Graduation? Check. Real World? Still Loading…

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One day you’ll wake up and realize you’re no longer a freshman, but a graduating senior. Going into the real world might seem scary and daunting, but this is what you’ve been preparing for your whole life. If you’re one of those seniors wondering “What the hell am I going to do now?” fear not. Check out some words of advice from people who’ve been there and done that.

Chris Watts graduated from the University of Maryland in the spring of 2015, and was doing big things within months, working for NASA in software development as an aerospace technologist. The summer before his senior year, Watts interned for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center and loved it so much, he wanted to go back full-time after graduation. But he hit a snag–there weren’t any open positions.

So he did what he had to do and applied elsewhere. He took a job at a local company and worked part-time there before shifting to a full-time position after graduation. Eventually, a job did open at NASA, and after applying with his former boss’s encouragement, he landed his dream position. “I eventually got where I wanted to go, just not exactly as planned,” Watts said.

So don’t worry if you don’t start off where you want to be at endgame. Use this time to build up your resume and make connections because you never know what the future has in store for you. Will you get the job that you set out to get right after graduation? Who knows? You might get it, you might not.

But don’t let that discourage you from continuing to apply for jobs. The majority of you (including me) will get more rejections than you’d like. That’s just the way it is. But, my hope is, eventually, after all of the rejections and hopelessly wondering if we’ll ever get a great job, we’ll find something worthwhile.

For many people, college is the best four years of their lives, which makes a lot of seniors extremely sad they’ll be leaving it all behind. I know I am. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really excited to venture out into the real world, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. But you’re not leaving it all behind–not really.

Jessica Lu, a PhD student at the University of Maryland, said that despite new responsibilities like a full-time job and paying bills, the time after graduation is one of the most exciting and freeing experiences in your life. For once in your life, you might not have serious obligations to parents, professors, partners or children. “In that moment, your life will belong entirely to you and you alone—and when you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself, it opens up a whole realm of exciting possibilities,” Lu said.

Don’t forget that now you won’t have to write countless papers and study for 258 midterms and exams because that’s the beauty of graduating–no more homework. Sure, you’ll probably have assignments and projects to do for your job, but you’ll get paid to do them, instead of drowning in other assignments for random classes. Life after graduation is a great opportunity for you to learn things about yourself you never knew.

This might not be the kind of advice you’d expect from a life-after-graduation piece, but hear me out: Go see a play. No really; take it from someone who knows what he’s talking about. Michael Olmert is a popular English professor at the University of Maryland, who was inducted into the UMD Hall of Fame in 2005. He has written over 90 television documentaries, seven plays, five books and at least 200 articles and reviews, and has received three Emmy Awards. Not much, right?

“Go to London. London is really important. The best piece of advice my professor at Georgetown gave me when I went to London was to go see a play every night. It changed my life. Plays are about interpersonal relationships, so it’s a way of playing and learning from life without consequences, said Olmert.”

If you never got the chance to study abroad and you have the means to travel, now’s your chance to really soak up the culture of another country and learn about yourself in the process. If you can’t afford to travel, there are plenty of local productions happening all the time. Put yourself into the play, and learn from the characters’ mistakes; the playwright included them for a reason.

Most importantly, don’t spend so much time worrying about the future that you don’t take advantage of the time you have left. “Soak up those last few weeks or months with your friends. Enjoy your campus, and relish those nights together when you can sit around doing nothing at all. But once you graduate, leave it all behind you. Don’t waste your time mourning the loss of your college years—or, worse yet, trying to relive them. Instead, look ahead and embrace your next adventure,” said Lu.

Whether you continue your studies, get a job or travel the world, just enjoy life. It sounds super cheesy and I’m sure it’s easier said than done, but you’ve worked hard your entire life. Put yourself out there–it’s finally time to start living.

I am currently a senior at The University of Maryland. I like long walks on the beach or quick ones to Chipotle or Starbucks. I watch far more movies and television than I'll ever admit. Just kidding, I'll totally admit it.

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