Ringing in a new life: Recent graduates talk post-college careers, friendships and next steps

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Isabella Schreiber/Staff

As I watch family and friends receive their diplomas over the years and prepare myself to leave college in May, I find graduation similar to New Year’s Eve. There’s the anticipation before the big day, the photo ops, the confetti, hugging and kissing, the loud celebrations, the ambitious resolutions for the new year and the hopes for a new life.

Then, right after we have reached the final countdown — our ultimate college final, our last steps through campus, the end of the graduation ceremony — it’s all just quiet. The noisemakers stop, party horns are thrown out, and “Pomp and Circumstance” finally stops playing. It’s almost as if nothing monumental has happened. We move back home, we recover from our hangovers, we go about our daily routines, we clean up after the big parties and we clear out our college dorms.

All that, all we have left as proof that we have entered a new era are the countless photos to post on Instagram and the expansive nexts — the next year, the next big steps, the next life. And it’s the enormity of these nexts and leaving the enclosed bubble of college that terrifies graduating seniors like me.

After speaking to alumni from various universities who graduated this past year, it was evident that the fears of post-grad life are universal. Hana Alverina, a graduate from Penn State who now works as an advisory consultant at Deloitte, elaborated on these common concerns of undergraduate students.

“I think every college student dreads having to graduate,” Alverina said, “especially if you loved your college experience, and I did love mine. Penn State, why would you ever want to leave? … It’s just like the first time that you don’t have a set goal. … You just gotta work and do good in work.”

Allison Dong, a USC alumna who now works at KPMG in San Francisco, spoke on the worries many students have about maintaining their friendships post-graduation.

“You kind of take it for granted when you live a couple minutes away from everyone else, whereas after graduation people move to different cities, different countries,” Dong said, “so it’s a lot harder to keep in touch with people.”

“I think every college student dreads having to graduate, especially if you loved your college experience, and I did love mine.” – Hana Alverina

Besides the social aspect, countless college seniors are mainly anxious about finding a job they are passionate about and much less concerned with finding any decent-paying job.

Adam Woodruff, a UC Berkeley alumnus who graduated this past winter and is now searching for a full-time job before applying for masters programs, validated these fears.

“In the sense of accomplishment, I’m done with (college) and then the sense of ‘Okay, now it’s time to figure something else out’ is only an issue when people ask me, ‘What are you doing now?’ And that seems to be a common question,” Woodruff expressed. “What I’m really trying to do is make sure I make the right decisions and be comfortable with that, so I don’t want to start jumping into what’s available just because I feel like I don’t have the time to waste.”

Post-graduate life, however, isn’t as bleak as we college students believe it may be.

Woodruff described how he loved having more personal time that is often not a luxury undergraduates have. Constantly keeping up with readings and assignments as an undergraduate, Woodruff said he now appreciated having the opportunity to reassess his values.

Regarding working as a full-time employee, Dong spoke on the positives of not being a college student in an internship role. She elaborated on how employers generally do not place significant responsibilities on interns nor do interns have more liberty in the work they do, whereas as a full-time employee, you gain more ownership over your work.

And as far as the social aspects of post-graduation life go, Alverina found friends easily, assuaging a common worry for undergraduate students once they leave college.

“I have made some really really great friends that I see lasting forever and I didn’t expect that. So yeah, that’s a surprise,” Alverina said. “If you had told me how happy I would be after graduation, I would probably be like there’s no way, I peaked for sure in college.”

What we expect after college can never fully be accurate. In spite of what positive or negative aspects our future holds, it remains bittersweet and missing college is inevitable.

When asked what she missed about college, Alverina was quick to respond.

“Everything,” Alverina said. “Don’t get me wrong — I do love my post-grad life. It’s amazing and I have such great friends and roommates and pets and all this stuff, but when I went back to school for recruiting, I literally sat on the couch of my hotel room and sobbed.”

Ultimately, we will unavoidably miss college after graduating, and many college seniors will still remain uneasy — despite the living proof that life certainly does not go downhill after graduating.

To alleviate some of that apprehension, Woodruff imparted advice to undergraduate students.

“Don’t stress out and maybe don’t worry about making definitive plans,” Woodruff said. “I’m just so amazed by the students I’ve had the opportunity to interact with. I just think the future is so bright.”

Ultimately, we will unavoidably miss college after graduating, and many college seniors will still remain uneasy — despite the living proof that life certainly does not go downhill after graduating.

And in all honesty, I also believe that the future is very bright, despite how muddled it may appear now to some of us college seniors. If anything, we can never be fully prepared for our life after college, nor have all our expectations for the future met.

Perhaps the best way we can prepare ourselves is to consider when we last underwent an immense change. I recall when I readied myself for my own high school graduation, as I was one of the rare teenagers who loved high school. I was the naive nerd who could not fathom a life without prom, spirit days and school rallies. I truly could not see how life beyond my safe high school bubble could be as enjoyable as my time there. That is, until I got my first big internship, until I studied abroad in Madrid, until I was hired by The Daily Californian, until I came to UC Berkeley. So, though I can’t yet fathom my life beyond UC Berkeley, I know there is so much more waiting for me to find. Just like I found Spain, my passion for writing and UC Berkeley after high school.

Maybe I’m still naive, a hopeful senior who has yet to worry about paying off her student loans, making rent on her own and getting a 401(k). And to be honest, my unease about my own hopeful mindset will linger despite the reassurances. But as I count down the days until I walk across the stage on commencement day, I am going to wholeheartedly embrace the time I have left in the home I have built at UC Berkeley, without expectations for the big next. This same philosophy was emphasized by Alverina in her advice to current undergraduate students.

“I just want to encourage seniors and people in college, like, live your best life in college, but it’s not the end-all,” Alverina shared. “You don’t believe it until you live it.”

Contact Katrina Fadrilan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @katfadrilanDC. Contact Katrina Fadrilan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @katfadrilanDC.