Moving on from UMW: students share post-graduate experiences from all over the world
When seven-year-old Lily Syah accidentally broke her counselor’s aviator sunglasses, she had a much harder time dealing with the disappointment than he did.
“She had a complete breakdown,” senior Sam Johnston said with a laugh. “I don’t even care about those aviators, you know?”
A few months after realizing how much he enjoyed working with children, Johnston applied to the Peace Corps to be an English teacher.
After the English major fills out his final medical forms, the last part of a very strenuous application process, Johnston will know if the Peace Corp s will place him in Eastern Europe or Central Asia.
Johnston wasn’t worried that he has yet to know where he will live and work for the next two years.
“I’m okay with it,” he said. “It’s one of those things, where you trust you’ll be in the place you need to be.”
After reviewing his application and where his skills lay, Johnston’s Peace Corps advisor advised him to follow a teaching track.
“The Peace Corps finds the skills you have, and makes you competitive,” he said. “To be placed earlier, I was advised to be a teacher.”
Career Services director Gary Johnson advocated the Peace Corps as “a good option, though it is very selective and competitive, so it’s a long process that cannot be considered at the last moment.”
Career Services offer many programs, workshops, and assistance in finding graduates jobs after graduation.
“Employers are looking for skills in particular fields, but in general, they look for the ability to communicate, analyze, have leadership, solve problems, and has a strong work ethic,” Johnson said.
Hilary Lufkin, a 2008 alumna, didn’t make a job her only goal after graduation.
After hiking the first fifty miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Georgia three weeks ago, Lufkin is back in Charlottesville for her job as Virginia Campus Organizer for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
She will do another stretch in mid-May, and intends to finish the entire trail by sections.
“One of my life goals is the long distance hiker’s Triple Crown.”
The American hiker’s Triple Crown includes completing the Appalachian, the Continental Divide, and the Pacific Crest trails.
Lufkin hiked with Stu Burton, her co-worker at Blue Ridge Mountain Sports.
He and Lufkin committed themselves to finishing the AT after their boss, Andrew Stevens, passed away on Jan. 30 to colon cancer.
“That galvanized that we were going to do it,” Lufkin said. “In memory of Andrew.”
Stevens dubbed Lufkin and Burton their trail nicknames, a hiker tradition.
“I’m Sunshine, and Stu is Sparky,” she said.
“Sunshine” Lufkin said that students need to reevaluate their goals after college.
“Thinking about graduation, people feel pressure to get a job,” she said. “But really, you should fulfill your dreams.”
On June 8, senior Emily Queen will follow her own dream when she leaves for Burkina Faso, West Africa, as a Peace Corps volunteer.
Volunteering in the Peace Corps’ Community Development sector, Queen will work on a program advocating girl education and empowerment.
“It’s an entirely emergence experience,” she anticipated.
Though she speaks intermediate French, she explained that the community will most likely converse in a local language.
“Which means that I’ll be talking in a language I don’t know hardly at all,” she said.
Queen, who volunteered in Honduras with Students Helping Honduras and in New Orleans with Habitat for Humanity, will work alone in a village school as a consultant.
She will also work door-to-door to persuade families in the village to make educating their young women a priority.
Before she moves to Burkina Faso, the Peace Corps will provide three months of intense training to help Queen assimilate to her new environment.
Bridgewater College alumnus Jarus Cox is going through another intense training schedule, one that is a little more physical.
After his brother, Jefferson Cox, graduates from Brown University this spring, they are heading out west-by bike.
Cox approximates the 4800 mile endeavor from coast to coast will take them about two months.
He and his brother wanted to achieve something “monumental” before they settled into their careers.
“And going across the country by bike was crazy enough for both of us, so it sounded like a good idea,” he added.
Riding through the Redwood Forest, along the California coastline, will be the highlight of his trip.
“My brother’s personality is my biggest worry,” he said. “I don’t want us getting into a conflict and then separating.”
After they reach the Pacific Ocean, the Cox brothers will take an airplane flight back to Virginia.
Johnston, like other graduating students, feels the influence that the slowed economy has on the job market.
“The Peace Corps and other volunteer organizations are a way to use this time productively,” Johnston said. “Hopefully the recession will be over in two years.”
Career Services acknowledge the influence that the receding economy has had on the job market.
“In this difficult job market, it is going to take longer,” Johnson said. [Students] need to prepare for that. It helps to have a focus, and the most common way to find a job is by networking.”
Career Services, which offers assistance to students even after graduation, is located in room 308 in Lee Hall.