Student veterans shared their experiences Tuesday during a symposium, providing a public voice for the usually quiet population of about 530 student veterans at USC.
Veterans from all five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces discussed what they had learned from their time in the military and in their experience as veterans at USC.
Aviana Brown, an army veteran and graduate student studying social work, said serving in the military truly changed her as a person.
“I joined young and I think I grew from the whole process,” Brown said. “I had to spread my wings really fast.”
All five veterans on the panel said they gained something positive from their military experience, including leadership skills, responsibility, respect and thirst for knowledge.
Jeff Ting, a marine veteran and junior majoring in accounting, said the military gave him a sense of direction and determination.
“You don’t let people tell you what you can and can’t do,” Ting said. “No one cares about you more than you do and you have to go for what you want. I got direction. I realized what I wanted to do in life and what I didn’t want to do, which is why I came to USC.”
Despite the benefits of the military there was a lot of anxiety in coping with leaving their homes and being deployed to foreign countries.
“My buddies and I would talk about when we were going home, which was problematic, so the plan was to forget about home,” said Lerri Deguzman, a marine veteran and junior majoring in business administration. “Forget about your family or when you’re going to go back. I had to isolate myself and forget there was a world outside of Iraq because it was too depressing.”
Deguzman said, however, he wishes the university would do more to accommodate to the needs of veteran students.
“Veterans are lost,” Deguzman said. “We’re trying to find a way to pay for school, find a place to live. At first there weren’t a lot of resources, but the people at USC were willing to do whatever they could to help you out.”
Deguzman said there have been positive changes in the university since he arrived in 2009.
“The resources of this school are meant for the normal student body, so the playing field isn’t completely level,” Deguzman said. “But I’ve started to see an improvement, at least this semester. They just opened up the Office for Transfers and Veterans Students which has been great.”
Jay Kellogg, a navy veteran and a senior majoring in sociology, said despite some of the obstacles he has encountered at USC, the overall experience has been worthwhile.
“Even though there are some students that aren’t interested, I think people do care and are very appreciative,” Kellogg said. “I’ve had a great experience at USC. I think the faculty is awesome.”