Four years. Long, arduous years that have kicked butt. The academic world can be draining and might often leave us with little time for fun. While extracurricular activities might let us steal back some time for ourselves, they still have requirements, especially if you’re in Greek life or spirit groups. Graduation sneaks up and then woosh! Gone are the responsibilities of college. Sure, you might still have a job, but the world feels wider, more exciting and freer.
If you’re like me, then maybe academia has been your life and this sudden change is leaving you feeling weightless as you fall into a spiral of “what now?” Well, here’s the beauty of the after: A brand new unwritten chapter is just waiting for your pen. The adventure could be anything and anywhere. Here are some ideas to get you started on your after-college journey.
Hold on, sleep? Surely that can’t be right! Ah, but it is. See, we college students have spent the last four years losing sleep over homework, exams and maybe even a little partying. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, inadequate sleep can lead to poor performance and affect your everyday life. While they point out you can’t actually catch up on sleep, resetting your body to allow for better sleep habits can help you in the long run and in your future career. You will become more alert and improve your memory as well.
Sometimes when we’re coming out of a life-long career — because, let’s face it, college might as well have been one — it’s important to redirect our focus onto a passion. Volunteering is a great way to figure that passion out, if you haven’t already, and build connections. Want to garden or farm? Volunteer with the National FFA Organization or 4-H clubs. Are animals your passion? Check into local animal sanctuaries or shelters that need assistance. Take the time after college to figure out what you enjoy before heading into the workforce. You would be surprised how often these opportunities will boost a resume.
Okay, we’ve covered what might sound boring (though I promise they aren’t!). So, how about some time with friends? Go out to a river to hang out and go swimming or kayaking. Make a day to shop and try on new outfits, have a spa day, or even go clubbing. Soak up as much time with your friends as possible. Before you know it, these great college friends might be heading off to greener pastures. I, for one, know that most of my friends already have jobs lined up in other states and countries. So better to get every last bit of time together before we’re relegated to FaceTime and texts.
If you have the means, then go. Pick a destination, or several, and pack your bags. Not everyone is lucky enough to travel abroad during college, so the summer after graduation can be the perfect time to explore. Some university alumni programs, such as the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Exes, have travel programs for students to participate in. This way, former college students can have a chance to go abroad in groups with other graduates and be led by an associated tour group.
If the rest of the world is not within your financial grasp, maybe see what places are available to explore within the States. If you went to college out of state, check out other cities or natural treasures within the state that you might have missed during those four years. Maybe even plan a road trip to another state with some friends. If you can afford it, go even further and tour the entire United States. So much of our country is easier to access than going overseas.
We just spent four years reading academic papers and books, so why would we want to read another word? Well, newsflash: You can read whatever you want to again. After all, if you are as bad as I am, then there might just be a stack of books by your desk that you could not leave Barnes & Noble without. You know, the ones you say you will pick up once you have time. Now you do. College being over means you can pick up that bookish hobby again — or any hobby, new or old.
That musician you absolutely love is in town after graduation, and this time you have no exams or homework to excuse you from finally getting to experience this moment. Get your ticket and outfit ready. You have free time after college now to enjoy these moments. Just stay safe, bring a mask and remember the hand sanitizer. College might be over, but COVID-19 isn’t. But, make the most of this time and go to as many concerts as your heart desires, so long as your bank account can support it. Maybe even look into some local bands; you never know who might become a new favorite.
The most important part of this next chapter is to have fun. You have your whole life ahead of you. Don’t just sit around or work without making sure you make memories with no regrets. This time is yours, and yours alone. Go for it!