Life after graduation yields few easy answers

I got a letter in the mail today labeled “College of Liberal Arts Lack Notice.” It informed me although I donned a cap and gown last month and might have thought I was done, my career at the University is still not truly complete. This I already knew, as I am starting my final two courses today. After this, my tenure as a Gopher will finally be over – after more than five years.

But the “lack notice” really summed up my graduation in a nutshell. Although important and endearing in all of the traditional senses, mine was a watered-down graduation. I still have two classes to look forward to (Spanish and international relations) for my journalism political science double major. And I have been interning full-time since January in St. Cloud, only stepping onto University ground twice a week. In some ways, I feel like I have already left. And in other ways, I feel like I still haven’t.

Whatever the nuances of my graduation experience, I have been told in the grandest of ceremonies that, at the tender age of 22, I am ready to face the world head-on. My family and I have paid $40,000 (with another $10,000 in student loans still to be paid) to a university that now says I am ready to provide for a potential family, contribute to societal discourse and obtain employment that will pay me a livable wage. Have you ever seen how much starting reporters make? But that’s another issue.

Graduation day is the one we each dream of as we first step onto campus during our freshman year or as we graduate from high school. I never thought I would get here. I never imagined myself past the age of 16. Not because I thought something horrific would happen, but because I couldn’t fathom being any older than that.

I have fond memories of my college experience. I remember it all: moving in and out of a hundred dorm rooms and apartments, trying to sleep with my boyfriend in a lofted twin bed, eating cafeteria food, taking road trips and suffering sleepless nights. The professor who used the phrase “and so on” at the end of every other sentence. And the professors who actually made it worth coming to early morning classes.

I am one of the lucky students who can still remember Coffman Union – falling asleep between classes on those big, comfy chairs. My memories include cramming into the Campus Connector because if you attempt to cross the Washington Avenue Bridge, you’ll certainly freeze to death. Meeting new people and visiting exciting places. My 21st birthday. Receiving the graduation card from my parents saying they are proud of me.

But even after all those experiences and my bachelor’s degree, I am not sure what to do next. Ask me what I’m doing this summer. Finishing my classes. Working part-time. Attempting to scrape together a savings. Hoping my car doesn’t break down as it approaches 100,000 miles. And wondering how to transition from the laid-back college days to the full-time employment days.

Some will ask when college was laid back. Well, for me it was. I am an overachiever in every area except academics. Why? I don’t know. That’s just the way I’ve always been. I had many adventures outside the classroom that will serve me well in the future. And I will slip out of college with a 3.0 GPA – enough to make me happy.

So now I straddle the line between “college adult” and “real adult,” unable to choose between them. After five years and more than 145 credits, I am ready to finish my bachelor’s degree but not so prepared to leave behind the lifestyle. Part of me envies my friends who have not finished yet. The University might say I’m ready, but I’m not so sure.

Post-college employment is daunting and far different than anything I’ve experienced before. Unless you count working at Ace Hardware in high school – which I don’t – all of my “real jobs” finished at the end of the summer or when the internship was up. Before getting a real job, salaries, vacation time and advancement opportunities have to be considered. I’m shooting for the stars, and I want my first job to at least be a step on that ladder.

So here I sit, in limbo. I’m taking the summer to look at my options and begin making decisions. Until then, my meager living will pay the bills and I’ll make do. But it will take me that long to grasp the idea I’m done. Done. No longer will there be a logical next step. From junior high, there was high school. From high school, there was college. For some, from college, there is graduate school. But that step is a few years off for me. From college, there is … what?

Some of my fellow graduates are getting jobs. Some are going to law school or medical school. Some are traveling. I am doing none of these. I am going to sit back and make an educated decision – exactly what the past five years has taught me to do. And maybe that’s exactly why the University says I’m ready.


–Erin Ghere is a former Daily associate editor.