Putting Down Roots
After college, chances are you’ll have to move somewhere, alone, for a job. Here’s how you’re going to do that.
By Galen Patterson, California State University, Fullerton
All across the planet, college seniors are staring into the abyss of uncertainty, wondering what to do and where to go; others have already found opportunities, but outside the comforts of home.
Finding employment after college may require moving somewhere else, possibly somewhere foreign, and the thought of that can be intimidating. When Hannelore Collyer finished college, she was twenty-eight years old and had been living in urban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, since high school. She did not live with her family or a boyfriend; she was entirely self-sustaining, working full-time at a popular restaurant called Corazon.
She had just finished college, and she was ready to begin a new teaching career when the call came. She was offered a job on a Navajo reservation in rural New Mexico, teaching tribal children social studies. At first, Collyer was overjoyed. “I think I went into an emotional autopilot. I let my excitement drive me forward,” she says. As the time came closer for her to leave, though, fear set in.
Collyer set about getting her affairs in order for the move, things like locking down a place to live and contemplating the best method to move her belongings. She remembers realizing, while in one of her favorite art-supplies stores, that she could just stay, or even move closer to home. Her twin sister was pregnant with her fifth child, and she could use all the help she could get.
“I thought to myself, ‘I could just not go, and I could just work here,’” she says.
Collyer admits that for a small amount of time, she entertained the idea. In the end, though, she loaded up a U-Haul and traveled to New Mexico, where she met two members of her family, who volunteered to help her get settled. Once those relatives left for their home on the West Coast, Collyer was alone with her aging dog, Guinness. She lives in a strikingly remote area, where traditional driving instructions are practically useless, and dirt paths often have no names.
The smaller mountains of the Southern Rockies adorn the landscape behind her small home, and intense open skies cover the opposite direction. Much of the reservation land has remained unchanged, and the Navajo keep it that way. In mere hours, her life changed from endless concrete blocks and steel-reinforced buildings to a sort of natural isolation, and, for the foreseeable future, it was her home.
Starting over in a new place can be terrifying. Some students rely on their college experience, which is for most students the first time they’ve left home. But, even a university is a somewhat structured environment.
Students know when to be where, and they have plenty of down time, a place to stay and food to eat. None of these things are a certainty once school is over, though; life after college is what you make of it.
A myriad of emotions run through the mind of a person permanently away from home. Most prominently, as in Collyer’s case, an overwhelming feeling of uncertainty consumes the mind. However, a good thing to keep in mind is that you’re there for a reason.
Collyer advises throwing yourself into your work. Whatever reason brought you to where you are should receive the most focus; otherwise, the necessary motivation may fade with time. “Be willing to try something new, and shut down the part of you that says ‘I don’t want to do this,’” Collyer says.
Fear is persistent. In areas of the unknown, humans tend to rely on frames of reference to tackle life’s obstacles. But, in a new, foreign environment, identifying those references may not be obvious.
Focus on meeting basic needs. Identify grocery stores that fit within your budget, and be willing to try local cuisine. Explore your new home. Get out, and acquaint yourself with your surroundings. Learn your neighbors’ names and their favorite restaurants. Find relaxing scenic viewpoints or parks.
Make an effort to meet people in your new community. Making local friends is easy when you share similar interests and actively pursue them. Collyer began coaching sports teams for her students in her first year.
Consider getting a pet. For Collyer, having Guinness waiting for her to come home helped manage stress. “He was a major comfort. He was so important for that part of my life,” she says. The therapeutic effects of pets are well-documented. Having an animal’s trust and love is something that can distract you from negative feelings, like loneliness. Dogs in particular are known to sense emotions in humans.
Three years later, Collyer has settled into her home quite nicely. She is now a wife, a prominent figure in her church and a respected member of the community. Guinness died in early 2016, but by that time, she had successfully established a local support network.
Internal drive is the essence of American motivation. Every day, scores of driven immigrants enter the U.S. determined to succeed. The pioneering component is deeply rooted in American history; without it, the world would be a different place. Much of America’s meteoric rise was dependent on driven individuals from every corner of the world. As long as you can overcome your fear of trying something uncomfortable, moving out after college will be challenging, but fun.