Over the course of the past two months, I have done everything from producing a video for ERAU, taking finals, flying 5 aircraft across the country, competing in a national flying competition, moving a friend, traveling home, and in a week, I will return to Arizona only to be flown out to Denver for an interview, then return back to Arizona to start working again. While all of this may sound like me rambling about my recent adventures, it brings up a very key lesson for students, and especially pilots to understand.
Being flexible is one of the biggest tips I can give to any student or person interested in becoming a pilot. Why? Because words cannot explain the time constraints, deadlines, overwhelming amount of tasks, fun, stress, achievements, and accomplishments that will lie ahead. Now before you read this and think, “That doesn’t sound like fun” and reject all of your dreams and plans for school, take a deep breath and plan it out. While plans change, there is always a plan or some way to accomplish your dreams. As a student in college, you probably would rank family, school, friends, and sleep in that order of most important things in your life, or something fairly close to that. That being said, lets give an an example of why flexibility is key to the success of a student, and a pilot (or both for you Aeronautical Science students).
For an incoming freshman student, no matter what you do to prepare for your first week of school, things will not go as you expect. You will be learning the balance of being on your own, taking classes, doing homework, meeting new friends, checking out the town, learning about all of the extra campus activities, eating meals, and of course the last and potentially most important thing, SLEEP. During your week, you will find yourself overwhelmed. Even if you think you have everything planned and taken care of, you will remember last minute that you have an extra homework assignment to do, a club meeting to attend, or maybe your new friends knock on your door and drag you out for dinner last minute and take away from your studying or bed time. The best way I can explain this feeling is learning how to become a college student. Everything is always a choice. Someone once showed me this college triangle:
To be honest, I don’t think this could be any more true. There is always a sacrifice with the decisions you make, but the decision you make isn’t always bad. College is your opportunity to start fresh from high school, to find who you really are, to succeed, to find your strengths and weaknesses, to grow up, and what I would say is the most important is to have fun. While I don’t think it is smart to let your grades tank because you are sleeping through classes and staying out with friends all night instead of studying, there should be a balance. This all loops back to my original topic of being flexible, because that is exactly what finding the balance is. Feel free to travel with friends over the weekend, but make sure you leave yourself with enough time on sunday night to prepare yourself for the week.
For pilots and Aeronautical Science students, flexibility will be the key to a less stressful life both in college and after. In addition to everything that was discussed above about college life, you now add the flight aspect. An extra part in your day dedicated to flying is a double edged sword when it comes to planning out your days. Your flight block allows you to have a dedicated time of the day that you will be scheduled, but also takes up a large portion of your day that you have to keep yourself available. No, this doesn’t mean you sit around and wait for four hours, but it does mean that if you are planning on doing something with friends, or counting on that time of day to be open for studying because you have plans at all other times through the day, it may or may not be available if you get scheduled. These activities are considered classes, therefore you can’t just tell your instructor that you are unavailable because you have plans already. With that, sometimes the weather will cause you to cancel, the aircraft may break, your instructor or you may end up sick, and so on. The one thing I have learned to do to plan for times like these is to always bring or prepare to fill that time with something else productive. If a flight gets canceled, or the flight line shuttle is going to be late, bring homework to stay ahead. It may also free up some extra time for you to go out with friends, or get to bed early. These are skills that will translate directly into the real world when you become an airline or corporate pilot. One day you may find yourself on reserve sitting at the airport all day, and get called in last minute to pick up a trip, or on the contrary, maybe the airport you are supposed to fly to closes due to weather and you find yourself overnight in a place other than you planned for.
College is an incredible time, and the fact that you can be a student and fly as a class is something that truly has always brought a smile to my face. The skills that I have learned at ERAU are skills that I will carry for my entire life throughout my personal life and my career. I hope this was helpful to some of you readers!