The closer I get to graduating the closer I will finally experience what it is like to exist outside of the world of being a full-time student.
As someone who has been enrolled in school almost my whole life, I have never experienced what it is like to not be a student 24/7. As a student, pretty much every aspect of your life is planned. You wake up, go to school, do homework or work and then repeat. As a student, you live for the summers since that’s your only time to truly relax along with holidays, which are centered around the winter months where you can enjoy the long break during the middle of the school year.
However, in the real world, there is no summer vacation and certainly no winter break. This idea of working forever until my late sixties terrifies me. After speaking to some of my friends who bravely found out what is on the other side post-grad, I have become even more anxious about what is to come after May.
I feel like nobody truly shares what life is like post-graduation. There are no sports games on the weekends, living with your college roommates, or spaces designed to socialize and network that a university or school uniquely offers. Most of the time you are eating alone, going to the store alone and going about your life alone.
To my friends who have landed on the other side, I always presumed that post-grad life was amazing. No homework, no noisy roommates and complete freedom. But to my surprise, many have told me that initially, post-grad life is very lonely. Trying to find where you fit in without a student identity is something that many of them have struggled with and coming to terms with the fact they are now an adult who is responsible for budgeting their finances and maintaining a real job.
As someone who is graduating a year earlier than expected, I feel like my time spent at Minnesota State has been cut short. I came here in the fall of 2020 when all social events were canceled, classes were remote and meaningful connections between my peers and my professors were almost non-existent. Graduating high school during a pandemic to now going through college in such an isolated environment was something I never anticipated. However, I do think my feat of overcoming loneliness is something my peers have collectively overcome and thus have battled since the pandemic started.
Nevertheless, I suppose only time will tell after I step across that stage for the first time. The only comforting piece is that this time I actually get to walk across a real stage in person and know that I made it to the other side despite what is waiting for me.
Write to Julia Barton at firstname.lastname@example.org