Education

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Thoughts for Recent and Soon-to-be College Grads

Holy mortar boards, Batman! I cannot believe that it has been a year since graduation. In light of that mystifying fact, I thought that it might be fun to share a few of the things that the class of 2014 can expect of life after graduation.

 

1) Free Time

You don’t have hours of homework anymore. You don’t have to go to varsity sport practice every day. You don’t have student senate meetings or newspaper layout or what have you. Even if you start a full-time job right out of school and volunteer or join a club sports team, you are still most likely going to have way more free time than you did in college. It will feel strange at first. You might experience phantom homework syndrome–that indefinable task that must be completed, but doesn’t actually exist, nagging at the back of your mind. However, after a while, you will embrace the freedom to read books for fun and hang out at bars for long lengths of time. No guilt necessary.

2) It Takes More Effort to Get Involved

Student activities, impromptu frisbee games, free concerts no longer wait just outside your door. You have to go out and find them. Friends and classmates scatter to the wind. Some might stick around, but work schedules will differ. It takes more logistical effort to round people up for a game of Cards Against Humanity or find like-minded people to advocate for coal divestment with. Plenty of opportunities for community involvement exist, but they aren’t going to float your way on the breeze.

3) Money

Oh, that. Yeah. Unfortunately, rent and water and Wi Fi and student loan payments and hard cider all require funding. So maybe try to make some money, preferably in some legal manner. And be careful about going crazy with spending after college. Traveling took a good chunk out of my savings, and if I had not been lucky enough to find a job soon after I started looking, I would have been living with my mom for a lot longer.

4) People Want to Help You

This isn’t something that changes after graduation. In college, you have professors encouraging your studies and extracurricular pursuits. After college, you can still get in touch with your old professors. You can also look to your employers as mentors, to fellow alumni, to other professionals in your field, and your peers. If you have the courage to ask for help and advice, it will usually be willingly and happily provided. Don’t worry. You don’t have to strike out on adulthood alone.

(Side note: Every job that I have been offered since graduating has resulted from asking alumni and previous employers for help.)

5) New Endeavors Pay Off

When I graduated, I had no clue what I was going to do with my double-major in East Asian Studies and Studio Art. At some point I decided it might be fun to try graphic design, so I taught myself how to use vector graphic software. Then, I posted on LinkedIn that I was looking for freelance work. Three Lewis & Clark alumni responded, and I wound up doing graphic design work for all of them. In some roundabout way, that led to me pursuing freelance social media consulting as well, which led to the job that I am starting next week: Communications Coordinator at Northwest Health Foundation. I’m certain that this job will lead to even bigger and better opportunities.

(Shameless plug: If you like the Facebook page I am working on for one LC alum, you will have access to all of the cute videos, interesting facts, and pictures of artwork that I post on the page. And, I will say thank you.)

 

p.s. If you have any questions about info interviews or job searching or are looking for someone to connect with in your field, I would be happy to share my resources and year of insight in the process, for what it is worth.

Guest Blog by Katherine Nash

Surprise! I’m not Laura! Who do you think I am? Here are a few hints:

1)   I am younger.

2)   My writing isn’t as wonderful as her writing.

3)   Some people say we look similar.

 

If you guessed Katherine, her sister, then you are correct! For those of you who don’t know me, I will introduce myself. I’ve known Laura for nearly 20 years. We met in North Carolina when our mom brought me home from the hospital. She has been stuck with this bundle of joy ever since. Recently, Laura has been handling this very well. Maybe that is because we no longer share a bathroom. Most of my time is spent in classes because I am double majoring in biochemistry and music. In my spare time I enjoy hiking, napping, reading, playing French horn, and spending time with friends.

About a week ago, Laura and I were Skyping. She asked what her blog should be about. I jokingly told her to write about her wonderful little sister. Surprisingly, she obliged! However, that was after she had the idea of having me become a guest writer. I will be responding to one of Laura’s previous blogs.

 

never-eat-alone-keith-ferrazzi-tahl-raz_mediumI had the opportunity to visit my sister, Laura, in Portland during spring break a couple weeks ago. We ate delicious food, relaxed in her apartment, and most importantly, we exchanged books. I traded The Fault in Our Stars by John Green for Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. I haven’t finished the book yet, but I have read through a large chunk. I blame my slow progress on the thought-provoking content.
After each chapter, I end up spending up to an hour contemplating what I read about. Never Eat Alone is about networking. I have been interested in networking for a long while. In high school, whenever I visited Laura at college, I would try my best to meet students and professors around her campus. I learned the power of networking when I applied to colleges and interviewed for scholarships. Building trust and mutual respect got me where I am now, and I believe it will help me get to where I want to be in the future, along with hard work and dedication, of course.

Keith Ferrazzi’s networking examples mainly come from business, but they apply to all areas of life. The idea of weaving a web of contacts in social situations gives people a fallback when they need help. Nobody can get through obstacles alone. Sometimes friends, business contacts, and even acquaintances are needed to give people a boost up the ladder. Ferrazzi points out that successful relationships take effort and time even when help isn’t needed. Help cannot be expected without giving something of value in return. I’m not saying material possessions must be given. Things like knowledge and time are commonly valued more. Networking is something that should be given a high priority constantly.

 

I have already been putting some of Ferrazzi’s principles to the test. Spring quarter started at the beginning of this month, so I have been introducing myself to as many people as possible. Not only am I finding study buddies for multiple classes, but also I am making friends that could potentially last through college. I am meeting students in many departments. This has given me the chance to connect students who can benefit each other. For example, one of my friends is writing an article about the effect of campus construction on students with disabilities. I was able to connect her with another friend who makes the maps of construction route changes around campus.

I introduced myself to an USAF Colonel who was able to connect me with a flight surgeon. Now I am setting up a job shadow to learn about the job I hope to have in the future. So far, I have had nothing but good experiences from my networking efforts. Never Eat Alone gave me the motivation I need to go out of my way to build stronger, more meaningful relationships. I recommend this book to anybody who wants to learn methods for connecting with unfamiliar people.

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Justifying a Humanities Major

When I tell people my undergraduate majors, I usually get one of two reactions. Sometimes the person replies, sarcastically, “Yeah. My major was just as useful.” Then they will tell me that they studied English or French or Sociology/Anthropology. The rest of the time, they reply with a question: “If you don’t mind me asking, what do you plan to do with that?” At this point I am supposed to demur and agree that there is nothing I can do with a Studio Art and East Asian Studies degree. Ha!

I have to laugh when scientists and mathematicians claim that the humanities are easy or “soft.” This is particularly amusing to me when those same scientists and mathematicians must compose research papers a cover letter. Then they start using words like “writing” and “hard” in the same sentence.

The humanities teach communication skills. They teach people how to relate with others and share ideas effectively. An analyst might gather financial data and use formulas to calculate time-weighted returns. An artist could then design graphs to interpret and display that information visually. A writer could come up with words to explain the data to a broader audience and place it in a larger context. A scientist might research a medical ailment and develop a preventative treatment for that ailment. Someone who majored in the humanities could spread the word about that treatment, using video, magazine articles, images, social media, etc. to convey important health information to the public.

In general, I am against the notion that there is a dichotomous distinction between arts and sciences. One person can excel at both. I’ll use Barbara Kingsolver, my favorite author, as an example. Barbara Kingsolver studied biology in college. She then held a number of jobs, some relevant to her degree, while pursuing freelance writing. Eventually, her books became prolific enough to allow her to make writing a full-time job. Now, Kingsolver combines her writing skills with her knowledge of biology to create engaging narratives laced with powerful descriptions of ecosystems and animals.  She uses her massive readership to raise awareness of environmental issues.

It is useless for scientists and artists to scoff at one another’s expertise. We need each other. Humans need translators just as much as we need doctors. We need physicists as much as we need creative directors. Some might argue that the humanities are necessary for the purpose of rounding out our lives–making them richer. I would agree. The humanities do make our lives richer, but not only in the way that attending plays, visiting galleries, and reading novels make our lives richer. They allow us to share theories; to form links across families, communities, countries; to call people to action and initiate change. Without the humanities, we would be incoherent to one another. The human body, by which I mean humanity as a collective, would lack tendons.

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Why go to grad school?

I just spent the last sixteen years in a classroom. Why would I want to sign on for two to six more?

Lewis & Clark College’s career center provides students with a plethora of informative handouts. One of these is entitled “Gearing Up for Grad School” and lists the following reasons for pursuing a graduate degree:

 

“…You’re pursuing a career in academia,

…You need the credential to get professional licensing,

…You’re looking for a career change,

…You want to switch from practitioner to administrator,

…You’re looking for career/salary advancement.”

 

These are pretty good reasons for going to grad school, I guess. However, none of these cover why I am planning on going to grad school at some point in the next couple of years. The following are my reasons for continuing my education:

 

1) It took me almost the full four years of my undergraduate education just to find my higher education groove. Now that I know how to enjoy my coursework, while maintaining a social life and continuing to be involved in community activities, I don’t want to say goodbye to that part of my life.

2) I love being in school. I like writing papers and doing homework. I just do. Okay?

3) Grad school would provide me with access to accomplished mentors and a community of people all doing the things that I love to do.

4) Grad school offers me the opportunity to get better at what I want to do and specialize. Rather than just Studio Art, I can study Design or Craft. I can focus on paper arts or wood carving. Or, if I want to continue my East Asian Studies degree, I can work towards a masters in Chinese Language or Chinese Studies, specifically.

5) New challenges. New environment. New people. All of these lead to growth and inspiration.

 

Yeah, grad school is expensive. As someone who wants to go into humanities, rather than science or technology, I’ll be paying off crazy loans for a long time. For me, it is worth it. I would rather spend money on school than a down payment on a house or a new car. I care more about what I am doing than what I have.