Making the Transition from Serviceman to Student

Thomas Sim i i

Thomas Sim, who served as a Marine in Iraq, said it was tough to transition to being a student when he enrolled at the University of California, Irvine. Courtesy Thomas Sim hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy Thomas Sim
Thomas Sim

Thomas Sim, who served as a Marine in Iraq, said it was tough to transition to being a student when he enrolled at the University of California, Irvine.

Courtesy Thomas Sim

Over the last five years, the war in Iraq has touched the lives of many.

One such person is Thomas Sim, a 24-year-old Korean-American who is a senior at the University of California, Irvine. Five years ago, Sim joined the Marines, which he thought would help him get a good education and allow him to be part of something special.

He was deployed to Iraq two years after enlisting. After his service there, Sim says, it was a tough transition from Marine to student when he enrolled at UC Irvine, a campus of about 25,000 students.

"You lose a lot of connections when you come back. I remember I lost contact with a lot of friends and I kind of lost — had some distance between my family because, you know, people change during war, and so I had to kind of rebuild that social connection," he says. "People don't realize, but social skill takes practice to maintain, and when you're with the same, you know, eight guys for, you know, two years and you come back to a culture that is the antithesis of military culture, that in itself is another obstacle."

Sim and several of his veteran buddies on campus are part of a nationwide group working toward revamping the GI Bill. As it stands now, the GI Bill pays at most $9,600 per year for college, even though the average cost of a public university runs more than $16,000 per year — and that's for in-state students.

"I can't say that the GI Bill has helped me completely because school is very expensive and, as much as the GI Bill helps, I still have to rely on myself again," Sim says.

Sim talks to Alex Cohen about how students react to him on campus and his surprise at how little students talk about the war outside of class.

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