a female and other than that I didn’t notice a lack of respect of the other young women. I think that is partly due to the closeness of the entire rat mass (otherwise known as all the freshmen). The lack of respect for the women that attend the school doesn’t so much occur from your own classmates, at least during your first year because you are all going through the same tormenting process of getting through the ratline. However, once the ratline is over is when everyone goes their separate ways and makes judgments of one another and thinks that women don’t belong at the school.
This is the sad and frustrating truth that I honestly had no idea would happen when I came to VMI. I figured it was the 21st century and women can do the same thing as men and they wouldn’t care as long as I proved myself that first year, which I did. And I am not saying all guys at the school think that women don’t belong there, but there are some that do, which to me shows a lack of maturity and thus why my four years at VMI have felt more like a high school than a college.
As it goes, I have two months left at VMI and I decided that I did not want to commission into the Army as I had originally planned when I had decided to attend. I know I want to be treated with respect for the woman I am and even though it wasn’t exactly as I had expected, I know that I have made it this far and I don’t have to prove that to anyone.