So, you're in the homestretch. You've dotted your "i's" and crossed your "t's." After years of studying and stressing, you can finally see the finish line: GRADUATION. And if you feel anything like how I felt: you are terrified. You were a student your entire life and now all of a sudden you're a "Real Adult" (whatever that means). Life post-graduation always seemed like an abstract dream, the same way you would tell people, "Yeah, I'll definitely go skydiving one day." Well, that day is now and there is no parachute.
But not to fear! The road you are traveling has been traveled before. "How to be an Alum" will give you tips from a fellow 20-something about how to survive your first year as an alum. We'll all figure this out together!
Great, I graduated. Now, where do I live?
Wherever makes the most financial, physical, and emotional sense for you in the present and near future! Some folks move to a different town, city, or even country after school. Some stay in the same town as their alma maters, and there are some who move back home to live with their parents (like me)! Whether you live alone, with roommates, with a significant other, or with family, it's all valid. There are no 'right' or 'wrong' ways to set up your living situation. In fact, take a look at these statistics*:
About 32% of recent, American college grads live with their parents
About 32% of recent, American college grads live with a spouse or significant other
About 14% of recent, American college grads live alone or with a roommate(s)
About 22% of recent, American college grads have found some other sort of living arrangement (for example: traveling full-time or finding a temporary residence)
It can be difficult to conceive a new living situation after potentially being in the same living situation for several years. Here are a couple of tips that helped me through the transition:
Decorate your space.
Even if your living arrangement is impermanent or you aren't allowed to paint the walls, find a way to make it yours. String up some fairy lights or buy a plant! Little splashes of your personality will make your space feel like yours.
DO NOT get a pet (UNLESS you actually are financially, emotionally, and physically able to take care of another living creature)!
I get it. I want a cat too. But if you're a 20-something fresh out of college and still trying to piece your life together, there's a good chance you won't be able to give a pet the time and care it deserves. Put yourself first, find your own footing, and then get a cat somewhere down the line. (Plus, some places simply don't accept pets, or require you to pay more if you have pets...and you might not be ready for those restrictions.)
Explore your neighborhood.
Even if you've lived in the same place your entire life, there's always going to be new stores popping up and new restaurants to try. Have you passed by the same bakery a million times and never actually walked inside? Walk inside. Get a cookie. Or if you're in a new city, try finding your new favorite places. Try out that cafe you pass on the way home from work and see if it's any good. Go find a park and go for a long walk. Remember, you can make any place feel as big or as small as you want it to. It's all a matter of perspective.
Try and cook for yourself.
It's super easy to fall into the trap of eating ramen or microwave pizzas every night for dinner, but it can be just as easy (and even more affordable) to actually make something with your own hands. Never go above your means if you don't have the time, money, or energy to create a three-course meal for yourself every night. But try to find a way to learn a few new recipes and perfect them. I promise, even if you aren't a "good cook" or "too lazy," it'll feel rewarding (and super "adult"). Pro tip: Homemade soups/stews/chilis can be really cheap, healthy, and easy to make and absolutely delicious.
Change is hard. But instead of thinking of it as a hardship, I challenge you to think of it as an adventure (yes-even moving back in with your parents can be an adventure)! Tune in next time to find out what adventures we'll be taking next on: "How to be an Alum."
Kasey graduated from UMass Amherst in 2017 with a degree in Communication and English. She now works for Macmillan Learning as a Digital Marketing Assistant. As a self-described 'Real Adult in Training,' you can most likely find her somewhere in downtown Manhattan showing strangers pictures of her dog or hunting for the undisputed best place to get waffles!