SUNY Maritime has homecoming for cadets

Families waited for the Empire State VI to dock, many displaying banners welcoming home their loved ones. Photo by Walter Pofeldt

After a long 54 day European voyage, S.U.N.Y. Maritime’s massive training vessel carrying 650 students and staff was welcomed back to the Bronx on Friday, July 10.

The Empire State VI, with 594 cadets from Maritime’s programs on board, docked at the Bronx campus pier at 10 a.m. Friends, family, and loved ones were on hand to welcome the college students home.

For many of the cadets, who are cutting their teeth in commercial shipping, engineering, and military shipping, the trip abroad was a watershed experience in their lives.

“There are hard days at sea, but you have to have a strong mentality,” said Eddy Nina, one of the cadets who made the trip; Nina hails from the Grand Concourse. “I am just happy to be home. There is nothing like being home in New York. God bless America.”

Every cadet at S.U.N.Y. Maritime must make three trips abroad in the training vessel in order to qualify for a degree from the college. On this particular trip, students visited the Azores, Gibraltar, Reykjavick, and Belfast.

“It is not all work, we do go into ports and have fun,” said Kirk Schroeder, who was happy to see his girlfriend Alicja Nowacka, a graduate of S.U.N.Y. Maritime and Throggs Neck resident, waiting for him. “This gives us that chance to apply what we learn in the classroom at sea. You learn to work with only a little bit of sleep and about the life style of a merchant officer.”

Nowacka, who graduated in 2009, said she remembered her own voyages out at sea, and how those experiences were eye- opening learning experiences.

“When you are out at sea you learn not only about shipping, but also about people and human nature,” Nowacka said. “You come to learn who your friends are. I am excited that my boyfriend got to visit several foreign countries, and I am glad that he is home.”

Throggs Neck resident Ron Watson, also a 2009 graduate, was waiting for his friend and fellow Rugby team member John Merzlak. He had made a sign welcoming him home.

“Our whole Rugby team is here, waiting for John.” Watson said. “Coming home was the best feeling in the world for me after being away for two months. My favorite places were Ireland, England, Spain, and Denmark. Being on the ship is demanding, and especially on the last cruise, it can be stressful. Getting the last cruise over with is the end of the end.”

New S.U.N.Y Chancellor Nancy Zimpher was on hand to welcome the cadets home. She pledged to continue Maritime’s outreach to the Bronx community.

“As chancellor, I want to encourage as much community engagement and outreach as is humanly possibly,” Zimpher said. “I just learned that our students are out volunteering, and we have service learning, and faculty and staff who give of their time. One of the things we want to do at S.U.N.Y. is wrap our arms around all of that good work.”

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