Finding Community at U-M as a Veteran

In honor of Veterans Week, read about the support and friendships one student found on campus.

By Nuobei Zhang November 9, 2021
Vets Week blog post

After months of researching schools, writing and editing personal statements, and dealing with all the paperwork that is required to transition out of the military (it can be even more troublesome than writing personal statements), my effort paid off when I got my admission letter in December last year. Well, the excitement of getting the admission letter was soon overwhelmed by anxious anticipation. I was too overwhelmed by all the paperwork to think about the fact that I would actually be going back to school after four years. It felt surreal. Then I realized that I would be much older than almost all of my classmates and rusty in academic skills. Yet pursuing higher education was always part of my plan for the future, so I drove for 36 hours from California to Michigan this March with my family to begin my college journey.

During the winter semester where everything was over Zoom, I did not feel a sense of belonging to be honest. It was harder to make friends in isolation. I missed my friends back in the Army and my family back in California. My only goal was to finish my degree and go find a job. However, things have changed when fall semester started. 

You Always Have a Support Group Here at Umich

When everything was finally back in person, I met and talked with other student veterans in the Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE) kickoff event, and felt better knowing I am not the only one struggling. It is incredible when there are people who can understand your past. At the PAVE events, we were talking about the good old military stories that we experienced. Even though all of us had slightly different experiences while we were in the military, we can understand the pain and struggle that we all went through and support each other to achieve our goals in school. 

I also made a lot of friends in classes, and talking with people who share the same goal as me made me know I wasn’t alone in my new career path.

Hiking day with friends from PAVE.
Hiking day with friends from PAVE.

Your Age and Experience Are Your Strengths

Being older than most people around me made me feel like I had to be laser-focused on completing my degree as soon as possible to catch up. I was planning to finish my degree in fall 2022. (That means no time to do anything else but school work.) However, as I talk to more people and experience more college life, my mindset has changed slightly. Instead of speeding through these two years, I want to enjoy college life such as joining clubs and exploring opportunities both on campus and off campus. Age is not the most concerning thing to me now. Making the most out of college is more important than a paper saying that I graduated early.

Finally, to all the student veterans on campus, and to all prospective students who are looking forward to being part of the Wolverine community, you have done a great job so far and you got this!

field training
Field training site with the Army.

Nuobei Zhang
Nuobei Zhang

Nuobei is a junior in the College of Literature, Science, and The Arts majoring in Data Science. Before transferring to UMich, she served in the Army as a Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Specialist. She is currently working with Peer Advisors for Veteran Education program. In her free time, she loves hiking, playing mobile or Switch games, cooking, and binge watching anime.