October 20, 2009
By Min woo Cho BRONZE, Culver, Indiana
Min woo Cho BRONZE, Culver, Indiana
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

I was enticed to come to America by the possibility of freedom; I assumed that my choices would be enlarged and that I would be granted the privilege to pick and choose what to fill my life with. Then, I came to Culver, a military school, and everything seemed to refute my assumptions.

Life was extraordinarily cyclic. A cannon would pronounce the reveille at 6:30 AM, and cadets are given an hour to get ready, eat breakfast, and head to the field for morning exercises. After that, classes would ensue, and more exercises and sports would be waiting at the end of the school day. Strict rules governed everything. One couldn’t even walk in the hallways without having to march on the right, pivot at every corner, and greet every person one encounters by rank and name. I was yelled at if I mispronounced the rank or name even though English was my second language. I felt far from being free; instead, I felt like the Nutcracker in the Russian ballet.

Showmanship seemed to override everything, including academics. Cadets were allotted only two hours of homework time, a meager sum compared to how much time we had to dedicate to perfecting marching maneuvers. This bizarre ratio enforced me to learn time management however. Weekdays were crammed with military exercises, and weekends were jammed with crew regattas and military ceremonies. The deluge of group activities washed away my individuality, forcing me find and build a new character to take its place.

When I found myself again, I saw my situation for what it really was. How many teenagers get to release their stress by firing cannonballs? How many people have the honor, the privilege, of marching in Presidential Inaugurations, helping the CIA declassify documents, or serve as a Sergeant over a hundred men? Culver Academy tempered me with heat and cold objectivity, and when the slag of immaturity and self-centeredness were beaten out, my perceptions also realigned.

Old habits tend to take shape again in times of distress. Last year, there was a time when crew, military activities, and final exams were bombarding me simultaneously. I thought of studying for the exams during weekends, but crew regattas on Saturdays and military activities on Sundays seemed to stand in the way. Assuming my priorities to be in academics, I pondered about skipping practices to make time for studying. Then, my mind conjured up my coach’s reaction, and I found my sensibility again. In the end, I finished my exams successfully, fulfilled my responsibilities as a platoon sergeant, and was promoted to varsity at the end of the crew season. Instead of forgoing of one responsibility to make time for another, I had decided to make my mealtimes shorter, halt fraternizing with friends for the time being, and stop fretting about how much I had to get done. Challenged to climb mountains, my heart, character, and intellect grew to leap over them.
Culver Academy revealed the truth of the adage, “Tribulation reveals character.” If I had kept my mind frozen at my first impression of Culver Academy, none of the growths I experienced would have been possible. Ignorance would have led me to overlook the great opportunities that awaited my arrival. Mandatory activities served as the prologue, the cost of my freedom that empowers me to fly to places I never thought possible. After four years of journey, I have finally arrived.

The author's comments:
This piece is about a particular moment in Culver Academy.

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