My profile this week is from my good friend Emily Kent, Georgetown class of 2016.
First, just tell us a little bit about yourself–where you’re from, what you studied, where you went to school, what you’re doing now in your final semester. Any potential plans for post-graduation?
My name is Emily, I’m from Salem, Massachusetts, and I am a senior at Georgetown University double majoring in history and music and minoring in French. In this last semester I’m still a full-time student so I’ve got a full course load, which includes writing two senior theses, but other than that I’m just in the process of figuring out anything and everything concerning where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing next year. Actually, I’m not really trying that hard on this last one because I’m still in denial about graduating. I do know at least that hopefully as early as next year I will be applying to graduate/PhD programs, but until then who knows.
What aspects of your life during this transition make you feel like a kid, and which make you feel like an adult?
What has made me feel more like an adult is the sense that I’m actually somewhat ready to leave college because I feel like I’m outgrowing it; I think most people our age have by now, or are at least beginning to feel slightly out of place here. There are a lot of aspects that I love about college and a lot of aspects that I’m really not excited for in the real world (honestly I don’t know if I could sustain the 9-5 grind), but at the same time I feel like I’m starting to lose my purpose here. It’s not so much in a bad way, but more so in the sense that a paper or project I do for class seems to lose importance next to trying to figure out the logistics of my life next year and the very real responsibilities I will have to take on then. On the one hand, I’ve almost come to appreciate my education more because of this: next to any sort of entry-level job I’ll probably be working, it is wonderful that I’ve spent four years of my life in a type of institution where my sole responsibility has been to express my personal thoughts and ideas in exchange for credit. Perhaps I am being unnecessarily pessimistic about the workforce (and also this is coming from a humanities major), but I hardly think that the agency of my voice and my thoughts will hardly carry as much weight as they do now, at least not for a long time. The monetary element of paying to be here versus earning your way surely adds another dynamic, one that I do not know enough about to comment on, but on a pure intellectual level it is somewhat disheartening. Which brings me to feeling like a kid – I’m definitely afraid of losing the net that has been college. It will be weird to be unattached from an institution for the first time in over sixteen years, where the next step has always been so clear. Also, I’m really gonna miss sleeping in until noon four days of the week. It’s pretty fantastic.
What parts of adulting terrify you?
What I’m really terrified about is the financial responsibility. I literally just do not understand how we make enough to pay for everything we need, let alone want. I know that, hopefully, it will all work out, but when I think about all of the bills coming my way next semester it does feel very daunting. Especially after having the privilege of living in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the U.S. for the past several years; I’m pretty sure my next apartment is gonna be not only a piece of garbage but a very expensive piece of garbage.
Do you expect there to be notable differences in joining the “real world” or being a twenty-something?
Besides a lot of the more practical concerns anyone would have about being a working young adult, I anticipate that my social life will be fairly different, if not less “easy,” in some respects. I’ve taken if for granted how great it can be to be forced to live in/be surrounded by a community of people who are the same age and who have the same interests as you. While I know (and hope) that I’ll maintain these connections for the rest of my life, I anticipate that life in the real world makes it a little more difficult to actually make friends. Not only is your schedule more rigid, but the pool of people you’d normally pull from for these kinds of relationships has scattered. From what I’ve heard, it’s a lot easier to make friends in college than once you’re on your own. Even if you move to a city where a lot of your friends are also living, you don’t see them everyday like you used to, nor do you have the convenience of them living just down the hall anymore. To be honest I expect that these next few years will be a bit lonely.
What do you feel like is expected of people in our generation that maybe wasn’t expected of our parents?
It’s definitely frustrating that we’re expected to rather easily have our financial affairs in order out of college and into the beginning of a full-time job/grad school. I’ve been extremely fortunate in having parents who have been a wonderful support system for me, but when you say “it’s hard” to other adults many times they roll their eyes and to go on to explain how they paid their own way through college in a few years time. With the job market as well, although it seems to be improving slightly, I feel like my Bachelor’s degree matters a lot less than it would have a few decades ago. I do intend to go on to grad school as soon as I can (albeit for a field that is not particularly lucrative), but there is still a lot of pressure to get a good job out of college. To be honest, I’m not particularly confident that this will happen right away.
What do you wish we’d been taught in college about “the real world” that isn’t taught?
Everything. I’m a staunch supporter of a liberal arts education, but to be honest I’m a little frustrated with the lack of resources for college seniors trying to find a job or apply to graduate programs. I know a lot of it takes self-initiative, but at the same time I feel like we waste a lot of time trying to figure things certain things only to find out we did it “wrong,” like writing a good cover letter or waiting to hear back about positions you applied to several months ago from employers who are probably just not going to respond. We do have a career center here, which I’m sure has been helpful to some people, and who also does well to get companies into Georgetown for recruiting. Unfortunately, my experience with them has not been that great, and I’m sure a lot of people would echo this same sentiment. Although the point of school isn’t to pump you out into the workforce (at least not on a philosophical level), I am a little surprised at the lack of resources for helping you prepare for life post-graduation. While learning certain things from first-hand experience is good for you (and essentially defines being a twentysomething), the panic of preparing for a professional life seems like something that should be directly addressed by your time in college.
The Millennial generation is often called the “me me me” generation. Would you agree with this depiction? How would you describe Millennials in three words?
In some sense we are a “me me me” generation, but not in a negative way. The accusation of selfish laziness as a collective group is definitely unfounded. Where we do call attention to ourselves, we do it to call attention to things that are obstructing us from our potential: sexism, racism, growing inequality, unfair job/internship markets, etc. If I had to choose three words/phrases I’d probably say socially conscious and outspoken on the good end, and on the more critical side, overly-simplifying (if I can make that into an adjective to describe a group of people) the very problems we hope to solve. Or, at least the way we talk about them. However, maybe this last point is just associated with youth rather than our generation.
How do you deal with the financial uncertainties of being an almost-college graduate?
As I mentioned before, financial uncertainties are one of the things that makes me most nervous about entering the real world. I am also lucky enough to have a wonderful support system in my family, which helps calm some of the anxieties of being completely independent for the first time, but the costs you face as an adult are just really daunting. I guess the best consolation is thinking about the people only a few years older than us, as well as our parents (although the financial challenges they faced were certainly different), and seeing that they are doing it without falling on their faces (or at least not openly). I’m also just a cheap person (sometimes annoyingly so – I would walk to Chinatown from campus rather than pay for a two dollar bus ticket) which will probably be a helpful habit to already have when I’m keeping a strict budget these next few years.
Any book recommendations for early twenty-somethings?
So this isn’t really meant for twentysomethings in general, but David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King made me think a lot about what I value in a career and where I want my life to be, as well as where I definitely don’t want it to be. It made me really fear boredom, not that I was ever planning on becoming an accountant living in an industrial midwestern city (no offense to those from the midwest or to those planning on becoming an accountant), and also made me want to work that much harder to ensure that I would get to my dream job so that I would not be living a profoundly mundane life. The book is pretty dark, even though the stories themselves are mild, and it doesn’t really end anywhere (which is kind of the point, regardless of it being an unfinished novel). However, it is a pretty good read in terms of forcing you to evaluate whether or not you are living a meaningful life.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve been sounding pretty pessimistic through all of this. I promise I’m still pretty excited about the future, but nerves are just standing in the way for now. For someone who has in no way figured out their life, literally not in the slightest, it is really stressful; that’s something I wish I could have at least mentally prepared for before going into my senior year when it all hits you. I wish I could enjoy my last few months in college without this hanging over my head (and I’m admittedly pretty jealous of those who have plans set for next year), but I know once I get a job or get into school, I will be a lot more excited about the prospect of building a new life and career wherever I end up. It really is exciting to be in a position where I could go anywhere I want next year.