In November 2009, my husband and I set off for the adventure of a lifetime after he received orders to PCS to Baumholder, Germany! I was 23-years-old, a recent college graduate, and a newlywed. I was both excited and terrified. I had never lived outside of my home state of North Carolina, and other than moving to Raleigh, NC to complete my undergraduate studies at N.C. State University, I had never lived away from home. Baumholder was also my husband’s first permanent duty station.
It was easy for me to get lost in the excitement of moving to Germany and having the opportunity to travel Europe, however, when all of the excitement wore off, I realized that moving to Germany would mean limited career and educational opportunities for me. Unfortunately, it is common for military spouses to put their educational and career goals on the back burner while they support their spouse’s military career. I refused to let this be the case for me.
Upon arrival to Germany, I learned quickly that if I wanted to accomplish anything I had to be proactive and try to figure out my questions on my own. OCONUS (Outside the Continental United States) duty stations are a different world from stateside duty stations, especially if you have little knowledge about how the Army operates. Prior to moving to Germany, I knew I wanted to attend graduate school. When I found out that I would be moving overseas, I figured I would have to put going to graduate school on hold or live apart from my husband while completing a graduate program stateside.
Thanks to a fellow Army spouse, I learned about the education center on base. The representatives at the education center were so helpful and friendly, and just what I needed after ending up at so many dead ends with my school search. After receiving a wealth of information about educational opportunities for spouses in Germany and giving it a lot of thought, I applied to a program that would allow me to complete my Master’s while living in Europe. I was filled with excitement when I received an acceptance letter to the program, and beginning in January 2010, I was on my way to a Master’s degree!
While I was completing my graduate degree, I also held three part-time jobs. I worked as a childcare provider for two different military families in the area and as an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) tutor for one military family that had a child with Autism. I felt it was important to provide some financial support to our family and do something that helped further my career. So much of my life revolved around my husband’s career, I needed something to call my own and to help me find my own identity without getting lost in his.
I reached my last year of graduate school in 2011, which brought new and exciting challenges for me. I was extremely sad and worried, but I did what any military spouse would do: I wiped off the tears and toughened up! In February, my husband left for his first deployment to Afghanistan. I decided to move back to NC during the deployment, to surround myself with family and work while continuing my education. I think staying busy with work and school was the best distraction I could have had. Before I knew it, the deployment was over and I was on my way back to Germany to welcome my husband home.
The next month, I began my internship at Baumholder Middle-High School. I was in the home stretch! I worked hard as a school counseling intern and in my final graduate school class. I enjoyed assisting the military students and it felt good to be back “home” with the military community. I learned a lot during my internship and received many opportunities to practice my counseling skills.
In May 2012, I received my graduate degree and walked across the stage during graduation in Heidelberg, Germany along with fellow military spouses, military personnel, and civilians. I had completed a Master’s degree, all while getting accustomed to the military lifestyle, living in Germany, and surviving my husband’s first deployment. What an awesome feeling!
Currently, I am working on a post-graduate certificate in behavior analysis. I have decided to become a certified behavior therapist and pursue a career as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Someone once told me that military spouses will never be able to have a career due to the frequent moves and limited opportunities at many military bases. By being proactive and making strides to continue my education and begin my career, I have been able overcome the obstacles and be a strong military spouse at the same time!
By Amanda Oakley, Joanne Holbrook Patton Scholarship Recipient