It’s been over six weeks since seniors in college began to realize that the Senior Spring they had been dreaming about since their first semester wasn’t going to happen. No darties, no senior week, no thesis presentations, no more wine nights with your roommates, no more chances to shoot your shot with that guy in lecture, and no walking across the stage in a cap and gown to tie it all up. For a lot of seniors, this news hit hard because, aside from all of these losses, it felt like the world was telling them they needed to become full-grown adults a few months before they were ready (if any of us can really be ready to enter into the real world). In March, rather than May, they had to face the inevitable truth: college actually does end.
As April comes to a close, and as some of us have maybe gotten into the swing of online classes, virtual graduation dates are fast approaching. So what does life look like when college actually ends during a pandemic? Many seniors are feeling the weight of the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression and the impending recession pressing down on them. Many have had start dates pushed or jobs offers rescinded altogether. All in all, it’s a clusterf*ck, leading many to wonder: what the hell should we do? Betches spoke with career expert Joy Altimare for suggestions on how new graduates can prepare to enter this now-f*cked-up workforce.
Do: Use This Experience To Your Advantage
me, turning my wifi off & on again: i am a woman in STEM
— Karen Chee (@karencheee) April 23, 2020
Recent grads can and should use this online term to their advantage. “Recent graduates have an advantage,” Altimare told us, “The new normal in the workplace will look a lot like how they have learned during the last four years.” So basically, all that time you spent on social media during class was not time wasted, and simply knowing how to set up a video chat puts you ahead of the curve. (If you think I’m exaggerating, ask your parents to make a Zoom call, and realize that’s what most companies are dealing with.) Altimare says, “virtual and tele-learning are very similar to how professional environments will operate moving forward.” Wow, I can’t wait to tell my mom that I actually learned something useful in college (how to open a bottlecap with a spoon does not count, apparently).
Altimare also advises new grads to tell companies what you learned from online classes, and apply that to a professional environment. She says, “now more than ever, employers are looking for very smart individuals who are energized to help navigate this new normal.” So, we should “tout that as a skillset unique to the existing workforce and provide examples to demonstrate how you can apply this approach to add to the success of the company.” This could mean showing off that you know how to change your Zoom background, or explaining how you can stay efficient and motivated in any environment. If you’ve figured out how to manage your time during these insane past few weeks, that is definitely a skill you should want to share with future employers.
Don’t: Forget About Networking
I feel like as far as social media goes, LinkedIn is definitely the awkward middle child. In the midst of a pandemic, it feels even more forgotten. Like, when was the last time you actually thought about logging on? Even though it may be the last thing on your mind, it’s still super important to keep networking. “Continue to use technology to network,” Altimare tells us.“Do not go dark on your LinkedIn and make sure your Facebook/Instagram/Twitter do not only contain videos of you doing a #dontrush challenge.” I guess I’ll keep my challenges to TikTok, since I’m pretty sure nobody is networking on there.
What you put on social media is just as important as ever, so before you go posting all the pictures you’ve had stashed of you chugging alcohol underage, Altimare advises that “It’s super important that you use this time to demonstrate resilience and positivity across your social platforms.” She recognizes that it doesn’t necessarily fit into everyone’s aesthetic. “You don’t have to begin a daily gratitude post,” she says, but “it is important to show you’re using this time to stay focused—are you helping the elderly in your neighborhood? Ask others to join you vs. just posting you delivering meals. Are you organizing a virtual yoga class for your friends? Show that instead of the virtual happy hour on your feed.”
Don’t: Spend All Your $
I’m a huge “add to cart, check total, close window” girl, but quarantine has led to more than a few “treat yourself” moments, which I justify by telling myself I’m saving so much money since I’m not eating or going out. Since we can’t have nice things, apparently this is not the move, according to Altimare. “Start saving your money… in fact, massively start saving,” she says. “You are probably not in the dorms, not going to the movies, not buying your food and not going to any of the activities that you would have had to contribute to for your senior year.” Okay, you didn’t have to rub it in like that, but I see the point. Even more, Altimare says, “if you are really lucky, you’re staying with your parents, so you’re not paying for rent. That is a huge lift to your bottom line—save that money.” I mean, she’s right considering the job market is unstable right now… I just want my tie-dye loungewear.
Altimare warns that if you’re imagining all the ways you’re going to indulge once you can leave your house, you might want to think twice: “when the country begins to re-open, do not spend that money on a trip with your girlfriends.” Altimare suggests “look to creating a nice nest egg—something around 3-months’ worth of expenses—so that when you finally find that job and move out into your own apartment, you have a bit more comfort.”
Do: Start Working From Home
What’s the age where you transform from ‘young professional’ to ‘professional’?
— U Up? (@uuppodcast) April 17, 2020
Altimare’s last piece of advice for new grads is “if you can, try to start working from home.” Everyone has so much time on their hands (especially when school is over and you don’t have a job), so “use your creativity to turn a hobby into a lucrative side-gig while we’re all quarantined.” If you’re looking for ideas, Altimare proposes to “try to get published on a weekly blog, or begin selling your wares via a marketplace.” And then, of course, “save that money!”
The prospect of starting your adult life right now does not sound appealing to anyone. However, if you can make a few proactive and productive decisions during this period, you might be able to save yourself some stress later on when we finally get out of this mess (BTW can someone tell me when that will be?). Hopefully, these tips can help you get a head start on where you want to be and what you can be doing to help your future.
Images: Pang Yuhao / Unsplash
Whoever came up with the idea of studying abroad was a f*cking genius. Seriously, there are endless benefits to a semester in a foreign country. You get to take dope Insta pics, put a minimal amount of effort into classes, travel around with your friends, and like, grow as a person and experience a new culture or whatever, I guess…and then talk about it to anyone in a five-mile radius for the next decade.
The hardest thing about studying abroad is packing for it. Naturally, I asked every person I know that has ever gone abroad for a packing list. They all told me to pack light, and since I really didn’t like that advice, I decided it didn’t apply to me.
I’ve always been prone to overpacking, but this time I went tooootally overboard. I thought I was cheating the system with Pinterest packing hacks, space bags, and carry-ons. I was literally so confident in my packing that I didn’t even weigh my bags before going to the airport. As I’m sure you can guess, I tragically overestimated my skills and let me just tell you, if you’re ever thinking of blindly packing for a long trip without weighing your bags first…DON’T.
When I rolled up to JFK to check into my flight, I was informed that one of my bags was thirty pounds overweight. I’m not even being dramatic. Literally. Thirty. F*cking. Pounds.
Soooo, if you don’t want to have to pay an additional $200 just to get your bags on the plane, I suggest you follow my advice.
1. Use Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are perfect for keeping track of what you pack and staying organized. Beyond that, when you get to your temporary home, you’ll quickly realize that you will have about as much space for storage as you did to pack. Packing cubes are perfect for keeping your sh*t organized, providing free storage, and even better for maximizing the small amount of space you’ll have for weekend trips.
2. Space Bags DO NOT Work
First of all, space bags are kind of a scam. I mean, they’re great for storing all of the sorority shirts you’ll never wear, but they’re rarely useful for packing. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, space bags are vacuum-sealed bags meant to decrease the amount of space your clothes take up. By using space bags, I visually tricked myself into thinking I was packing less than I was, causing my suitcase to weigh more than a fifth-grader.
3. Check The Size Of Your Carry-On
The scariest thing about October is being haunted by study abroad kids at Octoberfest who post on insta with the caption “Prost” or “omg I still don’t like beer.” Like I get it Becky wear your dirndl and chug a stein and talk about how study abroad changed your life
— zuzu (@khan_zuzu) October 7, 2019
If you’re smart, you’ll bring a rolling carry-on with you as extra packing space (and as your weekend trip bag). Sadly, the same black carry-on that your dad has been using every business trip for the last twenty years probably won’t cut it. If you don’t want to pay an additional fee, wait for checked baggage, and run the risk of a crappy budget airline losing your bag, it’s worth investing in a new one ahead of time. I recommend looking for ones with the word “continental” in the bag title/description.
4. Buy A Converter…Or Three
Because I’m like, super good at planning ahead, I figured that I’d be able to buy a converter once I got abroad. Obviously (this seems to be a reoccurring theme) my logic was flawed. It’s not like British people are buying converters that make it possible to plug in things from the US, so I wasn’t able to just go to a corner store and get a US to UK converter. Amazon has great ones that allow you to plug in multiple things at a time and work with several different outlet types. Highly recommend.
Pro Tip: If you have a Mac, buy Apple-made converters for your charger. I have the worst luck, and my computer reacted really poorly to the change in voltage, causing the battery to break and forcing me to find an Apple store and go weeks without a functioning laptop.
5. Bring More Than One Portable Charger
When you spend all day obsessively checking to see who’s watched your ~super cultured~ Insta story of really ~authentic~ Italian gelato, your phone battery dies fast. It’ll die even quicker when you’re taking the Euro Rail to Amsterdam. Being in a foreign country with no phone is a straight-up bad idea, especially when you don’t speak the language. Although it can be a “learning experience” to be disconnected for the day, you don’t want to find yourself in a bad situation where you’re unable to contact someone. Plan ahead, please.
6. Plan Your Budget Ahead Of Time
me: ya of course i’ll pay a $8 delivery fee
also me: 35¢ for potato? no no no no no no no no
— jonny sun (@jonnysun) January 8, 2017
Everyone’s financial situation is different, and if your parents are funding your abroad experience, you’re one lucky betch. However, many people will find themselves struggling to stay to a strict budget when they study abroad. Personally, I had a really hard time managing my money when I first got abroad. What can I say—covers for clubs are super expensive!
Definitely have an explicit conversation with your parents (or whoever may be contributing to your experience) about who is paying for what.
7. Jackets Will Be Your Best Friend
One word: layering. As if we weren’t already in a climate crisis, the biggest issue I’ve had abroad is that it’s cold outside, hot in your classroom, and straight-up hellish on public transportation. Now, this obviously mainly applies for those of us studying in famously cold or rainy places, like the UK, or those going abroad during the autumn and winter months. I’m a big fan of the thick jacket, cute sweater, and tank combos for those mid-autumn days where you’ll experience four seasons in 45 minutes.
8. You Don’t Need Stilettos
Heels are impractical, uncomfortable, and a total waste of space. This was the one piece of advice I followed, mostly because my mom took my heels out of my bag before I left, but it still counts. Instead, you should pack lots of cute sneakers, a few pairs of booties that you can walk around in, and one pair of heeled booties for going out. The one exception I’ve heard to this rule is if you’re studying in Paris. Some of the clubs there are
bougie as f*ck strict with dress code, so you will need to dress to impress.
Pro tip: Bring cheap flip flops as shower shoes and/or to wear around the apartment, for all you know wherever you end up living could be more disgusting than your freshman dorm’s communal bathroom.
9. Pack Lots Of Sweaters And Tops
You can wear the same pair of jeans (or leggings) a million times without anyone noticing (and before they get that “it’s time to wash me” sag in them), but the same doesn’t go for tops. Students in Europe somehow haven’t gotten on the wearing-leggings-to-class bandwagon, so plan on dressing chic to class. Worst case scenario, you’ll probably be doing a lot of shopping, so you can always stock up once you’ve arrived.
10. It *Is* Possible to Have Too Many Black Crop Tops
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Today I wore a white crop top… you know what that is? Growth.
When you’re packing, you’ll probably come across the impossible dilemma: limited space and unlimited crop tops. Trust me, I get it. I also know the majority of your nights abroad will be spent going out. However, black crop tops are reusable! Hopefully, your friends will be cool and like to share, so you’ll have even more options. Don’t overpack clothes you’d wear to a frat, they’ll make you look trashy in the eyes of chic Europeans. Above all else, leave your frat shoes behind.
11. Leave Your Hot Tools At Home
Listen, more than anyone, I understand the deep relationship a girl has to her heat-styling tools. I never go anywhere without at least my flatiron. But, trust me on this one—do not pack any expensive hot tools. Due to the weird-ass voltage conversion, my blowdryer literally melted on day one, ending the longest relationship I’ve ever had. Instead of bringing your favorite products (and risking ruining them), buy cheap ones there.
12. Deal With Prescriptions Ahead Of Time
It can be really hard to get the prescription meds you need for three months at a time. One of my friends ended up having a screaming match with her insurance company, and it took mine like, a few weeks to figure out how to get me three months worth of my prescription at once. Make sure you leave plenty of time for anything that could potentially go wrong with this process.
Pro tip: Getting stuff like Dayquil and Sudafed is little different in Europe. Bring the basics just in case you can’t get meds when you inevitably come down with a cold.
13. Bring Your Own Tampons
Every. Single. Time. I have tried to buy tampons, they’ve ended up not having applicators. I know it’s better for the environment, but this is an important lesson. You should definitely bring your own supply unless you want to end up standing in a public bathroom, staring at an applicator-less tampon like it’s from Mars.
14. Laundry Bags Aren’t Just for Dorm Rooms
Unless you’re gross and want to keep your clothes on the floor of whatever dorm/apartment you’re living in, bring one of those inexpensive cloth laundry bags with you. It’s also not a given that your living space will come with a washer, and it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll have a dryer. Bringing a laundry bag both helps you keep track of your dirty clothes and will be a lifesaver if you need to transport them to a laundromat. Do your research and plan accordingly.
I’ve only been abroad for six weeks, so it’s not like I’m a total pro, but I learned the hard way that any advice is worth considering. It’s worth saying, though, that every city is different. I’m spending the semester in London living my best Caroline Calloway life, and I have friends in Paris, Rome, and Madrid. Like, all of us needed to bring different things, but the basics are pretty much the same. Yeah, packing sucks, but the rest of abroad is pretty lit. Once you get past the fact that you have to actually look cute most days and start exploring your new city, it’s guaranteed that abroad will be the transformative experience that everyone says it is.
Images: Ross Sneddon / Unsplash; sarafcarter, lexniko / Instagram; jonnysun / Twitter