For all the graduating seniors, there is only one question on our minds that matters: “How do you feel about graduating?” Without getting too philosophical, I’ll just say that I think this is a loaded question.
How do I feel about graduating?
On one hand, it is the great culmination of an academic career, one that nearly every graduating senior has been working towards for over a decade. For most of us, this is the peak of our lives lived so far. On the other hand, imposter syndrome is real for many of us. We are graduating from a world-class institution with the expectation of finding a job during a recession and global pandemic and figuring out what we want to do with the rest of our lives. And, I’d wager that not all of us are feeling 100% about it.
This simple question is truly daunting.
In fact, Over the many times that my friends and family have asked me this very question I didn’t have a very good response.
“I feel fine.”
“I don’t quite know how I feel yet. It doesn’t feel real.”
“I haven’t quite processed everything yet, so ask me again in two months.”
While there is no right answer to this question, I’ve felt some pressure to give an acceptable response. Am I supposed to say that I’m sad about leaving my friends and foregoing a 4th year where I could be relatively responsibility-free? Or am I supposed to say that I am ecstatic about starting a new chapter in my life?
After some serious reflection, while I was sitting on Memorial Glade, in the middle of Berkeley’s beautiful campus, I’ve finally come up with an answer.
WHAT I’M SCARED OF…
Anyone who says that they feel completely secure about graduating college falls into two categories. They have either never given true thought to the question or they are part of a select group of people who have their lives mapped so far ahead that they’ve already emotionally “graduated”. I am neither of these people and can confidently say that I am scared of two things.
1. I am afraid that life after college will be a life with far less creative time, or “free time”. After college, I can imagine myself working at a full-time job or returning to academia and attending law school. What I can’t imagine is having as much freedom and time to explore different interests and hobbies. In high school, I just remember life being so structured.
6:00 AM: Wakeup
7:00 AM: Get on School Bus
8:30 AM: Homeroom
9:00 AM: Class
12:00 PM: Lunch
1:00 PM: Class
4:00 PM: Basketball Practice
6:00 PM: Dinner
8:00 PM: Homework
12:00 AM: Go to Sleep.
In high school, all I dreamed about was building my own schedule and having free time to myself in college. Now that it’s time to leave college, I’m scared of losing the freedom that I have. What if I don’t have the time to explore areas outside my career like painting? Even more importantly, I’m scared to return to such a scheduled life that there’s no time to be creative anymore. Case in point, during my senior year in Haas, I was able to carve out the time to write a book. Albeit, I was aided by the pandemic largely shutting all other activities down. However, the point stands: I now have the time to pursue individual projects without jeopardizing any other responsibilities. What if that changes?
After I graduate, I just need to be diligent about scheduling and making sure to find time for myself to decompress from a long day at the office. While the truth of the matter is that I will have less free time, there’s no reason I can’t be intentional about the time that I do get to have. If I were to guess, I see a lot of writing and yoga in my future.
2. I’m scared of not having as much access to resources. In college, students are fortunate to have direct access to professors. And professors are the ultimate resources, as they are experts in their fields and have contacts and knowledge that are at the student’s disposal as long as we ask. We learn in state-of-the-art facilities like scientific laboratories doing cutting-edge research. We even enjoy the opportunities to pursue our own startups funded by entrepreneurship scholarships and grants. College is the place to explore your passion.
To top it all off, I remember one professor making this passing comment about college students: “People are willing to talk to you now, but they won’t always be willing to talk to you later.” As a student, I have had the privilege to be mentored by professionals and pull insights from experts for all things career-related and even book-related. For Fly By, I’ve been able to interview professors, entrepreneurs, and ex-CEOs — all through the networks at Haas or a cold email signed “University of California, Berkeley BS’21”.
After I graduate, I hope to still have access to really smart people doing really ground-breaking things. Not to say that there won’t be a network wherever my next place will be. Of course, there will be a network to tap into for shared interests and expertise. However, I don’t know if there is anything that competes with the network of one of the largest and prestigious universities in the world.
WHAT I AM EXCITED ABOUT
1. I am currently going through a ton of lasts, like my last days of undergrad, my last first day of school, my last trips to Memorial Glade, and my last class in Chou Hall. This is all true and, to be honest, a bit saddening. At the same time, amidst all the lasts, I am excited about all my firsts still to come. I am really excited about my first days of law school, my first day at a job, my first time having a space of my own, and even the first day of the rest of my life.
As one door closes, I know that another one will open that will lead to even more exciting journeys. If I have learned anything from UC-Berkeley, it’s that this university is not just meant to be an intellectual playground where students engage for four years. It is also a place of preparation and practice for the real world. As sentimental as graduates may be, one common thought we all end up having is this: “College isn’t meant to be forever, it’s supposed to be a launching pad for even better things to come.”
I know that after I graduate, I will be using all the lessons that I’ve learned, academically and personally, to succeed at my job, at law school, wherever it is I may be. I am excited about all the ways that my life can change.
2. One of the things I am most proud to say about my time at UC-Berkeley is that I have zero regrets. In three years, I’ve been lucky enough to do everything that I’ve wanted to do. I’ve experienced Cal winning the Axe back against Stanford; stayed up until the wee hours of the morning studying in Haas Library with my friends; taken day trips to explore San Francisco; cultivated great relationships with some professors that will last long beyond graduation, been president of Kappa Alpha Pi Pre-Law fraternity; and eaten at nearly every single iconic restaurant Berkeley has to offer. I have also lived through a pandemic and had to completely reshape my daily activities to fit an unfortunate current reality.
I’m glad I’ve been so intentional about my time here at Cal and not scrambling to fit in last-minute experiences before I graduate during a pandemic. I have the space to just enjoy my last four months at this great institution before I move on to the next chapter in my life.
I hope to enter the next stage of my life as intentional as my last. There is no way to prepare for something you can’t expect, so I want to shape my life to the best of my ability so that I can just as easily prepare and pivot when unexpected things occur.
So, how do I feel about graduating?
I am as excited as I am scared. But, more importantly, I feel prepared. In high school, I thought that college would be the door to the rest of my life. As I approach college graduation, I now know that college is actually a key that unlocks many different doors for my choosing. In another three years, perhaps I’ll have opened other career doors to lead me to my next chapter in life. This is what it’s all about, growing and evolving to be prepared for even better futures to come.
My name is Grace Huang, a rising senior studying Business Administration at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and a member of the founding class of the Global Management Program. Passionate about traveling, writing, running, and finding the perfect scrambled egg recipe, I want to explore the world at the speed New Yorkers walk.
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