There is a closeness at VMI that is rare in American colleges. It starts in barracks, where cadets live during the entire four years of their cadetships.
And it starts in the Rat Line, which no cadet completes on his or her own. To finish it, to make it all the way to the end, you rely on your classmates in ways that will surprise you and will solidify trust.
Much is shared among members of a class – the boredom of guard duty and penalty tours, intense preparation for parades and inspections, late-night study sessions, downtime in barracks. And when the celebrations come – the ceremony to receive your class ring, for instance – you’ll find that the people you’re celebrating with, your Brother Rats, are the ones closest to you, who know life as you know it, who share your values.
Graduating cadets say it over and over again. What they’ll miss about VMI, what they’ll miss about living for so long so close together in such Spartan quarters, is the people. They miss being just a few steps away from close friendships. They say it’s like leaving family.