Yesterday was the culmination of my five years at university: I was finally able to walk across the stage, only worrying about not tripping, and shake the President of UFV’s hand as my name was announced in the endless list of 2016 graduates.
That’s right, after five years of turmoil, sleepless nights, history and English papers, and multitudes of unfinished readings, I graduated university. It was a great moment – even if it only felt like a fleeting five seconds when I crossed the stage.
For some people, this seems a great accomplishment. For others, not so much. But here, let me put it into perspective…
Jumping from elementary to high school, and university immediately following, I have been attending institutionalized schooling for 18 consecutive years. That’s a lot of school! I did not take a year off between high school and university, and no gap years were taken during my degree. I have worked hard to get through university in one go – even if it took me a little longer than the average four years.
On top of all that schooling, I have been working one or two part time jobs since grade 8. Working these jobs, I was able to pay for half of my university schooling, including a semester in Ireland, and with the help of my parents, I am graduating with no debts from school. In today’s world, I feel like that is a huge accomplishment alone.
My university experience wasn’t like the ones you see in movies or on TV, or probably like many other students you know. I was the student who went to every class, except when extremely ill. I always handed in my assignments on time, I (usually) did my readings, and I wasn’t really involved in clubs or events on campus. My school was more the commuter school – or so I thought.
My semester abroad changed my perspective of who I could be and who I am. I decided that I wanted to meet more people, and become more involved – even if I only had a year left in my degree. So, that’s why I became more involved with study abroad and began writing articles for the school newspaper. It was great to have new experiences, meet other people who had similar interests like me. It was just too little too late! I wish I had found these out when I first started university, having a better opportunity to meet new people instead of striking of conversations with students in classes – students who you might not see again the entirety of your degree.
But to me, that’s not what’s important here. Despite not having the “ultimate university experience,” I still loved my time at university and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Yesterday, I was really proud of myself when I got to walk across the stage in front of my family. I was excited to tell them and others that not only was I graduating, but I graduated with distinction (a GPA higher than 3.6) and outstanding achievement. I worked really hard to keep grades that I was proud of through my time at university, just like all my previous school years.
Of course, there are some people I love and miss who couldn’t be here to celebrate with me. My gramma was always proud of me when I brought report cards to her, excited to share my good grades, or to show her the grades I received on papers or midterms in university. I know she would be proud of me, like she always had. And as I went through graduation, I thought of my cousin who was supposed to start university at the same time as me, but never had the chance. And I thought of my great-aunt, who fostered my love of writing by being my pen pal for countless years. I know that they were all there in spirit, with me and watching as I crossed the stage, my inspiration.
Now, the question I find myself facing every time I tell someone I am now a graduate:
“So what’s next?” “What are you going to do now?” or some other form of the same words.
The honest answer: I don’t know. As I mentioned in previous blog posts, I am not sure what I want to do career-wise. I know what I enjoy, and I know what I’m good at – hopefully I can find something that balances or brings together the two.
I was talking to a friend the other day about having a plan for the future, and wanting something so badly. He was saying that he has a plan to follow to finish school, find the job he wants, and start his life as an adult. It got me thinking about my life and where I am. When I was younger, even through high school, I always knew what I wanted to do. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a teacher. Many people always told me that I’d be good at it, too. I did a lot to try to help that plan. Going through university, though, my mind started to consider this plan: was that really what I wanted to do? Almost every class I was in, there were so many students going into the teacher education programs – usually it was more than half the class. How was I ever going to compete with that many people, let alone find a job locally?
Plans have a way of changing – and we all know how change can be terrifying, debilitating. But sometimes, the change is for the better. Sometimes, you just have to accept the fact that perhaps the plan that you had made for yourself, isn’t the plan that will play out. Sometimes, God, or the universe, or fate, or whatever other greater forces, have a bigger and better plan for you than you could imagine, and that’s what you need to follow instead. And even though you don’t know what it is or where it could go, you have to give up control and see where it takes you.
About a month and a half ago, my dad helped me get a job through his company. The day after my last exam, I began work full time as a technical writer. It’s been an interesting change to the type of work I’m used to. I’ve enjoyed learning a new kind of writing and process, and using different computer programs. I’m just not used to sitting at a desk for eight hours a day…
Basically, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my life, but I don’t think I necessarily need to decide right now. I just want to be happy – and if that means that I need to try out different jobs and careers, then that’s what I’ll do.
Anyways, CONGRATULATIONS to all other graduates of 2016 – whether you are graduating preschool, kindergarten, grade 7, high school, or university! Good luck, go for your dreams, and for fellow university grads, remember: you don’t need to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life in this moment. It’s alright to try different kinds of jobs, have multiple jobs, have non-paying jobs to eventually get to where you need to be – at least, that’s what I tell myself (awkward laughter).
And last update, as mentioned in previous posts, my blog posts might get fewer unless I have more adventures to tell you about in the next little bit. Hopefully some climbing and hiking and things, maybe a little travel like before.
May the road rise up to meet ya
Recently, lots of people have been posting pictures and Facebook statuses to express how they felt about this year. So, why not recap how my year has been?
It has definitely been a roller coaster of emotions – I am thankful, remorseful, saddened and happy when looking back on 2015.
The beginning of this year brought me some of the best and most memorable experiences of my life. I flew to Ireland, ready for adventure and meeting new people. It’s funny – I went with Brittany, someone I had only met twice before taking a 17 hour journey with. And after that, we became best friends. I couldn’t be happier to have her in my life as my friend, former Ireland roommate, and fellow traveller and adventurer. I think the transition was much easier for both of us, experiencing those first freezing cold nights far from home and having someone – even just a little bit familiar – while meeting so many new people.
And thus began probably the best 6 months of my life. Going to school in Ireland was an adventure in itself. 100% finals, classes cancelled all the time, and having classes only the 2 first days of the week. It was an experience I’m glad to have had. The parties and get-togethers are all so memorable, each one sticking out in my mind for specific reasons – like the time I got locked outside on the roof, or the first international students party, or even the very first party we had at our place (the one that security came to).
I had the best time because of the people I met. I am so thankful to have met incredible, smart, amazing friends from around the world. And honestly, there are too many of you to name – but you guys know who you are, and the hilarious and amazing memories that we have.
Of course, it was because of a lot of these amazing friends that I had incredible adventures. Brittany and I were lucky to travel each weekend with great people – going to Kilkenny, Tramore, Dunmore East, Blarney, Cork, Dublin, Belfast, Kerry, Wexford, and so many more. As I wrote in posts earlier this year, I was lucky to travel around Ireland on one of my weeks off from school. We went to so many amazing places, including Cahir, Cashel, Limerick, Galway, Cliffs of Moher, and Inis Mor. Guys, even though we had only known each other for a couple weeks, that trip was amazing!
On my second week off, I travelled with Brittany, Bert and Carlos through 5 European cities, before going to Nice by myself. We had a couple bumps in our travels – almost missing trains, getting a little lost, and I got sick with food poisoning – but it was an incredible adventure! I think it was one of the best trips, as we all got along so well and never had disagreements.
Ireland was one of the greatest experiences of my life – I got to fulfill my dreams of travelling to Europe, living abroad, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. But it definitely had its bumps along the way. The first few days were incredibly hard, as I had no internet and no way to contact my family. However, Brittany was amazing and the people there were super helpful. The hardest moment was when I learned that my Gramma had passed away back home. Before I left, she had been in and out of the hospital with a heart attack and health problems. I knew it was a possibility, and I was scared that it would happen – but she always pushed me to go after my dreams. I was lucky to Skype with her a few times before she passed away. It was definitely hard going through this by myself, missing the funeral and being so far away from all of my family. I tried to stay positive, and a few of my friends were incredibly supportive – I think it would have been much harder without you guys being there for me, making sure I was alright, so thank you.
After my semester ended, my brother, Zach, and my long time best friend, Kirstin, came to meet me. We would start our 6 week adventure in Ireland before travelling to 12 countries, 17 cities, and countless famous landmarks and places. This trip had a few more bumps than previous ones, and I had to learn to travel a little differently. It’s interesting how travel changes when you are travelling with people you haven’t known very long, compared to people you have known your entire life. We had so many hilarious moments and adventures, inside jokes from the trip, and we met so many cool people. I was lucky enough to meet up with many of my friends I had met in Ireland, and I got to introduce them to Zach and Kirstin. I am incredibly grateful to have had the adventure, and to have shared it with so many amazing friends, new and old.
When I got home, I was a part of my cousin’s lovely wedding. I was very lucky to be a part of a huge step into her new life with an amazing person. I am so happy for them. And then, my summer was mostly spent outdoors and with friends. I had multiple days of outdoor climbing and hiking, catching up with amazing friends, and trying to keep up with my friends in Europe and their lives.
Unfortunately, another tragedy occurred. My great aunt, the only remaining sibling from my Gramma’s family, passed away. She had been sick for some time, but it was still hard. My mom had been incredibly close to her when she had lived in Arizona, and their relationship had continued. I had been pen pals with my great aunt since I was little and had visited her in Arizona. I loved writing to her, and she was incredibly supportive and proud of everything I was doing. Her and my uncle were amazingly supportive of my travels and aspirations, and I was so thankful.
For the last few months, my life has been crazy with school and my two jobs – working at the rock climbing gym, and writing a blog about study abroad for the international office at UFV. Starting school again was a little stressful, as it was much more work than I had in Ireland. As I wrote in a previous post, I could have taken four courses and finished my degree. Being too stressed, I decided that I would take another semester. BUT – I did take one leap this semester, and wrote a few articles for my university newspaper, The Cascade. It was interesting to branch out to something new, and I really enjoyed it. I hope to write more for it this coming semester!
But I still tried to have a full social life, like I had in Ireland. It definitely wasn’t the same, but I had some great adventures. Especially in the past few weeks, having gone to Stanley Park, Vancouver Christmas Market, Victoria, skating, and bowling. I have gotten to catch up with many amazing friends, and to see my family for Christmas. I have even re-connected with some friends from high school, who I hadn’t seen in years, as we all had a common connection of having studied abroad. It was cathartic and amazing to hear their stories, share experiences, and reminisce on the hilarious adventures we all had since graduating high school!
Now, with New Year’s, I am thinking of what I would like to accomplish over the next year. I am excited to spend New Year’s with my family and great friends. I will then enter my final semester of university – both exciting and terrifying. I went straight from high school to university, and have been studying for 5 years. I am excited to have some time off from school. But I am terrified because I have no idea what I want to do – do I want to travel more? Live abroad again? Find a job around Vancouver? What kind of job do I even want?
I have never been one to have a goal or anything for the New Year. I never found them helpful. So I am going to pick broad ones: in 2016, I want to be happy and to find what I want to do. Hopefully this will include some more travels, meeting new people and experiencing new things, and staying in contact with the amazing friends I have now. But for now, I’m going to have a little fun to finish off a great year.
Lastly, though, I want to thank anyone and everyone who has read this blog over the last year. I appreciate your support through my travels and with my attempt to navigate the blogosphere. I apologize that it wasn’t very interesting sometimes – my life does that once in a while – and that I wasn’t very organized with my uploads. I would love to say that 2016 will be different, but there are no guarantees in life. And no matter how hard I try, my everyday life is not always an exciting adventure. But bear with me – I will still be posting on Instagram, Twitter and occasionally Facebook, and I hope to find more opportunities to write articles and blogs online. Thanks for the support and patience, and hopefully for sticking with me in the future!
May the road rise up to meet ya.
P.S. – I was also excited to try something new this past semester. I wrote two articles for my university newspaper, The Cascade. I will put links to the articles here and here, just in case you would like to peruse them. 🙂