As I’ve commented before, everyone’s life after college is going to look different as there are a plethora of lifestyles to live. While surveying different people on their post-grad life, I’ve been choosing people strategically to sharpen these differences and bring into focus why it’s so important to remember that everyone’s path is different after getting that diploma.
“I think that there is a general expectation, or maybe hope, that after you graduate college, you will have it all figured out. For some, that may be true, but it certainly was not for me. I knew where I wanted to be, but I had no idea how to get there. I still feel that way. There is a lot of undue pressure put on new college graduates. As obvious as this may sound, you figure it out as you go and that is more than okay.” – Kate, Graduate Student in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Initially I was curious how she ended up in Scotland, as she is native to Philadelphia, so she gave me a brief background on what she did right after graduation from La Salle University. “I went on a service trip through La Salle to Kenya for three weeks, where I was inspired to fully pursue the course of study I am presently undertaking (international relations). I continued to work at the Independence Visitor Center in Center City, Philadelphia where I worked for three years throughout college. During that gap year, I applied to graduate schools throughout the UK. I traveled with my mother to Belfast and Edinburgh to visit the two prospective schools I was torn between but now, here I am in Edinburgh!”
So basically, travel is in Kate’s blood and she wants to urge recent graduates to consider their traveling options now while they have the chance. “Please travel! It may be the first instance where you have a large amount of time to do so. There is no better way to connect with other people in this world and yourself. I can promise you that you will never regret the money spent on making memories while traveling.”
Any transition, small or large, is going to be challenging so I asked her what her what her expectations were for post-grad life upon graduation and Kate commented that, “I knew it would be hard to transition from being a student for 16+ years to not being a student. However, no one quite prepares you for that first August/September when you are not back in a classroom. Personally, that was a tough adjustment because being a student was something I felt I was good at. I had to figure out who I was without the “student” label. A year out of school can feel like an eternity and adjusting back into being a student can feel just as strange, especially in a foreign academic system. I still haven’t quite found the academic rhythm I used to have, and I am not sure I will. However, I sure am having a lot more fun than I did throughout my undergraduate years and that sure is the best surprise! I’ll take the memories made with awesome people over top marks any day and that has been the best realization I’ve come to in my post-grad years.”
Which I then followed up by asking what she found to be recurring frustrations surrounding her life right now which she answered, “This is probably a cliché answer, but I would have to say the uncertainty of what to do next. I think at least once a day about how I am spending a lot of money on a fancy piece of paper that is a master’s degree to not be sure of whether or not I will be able to use the knowledge and skills I hope I am acquiring in the professional world. That is a risk all students take who are pursuing higher education. You have to factor reality into your goals and sometimes that can be quite discouraging.”
There is definitely something daunting about her last statement, but it definitely holds a lot of truth. However, hearing other people voice the same thoughts that I have in my head makes it somewhat less discouraging because it brings me to the realization that there is this whole community of twenty-somethings facing the same confusion and questions, and that makes post-grad life a little less extreme.
Although Kate stressed multiple times in her survey that she loves everything that is embodying her life right now, as humans, we still face obstacles. Kate added that, “The biggest obstacle I feel I faced and continue to face is myself and the own pressures I put on myself. I have fallen into episodes of “Imposter Syndrome” where I did not give myself credit where credit was due. My first postgraduate semester at the University of Edinburgh was a bit tough because of this. It took me a while to feel that I deserved to be among my peers. I wouldn’t say that I would do anything differently, but I wish I would not have psyched myself out so much and accepted that moving at your own pace or feeling like a rookie in new situations is perfectly fine.”
It was interesting to see this answer come up because in the previous survey I conducted from a grad school student, their answer was pretty similar.
In addition to her advice on travel, Kate also encourages college graduates to keep in touch with former professors.
“After graduating, keep in touch with professors who have had a positive impact on your academic experience during your undergraduate education. They will love to know what you are up to and love it even more if they knew how they have inspired you. You will need them later as well if you intend to pursue postgraduate education and they will most likely be more than happy to help.”
Kate’s life in Edinburgh is a life that one should admire. Seeing all of her pictures from traveling to different countries throughout Europe makes me jealous but also so proud of her for having the courage to do something most cannot, which is moving out of your comfort zone and finding a home away from home on your own.
I asked Kate to leave me with some quotes she lives by and this one seems fitting.
“You’re looking at a middle-class guy. I am who I am.” – former Vice President, Joe Biden.
“I am proud of where I come from and the family I come from. There is nothing I love more in this world than my family, friends who are family, and the city of Philadelphia. I am a firm believer in the importance of remaining true to yourself and your roots.”