Recent Alumnus 2012-03-22T13:58:47Z
Not at All the "College Experience" – Introduction
The best way to start off describing CMA is thus - Many people mistakenly choose to come here in order to fulfill some feeling of "machoness." Insecure in their own masculinity, they choose to attend an over-the-top testosterone-driven school that leads them to a testosterone-driven career. In all honesty, this is why I chose CMA, as did many of my classmates. In order to remove any false notions of what to expect here, I will provide a harsh - but fairly accurate - description of life at CMA.
The best word to describe this place is "boring." We are in the middle of nowhere, with nothing interesting around to do for miles. They enforce military-like discipline on us, meaning that we have no parties or on-campus life. the place is dead at night, and there is the daily battle of trying to simply fill those long nighttime hours. The handful of women that do attend this school are not worth a second glance - if that much. We have a saying here: "at CMA, the men are REAL men... and so are the women." But even that is not true.
The average CMA student was a dork in high school and middle school who felt emasculated and is now trying to overcompensate by going into a "manly" career. He drinks more than his fair share, but is still mostly a failure at picking up women in bars and at parties. He is also generally a few pounds overweight from eating the disgusting deep-fried slop from the Mess Deck (Dining hall) and doing absolutely nothing in the evenings. He goes to parties in other colleges on Friday and Saturday nights and gets completely hammered, but will very rarely actually score. In other words, he is the typical "guy that tries too hard."
Campus Life and Social Life
Campus social life is a joke. Conveniently located in the middle of one of California's most ghetto towns, Vallejo, CMA offers very little to do to blow off steam. The only things that Vallejo has to offer in terms of recreation are a plethora of liquor stores, some meiocre Mexican food, and a handful of very sketchy bars. The campus itself is dry, which does not mean that the students do not drink - it just means that drinking needs to be done covertly, in small groups in the privacy of someone's room. Partying is definitely verboten, as are drinking games like beer pong or any other activity that involves being loud while drinking. Loudness is a red flag that will certainly cause an RA or security guard to knock on your door and try to give you an alcohol bust. Parties occur mainly off campus, either in upperclassmen's houses or in one of the colleges in the area. The main colleges that people party at are Mills College, Sonoma State, Davis, and Berkeley. All of these are roughly 30 minutes away, but you need to know someone to get into a party there. On top of that, San Francisco is about 45 minutes away and has some nice places to go. But all of these places require a long drive to get there and you would be amazed how quickly you lose the enrgy to embark on these journeys. For the most part, campus life involves sipping on beers in your room with a few friends.
Let's just get it out in the open - this school is narrowly focused on one topic: the sea. If you do not like sailing and the sea, then stay away, for you will become alienated from your peers and studies very quickly.
That aside, this school is very narrowly focused period. You will not have the opportunities for self-exploration and self-discovery available for you at other colleges. Every major here has a schedule that is rigidly chiseled out; aside from a handful of electives that you take over the course of your studies (which are very poorly taught, narrow, and offer no opportunity for personal growth or learning), you do not have the opportunity to pick your own classes.
The majors here are geared to prepare you for a specific career, which is both a curse and a blessing. The upside of this is that you will never have to worry about the "what will I do after college?" question. If you are a licensed major (Marine Transportation or Marine Engineering Technology), you will go to see for the 5 years or so immediately following graduation, after which you will most likely move to your company's shoreside operations. If you are a shoreside engineer (Facilities Engineering Technology or Mechanical Engineering), you will get an engineering job following graduation. Those of you who are thinking about Business Administration or Global Studies, my best piece of advice for you is "DON'T!!!" These majors are pointless and will only prepare you for unfulfilling jobs as a government bureaucrat (in the case of Global Studies majors) or for a low-end grad school (in the case of Business Administration).
The downside of this academic rigidity is that if you do not like the career your major directs you towards, you're pretty much screwed. You will find it very hard to get work as anything other than a 3rd mate aboard a ship with a degree in Marine Transportation, or as anything other than a 3rd assistant engineer aboard a ship with a degree in MET, or as anything other than a Burger King assistant manager with a degree in Business Administration from CMA. In other words, unless you are 110% positive that the career you are preparing for is the only one you would ever want, this school is not for you. The framework is too rigid and the majors too specialized to allow for any uncertainty.
I would also like to mention that switching majors is virtually impossible at CMA; the rigidly defined schedules have virtually no overlap between majors. If at any time during your schooling you want to switch majors, you will almost certainly have to restart from freshman year.
Also as an aside, I would like to add that while Global Studies and Business Administration kids may have friends in licensed tracks, these two majors are generally considered inferior life forms at CMA and are constantly mocked by their peers. Just thought you should know that, all of you potential BAs and GSMAs.
The student body here is almost a textbook study in male insecurity and overcompensation. The students in this school divide roughly into three groups. The first (and most common of these) is the stereotypical drunken sailor. These students are here simply so that they can go to sea afterwards. They spend as little time as possible stufying, get through with middling grades, and spend most of their evenings in a state of inebriation. A large portion of them smoke heavily. These are personally my favorite group and are the only ones that provide any semblance of entertainment at this godforsaken place.
The second group are the Corps Whores, aka the ROTC Natzis. These are the kids who failed to get into Annapolis and West Point and are using CMA as a back door into getting commissioned as an officer in the armed forces. The majority of these students spent most of junior high and high school being shoved into lockers and beaten up by the football team. As a result, they almost all have a massive chip on their shoulders. As a group, they generally avoid drinking and partying, and spend most of their days polishing their shoes and ironing creases into their uniforms. Those who become actively involved in the Corps of Cadets are called "Corps Whores." Not everyone involved in the Corps is a Corps Whore; this title is reserved specifically for those who abuse their power by giving demerits to their shipmates for BS infractions or narc on their shipmates. A word of caution to would-be narcs: at this school, everybody knows everything about everybody. We all know who's a narc, and revenge is always meted out in the end.
The final group are the Unknowns. These students (consisting mainly of Mechanical Engineering majors) stay locked in their rooms all day, either alone or in small study groups, and spend all their time doing homework, on the computer, or huddled in front of the television screen. While it may seem impossible at a school as small as CMA, there are many people who are simply unknown due to this ghostlike existence.
If you are not 110% sure that you want to go to sea, I recommend you avoid this school. If you do want to go to sea, be forewarned - the career is truly amazing, but the BS that you have to deal with at CMA almost makes it not worth it. You will see the same few hundred faces day in and day out for four years on end, encounter long, empty nights, and generally just hate your existence here. You will count the seconds until you graduate, and be depressed at the result every time. However, if you make it through, you will have an amazing career and a virtually inseparable group of friends with whom you've had some unbelievable times.