A letter to final year students
Dear upcoming graduates,
So it’s that time of year again. Summer is winding down and everyone is back in Waterloo for another academic year.
Lots to look forward to! Homecoming is around the corner, you get two reading weeks, a winter break and there’s no forgetting St. Patrick’s Day.
But I’m willing to bet that although you have your entire final year of university ahead of you, you’ve already started stressing about what comes next. You’re probably starting to feel nostalgic around the campus. This is your second last semester. You’ll only have one more “first day of classes” at Laurier after this one.
Society has a very rigid and specific set of expectations for us upon graduating university. We’re pushed to pursue further education or to secure a job in your field with career potential. Ideally, meet your life partner if you haven’t already done so. Be married by thirty, with kids on the way.
You’ve kept “them” happy up until now. You’ve gone and gotten yourself a degree. You’re wiser and more capable than you were before coming here. But now what? It’s a hell of a lot of pressure to have on top of classes, exams, part-time jobs and social obligations.
I’m writing to tell you that this isn’t the only way. You are a smart and accomplished young person. You’ve gotten this far!
The first thing you need to do is stop and congratulate yourself. In eight months, you’re going to be a university graduate. This is a huge accomplishment. It may not feel this way inside of the university bubble but you are now among an educated minority. You will have studied hard, passed your exams and have become a success.
Not having a plan in place for the day after your convocation won’t make you a failure. Depending on when your birthday falls and how many years you’ve spent at Laurier, you’ll be somewhere in your early twenties.
You are so young. You have your life ahead of you to work, to make money, to pay bills. So realize that there’s more freedom in this next chapter of life than you think.
I submitted my final assignment of my undergrad on April 14 of this year, completing my degree in communication studies at Laurier. Since then, I’ve been living on my dad’s sailboat in the Caribbean. Although I write for sailing magazines for pocket money, I don’t have a job.
My lifestyle certainly isn’t on society’s pre-approved path. Yet, I’m discovering as much about myself and the world around me as I did at Laurier.
I’m learning new languages and meeting incredible people. Every week we sail to a new island. I’ve been to seven different countries in four months and have officially sailed the entire Caribbean chain of islands.
As incredible this may sound, I faced endless skepticism towards my decision to adopt this lifestyle and this is precisely the problem.
People are inclined to refer to my lifestyle as taking time off. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I am taking time to experience new cultures, perspectives and environments, meeting new people and challenging myself in new ways every day.
You may not have the opportunity to sail the Caribbean and may not even want to. But there are a million other ways to challenge yourself, to grow and to be happy without needing to feel inadequate if you’re not making six figures by this time next year.
Go work at a camp in Switzerland. They’ll give you a room to sleep in and I hear it’s absolutely beautiful there. Work at a hotel in Banff. Get a job on a cruise ship. Become an au pair in Europe. Connect back to your roots. Spend time with family.
It’s okay if you don’t have it all figured out.
I can’t change the likelihood that you will be asked hundreds of times throughout this year what your plans are after graduation. What I can do is remind you that “I don’t know” is an acceptable and liberating answer.