Tag Archives: graduation

A Situation Only a Journalist Could Dream Of Part 1


By Bryan Lawver

I have my first graduate class this week, but before I start talking about grad school, I would like to talk about what I did after finishing my undergraduate classes. Not the relentless job hunt, or the angst, but what I did right after graduating; the not-necessarily-productive part. The “this is just for me” part.

There are a lot of opinions floating around about what to do between undergraduate and graduate school. Some people say that you should get a job, or an internship, or spend time honing your craft – whatever it may be.

I went to Iceland.

The plan felt more like it formed around me, rather than I had an authorial hand in it. It started with a tax return, an unexpected call from a sibling, and a fondness for Icelandic rock music, and in the beginning of May 2010, as my classmates were walking across an auditorium in caps and gowns, I was – along with a friend – boarding a jet owned by Icelandair.

Our timing was fortuitous. A volcano beneath Eyjafjallajokull, a glacier seemingly named by a cat walking across a keyboard, erupted that spring. It covering acres of Iceland in ash, and stranded hundred of international travelers; generally making life even more difficult for a lot of people already living in a particularly forbidding landscape.

Okay, fortuitous might not be the right word. In the end it may have been a bit sociopathic. But that’s how it felt to us. I was a writer, and my companion was a photographer. This would be a great chance for us to cover something momentous, something unique; something that might get noticed. We ran the idea by a professor from our school – who was also a contributor for a local newspaper – who said that he would pass it along to his editor.

And then off we went. If this all sounds rushed and ill-planned, that is simply because it was. We went, despite the myriad of ways that we expressed and explained and excused ourselves to friends and family. We had the idea in our heads and we were determined to have fun.

The first thing I noticed about Iceland was that we were about to crash into it.

At least that’s how it looked. We descended slowly, painfully slowly, through what I assumed to be a layer of clouds. I was looking straight down out the window, waiting to break through so that I could see the island from above and watch our approach. What I saw instead, the instant that we broke through, was the ground just feet below us.

I jumped, not even having enough time to register my own fear, and then realized that what we had been passing through was a thick blanket of fog.

The same sheet of gray cotton lay over the countryside in the cab that we took from the airport to Reykjavik, trying to make small talk with our cab driver. He spoke English, but not well. I was disappointed to realize that I could not use him as a source for my article.

Upon arriving in Reykjavik, I was relieved to find that the man’s unfamiliarity with English was not the norm. Nearly everyone under 50, I was later told, spoke English fluently; and I saw evidence of this everywhere. Signs and menus in English, clerks effortlessly switching languages when they realized that my companion and I suffered the mono-lingual handicap. I thought about the imperialism of English, and what this meant for the culture of Iceland – usually isolated from the world by its physical solitude and the inscrutable mindset that seems to pervade island nations. I asked a lot of Icelanders about this, and no one seemed to care much. There has always been Icelandic music and literature and film, and there always will be, I was told.  Some things are expressed better in Icelandic, and they will continue to be.

Damn, I thought, another dead-end topic.

We trudged on, moving from a hostel to the house of a group of students whom we had agreed to stay with. We bounced along, visiting cafes by day and bars by night, having a good time, but always on the lookout for a good subject, a photo opportunity, a striking detail to open my article.

I probably would have gone on this way, perpetually disappointed, if we hadn’t rented a car and driven into the country.

CHECK BACK NEXT TUESDAY FOR PART TWO!

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Stuck on Repeat


By Katherine Shaye

I’ve been here before, this section of my life. I’ve been this girl, I’ve played this part, and I know these lines. So for something that know so well, why does it still freak me out so badly?

More than two years ago, I graduated from college with the same sense of panic. That knot of worry so deep that every casual question from friends and family became a probing stab into the very purpose of my life.

“What are you doing?”
“What’s your next step?”
“Where do you see yourself headed?”

Finding a way to pay the rent felt way too serious.

In the months when I found myself counting down to my graduation, these questions looped through my own mind, getting louder each day. While my friends prepared for internships, graduate school, and the various entry-level jobs they’d acquired, I still sat in front of my laptop wondering where to start. I had treated my undergrad years as a means to an end. College wasn’t career prep; it was a check mark on my resume. It wasn’t until I had graduation staring me in the face that it even occurred to me that I’d wasted much of my very important “figure myself out” time.

Enter AmeriCorps.

Scanning through the internet, looking for a job, a sign, or even a clue, I found one site in particular that caught my eye: AmeriCorps.gov. It took me all of twelve seconds to fall in love with the idea of AmeriCorps NCCC; a mobile, team-based national service program that would allow me to travel the country, do volunteer work, and meet amazing people. I was so in. After an application longer than most of my college apps, and three nail-biting months of waiting to hear back that is.

Then I was off. Off to build trails in national parks and houses in New Orleans. Off to figure out how to feed ten people on $45 a day.  And most importantly, off to meet a uniquely unforgettable cast of people who would slowly but continually change my life. I will detail several of my adventures in later posts.

But here I am again. After completing yet another graduation ceremony, I am back in panic mode answering the same round of firing squad questions that came at me two years ago. It seems like things haven’t changed at all.

But somehow they have.

For one thing, I’m two years older. That doesn’t seem like much at first glance, but with careful review I’ve realized that at the very least I learned a few things in those years:

  1. Every experience is worth the experience – Even the things that sucked when I was going through them were worth it for the knowledge I gained about myself.
  2. I must accept that I can’t please everyone, or die trying – I’ve been a people pleaser my whole life and it has never come to bite me in the ass more than these past two years. Living and working with the same ten people while keeping them all happy is absolutely, hands down, 100 percent not possible. I accept that now.
  3. I’ll never stop trying to find my purpose–There will always be a part of me that yearns for definition, that interprets questions like “what’s your next step?” as “what is your life’s passion?” Hopefully, as time goes on I can tone down the anxiety associated with that question and learn to see it as encouragement to explore my options.

Now as you may notice, these are not the end all be all of life lessons, but for me parsing out what the last two years has meant to me and what I have learned from it will be an important part of figuring out that crucial next step. Perhaps it will even help me figure out how to improve my resume.

Future posts from me will most likely feature flashbacks from my time in AmeriCorps, my time in college, and
maybe even a little bit of that good old high school drama, all for the purpose of figuring out who I am now and what I want (and am qualified) to do.

Post-grad Bugaboos


This article was written by guest writer, KB.

As I approach a new semester, I’m usually bedeviled by the consternation regarding the difficulty of new classes and the imminent cessation of sentience outside work and school (if you’re confused by the precocious, albeit ridiculous, utilization of advanced “lexicon,” I’m studying for my GRE). At this point, however, senior year seems tantamount to child’s play. It’s no longer a question of finding my academic niche or proving myself competent in the mathematics department. With a proclivity for worrying about the future, the most pressing trepidations are related to what’s going to happen subsequent to my receiving a bachelor’s degree.

I know what would ideally happen. I’d get into the graduate school of my choice, get my PhD in mathematics, and someday start my career as a professor at a reputable university.

Since I’m not ignorant to the less-than-ideal workings of the real world, I can’t ignore my post-grad bugaboos.

Bugaboo: (noun) an object of fear.

Bugaboo #1: Failing the GRE

Yes, I know technically, you can’t fail the GRE. That won’t stop me from feeling like a failure if my score is insufficient for getting me to where I want to go. There are three sections of the GRE, much like the SAT: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. Since GRE scores are required by the majority of graduate schools, if you’re considering a master’s or doctoral program, GRE test prep is probably in your future. My advice is to take it slow, and start studying what seems like way too early.

Besides going through life as my normal information-sponge self, I’ve focused on two areas to prepare for the exam. A major portion of the Verbal section requires having a “college-level vocabulary” so, for the past month, I’ve been studying about 500 words a week from the reputable Barron’s GRE word list. From what I hear from other test takers, brute force memorization is the easiest and most effective strategy. You’ll need to recall definitions for the test, but likely never need to use these words again.

The most important targeted study area is the math subject test, which is separate from the general GRE. Four years of college math in one test;
pretty exciting, I know. Coming from a state school where a high GPA doesn’t hold the same weight as a high GPA from an Ivy League school, I’m feeling a lot of pressure to perform well on this exam and prove I know my stuff.

Bugaboo #2: Rejection letters

Feeling like I’ve worked very hard during my four years of college and being told that it wasn’t good enough: I imagine that would be a depressing experience. No one likes rejection, which is why I’m trying not to set my heart on one specific graduate school. Sometimes the key to happiness is
low expectations.

Bugaboo #3: Financial qualms

No matter what your post graduate plans are, we’re all living in the same economy with the same worries about our financial futures. With plans
to go straight to graduate school, I had my concerns about not entering the job market soon enough. It turns out the only expensive part of graduate school will be the application fees. As is true for most graduate programs in academia, mathematics PhD students are guaranteed financial support for at least five years as long as they remain in good academic standing and teach one or two undergraduate classes. These teaching assistantships provide on average a full waiver of tuition and a very generous living stipend, in most cases anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000. Therefore, putting myself through graduate school won’t be the kind of financial burden I imagined.

Bugaboo #4: It’s never going to end

With qualifying exams, graduate classes, dissertations, and oral exams, the pursuit of my PhD seems daunting to say the least. After 17 long
years in the American education system, it is none too comforting to know at least another five lie ahead of me. I know I’ll leave graduate school with some kind of PhD: Permanent Head Damage.

What are your postgrad bugaboos?

Post-grad on the Move


By Nicole Hosette

I cried at my graduation. The ceremony was horrible – last year the school sprung for Tom Brokaw as a speaker, but this year we were stuck with an English professor who seemed to have simply adjusted one of his class lectures for his speech. There was a brief moment of excitement when a student, with a flower in his hair, ran through the seated graduates and threw rolls of toilet paper before eventually being tackled by security, tased, and arrested. Besides that, the ceremony consisted of two hours of 2,000 students hearing their names called, walking across the stage, and shaking the hand of some University official. I texted my mom throughout most of it.

I felt silly for crying when I hugged my parents after the ceremony was over. But in retrospect, I would have felt worse for not crying. My four years at the University of Iowa were exactly what I wanted them to be.

Knowing that my years of formal education are over, and that for the first time in 18 years I won’t be going back to school this August, is breaking my heart.

But I’m sure most post-grads in my situation feel the same way.

Back in March, when I started making my first major post-graduation plans, I didn’t quite expect I’d feel like this – instead I was excited about all of the possibilities that came with graduation. At that time, my boyfriend and I were sitting down and discussing where he wanted to go to grad school, which equated to where we wanted to live for the next 4+ years while he worked towards his PhD. I had no plans of going to grad school – I graduated with a BA in Journalism and American Studies, and I didn’t think the general career path I was aiming for required that extra bit of schooling. I was already looking at a good bit of student debt and didn’t see the point in adding more if I didn’t have to. And so I decided I would just go with him.

The decision to move to Massachusetts didn’t come easy (more on that in a later post). But he had gotten into Harvard and really liked the work they were doing there in his field. He was also very interested in the idea of moving to a new place while we had the chance, and at the time, I agreed with him. You have to admit, there is something romantically appealing about picking up and moving halfway across the country just because you can.

So this past month has been full of packing, making preparations, and spending as much time with friends as possible. Finally, last week, we made the move. It was a mess – so many things went wrong, and I found myself wishing I was still in Iowa. But now we are set up in Massachusetts, in a great community 20 minutes from downtown Boston, and I have done my best to forget my horrible first impression of this city.

I miss my friends, my family, the Midwest landscape, my favorite Iowa City bar, and having my own vehicle. But this is what life after college is supposed to be – new experiences.

So this is my situation as a post-grad; trying to adjust to a new place, setting up an apartment, looking for a job, and making new friends. It’s exciting and terrifying. But I really am looking forward to figuring it all out.

Updates


It may only be Day Three in our little excursion, but Sauce Off has gotten an impressive start. Here are just a few things you can expect in the coming weeks:

1. A week from today we will introduce our new bloggers
2. We will feature an article from bowski477 of Aesthetically-Pleezin.com, chronicling her online success following graduation
3. College senior KB will update us on her hopes and fears as she prepares to enter her final year
4. We will visit several colleges to see what questions they have for Post Grads
5. Twice a week we will feature a new Post Grad with an internet presence (if you are interested in being featured, please email the link to your blog/website/web show/etc. to sauceoffjournal@gmail.com)

And there will be plenty more. Remember, we’re still looking for guest bloggers, and new articles. (other forms of media will also be considered). Some thing’s we are interested in – recent grads (within the past two years) who are also parents/about to become parents, grads who have successfully navigated the job market, grads attenting grad school, grads engaged, grads who realized they want to do something different than what they obtained their degrees in, unsuccessful journey’s through the job market, students who started college and for one reason or another dropped out, traveling grads, advice from professors and employers, etc.

All submissions must be directed to sauceoffjournal@gmail.com. They may be no longer than 650 words and must be accompanied by a brief (2-3 sentences) summary of the author. People who are not recent Post Grads can still submit articles, so long as material involves Post Grad life in one form or another. And please, don’t be intimidated.

-Chris Bahrens

Sauce Off aims to educate current and future students on life after graduation. If you are worried, excited, or even confused, Sauce Off is here to answer your questions – and remind you that you are not alone.

They’ll Get You, When You Least Expect It


By sendmeonmyway101

I can honestly look back on my college experience with fond memories; trivia nights at Uno’s, meetings for the school’s e-zine, ice skating, going downtown during the peak tourist season, all of my fun classes (and even the ones that were so boring the mold was sleeping).

But there is one thing I don’t miss: the start of the school year hassle to get a loan. The annoying emails and letters reminding me that my bill is due by a certain date or the school will not hold my classes for me (even though that certain date would come and go without procuring a student loan, and if I wanted I could go until signing up for the next semester’s classes before suffering real damage from being locked out).

This time last year I was spending every day reminding myself to fill out an application for a loan – because classes start in a month and the sooner it was taken care of, the sooner I would get my refund check (which almost always went to living expenses rather than anything fun).

Following my graduation ceremony, I knew I could hold my head high and be absolutely certain that the only PAY US FOR YOUR COLLEGE EXPERIENCE letters I would receive would be from my student loans.

I didn’t account for damage charges.

I suppose it seems silly to assume (when the only time I spent in my apartment on campus was in my bedroom, sitting on my bed or at my desk and rarely venturing to any other part of the six-person apartment) that I would not be stuck with a bill for damages to the common area/our apartment.

No, it’s not sarcasm (although would anyone blame me if it was?). I lived on campus for three years, and each year we were notified that, if someone did not step forward and admit to causing whatever damage that was
found following move-out, then everyone would be charged. It makes sense, sort of. Was I a little upset when I received the email? Who wouldn’t be?

This Better Not be the Damage

Was I responsible? Unless I’m a sleepwalker and all those times I thought I was fighting monsters in my dreams, I was really damaging things, then NO. But how is the school supposed to know all that? They had to do what they consider fair, since no one stepped forward. I was caught off guard, but I accept the twenty dollar charge.

Eh … I just have no idea what I’m paying for. Was there paint peeled off the wall? Surely I’m not receiving a twenty dollar fee over some paint chips. Did someone break a window? But I feel like I would have noticed that. Was the wall blown out? Someone could have built a spaceship and set it off in the living room, for all I know.

Not to sound paranoid, but without being told exactly what I’m paying for, how do I know the school isn’t just trying to suck a little more of my future finances from my pocket?

Have any other students/grads out there encountered this problem? I suppose my only solution is to call the school and ask for details, but really – shouldn’t a receipt tell me all that?

Lessons From a Fish Killer


By sendmeonmyway101
ORIGINALLY POSTED Saturday, July 30th

When I was nine, I spent a weekend with one of my aunts. She lived in a small, but clean apartment. Two bedrooms, dining room in the kitchen, and a small living room. Everything was white – the walls, the carpet; even the shelves, stuffed full of pristine Precious Moments ceramics and Seraphin Classic Angels, were made of clear glass, stained white from the paint chips in the background.

My aunt lived alone. She was divorced, and her two kids were fully grown. She collected Beanie Babies – at least thirty sat on the spare bed. We had to move them out of the way so I had a place to stay.

What really stands out in my memory about that weekend was not the white walls, the ceramic statues, or even the Beanie Babies. It wasn’t the breakfasts we had, or our trip on the eerie canal barge. It was her aquarium.

My aunt had an aquarium full of angelfish. I’d seen pet fish before – one of my uncles had an aquarium ten times the size of this one, and with a larger variety. But for some reason I left my aunt’s that Sunday convinced that having fish like that – elegant and sweet (after all, they were called angelfish, that had to mean something) – was a sign of being an adult.

Keep in mind that I was nine and I found logic in things that wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense to normal people (OK, I still make logic out of things that are absolutely illogical).  Still, the need to have my own aquarium full of angelfish stuck.

I’ve been talking about getting a fish or two for about a month now. I’ve been a Stay at Home Daughter (SHD, but not to be confused with Stay At Home Dad) since May. I may not have my own place, or even a job (updating Tumblr accounts and writing unpaid articles for online magazines don’t really count), but I figured it was time to get my fish. Perhaps it’s a responsibility thing – I can’t exactly forget to feed the cat because he never lets me forget that it’s dinner. If I haven’t changed his litter box, he pees on my bed (needless to say, his litter box has been changed every day). With fish – it’s all about taking care of them.

Would I have eventually gone through with it? Who knows? But my options were pretty much eliminated Thursday when I came home and my brother, Kyle, had bought me a ten gallon aquarium.

WOW.

So Kyle, a friend of mine and I piled into the jeep and headed to the pet store to pick out some fish for our tank. We bought one angelfish (I was insistent) named Toby, one cherry barb (Bosco), one red-tailed black variatus (Bingo), and a red-belly x-ray tetra (X-ray, of course). We picked up food, a filter, and a heater (they’re all tropical).

It’s Saturday, and only Toby, is left. What have I learned from this experience?

  1. If I hang onto the dream of having an aquarium full of angelfish for fourteen years, and when I finally get an aquarium with full of fish other than angelfish, and every one dies save for the lone angelfish, then maybe it’s a good idea to only buy angelfish
  2. I’m not good at keeping small pets alive
  3. Filters are dangerous
  4. Fish are stupid

But more importantly, my uncle with the large aquarium gave me a few pointers. For starters, the filter should be covered with a breathable cloth, so the fish don’t get suction cupped into it. Also, after cleaning the aquarium it’s important to add water conditioner.

Finally, he reminded me that bubbles are an excellent source of oxygen for fish, and necessary. The way I figure, if Toby can make it through the next week after following my uncle’s advice, I’ll consider getting more fish.

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