Student earned degree before being called up for duty in Afghanistan
As any college student will tell you, the road to graduation can be a long and arduous journey. No one knows that more than Adam Anderson, who finished his college career halfway around the world.
Just four weeks into his final semester at Flagler College, Anderson, a member of the Army Reserve, was called to be deployed to Afghanistan.
“When I received the notification, I was quite shocked,” said Anderson, who has 17 years of service between the National Guard and Army Reserve. “At the same time, I saw it as a huge challenge, to juggle both my military and educational commitments, and to complete both without fail.”
Anderson said his unit asked for volunteers to be deployed and had gotten enough response that no one would be called up involuntarily. When two volunteers were disqualified for medical reasons, Anderson got the call.
But after putting off college to go on active duty after Sept. 11, Anderson was determined not to delay obtaining his degree in Latin American Studies any further.
“It took me seven years to get my Associate’s degree in junior college so making time to finish my Bachelor’s degree was very difficult, since I was already in my early 30s when I was accepted into Flagler,” said Anderson. “But I was determined to finish it once and for all.”
The few weeks after receiving the news were hectic for Anderson who had to try to convince the faculty that he could successfully complete all of his coursework and final exams, while missing the final month of the semester. With the help of professors such as Assistant Professor of Spanish Maria Maguire, Coordinator for the Spanish and Latin American Program John Diviney and Adjunct Professor Diana Reigelsperger, Anderson got permission to try and finish the semester and graduate despite the huge number of absences he would accumulate when he deployed.
“I started on all of my finals projects immediately, did extra credit wherever I could, and worked far ahead of the other students in the required online activities,” said Anderson.
On top of classes, Anderson also had to get his personal life in order, including life insurance, making a last will and testament, spending time with friends and family and packing his bags for a year away from home.
“The most difficult thing was telling my fiancée about the deployment and delaying our planned wedding for another year,” said Anderson.
When it came time for graduation in May of 2014, Anderson was already spending his days working in a military intelligence unit at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, near the Pakistani border.
“Most soldiers get a very narrow picture of their part of the operation, but I need to see as much of it as I can, and can often influence big events,” explained Anderson. “My role is to understand the big picture as well as possible, so I can best focus on how I can anticipate, identify, and influence events in the smaller picture.”
Anderson says that Flagler helped him learn the interpersonal and analytical skills that he uses on a daily basis.
“I usually spend the day talking to people in a wide variety of circumstances. I get to know other U.S. soldiers, Afghan soldiers, local workers, and foreign persons who find employment on American bases,” said Anderson, who has also discovered a love of language. “One of my favorite ways to connect with people is to learn as much of their language as possible, in order to break the ice. In the past few months I've picked up a few phrases each in Pashtun, Dari, Albanian, and even Swahili.”
Anderson said he hopes to continue his language education when he returns to the States in February of 2015.
“I learned to speak Spanish through Flagler and am currently studying Portuguese in my free time,” said Anderson. “When I get back, I’d like to plan a language immersion to Brazil.”
But after the places he’s been and the thing’s he’s done, Anderson is quick to point out just how important earning his degree has been.
“For me, graduating from Flagler was not just another box checked on my list of life goals, but a very real means to move forward in my profession,” said Anderson. “I couldn't be happier with the school, my choice of major, my professors, or my experience at Flagler College.”