The Thoughts and Questions of a Graduating Student

Posted by Sam on August 23, 2016

Inside Perspectives | Student Life

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Group of people silhouetted against setting sun while throwing graduation caps into the air
Photo courtesy of Baim Hanif


So I’m graduating in the fall. Everyone keeps asking, “Are you excited? What’s the plan after?”, to which I respond with a smile, “Of course! I intend to get a full-time job in the field of sports/fitness marketing”. After seeing that my interlocutors are satisfied, I swiftly turn on my heels, but as I walk away, my courteous smile and excited expression slowly give way to my unsure self.

Allow me to present to you a chronological timeline of my mind as it has pertained to my career choices throughout my studies. For the majority of high school I thought with absolute certainty that I was going to be a journalist. I initially was drawn to the field after reading video-game magazines and witnessing reporters travelling to conventions around the world to interview designers and creators. Then, in my later years of high school, after being introduced to Vice Media, I became much more interested in ad hoc, guerilla-style global correspondence, as I’m sure many felt after being exposed to Vice. While I held on to this passion throughout my first and second year of University, after spontaneously deciding to teach English in Hong Kong during the summer before third year, my interests completely changed. I then picked up Linguistics as a minor in my third year, with the intention of pursuing the teaching of English abroad as a career path. That same year, in addition to my newly added Linguistics courses, I took a number of classes focused on advertising. By the end of my third year, and with the acquisition of the job that I currently hold with the YUBlog, the field of marketing and advertising became my new focus. Nonetheless, now finishing my final year, I’m still refining what route within advertising I would like to take, only having narrowed it down to the creative side of the field thus far.

The thing is that people don’t want to hear such a long-winded answer. It’s difficult to tell parents and extended family that you actually aren’t entirely certain what it is you want to pursue after graduation. Just to give you an idea, here is a list of some of the full-time jobs for which I have applied over the past several months, most of which I came across through York’s Career Centre, but also through other services such as Talent Egg and Good Work:

  • Junior Copywriter for a video-game company
  • Communications Assistant for a foreign travel service in Shanghai
  • Digital Media Coordinator for a video production company
  • Communications intern for an aerospace technology company
  • Marketing Assistant for an entertainment technology company
  • Script Writer for an advertisement production company

As you can see, it is quite a diverse list. To take any one of these (if they choose me, of course) potentially means pursuing a very different path than with any of the other roles. Although I understand what interests me and what kind of job I ideally would like to have, I also understand that the likelihood of obtaining such a job right out of school is relatively low. The way I look at it is that experience in a job even remotely related to the kind you eventually hope to obtain is better than no job and thus no experience at all. My cohort Garima wrote a great article related to this topic a while back, called Career Talks: Work and Flow.

A descending stair case which never seems to end.
Photo courtesy of Mike Wilson

Finding employment of course is only part of the transition out of University. Unless I intend to couch-surf for the entirety of 2016/2017 (something I have actually considered), finding somewhere to live is another consideration.

For the past three months, a friend of mine and I have been looking for a place to move into for September. Although I have lived in the Village for the past three years, and as a result have technically dealt with the whole room searching process before, this marks my first time looking for a place outside the confines of the Keele campus. Clearly, this fact makes the whole process quite a bit more complex.

Just when you think you have a place within your grasp, it seems to always slip through your fingers. A landlord’s “I’ll let you know by Friday” has at this point become as indicative as a fortune cookie at a Chinese restaurant. “Sorry, some friends from Ottawa came down and I gave the rooms to them”; “We decided to keep it an all-girls house after all”; “We left the back door open and a family of raccoons took over the house” . . . I’ve heard them all.

There’s no point in being bitter, though. I simply continue checking Kijiji, Bunz Home Zone, PadMapper and a plethora of other house-posting services I peruse on a daily basis in hopes of finding that winner. Something about living in the Village for the past three years that has benefitted me, though, is the mind-set with which it has provided me. Although I may not be as gifted in the art of saving money as I might like to be, having such things in the back of my mind as the necessity of first and last month’s rent and having enough backup funding to keep me afloat in the absence of a consistent income has certainly affected my spending habits for the better. Searching for a place outside of York has also forced me to be productive in other respects, such as employment. Not a lot of Village landlords require proof of employment in order to rent to you, but I can tell you that one of the first questions the majority of landlords outside the confines of campus will ask you is, “Do you have a job?”. Something about them wanting to know that you will be able to actually pay your rent on time . . . .

Collage of different housing and real estate posting websites

Committing to finding a place with a friend can be great. You potentially save money and you have the benefit of living with someone you know — both great things. However, it also limits the amount of housing available. All those listings offering space for one become irrelevant. Also, the dependency factor can become unsettling. If you find a place, sign the papers, but then something comes up and one of you suddenly has to pull out from the deal, not only is the other person left living with strangers but, more importantly, he or she might be left having to pay more money as the sole tenant. These are things to consider before you and some friends inevitably have the “You know, we should totally live together!” talk late one Friday night.

Then of course there is the pivotal decision every University student, and high-school student, for that matter, must consider after graduating. Teach English abroad, go plant trees in BC, cater on a cruise ship, backpack across Europe . . . . It is what I refer to as the quarter-life Eat Pray Love dilemma that arguably confronts every student with a sudden gift of free time. One voice on your shoulder is telling you with delicious appeal to follow your dreams, go explore, that you will regret it later in life if you don’t do it now. But then on the other shoulder sits your rational voice. It reminds you that if you stop now, you will lose steam and lag behind those who kept going. It’s the ultimate war between your emotional and your rational mind. Personally, my knee-jerk reaction is to pack up immediately after graduation and go explore Asia, but a quick glance at my bank account always brings me back to reality. With any luck, come this next year, I will have graduated and saved enough money to satisfy my tenacious travel bug (said every student ever). As ridiculous as it sounds, I must constantly remind myself that the relentless phrase, “You have to travel when you’re young!”, doesn’t mean that traveling after the age of 21 is pointless.

Group of young women on a beach. One is helping zip up another one's backpack, and the other is taking a picture of the horizon.

So concluding this post is actually quite difficult, not because I haven’t graduated yet, but because in the time between beginning this post and finishing it, almost everything I wrote about troubling me has worked itself out. Last week (on the same day, in fact), not only did I receive a call from one of the employers to whom I had applied with a verbal offer of a paid internship but I also had the great fortune of finding a place to live right downtown Toronto for an astonishingly affordable price. So if you have made it this far in the article (I admire your perseverance), I hope this outcome will serve to illustrate just how fast things really can change. Graduating University is exciting, terrifying, full of opportunity, confusing, painful and wonderful all at the same time. And as I am learning, all you can really do is make the best of it.



Sam recently graduated with an Honours BA in Communications.

See other posts by Sam