Graduation is an important and exciting right of passage. It is the culmination of all the tedious research papers, nerve-racking presentations, and all night study sessions. One morning, one gathering, one rendition of ‘Pomp and Circumstance’, one crossing of the stage, and one loud shout of joy and encouragement from your friends and family. And then it’s over. After years of striving towards this one goal, you are handed your diploma (or more accurately the case that will hold the diploma that will come in the mail after a few weeks), and the big, abstract goal is achieved. You are a college graduate.
For many young grads, particularly those who don’t immediately go on to graduate school, there is an ominous question looming on the horizon: now what? Who am I now that I’m not a college student? How do I meet people? What do I do with all of the time I used to spend studying? How do I begin adjusting to the real world?
As a recent college graduate, I find myself faced with these dilemmas and many more. How do I adjust from a life of learning and studying, and a social scene founded on the one hundred clubs and organizations at my fingertips, into a 9 to 5 job in a city of strangers? In this transition into the real world, I have applied some goals and ‘rules’ to help myself adjust. I call it “Alien to Insider: 5 Steps to Feeling Like a Local” and I would like to share it here with you.
Step 1: Join a Volunteer Organization
Just as clubs and organizations are a great way to meet new people and get to know your college community, so are volunteer organizations in a new city. Whether you feel drawn to international disaster relief, a local literacy foundation, or the city’s SPCA or animal shelter, volunteering is a wonderful way to enrich the lives of others and meet people who are passionate about the same things you are.
Step 2: Nourish Your Roots
For some people, roots are familial: mothers and fathers and grandparents, maybe an older sibling or and aunt or uncle. For others it’s a friend, or a friend’s parent. Maybe a teacher or a neighbor or a religious leader. Whoever they are, they have loved you and stood by you as you grew up. So do what you can to maintain that relationship. Visit or call, skype or write a letter; send them some love every time they cross your mind. Nourish your roots.
Step 3: Experience the Local Cuisine
One of the most exciting things about moving to a new place is the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture. One of the best ways to do that is through food. So skip the chain restaurants you ate at every weekend in college and take a chance on a local diner. One of my favorite websites to use in a new city is urbanspoon.com. Full of restaurant reviews from critics, food bloggers, and general foodies: it is a great source in seeking out a cities culinary gems.
Step 4: Enjoy Some Local Art
Whatever your cup of tea is when it comes to Arts and Entertainment, seek it out in your new home. Walk through the city gardens. Stay a while in the coffee shop whose walls are covered with the works of local painters. Stop and listen to the street musicians. Spend an evening listening to the local spoken word poets, or the comedy sketch team, or the young bands barely our of their garage. This is the life blood of a city.
Step 5: Resurrect an Old Hobby
You know that thing you used to love to do before you spent all of your spare time studying or sleeping? Maybe it was reading just for the joy of a good story. Or maybe it was cross country skiing. Or photography. Or horseback riding. Or geo-cashing. Or playing guitar. Whatever that old hobby was, now is the time to dust if off and reacquaint yourself with it.