What Are the Grads Doing Now?

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Image courtesy of Daniel Semelsberger ’16

Some friends and I taped 8.5 x 11’s to a dorm wall and wrote our names on them. We’re keeping track of every post-grad thing we’ve applied to so far. It’s great and I’ve never felt more optimistic or fancy free!

Whether you’re coasting (read: nervously jittering) through your final semester or still have many more ahead of you, you’ll have to figure out what to do after college. Here’s some inspiration from recent Kenyon grades of all stripes.

I had the grads answer the following questions:

  1. What are you doing right now at this very second?
  2. What have you generally been doing since graduating Kenyon?
  3. Are you doing what you thought you’d be doing postgrad? Are you enjoying it? And what’s some advice you can offer undergrads?

 

Ashley Thompson ’15

1. i just got back from doing a sit-in at the moma with the sad asian girls
2. i have been rapidly making art, mostly in chinatown, nyc
3. encourage each other to speak out more by listening enthusiastically. you don’t need to be a person of color to listen to a person of color. acknowledge your privilege. regardless of our backgrounds, we all have the privilege of a college education. this is a precious gift. learn from everything. every single person has had an education, but not all experiences are validated. respect that. decolonize your mind by embracing all people as your teacher. pay attention. take notes. always ask more questions. peace is also contagious.

 

Dante Pilkinton ’16:

  1. Reading Swing Time by Zadie Smith while eating some homemade tofu pad Thai with a beer, in my apartment above a beef jerky shop in Chinatown.
  2. I have spent most of time after graduation bicycling from Kenyon to the southern tip of Patagonia. I got back to the U.S. 4 weeks ago.
  3. Yes… I wanted to do incredible things and write and make videos. And I have been spending most of time doing all those things: filming and writing about my adventure. now I’m just trying to make my lifestyle into a living. Am I enjoying it? I have never been more fulfilled in my entire existence on this ovoid planet. Advice: the world is not waiting for your sunrise.

Kate Lindsay ’15

  1. I’m at a birthday party at a bar! Clearly having an incredible time since I’ve stopped to answer these questions.
  2. Literally everything. I moved to Boston right after post grad to work in publishing and quickly realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life so I moved to New York that summer hoping to write and I’ve been here ever since! Being a writer can sometimes mean your job changes a lot, so I’ve worked at places like HelloGiggles, Racked, Cosmo, and Refinery29 in under two years.
  3. I feel really lucky to say yes. It wasn’t until I joined The Thrill that I realized how much I enjoyed blogging and online writing, and that’s what pushed me to start freelancing my senior year. I’m happy when I step back and think about how I’m a ~writer~ in ~New York~ but the day to day does not feel that glamorous. You’re always trying to find your next gig and working crazy hours and sometimes end up in a chipotle at 3pm wondering what you’re doing with your life. Also crying. There’s a lot of crying. The advice I’d give is to say yes to everything and then scale back. My best “career moves” have come from saying yes to a whole bunch of opportunities and seeing what was a fit and working an absolute hell schedule until the right things fell into place. That sounds cliche but you never want to cut yourself off from opportunities and wonder what could have happened.

Timmy Broderick ’16:

  1. When I first saw that message, I was at Maplewood Kitchen&Bar, where I work. I was eating a yummy salad in the break room after standing and schmoozing for seven hours.
  2. In addition to working ~35 hrs./week, I do three other things: I write about urban policy, including affordable housing, Cincinnati’s failing bus system, shifting city demographics; I also do work to support the city’s burgeoning immigrant population; and I am starting a podcast (called “The Sunday Correspondence”) with my friend Kevin — stay tuned!
  3. When I graduated in May, I expected to serve/waitress at night and write during the day. The volunteer work and podcast were more unexpected. The former emerged out of the election, but I suspect the latter came about because I missed, and still do miss the fervent pursuit of knowledge that fuels most Kenyon kids. As for whether I’m enjoying it…yes? I cook large meals for my family 2x/week, explore Cincinnati in my downtime, and play piano often. The city is small enough that I can impact the community. Lives improve because I choose to act. Yet, despite these positives, I’m rather lonely. Gambier was my whole world for five years, and you can’t take the hill with you when you leave. This is, at heart, a good thing. As the world expands, so does your mind. But that doesn’t necessarily entail happiness. If the post-grad malaise hits you once you leave the hill, push through. Invest in your passions. Follow them and you’ll find your community. Whether it’s the local SJP or a weekend softball league or a synagogue or the cozy dive bar on 7th with $2 drafts on Tuesday — you’ll find your people. Jesus. Sorry I was so mushy. Just got off the phone with Maria Sorkin, and we spent an hour reassuring ourselves that we’ll be able to find friends in our respective post-Kenyon lives. So, these answers were far more sentimental than I intended.
Rioghnach Robinson ’16:
       1. I am lying on a grayish-green sofa in a sublet in Bushwick and editing a fantasy                      novel and drinking white wine.
       2. I have generally been lying on grayish-green sofas and editing this fantasy novel                     while drinking white wine.
       3. I am not doing what I thought I would be doing, which is becoming a hermit in rural    Ireland. That said, I’m really enjoying New York. My advice for undergrads getting kicked unceremoniously into postgrad life is to wring maximum impact out of the hours you have to yourself. This doesn’t mean work yourself to pieces in your downtime; it’s more a time management readjustment: If, like me, you spend most of your time feeling as if you should be doing something else, every minute can feel stressful, or worse, like a waste. In general unstructured time can feel evasive. What helps me is imposing strictures: read long, contiguous pieces of journalism. Watch a 3-hour movie without checking your phone. Train away the missing minutes that slip into the cracks of Twitter and Tumblr and refreshing Gmail and refocus the time toward a substantive project. If you’re going to do nothing, actively do nothing for two aggressive and satisfying hours, guilt-free. Relearn the feeling of devoting larger and more discrete fragments of time to life’s composite parts. This helps me relish everything a little bit more, and there’s lots to relish, because the world, it turns out, is incredibly large and full of wonders.

Natalie Wardlaw ’16:

  1. At this moment I am sitting outside on my patio that looks out towards the Santa Catalina Mountains. It’s a little cold, but I’ve got a blanket and some matcha.
  2. Since graduation I moved out to Tucson, AZ in September, found a house, got a car, and started piecing together different kinds of work. I interned with the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona for three months, and that has now turned into a paid part-time gig. While I was interning I worked at one of those paint and wine places where people come in and follow an instructor in painting some kind of landscape or nature scene. I also dog sit when I can. My favorite job right now though, is working as a studio assistant for an amazing oil painter, Barbra Rogers.
  3. I really had no idea what I would end up doing after graduation, but I hoped it would be something within the arts, so in that sense I am pursuing what I thought I would. Trying out different areas in my field has been really interesting, and helpful to figure out what kind of work I enjoy (I much prefer the hands on work in Barbara’s studio, to arts administration). I think it’s important not to stress too much about where you’re going to end up. I came out to Tucson sort of on a whim, and because I have an aunt out here who I’m close with. So many people asked me incredulously why I moved here, and I really didn’t know why, something about it just felt right. Trust your gut, because it has much more sense than your anxiety ridden overstimulated head. I met Barbra Rogers when I was a senior in high school spending a week in Arizona for my senior project. I loved her work and really admired her for being a pioneering female painter (she’s going to be 80 this April!) so a desire to work with her was probably buried somewhere in my subconscious. It didn’t happen right away, but now here I am working with a truly inspirational mentor who teaches me something new everyday about what it takes to be a successful artist. My last advice is to never underestimate the importance of a good support system, meaning people physically there in your town. You never know when you’ll need a place to seek refuge, a couch to crash on, or just a home cooked meal.

Jordi Alonso ’14:

  1. I should be doing my Renaissance Poetry seminar reading, or barring that, walking to the Missouri student union to print out my homework for my poetry workshop tomorrow—but I’m lying on my couch after watching a Spanish league soccer game, listening to Frank Sinatra and reading about fauns and nymphs to prepare for a meeting with the Director of Graduate Studies where I’ll start filling out the forms necessary to “declare” my field of study and get on the way to writing my dissertation
  2. Studying and writing. I got my MFA in poetry right after Kenyon and I’m now a first-year PhD student at the English department of the University of Missouri. My newest chapbook “The Lovers’ Phrasebook” which Phoebe Carter ’17, illustrated, came out from Red Flag Poetry Press earlier this month. I’m currently collaborating on a manuscript with Mara Vulgamore ’14, and we’re very excited to see where it takes us.
  3. Yes. I can’t see myself living outside of the grove of academia, so I’m taking the steps necessary to be sure I won’t metaphorically or metaphysically get locked out of my second home. If you’re thinking of going to grad school, be sure that’s what you want for your own reasons, whatever they may be. And, while you’re at Kenyon, be sure to make yourself known to everyone. You never know where the connections you make in Gambier will lead you. I wouldn’t have applied to the University of Missouri if I hadn’t gone to a talk in April of 2014 that Willis Barnstone gave at Kenyon. I was so enthralled by his scholarship and warmth that we got to emailing and talking long after he’d left Kenyon—he blurbed my comps (published as “Honeyvoiced” Xoxox Press, 2014) and wrote me a letter of recommendation for graduate school my second time around. I ended up getting a fellowship at Mizzou, where his daughter, Aliki Barnstone, teaches and presides over poetry and translation with open arms and a shining heart as the Poet Laureate of the state of Missouri

Emily Sakamoto ’16:

  1. At this very second i’m answering this question via Facebook messenger while sitting at my desk at work, hoping no one walks behind me and sees me simultaneously shoving pesto-covered kale into my mouth while illicitly on social media on a work computer.
  2. Since I graduated Kenyon, I spent most of the summer sitting on my couch asking myself and God why i didn’t choose a more effective major (warning English majors, comps is just the beginning of the hellscape). In September i started my job here in New York, and made the grave decision to move from Minnesota to Manhattan, giving up a lot of things I knew I’d miss (cheap shit, access to a car, grocery stores without lines) and things I didn’t know I’d miss (did y’all know NYC doesn’t have garbage disposals and dogs can piss on the streets and sidewalks as they please, including almost on your $200 shoes?). It’s not a decision I regret in the slightest, though. I think if you have an opportunity, in any capacity, take it. They don’t come all that often.
  3. Yes, and no. As a long-time editor of the Thrill’s arch-nemesis The Collegian, I kind of expected I’d land a journalism job. But those are hard to come by, with the death of print seemingly imminent in our digital age. But did I think I’d become a financial reporter in the asset management space? No. Did I think I’d spend half my days at meetings or events or on calls with predominantly men? No. We talk a lot about women in STEM. But not as much women in finance. And reporting on technology in the financial sector has only led me to more and more instances where I’m the only woman in the room, and the only one under 40 years old. How to prepare. That’s a question. And here’s the answer: You can’t, really. Besides having money stockpiled in some account for the day you take your first low paying job, or even an internship to shove yourself into the limelight of an industry, you can’t prepare well for jobs. You just have to trust yourself and try hard. Be persistent. That’s literally how I got my job, and now I edit a publication as a fresh college grad, the only one my company took last year. Recognize what you’re good at, and sell yourself as both experienced but also eager to learn. Don’t be afraid to admit where your shortcomings are, but don’t hesitate to build yourself up where you should. And if you’re ever in NYC or need a contact in financial PR out here, hit me up. xoxo

Andrew Stewart ’15:

  1. I am watching the NFC Championship Game, wondering if Atlanta has a chance against New England or Pittsburgh.
  2. I spent my first year after graduating working as a tutor and mentor with City Year Cleveland, an AmeriCorps program. I was placed in a ninth-grade English/Language Arts classroom. Since then, I have been working as a tutor, and now I am anxiously awaiting admissions decisions from philosophy PhD programs.
  3. Yes, I have pursued what I expected to pursue. I wanted to become a college professor, and still do. But the time I have spent outside of academia since graduating from Kenyon (granted, I have still worked in academic settings) has provided valuable perspective. I am much more confident in my decision to pursue a graduate degree than I would have been if I had applied to start immediately after my senior year. My advice for seniors? Life after graduating is different, and it calls upon a wider range of skills than Kenyon’s primarily intellectual demands, but it is still life. Post-graduate life, like literally anything else, is an opportunity to develop yourself into a more conscientious and complete human being. Be thankful for every glorious, sheltered, scenic moment at Kenyon, and prepare to be thankful for every tedious, frustrating, bureaucratic, yet oddly charming moment still to come. And when you aren’t actually studying for comps or physically applying to post-graduate opportunities, spend time with your friends –all of your friends–instead of worrying about the future. You’ll miss them a lot.

Aaron Stone ’14:

  1. Right this very second, I’m emailing my students to let them know I’ve extended their first paper deadline from tomorrow to Friday (a sneaky attempt to try to get them to work on things early and then relieve a bit of pressure)
  2. Since graduating, after a brief stint as a pizza artist and delivery extraordinaire at the fine Mt Vernon establishment, The Pirates’ Cove, I’ve started a PhD program in English Language in Literature at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. I’m currently in my fourth term and getting my reading lists together for preliminary exams. I’ve begun teaching, which has been demanding but incredibly rewarding.
  3. I’m doing exactly what I hoped I’d be doing postgrad–miraculously–and I’m enjoying it immensely so far. A bit of advice for current undergrads: go hug your favorite AVI worker right now. You’ll miss them when you’re only cooking once a week and then eating leftovers six days in a row because adulting is hard.

 

Feeling antsy? Go chat with the CDO or check out Switchboard Kenyon for some ideas. Alums will definitely be happy to get in touch with you, too.

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