Surviving Maritime Academy

Maritime academies are designed with semi-regimented or military training

By Bea del Rio

The maritime industry in the Philippines is sailing—pun intended. Several maritime academies offer scholarships for applicants who pass their admission test, fitness and medical test, and interview. Usually sponsored by shipping companies and agencies, government and unions, these academies give cadets or midshipmen sure employment after graduation. It is thus understandable how more and more of our countrymen want to enter the industry.

Third Engineer Sergio O. Ramos III, graduate of Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP) Class of 2015 Cum Laude and Fleet Commander of their class, shares his insights on surviving—and excelling—in any maritime academy.

Prepare your body

Most academies require a physical test. This includes fitness and medical tests. Doing simple exercises such as jogging and push-ups regularly before the test will greatly help.  It is also important to know that maritime academies are designed with semi-regimented training or military training. So aside from hierarchy and ranks, expect it to have rigorous physical training. The first stage—the plebehood—is, as they say the hardest. You will have to adapt to the tough training; to things like waking up at 4 in the morning, doing daily exercise, and following strict formation that will test your endurance. So it’s highly advantageous to be physically prepared.

Prepare your mind

According to Ramos, one of the main challenges he encountered upon entering MAAP was adjusting to the transformation from  civilian to  military/cadet life. The main difference between the military and civilian life is  lack of freedom. This means that as a cadet, you have to follow a strict set of rules. You have to do a given set of things at a given time, and execute them exactly as demanded.

“Yes, it’s hard. I’ve seen it with my own eyes,”  Ramos shares. “During our fourth class year,there were a lot who weren’t able to make it because they thought it wasn’t for them; that they couldn’t do it. But no. Most of the time, it’s not really about the body, but about the mind. When it

comes to physical training, always remember that what the mind can conceive, the body can achieve.”

Know  your “Why”

Whether it be for greener pastures,  passion,  family, or for country, always keep in mind why you’re there in the first place.

Ramos states, “Based on my experience and observations, majority of those who enter the maritime academy don’t really want to be a marine. It’s not because they want to be captains or chief engineers. Some enter because of financial problems, or for a  brighter future because it is said that seamen earn more, or because they were pressured by their parents. Whatever it is, be sure you know what you really want before you enter. Because that’s your purpose. It will help you survive.”

Self-Discipline and Time management.

Although the physical training is important, it is first and foremost an academy, so keep in mind that academics are just as significant. Aside from not being able to keep up physically, a lot of people fail due to academic reasons, or more accurately, because they can’t find the balance between physical and academic training.

For the consistent dean’s lister and member of the prestigious Honor Board committee, Silent Drill Company, and Marathon Fleet Squad, the key to overcoming this is not much of a secret:

“Just have self-discipline and manage your time wisely. First step is to identify the set of things you have to do, and then do them, as competently as possible, and without excuses. It’s as simple as that.”

Take it one step at a time

Ramos tells us that “Although there are some whose body are really ready for strenuous exercises, I assure you that the majority of the fourth class is actually not physically prepared. That means you are there to train, not to be tested.”

He explains further that this means you are there to continuously improve; to push yourself and test your limits. It is normal to feel weak or frustrated at first. The important thing is to keep going.

“Just don’t quit. Take one day at a time. At the start of the day, be grateful that you are given the chance to train and improve. And at the end of the day, be grateful that you survived.”

Be friendly.

The people you will meet upon entering the academy will most probably be those who will stick with you through thick and thin, or at least until the end of your days there. So do not isolate yourself. Be friendly and get to know the people around you. You’ll learn a lot from them. It will also help you enjoy your maritime life. Having worked in Oil/Chemical Tankers,  Ramos says this is also crucial when you’re already working aboard ships. You will learn that camaraderie is the most important thing when you’re stuck at sea with the same set of people for a long time.

Observe, especially during fourth class or your first year in the academy.

Although obeying rules is essential, it doesn’t mean you’re just going to do things automatically without thinking. Be mindful of your surroundings, the situation, and the people around you. Be sure to always be present at the moment, and learn to think on your feet. You’ll find that doing so will make things a lot easier for you.

Contrary to what you may think, your time at a maritime academy isn’t just about the physical and academic hardships, though it may seem like it at first.

As Ramos said, “Maritime academy is a journey. Strive to learn the lessons little by little. Use that time to strengthen your belief, whatever it may be. Despite the many challenges, you’ll learn to appreciate your academy life—and even enjoy it.”