Moving On UP: the class of ‘13 talks about transitioning from The Bluff to the world

By The Beacon | October 10, 2013 12:54am
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons

By Olivia Alsept Ellis |

After four years spent memorizing the best path to classes, the teachers that assign lightest reading and all the friendly UP faces, it might seem impossible that one could ever adjust to life outside the of radius of The Bluff. Yet, as anxious as it makes upperclassmen (and worrisome underclassmen), it turns out that life goes on after graduation. Five ‘13 graduates talk about moving on and moving away from UP. These are stories about the awkwardness, the loneliness but also the rewards of making a whole new life after graduation.

Ian Clark—Dublin, Ireland

Ian Clark started a new leg of his academic journey at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. Moving to a foreign city has been a hard process for Clark. He left mid-August with some friends for Ireland and the struggles started immediately. It began with a delayed flight that caused him to miss an important train connection in New York. This train would take him to his friends in Connecticut where they would leave for their international flight to Ireland.

“I thought I would be stuck there for hours,” Clark said. “It was a weird experience standing there in Grand Central Station, looking up at the murals of constellations that were painted up there on the ceiling and realizing that I had absolutely no home and had no idea what I was doing and was just sort of abroad in the world.”

Clark caught the next train and made his Ireland-bound flight on time. But there were more hurdles for Clark in store.

“We were homeless for two weeks, living in a hostel until we found a place. And it was really hard to find a place,” Clark said. “So we were living out of this hostel for almost a month. It makes me value having a home now.”

The trap that caught him was an expatriate’s nightmare.

“I had to get a bank account but in order to get a bank account I had to have a permanent address. But in order to get a permanent address I had to have a bank statement from an Irish bank account,” Clark said.

However, Clark maneuvered around this catch-22 and has settled into his new place. Since then, Clark began literature classes at Trinity, such as Perspectives in Irish Literature. He said he spends much of his free time exploring the Irish countryside, rock climbing, drinking tea or writing for pleasure. Unlike Clark’s time spent abroad while attending UP, he said this first year is full of important decisions.

“I really have to figure out what I’m doing. This is a big transition period,” Clark said. “It’s not like I can just come back to UP and figure this all out later.”

Clark has begun to meet the Trinity student body which, while largely Irish, has a significant number of international students.

“It can definitely feel lonely, but I think the first year at a college is hard no matter what you do,” Clark said . “I think it’s much better to do something that is totally new because then you feel like you’re growing.”

Enid Spitz—Seattle, Wa.

Enid Spitz has found success after graduation by fusing all her interests together in her new home in Seattle, Wash.

“I was enamored with Portland and I thought it would take a lot to steal my heart away,” Spitz said. “But Seattle’s doing a pretty good job. There’s so much vibrancy, so much to do.”

Spitz has been freelance writing and instructing yoga. Spitz is also interviewing with a PR firm that she has been in contact with since the spring. However her schedule has been busy with all her yoga classes.

“I’m leading a yoga teacher training and teaching 12 classes a week. But I’m also working at two other yoga studios in Seattle,” Spitz said.

She said the freelance lifestyle can mean juggling a lot of different jobs. However it can also give her a certain freedom.

“Sometimes it can be really tiring when I’m working anywhere from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” Spitz said. “I can give myself a random Wednesday off, which is needed when I’m doing such physical work.”

Spitz jumped into this new life of hers rather suddenly. She and her boyfriend launched their life in Seattle with a massive cross-country roadtrip.

“I went on a ten-day road trip from where (my boyfriend) was stationed in Mississippi all the way up to Seattle. We went all through St. Louis, Colorado, Yellowstone and Montana. That totally threw me into summer mode after graduating,” said Spitz.

After the whirlwind of the road trip, she already had new and important things to focus on.

“We had to find an apartment right away. There was so much to be worried and be excited about that I didn’t have time to think about how big of a deal it was,”  Spitz said.

She attributed her happiness in her post-UP life to her swift exit off The Bluff.

“I think I would have felt different about graduation if I had stayed in Portland and watched everyone else leave,” she said. “Having something else to funnel your energy into as a either a distraction or a step-forward.”

Olivia McCracken—Camden, N.J.

After graduation, Olivia McCracken returned to her home of Poulsbo, Wash. to stay with her family before joining up with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) at the end of August. JVC sent McCracken to Camden, N.J. to work with children in an after-school program. Last year, Camden was ranked by the FBI as the city with the highest violent crime rate per capita.

“Coming from the UP bubble, it’s a big transition,” McCracken said. “Everyone I’ve met is great but there are heartbreaking things to see, like the drugs and the violence. The education system here is awful.”

McCracken said her work is uplifting but emotionally taxing.

“I still go through hard moments where I feel like I can’t see progress with the kids,” McCracken said. “One girl who was (performing) the lowest in the class was doing so well last week. I thought she had made some big changes. But this week she wasn’t even speaking at all. I could see her home life was affecting her.”

The community living integrated into the JVC program has provided McCracken with emotional support.

“I get along with my housemates really well and it’s been such a learning experience to live with five other people who are having similar struggles,” McCracken said.

McCracken will work with the JVC until August and then look for work involving her major, civil engineering, either in Portland or in New York.

McCracken said her choice to spend a year working with children and serving the community was more than a gap year or time off.

“I consider this a spiritual and learning experience. I wanted to take a year off but also make that a year of service,” she said. “I have the rest of my life to do civil engineering. There’s not always lot of opportunities like this.”

Talley Carlston—Brooklyn, N.Y.

Portland to Brooklyn, N.Y. is a popular move these days and Talley Carlston has jumped on the bandwagon, currently living with friends in a Brooklyn apartment. Despite the rumor that finding a job in New York is impossible, Carlston said he found a surprising amount of success.

“I don’t mean to sound full of it but I’ve found six jobs out here,” Carlston said. “I’m a freelance graphic designer and art director, helping to rebrand a company for the younger generation. I’m coming up with concepts and designs that will come out in 2014.”

Among other things, Carlston is also freelance advertising and working with an architecture firm. He attributes part of his success to LinkedIn, a professional social network. Carlston’s freelancing schedule is full of hard work.

“I’ve been working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. which is exhausting,” Carlston said. “But still, moving to New York has been the best thing that has ever happened.”

Carlston still finds time to enjoy Brooklyn’s abundant social scene.

“The music here is awesome and there’s always something happening at night,” Carlston said. “There isn’t the weird or angry New York vibe everyone talks about.”

However, moving always has its hang-ups.

“Everything was a scam and it was super stressful to find an apartment at first,” Carlston said. “But (my housemate) found a place before he was in New York and I checked it out. It seemed sketchy at first because it’s not in the Williamsburg neighborhood but I’ve really grown to love it.”

Carlston was adamant that Brooklyn was welcoming for anyone who is excited and ready for change.

“I loved Portland but I was also getting really comfortable,” Carlston said. “I just needed to really throw myself into something new, into a new city.”

Corey Fawcett—Portland, Ore.

Moving on doesn’t have to mean moving away. Corey Fawcett lives in St. Johns and works in the Portland area. Fawcett is a community manager at Sparkloft Media, a social media agency that works primarily with travel and tourism. She began making the local connections while still attending UP.

“I was an intern there my last semester of senior year,” Fawcett said. “I stayed on as an intern during the summer full time and was hired on at the end of August.”

Fawcett attributed her employment opportunity to this internship, which allowed her to gain trust within the company.

“They have 200 to 300 applicants per position and I didn’t have any real professional, social media experience,” Fawcett said. “I would have been way harder to get this position without getting the internship which was basically training for community manager.”

The right internship helped Fawcett make the transition from intern to employee - a strategy she suggests to other UP students.

“If you are privileged enough to make an unpaid internship, you should take that opportunity. Anything creative or artistic, or with liberal arts degree, you should try to find an internship and try to make that work,” Fawcett said.

However not all transitions can be made so smooth.

“It feels a little awkward being so close to campus,” Fawcett said. “I have friends who are in the senior class but I feel as if I’m officially in a different phase of my life.”

But for Fawcett, the post-UP life means more room for activities.

“Everyone says that graduating is really scary and it definitely is,” she said. “But since graduating I’ve actually had time for creative writing and submitting to creative writing contests. I mean, I’ve actually been able to read the books that I want to.”