Wednesday, February 1, 2012

College vs Army

Someone (I forget who, sorry) told me I should write a blog post about this.  It's one of those things that you're always reminded of in the moment but when you sit down to write about it you can't seem to remember what you were thinking or what you realized.  Well, here goes anyway...

When an American student is in their second, third, and especially fourth and final year of high school they may busy researching, visiting, applying, planning, and deciding which college or university they want to attend for the next few years, and which path of study most interests them (although 50% enter undecided, we'll get to that later).

When an Israeli student is in their second, third, and especially fourth and final year of high school they are busy researching, testing, and deciding which unit they most want to belong to in the Israeli Defense Force.

From experience (in fact, this entire entry is strictly based on my own experiences) I can pretty confidently say that if you asked the average American college student if they could imagine themselves in the army instead of in college, they would probably say no.  If you asked some of the 18 year old Israeli soldiers if they could imagine themselves in university instead of the IDF they would probably answer with something like.."ahlavai" meaning..."if only."  Of course there would be the more Zionistic, nationalist ones who would answer "no" because they've been planning on being drafted into the army at age 18 since they knew what the IDF was.  Yes, many would voluntarily draft even if it wasn't mandatory, and many would die to be at an American university instead of at boot camp, but I'm pretty sure all would say that their path for the next 2-3+ years and an American 18-year-old's path for the next 2-4+ years are basically polar opposites, so they think.

Drinking, partying, studying, "no parents" (no rules)...boot camp, guns, commanders and discipline. But wait a minute...moving away from home, meeting new friends, living with roommates, eating dining hall food, sharing bathrooms with too many people, lack of sleep, learning new material and skill sets, pillow talk, shower parties, gaining weight (yes, the "freshman 15" happens in the army too, and not from beer), learning time management, longing for home cooking, drinking too much coffee, saving your laundry up until you bring it home for mom to do....seems to me like there might be more similarities than differences!  The two big differences are that in University there is a lot of drinking and not a lot of rules or discipline.  In the army there is no drinking and everything is run by rules and disciple.  Besides these two (okay, fine, BIG) differences, everything that has to do with moving out and being on one's own, learning about yourself and how to live with others, make new friends, manage your time, learn new skills...these are all the same.  For the past 6 months I found myself a few times analyzing the behavior or comments of a lot of the friends I am serving with and realizing that I went through an awkwardly similar time in my life when I started college.  Thankfully I have been lucky in serving with a lot of people who are not 18, who took a year off between high school and the army, who have traveled the world a lot with diplomatic or banker families and have a broad world view, who (2 or 3) also have a degree!, who are also American/Canadian/British, or for some other reason are not the "typical" Israeli soldier, like me!

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