NAPLES, Italy — DODDS teachers prepared Rachel Batluck for college academics.

But she says nothing could have prepared her for college dorm life — from late-night shopping adventures in Wal-Mart to helping a suicidal friend.

During an AFN radio call-in show at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Batluck and other recent Department of Defense Dependents Schools graduates will pass on what they’ve learned their first semester away from home. Listeners can call in or e-mail questions they have about the transition to college.

Batluck, 19, said it wasn’t easy leaving a stable life on a military base.

“You really appreciate something once you lose it,” she said. “There’s been a lot of phone calls and a lot of e-mails home.”

The former Heidelberg American High School student said she’s learning a lot at the University of North Texas, both in and out of class. She points to one real-life lesson when a close friend who lived down the hall grew suicidal.

“She started stabbing her leg, and my roommate had to tackle her. ... Another time I had to tac-kle her down for a knife,” Batluck said of the student, who is doing well after being admitted to a mental health center.

Batluck is adjusting to responsibilities that come with independence.

“I’m just so used to showing my ID card and automatically getting whatever I needed,” she said.

Those newfound responsibilities are what some Naples High School seniors in Italy say they’re curious about. The school is among more than 30 in Europe that will tune in to the radio show.

Some Naples students prepared questions to ask the freshmen, such as:

“How hard is it to get financial assistance? Are the parties as big and fun as they say?”

Miller Tisson, 17, sent applications to several military academies and state colleges and wants to ask the freshmen about civilian vs. military education.

He’s looking forward to being on his own, “not having your parents drive you to the prom... Overseas you learn so much about other cultures and being an adult, but you’re still kept like a child.”

Kara Irons said she is used to her parents doing everything for her.

“Now I gotta learn how to drive, pay bills, take care of serious stuff,” she said. At 17, she’s old enough to drive in the States, but still a year shy in Italy.

Chris Woody, 17, applied to the naval and merchant marine academies.

“I’d like to know how ROTC affects student life in college,” he said.

Samil Pena, 18, also is leaning toward ROTC. But he’s afraid he’ll get itchy feet — he’s never spent more than three years in one place, having lived in Panama, Spain, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Italy.

“I like traveling and moving around. [In the States] what’s frustrating is everything’s the same Wal-Mart, Kmart, Burger King — I get bored in a week,” he said.

Like many seniors, Anna Bohnenkamp, 17, is unsure what she wants to do and may take a year off school. Guidance counselors prepare information to help seniors make such decisions, and one will be on hand at the AFN studio in Frankfurt, Germany.

It’s the first time DODDS has used a call-in show to reach out to so many seniors at once.

“Our principals over the winter recess invite recent grads back to talk to the seniors. This year we wanted to try and bring that into every community,” said DODDS-Europe spokesman Frank O’Gara.

DODDS schools also are helping seniors and parents through college nights and seminars on financial aid and scholarships. At Naples, a senior seminar in March addresses topics including banking, credit cards, sex education, date rape and alcohol.

“It can be a trying time for parents and students alike,” high school principal Kay Galloway said. “The kids are itching to be on their own. … They’re kind of at this feisty stage — one minute like little lovable puppies … next they’re ready to take on the world."

How to join in ...

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, AFN Europe will host a radio call-in show highlighting transition concerns of college-bound seniors and their parents.

E-mail or call in questions to:

DSN 329-4590

Civilian +49 69 15688590

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