Coming off just about any other tour, with all the deployments, crazy hours, and psycho tempo, orders to the Naval Postgraduate School, or NPS, in Monterey, California sound like a military spouse’s dream. Not to mention, it also looks like a postcard from a place you can’t afford to visit more than once in your life — mostly because it is.
Grocery bills, rent, and gas prices aside, 18-24 months at the Naval Postgraduate School can easily be that dreamy duty station that no other duty station will ever live up to. You just need to get educated before your spouse goes back to school.
You’re Back on a College Schedule
Remember way (way) back in college when the schedule was a little something like: class Mondays and Wednesdays until noon and Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 3 pm? It’s back. There are two sides to this coin. On side one, you will (for at least one quarter) enjoy three-day weekends every weekend, which makes the entire state of California road trip potential. It’s also incredibly easy to schedule vacations because you know when your spouse is on vacation. Fill up that schedule during winter break, spring break, and those mini vacays between quarters.
Side two of that coin is that, at random hours of the day, your spouse is going to be home. If you work from home, expect to have someone microwaving lunch as soon as you hit your stride for the day, watching Netflix way too loud while you’re trying to have a breakthrough, or bounding into the house all sweaty, and chatty, and productive after a morning run while you’re still in pajamas at 10 am. For extra fun, this schedule will change every quarter.
If you’re a logical person, the housing waitlist is your kryptonite. It doesn’t matter how early you get on the waitlist (but, don’t chance it — get on there ASAP) or how early you arrive in Monterey, you won’t get a housing offer until your spouse is due to start class. You might be number 45 on the list, but you will suddenly get a housing offer two weeks before class starts. Notice is only due 30 days before move-out, and moveouts won’t be complete until graduation happens each quarter. On top of that, as we all know, military orders change. So, don’t lose hope, you’ll get a place to live!
Speaking of housing, there are two developments: La Mesa and Fort Ord. From La Mesa, NPS is walkable (and plenty of people bike it). Fort Ord is a little farther out, in Marina, but it’s only a 10-20-minute drive, depending on traffic.
When you do get your house, know that it’s going to steal away all of your basic allowance for housing (BAH). It’s still a deal for Monterey, but you could luck out and spend the same amount and get an ocean view in Monterey, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, or Carmel. It’s worth checking.
We’re not unfamiliar with the mandatory friends in the military. At the Naval Postgraduate School, your spouse’s cohort will be his group of issued friends. They go to class together, work on projects together, draft theses together, and hang out together after class. These people are a natural friend fit for your spouse. Maybe you hit it off with the group too, maybe you don’t, but you can’t avoid them, and you shouldn’t. They arrive at the same time and will leave with you. You may even be heading to the next duty station together — instant friend!
While you’re busy planning a PCS out of Monterey, your spouse will be working on the biggest research project of his life. This means you’re basically on your own with the PCS planning. Nothing new, right? The plot twist is that you’ll be asked to read over sections of your spouse’s thesis (or the whole dang thing) for edits or clarity while you’re house hunting and posting curb alerts on the neighborhood classifieds page.
Power outages will be frequent and numerous. Why? Because you’re living on a hill covered with trees that gets little to no rain. So, when a storm rolls in or the wind picks up — timber go the trees, right on the power lines. Get yourself some candles, flashlights, and extra batteries. These routine outages are the perfect reason to pause the thesis research, close the laptop, and have some family time.
The Trident Room
So, the Naval Postgraduate School is the graduate school with a bar in the basement. The Trident Room is in the basement of historic (and allegedly haunted) Herrmann Hall. If you’re a history buff, check it out. Herrmann Hall, now a military lodging facility with a ballroom that will likely be the scene for your service’s annual birthday ball, has been rebuilt a couple of times thanks to some fires and earthquakes. Before it was military property, it was a hot spot for the rich and famous in California in the early 1900s. Amelia Earhart even stayed here right before her last flight.
Downstairs, the Trident Room serves food (and free popcorn) and is a hopping bar scene when classes are dismissed. Your spouse will blow off steam here with his cohort, and you should feel welcome here too!
You’re basically going on vacation for a year and some change while your spouse attends the Naval Postgraduate School. So, take advantage. Enjoy the coast, the wine country, the must-see sights, and having your spouse home consistently. It’s been said that the years you spend here will be some of the best of your military life. For military spouse skeptics, it’s easy to shrug that insight off, but there’s truth to it, so embrace it!
Photo Credits: Kristi Stolzenberg