Young alumni reflect on their experiences after graduation

by Eliza Jane Schaeffer | 10/6/17 1:30am


Terence Hughes '17 (second from left) graduated from Dartmouth this June and is currently working in Boston.

This article was featured in the 2017 Homecoming Issue.

It’s odd that we prepare our young adults for the “real world” by sending them to schools like Dartmouth — schools that, arguably, have little in common with the real world. At no other point in our lives will we, as Dartmouth students, run in a circle around a burning pile of wood, wake up at noon and work until two in the morning, sprint through a semester’s worth of information in 10 short weeks or live a 15 minute walk from our best friends.

The Dartmouth spoke to recently-minted alumni Julietta Gervase ’16, Terence Hughes ’17 and Chris Meyer ’17 about their transition from Dartmouth to post-graduate life. For Hughes and Meyer, the most difficult aspect of the transition was the adjustment to the rigid structure of the workweek. In college, students have full freedom to design their days, taking breaks or working longer hours if they so choose. In the workplace, young professionals have little agency in choosing how they spend their time.

“I definitely get to moments in the week where I say, ‘I need to go home, I need to go for a run, I need to clear my head, I need to go talk to someone,’” Hughes said. “But I’m at work — I have to be working on something.”

After work, Hughes’ and Meyer’s evenings are unscheduled. While that freedom seems worry-free, it can be daunting after four years of having no time to yourself.

“[My] evenings are free, [but] not like at Dartmouth, where you finish your work and then go to meetings or hang with friends or are constantly thinking about future assignments,” Meyer said. “When [you] come home, you’re really kind of shut off until you have to be in [the office] the next day.”

To fill that time, Meyer explores interests which he never had time for at Dartmouth, like picking up hobbies and trying new foods. For example, Meyer has begun “experimenting” with different vegetarian foods. He especially enjoys making different kinds of veggie burgers to see which ones taste the best.

Regimented work days are not the only new additions to the lives of recent graduates. Meyer and Hughes also described having to adopt an entirely new, career-specific skillset. By definition, Dartmouth, as a liberal arts school, does not allow students to major in pre-professional areas but rather seeks to foster critical thinking skills that can be applied to a variety of fields.

Meyer, a classics and history double major, doesn’t directly use what he studied at his job with a media consulting company in Washington, D.C., but he feels his coursework broadened his understanding of the world.

“It’s not like I use every day what I learned in the classroom, like facts and figures,” he said. “It’s more how I think through problems and think about myself in the world.”

According to Hughes, this lack of career-specific training is not problematic. Though his neuroscience and medical anthropology classes did not directly prepare him for his current work with a healthcare consulting firm, Dartmouth helped him to develop a set of research and critical thinking skills that he now uses every day.

“[The consulting firm where I work] hires people knowing that they don’t necessarily have [field-specific knowledge] and just gives us a crash course,” Hughes said. “They rely on us being fast learners.”

Both Hughes and Meyer enjoy their jobs but feel that they’re not currently passionate about their work.

“I think it’s the rare recent grad who’s already there,” Meyer said. “I think that’s something that comes later in life.”

He also said that people, particularly in a high-pressure environment like D.C., place too much emphasis on job titles. He divides his time among a spectrum of activities, and he considers each one to play a part in forming his identity.

“I want to be a sum of all of those parts,” Meyer said. “I think there’s more to me and hopefully more to lots of other people than just what you do from nine to five.”

As a graduate of the Class of 2016, Gervase is more settled into her post-Dartmouth life. She has taken advantage of Dartmouth’s alumni network to maintain the sense of community that she felt as a student.

“The thing that you miss [after graduating] is the people,” she said. “There are all these structures in place to allow you to sustain those relationships.”

Gervase is a class officer for the Class of 2016 and is active in her local alumni club. These clubs organize a number of events, including local and class-wide reunions.

“The New York City class captain hosted a free museum tour, but sometimes [the events are] just an [alumni] happy hour” Gervase said. “We’re planning a pong tournament against the ’17s right now,” though Gervase later clarified that the event was moved away from the theme of pong to better comply with reunion events guidelines.

Both Hughes and Meyer cited the sense of community as the benefit that they most miss about Dartmouth. In cities like D.C. and Boston, seeing friends is no longer — as Hughes put it — “a seamless process of a simple text and meeting up.”

Meyer expressed a similar sentiment.

“Living as close as you do to so many people is something that I knew and appreciated at school, but it’s something that you can’t totally understand until you don’t have it anymore,” Meyer said.

Hughes also misses Dartmouth students’ sense of adventure.

“People in the real world don’t say, ‘Let’s hike 50 miles for fun!’” Hughes said. “There’s a very weird niche at Dartmouth that’s super crazy adventurous that doesn’t exist to the same magnitude in the real world.”

That being said, he has found a large support network of Dartmouth graduates living in Boston. Familiar faces made the transition far easier; although that closeness can make one feel like he or she is still in the Dartmouth bubble “for better, and probably for worse,” Hughes said.

Dartmouth’s sense of community is strong, but it can also be overly insular. Meyer cautioned that the Dartmouth bubble “is something that people can easily fall into post-grad[uation].”

“Just because you’re living in Washington, D.C. or New York or Los Angeles doesn’t necessarily mean you will automatically be an informed citizen of the world,” Meyer said.

Despite all of these challenges, all three alumni said that so far, life after Dartmouth has been an enjoyable experience.

“Being at school always felt like I was preparing for something,” Gervase said. “Having a job — having decisions being made on a day-to-day basis that affect a lot of people besides myself — is really rewarding.”

Correction Appended (Oct. 8, 2017):

The Oct. 6, 2017 article "Young alumni reflect on their experiences after graduation" was updated to clarify statements by Gervase regarding an upcoming reunion event.

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