Graduating on schedule is a goal of most, if not all, college students. But sometimes things come up, and the goal gets pushed back. Erin Linhares '20 was determined to not let that happen, despite taking a year off to become an aerospace medic with the Air National Guard.
Linhares hadn’t planned on joining the Guard when she started at UNH. Then she had a conversation with her cousin, who is a medic with the reserve unit, and came away inspired.
“She was amazed at how much it challenged her, and was convinced I’d feel the same way,” Linhares says. Further discussions led her to believe that was true, right down to becoming a medic herself.
“That’s one of the things I’m proud of, that I will still be graduating on time even though I took two semesters off.”
Linhares enlisted in July 2017. She had just finished her freshman year, would be starting classes again in a month, and wanted to hold off on bootcamp until she completed the upcoming semester. “I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just jumping into something,” the communication sciences and disorders major says.
Most people don’t join the Guard in the middle of their college career, she says, but she talked with her recruiter and learned starting boot camp in January instead of returning for the second semester of her sophomore year would work. Basic training was in San Antonio, Texas, where recruits learn the fundamental tools they will need to serve.
“Joining the Guard, going through training, it challenged me physically, mentally, spiritually,” Linhares says. “I learned a lot about myself. I learned I could push myself more than I knew.”
Boot camp lasted two months; then Linhares began the real work of training to be a medic. She spent the rest of the year, including the fall semester of her junior year, in hospitals working in outpatient clinics, the ER, labor and delivery rooms, helping patients and learning how to do blood draws and IVs and other forms of hands-on care.
Linhares returned to UNH in late November 2018. The next semester, she took five classes followed by two summer courses. She also got credit for some of the training she received in the Air Force.
“I was very happy that my credits for the classes I had taken — biology classes, science classes — transferred,” the Bridgewater, Massachusetts, resident says. Combined with the full load she’s taking this semester, she has enough credits to graduate in May. “That’s one of the things I’m proud of, that I will still be graduating on time even though I took two semesters off,” Linhares says.
Her reprieve from studying will be short-lived, however; she is in the process of applying to graduate schools to get her master's in speech-language pathology and hopes to work in a hospital or rehabilitation center while remaining in the Air Guard.
“There were two paths I wanted to follow and the combination of speech pathology and being an aerospace medic will let me take both,” Linhares says. “I’m happy with what I’m doing and feel grateful that I will be able to go on and help others.”