Returning to my final semester at Tufts is difficult. It is bittersweet, as people say. I am excited to enjoy all of the perks of being a senior – free Tufts paraphernalia and Senior Pub Nights – but radically adjusting my lifestyle, accepting new responsibilities and leaving a place that I have happily called home for the past three years is sad as well. Yet as I reflect, I feel as though this bitter-sweetness, discussed by those that graduated long ago, fails to capture the most salient emotions that the majority of graduating seniors are experiencing.
Although for many reasons proceeding to the next chapter of life seems like the natural next step, it is also filled with an uncertainty I have never experienced. Many adults have exasperatedly tried to reassure me that what I am feeling is trivial, or something akin to the anxiety I felt when I was going through the college process, but I can’t help but to believe they are wrong.
Yes, going to college is scary: Many students don’t even know until April of their senior year where they’ve been accepted, and when they do get their letters (or emails, more likely), they must make difficult decisions about financial aid packages while coming to terms with leaving the familiarity of home.
In my case, I felt prepared to embark upon this new adventure, and despite the uncertainties, as a graduating high school senior, I also had the luxury of knowing that for the next four years there was a plan: I would attend classes, find ways to productively fill my spare time and summers and try not to get into trouble while doing so. In hindsight it was easier said than done; there were moments of high stress (see: math and economics requirements), but overall, I would say it was definitely doable and enjoyable.
However, when you become a senior in college, no divine intervention suddenly imparts the wisdom you need to navigate life after college. No one gives you a leaflet filled with basic things like how to get credit, much less a booklet entitled “How to figure out your life in less than six months.” You can try to make an appointment with your advisor or go to career services, but all of a sudden you are confronted with so many serious questions and daunting possibilities that it’s hard not to feel hopelessly overwhelmed in the face of it all.
So when people casually ask, “What are your plans after graduation?” I want to shout, “I have absolutely no idea. It’s terrifying. Don’t you understand how difficult it is to find a job in the worst economic climate since the Great Depression?! I mean the New York Times reported this Sunday that the economy is not adding jobs at the rates expected.” But of course, I don’t say that because, well, it would be rude, and would reveal how utterly unprepared I feel.
I’ve found that part of maturing as an adult and entering “the real world” is facing this seemingly monumental challenge with a fixed and steady determination, not panic. Although at times it might seem like the worst thing in the world, it’s not. We have the opportunity now to think carefully, as young adults, about what we want from life, and how we try to realize our aspirations. I see it as a rite of passage, just one that no one really talks about, but one that should be openly discussed culturally and by the administration with the graduating class. While I can complain endlessly about the economy, at the end of the day, it’s on me to make my future happen, and while that’s terrifying, it is, more importantly, extremely empowering.
Carolina Reyes is a senior majoring in international relations. She can be reached at Carolina.Reyes@tufts.edu.