Alumni Give Advice to Seniors

by Shelby Dandrea, '15

One big problem with your Whitworth education is that it ends. So, after completing your 126 credits, your major and gen eds, and those required 36 upper-division credits, your advisor and the registrar are no longer around to tell you what to do. You're on your own as you move into life beyond Whitworth.

How Whitworth alumni respond to that challenge is as varied as the alumni themselves. But some themes emerge, and along with them some lessons for those who still face this major transition beyond graduation. Sarah Thomson, '09, James Spung, '09, Jewel Roach, '10, and Andrea Idso, '12, have all walked the same path, facing both fears and excitement about the world outside of Whitworth. They have each gone through a unique experience after graduation, learning what it is like to enter the working world and how to survive on their own.

Not all students finish their education after attending a four-year university. Many continue on to grad school and other technical institutes after graduating. James Spung, '09, graduated with degrees in journalism and political studies. He went on to law school at Emory in Atlanta, Ga., and now works there at a law firm. According to Spung, the transition is the same no matter where you go. He said that at any college you go to, students develop a routine and a group of friends, and are forced to give up everything and enter something new that is supposed to be for the best when they graduate.

Spung said to nurture something familiar, such as going home for the summer, after you graduate. "First of all," Spung said, "based on my own experience going back home for a few months, something that would be really nice is to go somewhere familiar for as long as you can to get your bearings and get the perspective on what life can be like once you engage in whatever you're going to do."

Spung wasn't the only one who spent some time at home the summer after graduation. Jewel Roach, '10, lives in Spokane, making her transition out of college quite easy. She decided to take the summer off after graduation in order to relax, and living in Spokane allowed her to stay in contact with her friends still living in town and attending school. Thomson, who lives in Walla Walla, Wash., feared losing her friendships after she left Whitworth, but found that those friendships weren't going to go away. Everyone was going through the same transition together, she said.

While it's good to stay in contact with friends after graduation, Andrea Idso, '12, said that a person shouldn't spend too much time comparing his or her life with those of their friends.  "Before long, some of your friends will own homes and have jobs with a 401K plan," Idso said. "This can be disheartening if you're living with your parents working a minimum-wage job." But Idso says not to get sucked into stereotypes that imply you can't take care of yourself. She loves her parents and enjoyed living with them, and her job as a barista allowed her to meet people from all over the world.

Roach currently works for the YMCA, helping out with before- and after-school programs in Spokane elementary schools. She had a small internship doing editing work after she graduated, but soon discovered that editing was not what she wanted to do with her life. She is still deciding what she wants to do with her writing. Roach said that internships are a good way to try out a job. "If you picked your major because you think you wanted to go into that career and you haven't had any experience in that career, see if you can at least job shadow or something and get a taste of it." Roach never quits a job before she gets a new one, but sometimes that is harder than it looks, she said.

In similar vein, Idso says she is "professionally job hunting," but hopes that she will find work soon.  She graduated from Whitworth with degrees in English (writing track) and communication studies. When her plans didn't work out with an internship, she moved back home with her parents to Enumclaw, Wash., and started the job search. She soon got a call from Whitworth about a temporary job offer writing press releases. She moved back to Spokane, and transitioned smoothly from school to the working world.

"I'm realizing now that having someone approach me with a job offer was an extremely rare occurrence," Idso said, "especially just a few weeks after graduation. It will usually take longer, so don't get discouraged. It really is true that looking for a job is a full-time job."

Like Thomson and Roach, Idso has yet to find a permanent job in her degree of study. Because her job with Whitworth was temporary, Idso took the chance to travel to New Zealand, where she had studied abroad for two semesters. Even though it has been a struggle at times, she is living her own adventure, she said, and is glad that God put her where she is.

Idso has worked many jobs since she graduated from Whitworth. One thing she stresses is to not be above a job. "Once at the coffee stand, a customer read my Whitworth alumni T-shirt and asked, 'Whitworth? What are you doing at a place like this if you went to Whitworth?' I was pretty offended," Idso said.

Thomson questioned her education after she graduated, wondering if all her years in school were worth it when she couldn't find a job in her field of study. She soon realized that going through school was worth the wait. Thomson found an internship with the Walla Walla Presbyterian Church, but she never thought she would be doing ministry work. She continues to work there as the children's ministry director. After a few years of waiting, Thomson finally got to use her music degree. She now teaches music to grades K-8 in Walla Walla and is working on getting an online master's degree in teaching, at Grand Canyon University.

Idso and Roach both say to stay in contact with your professors. "Not only will you miss them after graduation," Idso said," but they make great references." Both alumnae also said to talk with Whitworth Career Services for advice in the job hunt, and to check the office's job websites for potential openings around Spokane.

The biggest piece of advice that these alumni have to give is to not worry. "Enjoy your last bits of college," Thomson said. "Trust what you're doing; Whitworth has given you an education that will prepare you."  

While these four alumni had different transitions, each learned that moving from a strong community full of friends to a world with few connections can be tough. But somehow they made it through.

"Don't worry about whatever it's going to be," Spung said. "Don't worry about it, because it's going to be tough. It may be tough at the beginning but you're going to settle in, you're going to get your bearings, you're going to eventually love whatever it is you're doing." He added, "And if you don't, then you move on. But you know life goes on after college; it's not the end. In fact, it's very much the beginning."