The Great Unknown

IMG_7864 by Molly MacGilbert

I’m graduating in 11 days. The emotion that arises when I think about this fact can only be expressed as a cross between a celebratory squeal of freedom and a blood-curdling Hitchcock scream. The question I’ve been asked at an increasing frequency in recent months, weeks and days provokes a similar cocktail of excitement and terror: “What’s next?”

Really, the person who has asked me this question the most is myself. And despite the ominous tick-tocking of the clock of my undergraduate education, the answer remains: I don’t know. I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. And regardless of my search for answers and the anxiety that arises when I come up short, I think I’m becoming more okay with not knowing.

From a young age, there’s so much pressure to know what we want to be when we grow up. We grow up playing house and prescribing careers to our Barbie dolls, from pastry chef to firefighter to fairy princess. Our high school years are geared toward preparing for college, and most of us start applying our junior year. I don’t know about you, but at age 16 I could hardly plan my breakfast, let alone pinpoint the career path I was supposed to follow for the remaining (hopefully) several decades of my existence. Which is probably why my college years have been full of indecision, confusion, change, dropping out and transferring.

But with every stressful semester and unpleasant job, I’ve gotten a little closer to figuring out what I want. And even if we never figure out what we want to be when we grow up, I think that’s okay. I’m pretty sure no matter how old I get, I’ll be stumbling blindly through life with more questions than answers. And anyone who honestly thinks they have all the answers is someone I neither want to be nor be around. Life is inherently mysterious and ridiculous, and we might as well accept that.

The one thing I know I’m doing after graduation is taking a well-earned road trip down the Pacific coast. Not only does this give me an opportunity to get a little less pale, it also gives me an opportunity to run away from my anxieties and put off the job search until July. Cheers to that—and cheers to the great unknown.

Job Hunting By The Numbers

img_7471.jpg By Naomi Kolb

As graduation approaches, I find myself in the same boat as many of my fellow soon-to-be-alumni: I still don’t have a job or other obligation lined up for after graduation on June 17th. In the hopes of securing a job soon, I thought that I’d share part of my job-hunting experience. . . by the numbers.

  • Days since I submitted my first job application: 60
  • The number of applications that a Career Services Adviser told me was average to submit before landing an interview: 25-30
  • The number of applications that my coworker told me was average to submit before landing a job: 50-60
  • Applications that I’ve submitted so far: 15
  • Applications that I haven’t heard back about at all: 10
  • Positions that I’ve interviewed for: 2
  • Job offers that I’ve received: 0

Hopefully sharing my experience will help give my peers a better idea of what to expect when job hunting in Portland! Applying for jobs while still being a full-time college student is stressful to say the least and entirely unattainable for a lot of us. As many enter into our final days at PSU, I just wanted to say congratulations to all that are graduating and good luck on whatever your next endeavor may be, even if you don’t quite know what it is yet.

Community of Action

1IMG_4856 by Steph Holton

In my last blog post, I talked about failing my student commencement speaker audition, and since then I’ve realized that the things I’d hoped to be able to say to my graduating class are still words that I want to share, and ones that are just as true here as they would be on that stage. So to all of my PSU classmates, I’d like to say:

“Four years ago, when I stood in front of my high school graduating class of 121 students, I talked about the future. I talked about taking the lessons we’d learned from our parents, our teachers, our coaches, and going out into the real world to—eventually—do great things.

“Today, with this… marginally larger audience, I want to talk about the amazing lessons I’ve learned from you, my fellow students, and the great things you’re already doing.

“In our time together at PSU, we’ve seen newsworthy accomplishments—like our engineering students launching a balloon more than 20 miles in the air in order to bring the 2017 solar eclipse to the desktops of viewers worldwide, and students of different skin colors, religions, and nationalities rallying together swiftly and peacefully to stand for our rights to safe communities, women’s healthcare and affordable schooling.

“And then there are the more subtle, everyday accomplishments. It’s not uncommon to see complete strangers sharing their opposing viewpoints in the middle of the Park Blocks, or to inquire about someone’s pronouns, and then use them correctly. And even though at PSU we recognize that conversation, understanding, and respect are basic tenets of good citizenship, and that we still have a lot of room to grow in these areas, they’re not common practice on every campus. PSU is special because we don’t look past each other’s differences. We embrace them. We recognize that our different backgrounds and beliefs and aspirations are assets in our collective pursuits for a better world.

“Four years ago, I left my little Montana valley town for the stumps and bridges of Portland, and I’ve learned here that more than anything, it’s the small, everyday practices—recycling, asking others’ opinions, embracing difference—that make us all activists. I am so proud to be a part of this community of action, and I want to thank you for teaching me to appreciate the amazing things we’re doing right now.”

Way to go

Qin 2By Qin Xia

I will graduate this June! I was excited to say so in January. Now, every time when I say, “I will graduate in a couple days,” I tear up. I hated the journey, but now I miss it even while I am still in it.

I remember the first term that began my study life at Portland State University. I was exhausted, and worried a lot about giving up. I use to worry if I had enough money to finish my degree. I remember every night I spent in the library, the tons of coffee I drank, and the papers I wrote.

If you ask me to write down one word that sums up the journey, it would be stress. The stress of getting use to life styles different from my own country, the stress of the academic learning in another language, the stress of the financial side, even the stress of now finding a job. Stresses are always by my side since I chose to study at PSU.

I hated it, but I also love it.

Because of the stress, I kept challenging myself all the time. My English keeps improving, and I absorbed many skills to deal with the different culture. I appreciate the help I received from all my teachers and my friends. With the powerful help and encouragement, I successfully finished my Chinese degree in May, and I will also complete my teaching degree at PSU next Month. For now, I wish time could slow down a bit. I know I will miss the feeling of being a student.

All of this helped me to become a nicer and stronger me.

Graduation is not the end; it is another way to continue.

The Last Word

IMG_7864  by Molly MacGilbert

I’m graduating next month. Just typing those words feels hard to believe. My college career did not follow a linear path; I attended four different colleges in three different time zones, with a year off in the middle during which I worked at a bagel shop and partied too much. I’ve learned so much in the past five years—and I didn’t learn all of it in textbooks or classrooms. As I prepare to leave PSU and enter the so-called real world, I will impart a few quick lessons I wish I could’ve told my freshman self:

  1. Sit in the front of the class. Simple but effective. By sitting near the front of the room, you’re up close and personal with the material. It’s harder to get away with smartphone distractions, side conversations, watching pigeons through classroom windows or daydreaming. The times I’ve habitually sat in the front have left me pleasantly surprised by my test grades.
  2. Get involved in the student community. This is something you’ve heard a million times and, like me, have maybe been reluctant to listen to. When I first transferred to PSU, I read the Vanguard every week and wanted to contribute. I included this goal in to-do lists, planner pages and new year’s resolutions. It wasn’t until my senior year that I finally wrote my first story— and I could not believe how exciting and rewarding it was to see it in newsprint. My only regret is not getting involved sooner.
  3. Use a planner. With Vanguard and student blog responsibilities, internships, a 6-credit capstone and homework, I could not have stayed afloat without my planner. Weekly and daily to-do lists and color-coding helped me manage my time confidently and efficiently. Once deadlines and due dates are on paper, they’re no longer building up in my head and stressing me out. Don’t think of yourself as a slave to your planner, though—just do things piece by piece, do the best you can and know that you will handle it all.

To those of you who are still powering through your education, you’ve got this! And congrats to my fellow soon-to-be graduates—we’re almost done, and it feels good. Feel free to comment your own tips for ruling your schooling!

An Ode to the Deviants

img_7471.jpg By Naomi Kolb

I posted a picture of my graduation from community college on Instagram almost exactly two years ago to the day. The caption for my photo read, “official graduate of @inverhills with my associate of arts in gender and women’s studies. @portlandstate I’m coming for you next!” It wasn’t particularly unusual that I transferred to PSU from a community college, but what makes my situation a bit different than most is the fact that I earned my associate’s degree before I’d even earned my high school diploma. This means that when I graduate from PSU next month, I’ll only be 20 years old.

My educational path has not been traditional and I’m rather proud of that. Most of my immediate family has also taken a nontraditional path to higher education. My mom went back to school to get her bachelor’s and master’s degrees when she was a single parent in her 30’s. My brother switched his major twice and was a super, super, super senior by the time he graduated. They inspired me to pursue higher education and assured me that it was OK to take a path less traveled.

In part thanks to them, I’ll be the youngest person in my family to graduate from college with my bachelor’s degree. So to my mom, to my brother, to myself, and to anyone else who deviates from the four years that it’s “supposed” to take to graduate: this is an ode to you. There are plenty of ways to go about getting your degree, and as long as you do it in the way that makes the most sense for you, it shouldn’t matter if it takes you much less or much more time than the usual allotment of four years.

Not qualified? Get an internship.

IMG_7864 by Molly MacGilbert

Here we are, students at Portland State, in the city of bridges and roses and sportswear companies. We’re all in a pretty good position for internships—being in college gives us an excuse to get some work experience in a field we’re not actually that qualified for (yet). When I was a junior at PSU, I interned with local nonprofit Literary Arts for seven months. My senior year started with a six-month marketing internship with TriMet and is now ending with a spring term internship with Overcup Press. These three internships have given me invaluable work (and life) experiences.

On paper—unless it’s resume paper—internships tend to seem undesirable. Interns may seem like doormats or Coffee Donkeys. This is a common misconception; in my own experience as an intern, I have not yet picked up anyone’s coffee or had anyone wipe their feet on me. Internships do require challenging (and often unpaid) work, but under the right circumstances, you’ll be too engrossed in your work to notice you’re doing it for free.

For more career and internship-related information, attend one of PSU’s career fairs, like the All Majors Career + Internship Fair on May 1 in the Smith Memorial Student Union Ballroom!