Graduation weekend is upon us, the Class of 2018 is getting ready for the big day, and it is officially your one year grad-a-versary. Congrats!
And there are only a few weeks left of Afterword posts for your class, so with that in mind, we are featuring another one of your classmates this week: Cara Stapleford.
Cara shares what she has been up to in her first year out and what it’s been like staying in Vermont after graduation. Enjoy!
Describe your first year out:
It’s crazy to think that graduation was already a full year ago. This year has been a huge year of growth and learning for me.
After graduating in May, I moved to Winooski and worked as a nanny last summer. I love kids and I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out and I ended up quitting but I learned a lot about myself during that time.
Although I was bummed (not to mention the fact that I had no income) it was a blessing in disguise because I was able to enjoy the beautiful Vermont summer. I spent a lot of time hiking, biking, exploring swimming holes, and going to concerts. There is really nothing as amazing as a Vermont summer.
In September, I began serving in the ECO AmeriCorps program with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. This program places service members at sites around the state that are focused on improving water quality and reducing waste in Vermont. I have been serving at the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District in Montpelier as their Community Zero Waste Assistant.
This program has provided me with so many unique and amazing opportunities. As a part of their outreach team, I assist with waste reduction efforts throughout the district’s 19-member towns. My main project for the year has been to plan and implement a series of Repair Café’s – events where participants can bring broken household items to be fixed for free – which reduces the number of items sent to the landfill and promotes community sustainability.
In addition to that, I’ve been assisting with compost workshops, helping to develop a community compost site, and have become a certified Vermont Master Composter. I’ve met some amazing people through this program – professional connections as well as lifelong friends. It’s been an amazing way for me to give back to the community through something that I am so passionate about.
What was your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
As rewarding as this year has been, it has also been really challenging. During my sophomore, junior, and senior year of college, I only had classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Transitioning from a 2-day school week to a full time 40 hour per week office position was pretty rough at first. It took me awhile to adjust to that plus a 45-minute commute to and from Montpelier every day.
Over time, it’s gotten a lot easier. It also helps that I love what I’m doing. I’ve started taking the bus to and from Montpelier and I bring a book with me. My bus time has become my “me” time. I now treasure my weekends and those occasional days off more than anything. But I have to admit, as much as I have gotten used to it and figured out how to fit in all those other things like going grocery shopping, going to the gym, etc., my laundry normally doesn’t get done until I have absolutely no clothes left to wear.
What did you learn from this experience?
I’ve learned a lot over the past year. I’ve grown a lot both personally and professionally. I’ve learned to let things go. Sometimes that laundry isn’t going to get done or I’m not going to be able to get to the gym everyday but that’s O.K. I’m doing the best that I can trying to navigate the post-grad world.
I’ve also really learned how to budget both time and money. Living on an AmeriCorps budget can be challenging but it’s taught me a lot about money management. I can’t take myself out to dinner every day like I’d like to, but I’ve become a really good cook because of that!
What are you doing now?
Right now, I’m just happy that the warm weather has finally arrived! I’m looking forward to another summer in Vermont.
I am currently studying to take the GRE and plan to apply to grad school in the fall. I also just applied to be a snowboard instructor for next winter. I have a community garden plot with a friend and we’ve been growing little veggie babies. I love getting my hands in the dirt.
My service term ends in August and I’ll be moving to New York but other than that, things are pretty up in the air right now.
My advice is that it’s okay to say no to others so you can say YES to yourself more. I’m a people pleaser and a yes person, which can be good and bad. I’ve been learning that it’s okay to say no to others so that I can do more things for myself that I actually want to do. It’s given me more freedom and allowed me to pursue my interests. It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself when you give yourself the time to do so.
Know someone who has had a cool first year out? They can be featured on Afterword.