My First Year Out So Far – Travel Edition

You graduated in May and while that may feel like eons ago, it’s only been about seven months.

So we asked ourselves, what have some of you been up to in that time? We know a lot of you travel after graduation, whether to blow off some steam or gain new perspectives. Post grad life can be overwhelming, so why not travel if you can?

With that in mind, we are kicking off a new series: My First Year Out So Far – Travel Edition. Two of your classmates, Haley Sparks and Carly Sternberg, traveled to South East Asia for three months this summer and shared their experiences below.

As we wrap up 2017, we may need a little reminder that we are ultimately all in this together.

Reflection 1 – Haley

My name is Haley Sparks and I graduated from UVM in May of 2017 with a major in Secondary Education and a minor in Special Education. In a nutshell, my UVM experience was everything I hoped it would be and more. I loved everything about the school, the atmosphere, the people, and the city of Burlington. I live in Salt Lake City, Utah now and while I like it here, I still find myself thinking of Vermont everyday.

Carly and I met freshman year of college and quickly became best friends. After that, we always planned to take a big backpacking trip together after we graduated. We are both avid travelers and originally wanted to spend some time traveling around Europe, but eventually decided to take 3 months to travel around Asia to visit Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka. Carly had spent some time previously in Thailand, but I never had.

Our itinerary was built as a combination of places we wanted to visit because of their beauty, their people, their food, and the experiences they offered that we knew we wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. Although 3 months may seem like a long time to live out of a backpack, we both wanted to genuinely experience each country and get a feel for all the places we visited. Planning our trip from July-October and taking our time in each place seemed like the best way to do that.

I have zero regrets about taking this trip right after graduating college. While many of our friends were getting ready to enter the “workforce,” we were lucky enough to be buying plane tickets and planning itineraries.

After finishing 4 years of college, there seemed like no better reward than an eye-opening trip around the world. My last semester of college was a busy and stressful one, and this trip provided me the motivation I needed to finish on a strong note. Post graduation also seemed like the perfect time to take this trip because I’m genuinely unsure if there will ever be another time in my life where I will have the ability to take this much time just to travel and enjoy life and the world.

Having the ability to design and plan those 3 months of time however we wanted was something I had never experienced before and it was empowering and enlightening. With no restraints such as school or jobs or anywhere to be, we were totally flexible to do whatever we wanted.

This trip was a whirlwind and we packed in a little bit of everything. We were lucky enough to experience beaches, lakes, oceans, rivers, mountains, city life, and farm life. Each day was different than life at home, and I find myself reminiscing about it often. Traveling for 3 months out of a backpack taught me to appreciate necessities over luxuries and it taught me how to live with barely anything.

Besides that, it taught me that each country we visited was a totally different experience, and whenever we landed in a new place, we had to adjust to a totally new culture. Doing this kept me constantly on my toes and it kept me constantly wondering, navigating, and thinking. It taught me how to interact with anyone, no matter how strong the language barrier might be. It taught me that while the world might seem huge, there is always people that can make anywhere feel like home.

Reflection 2 – Carly

Staring at that piece of paper that I received after walking across the stage in front of Waterman last May, the single piece of paper documenting the major in global studies and minors in Spanish and Economics that I had completed, the world suddenly felt more overwhelmingly huge than it ever had before.

During my time at UVM, the world sometimes felt like it only extended across Lake Champlain and to the peak of Mount Mansfield. Campus had a way of absorbing me into its super charged atmosphere and making me feel larger than life, part of something that was big and moving forward. With that piece of paper in my hand, all of the sudden it felt like I was in a huge limbo.

There was nowhere that I needed to be, nothing that I had to be doing, and so I went to roam throughout Southeast Asia for three months with my best friend and I don’t think there could have been a better time to do it.

I spent 4 years learning about the world and how we might begin to understand its reality, yet I got a clearer vision of the world and myself over my three months in Southeast Asia than I ever had before. Everyday was brand new. My mind was being stretched to take in all of the sights and colors and smells that I had never experienced before.

One day I was stuck knee deep in a rice paddy in the middle of a monsoon, a few days after that I was deciding whether or not to continue on to the Annapurna base camp after my eyes had swollen shut to the size of meatballs, and a few weeks later I was being put in charge of 20 infants in the middle of a red light district in Kolkata.

The trip was a shock to the system.

Before graduation I was sitting in the library studying for my last set of finals and suddenly felt my heart start to race as I fully grasped the fact that life as it was right then, and as it had been for the past four years would never ever be the same again. The trip showed me that all though this post-grad period can be a bit of a directionless limbo, I’m not stuck and I should never have to feel stuck.

The earth we live on is a miraculous place with an infinite number of things happening every second, there are endless possibilities. I learned that even though I have never felt so old, I really am so so young. I learned to trust and have faith in my fellow humans of the earth, and that I am never truly alone. I figured out that this thing called life is forgiving, it doesn’t have to be all that serious, there’s so much room to mess up, to learn, and to grow.

So I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I am now living in Salt Lake City, teaching skiing, surrounding myself with new, exciting and beautiful things, and just living life as a 23 year old in 2017, figuring it out as I go.

Want to feature your own travel story? Know a friend who might want to as well? Click the button below and refer a friend (or yourself). We’ll see you in the new year!


Ryan and Kathryn

Take a break and listen

Check out our latest installment of the podcast series!

Grab your headphones, get outside, and stretch your legs for a few minutes while you listen to two alumni talk about what they love about UVM (and what advice they have for you)

Ryan sat down for an interview with two UVM alumni: Penrose Jackson ’70 and Katherine Ash ’10.

Penrose currently serves as President of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, and Kate is currently part of the UVM Foundation Fellows program. They graduated 40 years apart, but you can listen to how UVM has played an important role in both of their lives.


Some highlights from the interview:

Penrose was a student here during the height of the Vietnam war, and graduated the same year as Kent State. (Here’s the Wiki if you need a refresher). Many of her classmates wore black armbands to graduation, and overwhelmingly felt disenfranchised from their college experience.

Because of the feeling of the time, she never really connected with the university until the first Vermont Regional board was created.

Upon reconnecting with the university as an alumni, she felt entirely different.

“I discovered a university very different from the one I had known, which was was far more dynamic, far more intellectually engaging than the one I had encountered as a student.”

On advice for recent grads:

Penrose: “Be Curious. For it’s really about staying curious and staying true to your values. If you do those two things, you will have memories in life.”

Kate: “Don’t feel compelled to stay in a track. For many of us in the social sciences or physical sciences, or those of us who feel like we must pursue a masters or a PhD or join a fortune 500 company.

We don’t always do the deep evaluation and deep reflection about why our priorities are the way the are. So i would say not only be curious but be creative. Find something that’s truly yours… Also, start saving for retirement.”

Favorite memory from UVM:

Penrose: “We were still handed Beanies as freshman. And I thought we were supposed to wear them. I remember going out in the hall and being the only one wearing my beanie.

And we still had curfews! And there was an unconfirmed urban legend that girls (we were girls then, not women) that girls could not wear pants to class if it was above 0. This was the end of the sixties, and this all changed dramatically in the four years that I was here.”

Kate: “I took a trip called Alternative Spring Break when i was a junior, or maybe a sophomore. We went down to Lexington, MS, just two years after Hurricane Katrina.

It was such an eye opener for me… I learned so much about that part of the country, and actually it was what inspired me to put New Orleans as my first pick on my Teach for America application, so I could get back to that region and contribute.”



My First Year Out: Sarah Weiss ’16

This week, we’re back to connecting with other young alumni, and hearing about their experiences in our series My First Year Out.

Sarah Weiss, a 2016 graduate, has been exploring the depths of the ocean, from Massachusetts to the Bahamas!

Describe your first year out:

My first year out of UVM has been quite the whirlwind experience and by far the fastest year of my life.  Despite living in VT for the past 15 years, I’ve decided to get my feet wet and pursue the world of marine biology.

After traveling abroad with my family right after graduation, I moved to Plymouth, MA to delve into the world of whales.  I interned with the non-profit organization, Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

This proved to be an incredible experience and only further confirmed my love of whales and mola molas (google it). In this opportunity, I was a field researcher and naturalist working on whale watching boats around Cape Cod, collecting  photo-ID and population-monitoring research primarily on the  population of humpback whales in the Gulf of Maine. I was incredibly fortunate to go on 62 whale watches last summer, seeing whales (and sharks, and dolphins, oh my!) on every trip.

Let me tell you, dreams do come true.

After the internship with WDC, I moved to Woods Hole, MA (the bottom tip of Cape Cod) to intern at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center doing whale acoustic research.

After a few months of analyzing the singing behavior of sei whales, I packed up and moved to the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas to do shark, ray, and deep sea research with the Cape Eleuthera Institute.

This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience as I got to be out in the field everyday working with so many diverse species in their natural habitats. The sharks of course were incredibly exciting, especially the days we caught  a 10.5 ft tiger shark and and an 11 ft great hammerhead shark!  The picture above is me being completely dwarfed by the dorsal fin of that Great Hammerhead.

The deep sea research in particular really blew my mind as well, as there is so little known about this huge environment that covers such a large percentage of the planet.

[Fun fact: 72% of the planet is covered by water.  Of that 72% of water, 98% is considered to be the deep sea (anything below 200m). Yet only 5% of the deep sea has ever been explored!]

In this sense, our deep sea research essentially aimed to figure out what exists down there, and where exactly we can find it.

5 months, thousands of giant isopods, and 14 stitches later (life wasn’t always a beach), I finally came home from the Bahamas, only to quickly take off once again to travel to Hawaii and Israel, visiting friends and taking advantage of international rugby opportunities.

Though I was heartbroken to leave the ocean and the Israeli hummus behind, I was ecstatic to have the chance to return home to VT for a few weeks to (ideally) catch my breath and relax before taking off on my next adventure.

What was your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?

One of my biggest challenges so far has been dealing with transitions. 

I am horrible with change and as you can probably tell, my life since graduation has been filled with nothing but transitions. From new places, new jobs, and constantly changing casts of characters to interact with, change has become a constant and flexibility a necessity in my life.

While I have not completely overcome this challenge by any means, I aim my focus on taking life one day at a time.

What are you doing now?

I just recently moved back to Woods Hole, MA where I have returned to working with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center and the Passive Acoustic Research group. My current project focuses on North Atlantic right whales and using passive acoustic monitoring devices to study their migratory corridors.

Essentially, I am slowly learning how to speak whale day by day.  

I’m excited to see what else I can be exposed to while I’m here, as I continue to test the waters and see if the world of marine biology is right for me.


Thanks for sharing with us, Sarah, and we hope you can report back once you’ve learned how to speak fluent whale, and let us know what they have to say.


Checkin’ in with some Cool Catamounts

Hey Gang!

Remember back in June when we shared the audio compilation of all the hopes and fears of the graduating class of 2017? (See the original post here).

We wanted to check back in with a few of them, and see how things are going.

So, we’ve embedded their original answers, and then followed up with their updated responses. Check out how Emma and Rozy are doing!


Emma Oyomba:

So, I have stuck with the plan I gave you and I am currently in living in London doing my masters program in Advertising & PR.

I am starting my third week of classes and love it. I am currently looking for an internship while I am in school.

Moving back to London was what I was most excited about and it has not disappointed me yet!

I am nervous about not being able to get a job here after my visa is over. It is pretty hard for non UK & EU citizens to come and work here, especially with the uncertainty of Brexit.

I miss Burlington and just the student life. I miss having a bunch of friends that live within a block or two of me. I miss campus, especially when we had beautiful weather!


Rozy Isquith:

I’m still working as a scenic painting apprentice at Goodspeed Musicals. I am currently painting Rags–a revised musical dealing with themes of America immigration—and will soon begin painting for A Connecticut Christmas Carol. After December, I am working as the scenic designer for Goldilocks and Sleeping Beauty for the Bridgeport Cabaret Children’s Theatre.

I am excited to continue painting, learning new techniques, and meeting other artists in the world of scenic art and design. Meeting other people who have succeeded in making this niche career work—hearing how they paint at different theaters all across the country, and what unique projects they have worked through– has been a really important, encouraging, and exciting part of post-grad life. I can’t wait to continue.

I am mainly nervous about two things: 1) working as a freelance artist—continuing to coordinate jobs on a weekly basis following this steady apprenticeship 2) making the decision to, or not to enroll in an MFA program.

I definitely miss Burlington as a city—everything from its location between the lake and  mountains, art events (art hop, live music, free dress rehearsals at the Flynn Space), and abundance of good coffee!

Specific to UVM– I miss the theatre department (spending lots of time in the drafting room), taking a wide variety of classes and finding several surprisingly good gen ed lectures, the Cyber Café, and walking through such a beautiful campus every day (especially in the late summer early fall)!

Domino’s, Dining Halls, and Dives: Episode 3

Hey gang, we’re back at it again, eating our way through the sights of Burlington.

This time, we’re joined by 2017 Grad Kat Dooman!

Kat graduated last May, and has been living and working in Burlington! We caught up with her to grab a bite to eat and chat about how things are going.

Our original plan was to go to Farmhouse Tap and Grille (fancy, right?) but unfortunately they were closed doing renovations that day! So we turned back to Church Street, and grabbed the next best place:

Ken’s Pizza!

This Burlington Classic has been an institution on Church Street for as long as anyone can remember, and always seems to be busy. We grabbed a table and ordered some classics on this beautiful late summer day.

So Kat, what makes Ken’s such a Burlington favorite?

“Ken’s has always been a favorite for my friends and I. It has great outdoor seating so you can people watch during the summer. No matter how dead Church Street might be, it seems like Ken’s is always busy and full of people having a good time. In the winter when it’s freezing and you’re walking down the street, it’s really hard to resist the smell of pizza. It’s also a great place to go if you’re on a tight budget – the prices are really reasonable and the portions are usually enough to last me for at least two meals. It’s a go-to spot when my coworkers and I want a quick bite after work, or when my roommates and I are too tired to cook. ”

What did we all order?

Chicken Parm Sandwich

Eggplant & Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich

The Pub Club

Now, back to Kat’s story:

How has your first summer out of college been so far?

It’s definitely been an adventure! I did a bit of traveling – I went to Barcelona right before graduation, and tried to take advantage of the beautiful, albeit rainy, summer. I also spent a lot of my free time applying for some full time jobs while still working as a Gallery Assistant at Frog Hollow, but nothing seemed like quite the right fit. My patience paid off, though, because I was recently promoted to Operations Manager. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to take on more responsibility and to continue to work with so many talented artists from all over Vermont.

What has been your biggest challenge?

I think my biggest challenge so far has been trying to figure out what exactly I’m going to do now that I’ve graduated. I always knew I wanted to work in the art world, but getting my foot in the door was challenging.

How are you working on overcoming it?

I ultimately decided to stay in Burlington for another year, taking some time to really figure out what path I wanted to take. I was looking at potentially going to grad school, applying for volunteer positions, and just trying to stay involved in the artistic community however I could. I got really lucky with my new position at Frog Hollow, and I’m happy to say I plan on sticking around Burlington for the foreseeable future.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?

I have come to realize that the effort you put into things (whether it’s work, friendships, or relationships) doesn’t go unnoticed. If you’re consistent and motivated, then you can absolutely accomplish anything you set your mind too.

 Any advice for your classmates?

The best advice I can give is not to get too panicked about figuring out what you’re going to do with your life. There’s a lot of pressure on recent grads to have everything figured out, and I know it can get overwhelming at times, but I also think things have a way of working out if you put in the time and energy. Most of all, try not to stress out too much over the uncertainty of the future.

Well Kat, We certainly agree with that advice. And we’re so glad that your patience paid off!

Want to be the next person we take out to lunch? Know of a secret deli that has the best sandwiches? Recommend a place for us to eat!

Maybe we’ll see you next time, but until then, hope you’re happy as this pizza-pooch.