Tell us about yourself:

I served for five years in the Marine Corps as a linguist, specializing in Farsi, Dari, Pashtu and Baluchi. Throughout my time at Columbia University School of General Studies, I have moved across a variety of disciplines– from economics to area studies and sociology. I am planning to accept an offer in consulting after graduation where I look forward to traveling more.

Why did you choose Columbia University in the City of New York?

A friend in the Marine Corps told me about Columbia’s support for military veterans. I participated in the Marine Corps’ Leadership Scholars Program and after an interview with the School of General Studies dean of admissions, I decided Columbia was the only place for me.

What military education benefits, such as the GI Bill, did you use?

I’ve used the GI Bill, and together with GS’s Yellow Ribbon Fund and the Pell Grant, I’ve been able to undertake all of the opportunities available to me at Columbia.

What has your experience been like as a student?

My experience has been phenomenal. From the classroom to extracurricular activities and the city, Columbia has provided me with far more than I could have ever imagined. I’ve studied abroad in Turkey; gone blues and swing dancing in Istanbul and NYC; helped plan the annual Columbia Veterans’ Ball; and volunteered for disaster relief after Hurricane Sandy as a representative of Columbia Milvets. I’ve taken courses across the spectrum, from contemporary American advertising to the rise of global urbanism. My thesis is on Islamic finance.

What challenges did you have adjusting to campus culture after military life?

I had only officially EAS’d by about two weeks when I started orientation at Columbia. It just seemed like sensory overload – and particularly the return to reading and writing all the time seemed at times overwhelming. I found tutors, worked hard, and got involved with the SVA organization on campus.

Do you believe your military experience has made you a better student?

Better? It made me more disciplined, surely. It helped me to learn how I learn. The military experience isn’t monolithic, but I never had trouble presenting for a project, or speaking in front of a group. It’s made me better at certain things.

What advice do you have for veterans returning to school?

Dive in. Get involved–and get involved outside the veteran bubble. Have diverse study groups–not just veteran hangouts. At the same time, don’t forget where you are coming from. Stay active in the veteran community, and realize how you can leverage a veteran network to get you to your next goal in life. Remember: others will follow you. Build a place for them.

Additional comments:

Columbia University School of General Studies was founded in 1947 in part to accommodate the thousands of GIs returning from WWII, and in many ways our recruitment of veterans is a return to our roots,” said Curtis Rodgers, dean of admissions for the School of General Studies. “Our undergraduate program is only made stronger by the diversity, leadership, and experiences our veteran students bring to the classroom.”