When a college student first embarks on their journey toward higher education, it is commonly said, “it will be the best four years of your life.” While this may be true, the eager student is also well aware that after those four years comes the rapidly approaching, possibly unwelcomed yet imminent realm, “the real world.”
Often college students are told, “Have your fun now, because you won’t be able to when it’s over,” or, “you think you’re stressed now? Wait until the real world.”
Well, for alumni of Quinnipiac’s class of 2007, the mythological real world does in fact exist and through their education, experience and ambition they seem to be getting along just fine.
Alison Feller entered the “real world” last semester when she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism. She is currently working at Macfadden Performing Arts Media as a Web editor, a dream come true for her, and a great stepping stone toward her goals.
“People warned me that my field would be hard to get into. I was a print journalism major wanting to get into magazine publishing and I was told it wasn’t what I knew, it was who I knew. I was also told not to get discouraged if I didn’t find a job right out of college,” Feller said, although she refused to believe all the negativity.
“I was always such a go-getter, but it’s true that things in all industries really pick up in September,” she said.
Now settled into her first full-time job she reflects, “Nothing really sunk in with me that I was in the ‘real world’ until my first week of actual work ended and I realized that I won’t get summers off or vacations!”
She now realizes what the “real world” means for her, and although not always glamorous, she is loving it.
“The real world is weird. It’s very routine but at the same time, it’s exciting. I’m finally living my own life, not a life that’s dictated by teachers, or even RA’s ! I don’t have any rules and I’m doing what I want to be doing. I don’t need to worry about sticking to a meal plan or finding parking in a ridiculous, always-full lot. I’m a grown-up now,” Feller said.
Like Feller, Michael Jones felt the pressures of the ‘real world’ as well, and has his own views on what exactly it defines.
“The ‘real world’ is a bundle of responsibility, commitment, and professionalism. It’s all necessary to be part of the real world,” Jones said.
Jones graduated as a criminal justice major, spanish minor as a member of the Class of 2007.
Jones works at a drug rehabilitation center as an employment specialist. He teaches currently unemployed drug users the skills to find a job, fill out applications and resumes, have a successful interview, and job security. According to Jones, “Basically I help provide a step for addicts to become better citizens.”
Jones sees this job as his greatest accomplishment since graduation, a time that he recalls being a “smorgasbord of emotions.”
“(At graduation) You come to think, though it may not be the true case, that you not only need to know what you want to do the rest of your life, but you need to be successful getting that job and then be good at it. It’s an anxious experience,” Jones said.
After graduation, Jones continues to pursue his goals. What is the “real world” to him?
“So far the real world is much more stress less than I had built it up to be. Everyone is human, so in entering the working environment you find that your co-workers are much like the people you’ve been going to school with the past four years. The main difference between the college years and the ‘real world’ is you change priorities from ‘how to have fun’ to ‘how to make money’,” Jones said.
Jones and Feller are not the only two upstanding alumni of the Class of 2007 whom successfully conquered the ‘real world’ head on. Elizabeth Rider is currently volunteering with AmeriCorps for the year in Arizona.
Rider graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Health Science. Her plan is to get her Masters since her major was Occupational Therapy but she has not yet completed that facet of her goal, for she took a leave of absence to partake in AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps, as she describes as being, “essentially the American version of the Peace Corps,” she volunteers at Maggie’s Place , a home for pregnant women who are homeless, or alone.
“Maggie’s Place is an incredible organization based on Catholic social teaching and principles committed to serving expectant mothers in need,” Rider said.
She continued, “My main role as a staff member at Maggie’s Place is to work as a contact person to two moms at a time, while also fulfilling the duties of my role as the Director of House Operations.
As far as the ‘real world’ goes, Rider may have a different definition than others.
“To some extent, I do not think I’m in the ‘real world’ as it is typically defined. I do not have to worry about bills and all student loans are deferred for AmeriCorps members, so in that respect I am prolonging avoiding those responsibilities. However, on the other hand, I think I’ve encountered the world as real as it gets in the faces of all the moms that walk through our door. I’ve learned pretty quickly about the harsh realities some people face and because of that, I think I’ve grown-up really fast in a very short period of time,” Rider said.
These three alumni seem to have been through a lot in the short time that has passed since ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ played and they were thrown into the big, bad ‘real world’ with a degree, and a handshake from President Lahey. A consistent truth amongst all of their stories is that yes, there is a ‘real world’ out there and yes, it is drastically different than their undergraduate years.
The three each offered advice to students who will inevitably face what they faced, whether it be in seven months, or three years.
According to Feller, “It completely sucks not being in college anymore. I miss it terribly. But isn’t the reason that most (or at least some) of us went to college to get an education and ultimately to get a job? It’s great to have accomplished that…to have gone to college, chosen a field, and landed a job doing just that. I advise persistence.”
Other advice Feller has is that it is okay to relax.
“I wish I knew that it’s okay to enjoy your summer after college before you start working. I spent so much time stressing (and crying) over not having a job that I didn’t go to the beach or get out and have fun. I should have let myself relax a bit more,” Feller said.
Jones advises the same, as he believes there is no rush into the real world.
“You are going to spend the rest of your life working. It’s not an emergency (at least until your student loans kick in, which for most isn’t for six months after they graduate), so take some time for yourself. You went to a good school, the job opportunities will come,” he said.
Rider bases her advice on some of the experiences she has had thus far. She advises students to cherish the time they have with their friends, and to follow their hearts.
“Take advantage of everything Quinnipiac has to offer because you’ll miss it when it’s no longer as readily available. Finally, follow your heart when thinking about what to do next year. This time, far more than when you graduated high school, is your time to choose what you do with your life. Grad school and job hunting are important, but if you feel like there’s something else you want to do, now’s the time to do it.”
The general consensus seems to be that the real world may not be as bad as it seems. If you do what you love, do what feels right, and don’t forget where you came from -it all seems to fall into place. Eventually.