Spending 14 hours or more a day working in the U.S. Marines, David Foresman’s free time was sparse. But when he had a minute to rest, he would remember home and the people he missed there.
Foresman, a junior elementary education major, is a former military brat turned U.S. Marine. He made his choice to serve his country at the age of 21. Leaving his dad, who is a U.S. Navy Veteran, and his mom behind in Ormond Beach, Florida, Foresman shipped out for eight years with destinations from Afghanistan to Japan.
"When I came back from the 13 months in Afghanistan, it was kind of just a culture shock. A lot of people take things for granted here, and I was used to bare minimum and a pretty bad environment," Foresman said. "You learn to appreciate things more and be more laid back about stuff."
After spending years serving his country and working with missiles and rockets, Foresman returned home in 2014. In August of the same year, Foresman began his transition back into a civilian lifestyle and headed to college at UCF.
"It's harder to get a feeling of belonging. I'm like five to eight years older than most of my classmates," said Foresman, who is 30 years old. "For veterans in general, I've noticed it's just harder to get involved. The social aspect is the biggest adjustment back."
Despite hardships adjusting socially, Foresman's time serving his country left him with skills that have paved the path for his success at UCF. As a student with dreams of pursuing educational politics, Foresman was shaped by his time in the Marines.
"You become really good at managing your time when you're in the military. When a classmate of mine is complaining about homework, I've already got it finished. It doesn't make school easier, it just makes managing your time and stress easier," he said.
Several programs at UCF are centered on aiding that transition and helping veterans become involved. Foresman works with both the Student Veteran Association, which builds a society of veterans and makes them feel a part of the UCF family, as well as Veterans Academic Resource Center that assists with things such as benefits and academic advising.
As veterans return and find their home at UCF, current Knights, such as Safiyah Watts, are preparing to embark on their own military voyages.
The senior health sciences pre-clinical major knew she wanted to be a dentist from the age of 10. After her anticipated 2016 graduation date, Watts plans to enter the dental field in a slightly unconventional way — through the U.S. Navy. Influenced by a family of veterans, she's set her sights on the military.
"I'm going to be a dentist. Yeah, they train you with guns and all that just in case, but other than that it's about the dentistry for me," Watts said.
With dental school ahead and at least four years with the Navy after, Watts said she hopes serving her country will open up a world of opportunities.
"After the four years I'll spend with the Navy, I can do my own thing if I want. I can open my own private practice, and I won't be in debt, which is great," Watts said.
She said UCF has been a helpful environment to prepare her for the military.
"Here at UCF, there's that pressure on students, but at the same time the school is there to help you," Watts said. "I learned here that at any moment you have to be prepared for anything, and that's going to help me in the Navy."