I had a plan at graduation – not a sustainable career trajectory, but a plan. I stressed over this plan until late April and worried about my fate even after I got my wooden cane, green apple pin, and Hamilton degree. While all my peers seemed to have offers for great entry-level jobs or acceptance letters from graduate programs in every possible field, I still did not know what I wanted to do after college. Was I ready to enter the workforce? Should I continue my education? Should I just travel for a few months, maybe stretch it to a few years?
Several Hamilton professors had guided me to some options for post-graduation, and I decided that for the summer months I would attend the South Asia Summer Language Institute (SASLI) in Madison, Wisconsin. I studied abroad through Hamilton’s India program, and as a result I knew two things: if I chose to travel it would be to India, and if I continued my education it would involve South Asian studies. So, I enrolled for Hindi courses for the summer.
My two months in Madison were great. If you want to just up and move some place after graduation and try your luck with the job market, definitely consider Madison. I can’t say you will be employed, but you’ll have fun on Lake Monona and Lake Mendota! I studied hard, learned a fair bit of Hindi, and enjoyed bonfires on the lakes, jogs around the water and sunsets on the university’s terrace. I could go on, but admittedly my summer was plagued with the same sense of doom I had in the spring at Hamilton. What next?
I applied for a few jobs I had found through the alumni job digest sent out by the Career Center, followed advice from the Career Counselors, but was rejected from them all. Through networking with new friends enrolled in graduate programs and attending SASLI, I had decided that I wanted to return to school and go for my Master’s. I always had a hunch I wanted to pursue journalism someday, so I decided to focus on Media Studies programs at schools with strong South Asia programs too. My new agenda was filled with studying, acing the GREs and submitting applications to graduate schools.
Unfortunately, my new plan still didn’t provide me with something to do for the next year before I could start a graduate program. Faced with the question of moving home or traveling, I realized I couldn’t afford to travel but I didn’t want to live at home. I settled for a slight compromise. My family had a place in Santa Fe, NM, a vacation home that friends and family use all the time. I claimed it for the next four months while I supported myself by working at a restaurant. I took on too many shifts and studied for the GREs as much as possible while trying to enjoy my time in Santa Fe and build some semblance of a social life. It wasn’t easy, but I came out in January with the GRE scores I wanted, some money saved up to travel, and the conviction that I am not cut out for the restaurant business.
Since quitting my job at the restaurant, I moved in with a friend in Syracuse to finish up applications to graduate school, a Hindi program in India for the summer, and internships in India suggested to me by a former Hamilton professor. It helps to hold on to your networking contacts. With her help and a nice personal recommendation, one fine February 1, I received an offer to intern with a human rights organization in New Delhi right after I submitted my graduate application to the school I really wanted to attend. Now I definitely had a productive plan for the next few months that included travel! I had the best of both worlds!
A few weeks after that day, I received acceptance into the graduate program I wanted. I will begin my academic Master’s in Media Studies in Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications this fall. An added bonus is that I can pursue Hindi and South Asian studies through SU’s Top Ten South Asia Center. I leave for India soon, visa pending, to conduct legal research with the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre. I may or may not enroll in that language school in India for the summer, but either way I get to stay in India until August. I consider this a decent plan for the next few years compared to what I had on the agenda last spring!
It all works out in the end. I won’t say that the last year after Hamilton has been the greatest year off in my life. I had moments of complete misery and confusion, but also times of feeling completely free and open to anything. For me, when faced with leaving the safe haven of Hamilton College (trust me, we had it good), I feared committing to some future that I just didn’t have a conviction to pursue. I realized before I graduated that it is OKAY to feel that way, in fact, it might be the best way to feel. I had time to enjoy in Madison and time to struggle in Santa Fe. From a few months of dead end work, I pushed myself even harder to find something that I could latch onto and mold into something that will benefit some future career. With graduate school, I bought myself a couple years to revisit the career path, but I am better preparing myself for anything I choose to do because of the strange mix of luck I found. The moral of the story: stop worrying about your future, just find constructive ways to make you happy and hopefully push you towards a clearer sense of you in a career.