Choose Your Own Adventure

by Jennifer Long

John Fang

I stood slightly nauseous as my aunt asked, "So what are you going to do when you graduate?" Me? Graduate? I feel like I just got used to college! I'm not ready to be an adult, trade in my Eastpak for a briefcase, and read the New York Times on the 5:45 train every morning. Thoughts of investing in a good gray suit and sitting for eight hours in a collapsible cubicle are enough to make me consider failing my Music Appreciation class, just to stay in my Levis and university-issued bed a little longer.

It can be frightening when the safety nets and structure of adolescent life all of a sudden disappear and comforts like a dorm room, summer vacation, and 1:10 p.m. classes become a thing of the past. The common call of parents, recruiters, and career counselors seems to be, "Get a job, settle down, find a spouse." And when the brink of adulthood stands before you like the edge of the Grand Canyon, it's tempting to close your eyes and jump. But it's really not that frightening. Take a step back. Breathe in the fresh air. Enjoy the view for a minute. This is the one time in your life when you have no ties, no commitments, no one path you need to follow. You ARE an adult, which means you can go wherever, do whatever, and be whoever you want to be. And in 2001 the options are more plentiful than our parents ever imagined. It just takes a little confidence, a little ingenuity, and some serious thought to turn your life into the adventure you've always dreamed of.

The first and perhaps hardest step of starting your life is to think about it. The thought of deciding one's future is enough to make any college senior run in the opposite direction, reminiscent of the dreaded "pick a major" crisis. But by breaking down the process into easy-to-swallow morsels it's really not that scary. Here's how:

-Consider Your Assets

This is sort of like writing a resume but a lot more fun and creative. You actually have a college degree now, which shows you have some intelligence and management skills. This may have involved nothing more than writing that Psych paper in the car on the way to Mardi Gras, but it sounds good and is true. By taking the time to sit down and list all of your skills, it is surprising how forgotten treasures like the typing class from high school and bartending your friends’ parties come in handy.

-Remember What Makes You Tick

Everyone has a passion that keeps them going, whether it is downhill skiing or writing poetry. Dreams are the bloodlines of the human spirit. And finding a job that lets you live your dream is the key to staying young and happy. Only you know what this dream is, and it's never too lofty to aim for.

-Remember Whose Life This Is

With all the pressure we get from our family and friends, it's sometimes hard to remember if we were the ones who really wanted to marry our high school sweethearts and get those jobs in the suburbs. Although our parents can give excellent advice, only you know what is right for you. Sometimes their wishes are not the ones that will make you happy. It can be hard to explain this to them, but it's better to realize this now than 20 years from now.

-Combine, Mix, Collate

Making sense of the information you've acquired will hopefully be a little less confusing than Analytic Geometry. This is because there are so many different directions you can follow. It's not meant to be a mathematical formula but a loose understanding of what to pursue after college. No one answer is correct.

The second stage of your new life begins when you put your plans into action. Some footwork, Internet searching, phone calls, and possibly even a trip to the Career Planning office are necessary. Skills acquired while schmoozing at the local bar and writing your last research paper come in handy. Here is a list of possibilities on where to go:


Travel, travel, travel. My Italian teacher once told me to visit Italy before I'd have to drag a husband and two kids along. Black humor aside, this is good advice. A close friend recently came back from a two-year teaching position in Prague, Hungary. "It was the most amazing experience I've ever had. I'll never forget people I met there," she said.

Almost every Foreign Study office has information regarding work-abroad programs, and the Internet lists opportunities to teach ESL. For a small fee, some programs will even help you locate a job and housing. You can travel to Paris for the weekend, eat pasta in Rome, check to see if the Bobbies in London really wear Docs, and make money at the same time.

-Websites to check out:

Berlitz Study Abroad -

Overseas Teacher's Digest -

Bleeding Heart

If you've got the wandering spirit but want to help people along the way, consider volunteering. Across the United States, agencies and nonprofits need help in everything from homeless shelters to literacy programs. AmeriCorps has placed thousands of Americans in public service jobs tutoring children, serving as police cadets, and building houses with the country's poor. For a global commitment, look to the Peace Corps to take you to Kenya, Guatemala, or Poland for "the toughest job you'll ever love." It's at least a two-year commitment, but teaching English or planning a community on another continent is an invaluable experience for the right person.

-Websites to check out:

The Corporation for National Service -

The Peace Corps -



If reading On The Road has made you hungry for the open highway, consider the United States your smorgasbord. With a cultural array almost as broad as Europe, you can live in a different world without a passport. Log onto the Internet and search for a city or town that seems interesting to you. You could become a ski instructor in Colorado, work at a vineyard in California or staff a bed and breakfast in Connecticut.

-Websites to check out: -

Cool Works -

Action Jobs -


You're used to living on 10 dollars a week. You don't mind living with five other people in a one-bedroom apartment. You like to take chances. Then do what you really want to do. Find that elusive drummer to complete your band. Start your own e-zine. Get material together for your stand-up routine. Embrace your passion full force, no holds barred.

-Websites to check out:

Geocities -

Yahoo -

Be young. Grow character. See the world. You can get away with a few more years of denim and Domino's. Although your family might hope you take the opening in your family business and start saving for a down payment on a new Honda, they’ll be happy with whatever you do, because you’ll be happy doing it.

Finally, have confidence in who you are. Failing to get one job or having a publisher reject you can dissuade anyone, but life is not a pass/fail test. You get more than one chance to get what you want. And you may well have more than one adventure.

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