Graduation carries no guarantees

I ran into my friend A. in front of the campus library coffee shop. With spring in the air, the campus lawns are littered with college students, their paperbacks and coffee cups, trying to soak up the warmth of the sun, which we thought was never coming.

Spring term is the most difficult to trudge through. The weather becomes increasingly more pleasant and the thought of a school free summer overwhelms the minds of most, making it hard to sit still in that ten o'clock French class.

For many students, this will be their last term and with graduation looming, they are giddy and overwhelmed at their last-minute requirements, the capstone projects, and trying to cram those last few credits they somehow missed. I hear them discuss these things on their way to the bookstore to purchase their cap and gown.

My friend A. is graduating this spring with a double major in French and literature and we chat briefly about our experiences abroad, her in Paris, me in London. I found myself intensely curious about her graduation plans. A masters degree in some romantic city overseas? An internship at a national literary house? Pining the evenings away working on her book of short stories? It must feel so great to finally be graduating with so many doors open to you of endless possibility!

"I'm going back to Eugene. I'm going to nanny there for the summer." Oh.

While sitting through yet another communication class, learning about the project sender and the project receiver and the filter distortion disruption, I realize that while we are taught the information in our chosen fields of interest, we aren't taught how to apply that knowledge to access a job once we've graduated, thus leading to accepting employment at grandma Lynn's caf&

233; or nannying for the Smiths like we've done every summer since we were 15.

"Pursuing a degree is such a structured process," said Lauren Bishop, a writing major who recently graduated. "I was so happy to be done, but once I looked around I realized all I had were some poems, and stories I was working on and a copy of the Writer's Market. I had no idea where to even begin."

Many of us don't. The guy who fills up my coffee cup at Starbucks was once a philosophy major. I try to imagine Nietzsche in the little green apron.

A college education is not a career guarantee. My friend H. took a few theater and writing classes at a California community college and is now editor for a prestigious magazine. My other friend N. graduated with a fine arts degree 50 years ago and he works in construction. Who knew?

I have concluded that one must pursue their interests, and not feel bound by their area of study. Of course a degree may help, but it is not the cake, merely icing. Who says you can't study mathematics and become a culinary critic? We must not let our academic departments define who we are. Instead of being limited to an area that we study, we must understand that what we study is just one more component to what we are made of.

College is not necessarily preparing us for our careers as much as preparing us for situations of life. I could hardly limit myself to two or three areas of study, much less one. Let's not shove ourselves into such confines, or be so easily defined; most of us are more interesting than that, and capable of so much more.

Ashley is studying communication, video production and creative writing. You can learn more about her at .

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