SIU and getting started

Hi, im mike and i want to be a mariner. i am considering going to SIU to get started in my new career. I am choosing them because i know of a few guys that went there and they suggested it. and besides is kinda hard to beat free. I am thinking that i would like to pursue engineering. based on the posts on this site, and the fact that i am mechanically inclined. im a young guy 23 with not much to turn me away from the longer trips. my question for you guys would be whats the best way to get started in this career? i know what document i need to get such as mmc and a twic card. but what are some other alternatives to getting started beside going to SIU? also there alot of abbreviations and mariner specific jargon on this site that can be really confusing to new people like me. if you would please define some of the more common things such as haspipper*? what is that?

[B]Hawsepiper[/B] is an informal maritime industry term used to refer to a merchant ship’s officer who began his or her career as an unlicensed merchant seaman and did not attend a traditional maritime college/academy to earn the officer license. In the United States, after accumulating enough sea time in a qualified rating, taking required training courses, and completing on-board assessments, the mariner can apply to the United States Coast Guard for a license as a Third Mate or Third Assistant Engineer. If approved the applicant must then successfully pass a comprehensive license examination before being issued the license.
A ship’s hawse pipe is the pipe passing through the bow section of a ship that the anchor chain passes through. Hawsepiper refers to climbing up the hawse pipe, a nautical metaphor for climbing up the ship’s rank structure. This is in turn derived from the traditional British Naval usage of “came up through the hawsehole,” referring to sailors who first entered the ship as foremast jacks before becoming officers, metaphorically by climbing up the hawser without great honor or respect, rather than being received directly onto the quarterdeck.
Several merchant seamen’s unions offer their membership the required training to help them advance.[1] Similarly, some employers offer financial assistance to pay for the training for their employees. Otherwise, the mariner is responsible for the cost of the required training.
Since the requirements of STCW '95 have been enacted there have been complaints that the hawsepiper progression path has been made too difficult because of the cost in time and money to meet formal classroom training requirements. These critics assert that the newer requirements will eventually lead to a shortage of qualified mariners, especially in places like the United States

Man when I started I had no experience just working labor jobs and forklift work…my buddys dad told me about MSC (Military Sealift Command) when I was 21 and by my 22nd bday I was down in san diego for firefighting and other school. Don’t know your financial status but I couldn’t afford the grand or so for the same schools msc will put u thru on their dime. It takes awhile to get hired once you get ur mmc and twic and get your package put together…average is 90 days I guess, this was my 2nd time w/ them and took me 80 to get my call that I was goin back. Anyway I had to start as an S/U basically janitor stuff when ops were goin on id help refuel helicoptors so was fun. Was able to get promoted after one 5 month deployment and did another 8 as an ordinary seaman. Anyway as far as unions go my buddy got his credentials and paid for school and joined marine firefighters union outta san francisco as a wiper and he’s been doing ok but big periods off in between 1 month deployments. As well we are an hour or so from the city andd he says you need to go every day to show ur serious esp, starting out…oh yea another good thing about msc is when ur waiting for a ship you get to hang in san diego or virginia and get ur base pay, free hotel, and some living expenses…Anyway bro good luck you’re right about the age I started, great time to see the world. Hope to see ya out there