Graduation is the beginning of your life, not the end


A few nights ago one of my roommates asked me how my graduate school interviews were going. I was startled by the question because I’m not applying to graduate school — I’m not even interviewing for any jobs. When I told her this she seemed relieved. “I thought I was the only one,” she said.

There’s an unspoken rule governing soon-to-be-graduates. It insinuates that in order to succeed we have to go to graduate school. It also gives us the impression that our peers are all attending prestigious graduate schools. However, not all seniors plan on attending graduate school. Many are too burnt out to attend right out of undergrad; some cannot yet afford graduate school, and some don’t need graduate school to pursue their careers.

I’m too burnt out to even think about graduate school. After spending the last 18 years of my life in school and then applying to transfer to Hopkins less than two years ago, I cannot go through another application process. Even if I got into school, I wouldn’t be able to perform as well I’d like since I would be too tired. I also am not 100 percent sure I want to go to grad school. I’m a Writing Seminars major interested in writing screenplays. Do I get an MFA in creative writing or film? Will it help me, or is it better for me to get real life experience?

This question has plagued me since junior year. What do I want to do with my life? Am I required to know what I want to do with my life? After all, I’m 21. I’ve never really experienced the world enough to know what I want. School hasn’t really prepared me to get a job, live by myself or do my own taxes. I can analyze the heck out of a novel, but this isn’t going to help me find a new place to live.

I started to look at my options. I could get my MFA in creative writing, or I could go to film school. I could do a post-baccalaureate and then go to medical school. I could live with my parents and see what work I could get. There are any number of things I could do. Any number. Anything. I could do anything.

When I graduate I’ll be 22. Although I feel old, in the grand scheme of things I’m pretty young. I have my whole life ahead of me, so why should I limit myself to doing what I think society thinks I should do? I thought about everything I’d wanted to do with my life and settled on traveling. I love to travel. If I could have, I would have studied abroad every semester. I’d heard rumors that it was possible to survive in another country outside of studying abroad, but was it actually possible?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is that it’s not easy to get work visas in all countries, but there are a handful that have working holiday visa deals with the United States that work to the advantage of recent graduates. Basically, you get to go live in another country for six months to a year and work while on holiday. I was sold.

I am now extremely excited to graduate. True, I have to go through the visa application process, and I’ll have to go through the hassle of moving to a new country, but, on the bright side, I’ll get to be in New Zealand. Or maybe Australia. Or Ireland. Okay, first I have to make up my mind, but that’s not very traumatizing at all. It’s significantly better than getting letters of recommendation or taking the GRE.

When people ask me what I’m doing after I graduate I get to tell them I’m moving to another country. Some people ask me why, others are shocked that such a thing is possible, and still others applaud my bravery. I feel like I’m doing something noble by choosing to take a year off and do something I’ll never be able to do again. I don’t want to feel noble. Everyone should feel that they have the opportunity to do what they love. Everyone should be allowed to move to a foreign country for a year, work as a waiter or waitress and immerse themselves in a different culture. Yes, we’re graduating, and it’s scary, and now we’re adults, but we’re still young. We don’t have to have our lives planned, and we don’t have to do what we think everyone else is doing.

Sarah Stockman is a senior Writing Seminars major from Los Angeles.

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