7 take-outs from the first 7 weeks of a pilot Cadetship.

After seven weeks of living on campus as an airline cadet, I have come to a few first impressions. Being there long enough to start to get an understanding of how the day-to-day works, here are a few of my conclusions, tips, and things to watch when living on campus.

 

1. Apparently new cadets have a certain type of strut.

Picture this. You’ve just been offered the opportunity of a lifetime, something you have only been dreaming about since you decided you wanted to be a pilot. You’re over the moon. Your parents and your family are over the moon. You’ve just had your big send-off party, you’ve hopped on a plane to fly across the country and you’ve finally made it to day one of your new Cadetship.

Somewhere along the way though, you’ve picked up this little bit of extra suavity to your step. Or at least that’s what you think it is.

What I am referring to is the new cadet strut that apparently everyone has when they arrive. In our seven weeks, we saw a few new groups start. They’d walk in on their first day assuming the perceived persona of their new position.

I commented on this to a few of my friends from courses that had been there longer than us. I said that one of the groups kind of looked like they were strutting around campus. Whilst they agreed with me, they were also quick to point out that they kind of got that impression of us when we first arrived. Oops.

Important take out: don’t strut around campus when you first arrive. Slouch even. Smile a lot, perhaps. It’s unclear why exactly it happens, but apparently it happens at the start of every new course.

 

2. It takes a little bit of commitment to make friends on campus.

Now this is one that seems obvious right? That’s what I thought. But unless you are some kind of superhuman, outrageously extrovert type like Bec, that might prove a bit difficult. Why, you ask? The challenge comes from cross-cultural barriers and tight inter-campus groups that I didn’t fully appreciate.

When preparing for the move, I had a great plan hashed out to make friends on campus. It started by smiling a lot and saying hello to everyone I walked past. It then followed by remembering everyone’s names and trying to find interesting conversation topics. I had two lined up – how the weather was and why they wanted to be a pilot.

This approach didn’t work out 100% for me. Multiple reasons may have contributed. Perhaps it was the new cadet strut I must have adopted. Perhaps it was the fact that it’s hard to remember people’s names if you never actually go up and introduce yourself. Perhaps it was the fact that there is only so far a conversation can go by complaining about how hot it was last week or how cold it is this week.

Before long, however, I noticed a common bond across campus which transcends all cultural barriers. You might recognise it – it is stress. And stress, as we have recently learned in our extensive Human Performance Limitations classes, requires an outlet.

I now had a genius way to manipulate friendships across campus. One form of stress release is exercise – I made friends while I was in the gym. Another form of stress relief is coffee – I made friends by loudly stating I’d like real coffee and then jumping in the car of someone who (perhaps uncomfortably) invited me to join them on their coffee plans. I made friends on networking evenings at the bar on a Friday night, where letting your hair down while enjoying a quiet game of giant Jenga will always wash those worries away. I even made friends while studying with other cadets where I bought their affection by supplying chocolate.

Important take out: you might need to put in a little bit of effort to make friends on campus, since everyone does often tend to stay in their cliques.

 

3. You probably don’t need to load all five of those meal options onto your plate for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Anyone who has lived on college or at boarding school probably understands this dilemma. If the mess has cooked your favourite chicken schnitzel, the seafood risotto, the chicken lasagne, the beef sausages and the lamb chops, you can’t possibly walk past and not put it on your plate.

It took me a few weeks to figure out that generally the meal options were on some type of cycle and would be back on the smorgasbord within a matter of days. I learnt the lesson after putting myself into a food coma several times and complaining that I could never possibly eat again. I’ve been back in Brisbane on holidays for three days now, and I’ve still never fully been hungry, since I clearly just let loose too much on the buffet. Much to my mum’s dismay, I now also insist on cooking eggs every morning.

Important take out: maybe have the risotto next time it’s available, and if you’re already having a schnitty do you really need the chicken lasagne too?

 

4. Pack your Tupperware and coffee mugs.

One thing on campus that does make me a little bit queasy is the amount of waste produced. To avoid plugging the global warming campaign too strongly, it is very easy to contribute to the excessive waste when living on campus.

You’ll use a cup for the morning coffee, a glass of juice and a glass of water. You’ll then have another cup of coffee at morning tea, and another juice and water at lunch. Dinner will roll around and a cup of cordial will seem nice, along with a water and perhaps a hot chocolate before bed. You may think I am exaggerating, but this is a highly accurate statistical analysis of my friends’ coffee and juice drinking habits.

You’re now at nine cups, which is 63 cups a week and 270 cups a month. If there are 300 people on campus then that’s 81000 cups in total per month. If everyone used their water-bottle and reusable coffee cups to bring it down to the odd cup or two a day, then we could maybe do our little bit help the cause.

Important take out: coffee mugs on campus are a must. Maybe even personalise yours to keep it spicy and exciting to save the environment.

***Shout out to Scott who now uses his coffee mug every morning after my continual harassment.***

 

5. Always be dressed properly and appropriately.

You never know when you’re going to end up in an interesting situation and wish you were wearing something different.

I woke up one quiet Friday morning in the study break. I didn’t have any classes, so I rolled out of bed at 8am and trudged down to the mess in my Peter Alexander PJs and bright pink Ugg Boots for my favourite eggs on toast before hitting the books.

Opening the door to the mess with a yawn, I grabbed my plate and perused the options. I had a quick glance at the tables and was startled to find the entire management team of the flight training academy sitting down eating breakfast. Shocked, and visibly uncomfortable to be walking around in front of them dressed the way I was, I grabbed my eggs and scurried outside to sit with the birds and wallow over how embarrassed I was.

Thinking I had learnt my lesson, I put on a casual summer dress the following week to head to the airline’s Adelaide Administration office at the airport. I was just popping in quickly to meet with a lady and grab my freshly produced ASIC card. To be safe, I even put on a denim jacket.

The universe clearly had other ideas though since it turned out that day was International Women’s Day, and I had unsuspectingly walked in on an event that everyone on the base was attending. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and invited me to stay, which I did, largely lured in by the promise of delicious looking cupcakes. After taking a second to let is sink it, I quickly realised that I was meeting the faces of the airline in a daggy pair of slides and a summer dress and not a drop of makeup on my face. Thank goodness I went with the denim jacket.

Important take out: probably avoid pyjamas in the mess and definitely always dress nice to go anywhere near an airport.

 

6. Multi-tasking and time management is essential.

This is another one that might seem a bit overused and obvious. But I’ve added a unique twist.

Obviously, anyone trying to study is going to suffer from that unfortunate urge to procrastinate. It happens to the best of us, right?

Well I have found a revolutionary way to combine the unhealthy desire to glue your eyes to the Netflix screen with the necessity to exercise off the endless mess food. I now go to the gym and do cardio while watching the next episode of The OC. During the study block, it even made me actually enjoy exercising.

Important take out: if you’re enrolled in a full time flight training course, you’ll need to find your way to take time out from study and enjoy it, but you often have to use that time productively, so find something that works for you!

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Me and the girls – Jade, Inez, Bec and Abby.

 

7. Appreciate your course mates.

With everyone living together, eating together and studying together 24/7, tensions can often run high. When you’re stressed you’ll pick up on each other’s annoying habits and traits. You’ll annoy each other. You’ll feel like you might need a bit of space.

But even when Scott would put his dirty feet on Inez’s bed and drop crumbs everywhere, she would still appreciate him explaining a certain aspect of Aircraft General Knowledge to her. Already, we have been working together as a team, consolidating our private study with group work and quizzing each other. Many nights have already been spent crowded around the living room going over difficult subjects and making sure everyone figures it out.

For me, it has been hard to not take every little comment seriously or to over analyse group dynamics. I’ve had to consciously be aware that everyone feels the heat at different times and to understand when to give everyone space. For someone with very little perception of personal space, this often proved challenging.

Important take out: involve yourself in the group and remember to take things lightly. Play that game of cards. Eat that muesli bar in Inez’s room.

 


That’s it for now about life on campus as I’m currently in Brisbane until the end of April. Since a few of us previously obtained our PPL, we have a bit of time to spend with our families while our other course mates catch up. When I come back to Adelaide, the real stuff begins as they will finally let us loose in a DA-40.

 

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