From an outsider’s point of view, Cortni Alexander is just another student studying at Western. But, what they don’t see is the bumpy road she had back to civilian life after an early career in the military.
“I definitely have a lot more freedom and time to do what I want now, but at the same time it was a struggle. I left a life of structure, order and a support system with my friends in the military who were going through the same things as me, to a place I knew nothing about or a life style I wasn’t used to,” Alexander said.
When she was 17 years old, Alexander sat down and created a plan for her future. She would graduate from high school, join the Navy, get a bachelor’s degree and then go to graduate school.
Six years later, completely on schedule, she is gearing up to graduate from Western with a Sociology degree and apply to the University of Washington’s Marital and Family Therapy program.
“It’s so crazy. I made these plans when I was 17 and through my journey I’ve hit every mark so far,” Alexander said.
The journey hasn’t always been easy. Alexander graduated from high school in 2011 and joined the Navy three weeks later. She went through boot camp for two and half months, then was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi to study physics, dynamics, aerology and oceanography, then to Norfolk, Virginia for shore and sea duty.
“Work was hard and long. They expect a lot of you, and at a really young age you are responsible for billion dollars’ worth of equipment,” Alexander said.
Being away from home for the first time, in areas she wasn’t familiar with, she looked to her comrades for help through the transition into a different lifestyle; and by her own admission, Alexander more or less grew up in the Navy.
“I made some of my best friends here. Those were really vital years of my life and I spent them discovering who I am as a person in the Navy. The friends I made during that time were also growing as people. We were all fresh out of high school, first time being away from home, so we all became like this family that looked to each other for support,” Alexander said.
After leaving the Navy, she moved to Washington to attend Western, where she had to adjust to a new lifestyle again. In the Navy she always had to be on hyper alert, but now had to adapt to a lower stress slow-paced environment.
“I probably should have taken time for myself because going straight from service to a totally different lifestyle can be shocking. The first couple months were definitely a culture shock, especially moving to Washington where I didn’t know anybody or the area,” Alexander said.
Alexander quickly found her new makeshift family through Western’s Veterans office. “We all connected. The military is like that. You kind of adopt each other into makeshift families because you move around so much and don’t get to get too attached to people,” Alexander said.
Once she started getting her routine down, making friends and getting closer with the Veteran’s office her new life became enjoyable and easy. She knows she made the right decision in coming to Western, but owes a lot to the Veteran’s Services office, which office provides services and benefits to veterans, service members and their dependents as they pursue their education goals at Western.
“I don’t think I could have done it without them because at this point they are my family. They always have my back no matter what,” Alexander said.