by NICOLE BEARD
The school year has started once again for students at on campus, and I bet that all the new first-year students are finally getting a feel for the campus, even though most of them still can't find their professors' offices, don't know what a Pettibone is, and have no idea that Miller Hall exists – excluding those who have been assigned to live within its brick walls.
But for those of you who have decided to make Tiffin University your home for the next four years and don’t know me, my name is Nicole, and sadly, my college days ended last spring.
I have become a part of that group that everyone talks about but no one really sees: the alumni. You know, that sad old group that looks back on college days with rose-colored glasses and drives the real students insane.
But I'm not writing to wax on about the days of old or tell you to make the most out of college because it goes by so quickly; you have parents for that.
No, I'm here to terrify and frighten you about that big scary world that is waiting for you after college. College does great at putting us in a protective bubble that focuses only on college and has us worried only about college. But what's the point of college if not to get us ready for the world outside its structured walls.
Trust me, I know how easy it is to slip into the warmth of that bubble and forget about the world outside. So I've decided to remind you of reality with a survival guide to dealing with life after college.
1. Have a plan
Sounds simple. It isn't.
I think we all have a vague idea of what we want to do with our lives. I mean, I would hope you do. If you've declared your major – probably something in criminal justice or business for most of you – then I would think you have a good idea of what you want to do with your life.
But here's the problem I ran into: I knew what I wanted to do with my life, but I didn't know how to get there. Chances are that you're not going to get out of college and instantly find your dream job. If you do, go get a lottery ticket; you might as well try for two jackpots. It's very rare that you will get into a position that even touches on the degree you are going to school for.
Now, this is from personal experience. Maybe you will find a job that does have to do with your major of choice; however, my friends and I have not experienced that.
I went to TU to become a teacher; I have done this. The position I have now is as a teacher. But I went to school to be an English teacher – again, I succeeded.
Now, before you write a letter to the editor about my contradictory sentences, let me explain. I work as an English teacher, but don’t teach English as a subject. I teach English as a second language teacher. One of my friends, who did go into criminal justice, is currently working for DirecTV. She is looking for another job, but with little options right out of college, she had to take what was available to her.
I stress having a solid idea of what you want after college. Unlimited opinions are great until it comes to making a decision, so put some thought into it.
2. Don't close yourself off to opportunities
So this might seem like it goes against what I said in number one, but it's really sound advice. You might have to take a job at McDonald’s for five months to make ends meet while you look for a better job elsewhere. It's possible that you decide you want to go straight back to school so you stay with your parents – if they allow it – for a bit longer.
Staying open to different avenues is important. You have a lot of opportunities to choose from, so figure out what you want and consider all the different ways you can get there. One way is not better than another; it’s just different. Having to take a nine to five job in order to bridge the gap between college and a job within your field is nothing to be ashamed of. I think we have this idea that our lives have to be nice and tidy right after college, but life doesn’t work like that.
Opportunities arise that might not have been in our original idea of what we wanted out of life, but if it allows us to do something we always wanted, then what’s the harm in taking a bit of a detour?
3. Learn to cook at least five dishes
You will have to feed yourself at some point, and if you are like most normal college graduates, chances are you'll be looking for a place of your own. And though that place comes with complete privacy and finally allows you to do anything you ever wanted – with your roommate’s permission, of course – it also comes with unexpected responsibilities. Cooking is one of them.
At TU, most students don't have access to stoves until junior year, and like me, most of them never use them. Why clean dishes when the cafeteria takes care of the preparation and the clean-up?
Yet the reality is that being able to cook will come in handy. Having the ability to make a meal and not starve is always a plus. Besides, it’s cheaper. There is really no downside to it – except for the learning curve. Cooking has never been, and will never be, something I like to do; that's what I have my friends for. They like cooking. But my friends don't live with me, so I've been forced to learn how to cook.
Let me tell you, having a solid five dishes that you can make well will come in handy. I already know how to make ramen noodles like a pro. I can make decent eggs. I am attempting to figure out the secret to chili. My tuna is to die for, and I am now in the special position to learn how to make dumplings. Okay, so it’s not five exactly, but it's coming along.
As a friend once told me, there's no right or wrong way to make something. But not making anything? Now that's a travesty.
4. Maintain and create a social group around your work
For the more social bunch reading this article, this section will come off sounding obvious, but for the hermits who align themselves with me, this is the best advice I can give you.
You have friends at TU and that's great. The problem with college friends is they all have their own ideas of what they want to do with their life. Maybe that idea is to stay in Tiffin, or maybe that idea is to go flitting off half way across the world. Whatever the case may be, it is essential that you establish a social group wherever you end up.
Maybe I have had a singular experience in this area, but I have found that it is difficult to make friends with people in everyday life. Again, this is coming from the awkward girl who was happy to remain an unseen wallflower throughout high school and only began to bloom in college. But it is challenging.
Establishing relationships takes a lot of effort, but the good news is you will be provided with a platform on which to accomplish this endeavor. That platform comes in the form of your job.
It is only natural that you will gain friends through work. You see these people every day. You work together, complain together, and eat together. My advice would be to get to know them and bond. Sometimes it's not easy because you're younger and they’re older, but you have to find people who will make you want to get out of your apartment, because it can be so easy to get stuck there day after day, night after night. And then that's when you start to think that you made a mistake, that you have a horrible job, that you're unhappy – all because you have isolated yourself and just need to let off some steam with some friends.
College friends can last forever, but chances are you have to maintain them if you want to keep them. Work friends can help you break out of the monotony of your routine and create a healthier environment in the workplace.
5. Enjoy the little things
I think as an “adult,” this just gets harder to do. The stresses of life gang up on you and all of your mental energy is wasted on getting all your work done, paying next month's rent, and remembering to feed the plants, so stopping to enjoy what life is offering you is a challenge. Even in college, we struggle to focus on the here and now. We’re so intent on getting the four years over and done with as quickly as possible that we forget to take it all in and say, “I'm here. I did this.”
We take the simple things, like the fact that we got into college to better ourselves, for granted. It's human nature. But just remind yourself to stop and relish your accomplishments, because someday you'll look back and realize you were always looking down. The little things make this life worth struggling through.
It's hard to think of life after college. I never really considered where or what it would be afterwards. But had I, I might have not felt so lost when the time finally came to let go of my professors' hands and stare the world right in the eye.
And now, here I am in Ghangzhou, China, teaching Chinese students to speak English. The twist my life took is a bit more extreme than average. But life after college is never what you thought and never what you expect. Surviving it? Well, that's the fun part.