MFYO: Travel Edition

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, this week we’re telling the story of two UVM alums from the class of 2017 – Haley Sparks and Carly Sternberg, who traveled to South East Asia for three months last summer and shared their experiences below.

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.

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!

Dominos, Dining Halls, and Dives: Episode 5

Hey everyone! We’re back with a fresh installment of our personal favorite segment- Domino’s, Dining Halls, and Dives!

This is when we find a local alum (could be you next time!), and take them out for lunch! While we’re at lunch, we chat about all sorts of stuff, including what they’re up to, and what they’re looking forward to!

This week, we met up with one of your classmates, Matt Marshall ’18, who graduated this May with a Forestry degree from the Rubenstein School!

We caught up with him after work for a snack (a big snack) at Bueno Y Sano in South Burlington.

We got to chatting with Matt, and learned more about his summer so far – from getting into lots of board games to continuing his job search – he looks like he’s having a pretty good summer so far!

More from him later in the post, but first, pictures of the most important thing – the food.

^^That’s Kathryn’s Burrito Bowl – not served in a bowl, but just as delicious as if it had been.

Everyone else grabbed a burrito, some with Chipotle chicken, some with steak, all with the spicy sauce.

Now back to Matt:

How have your first couple months out of college been so far?

My first couple months out of school have been good so far. I went on a road trip to the Summer Camp Music Festival with some friends and spent a few days in Chicago afterwards.

I’ve been to the live show for the Risk! podcast with my mom, younger sister, and my friend/her family. I’ve been to a couple concerts around town and generally hanging out with my friends around town, we even started a Dungeons & Dragons campaign!

What has been your biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge for me has been trying to find a job that will let me utilize my degree and everything I learned at UVM.

How are you working on overcoming it?

Always sending in applications and on the lookout for new jobs.

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

I haven’t had any life lessons come along this summer, it’s been fairly relaxed!

Any advice for your classmates?

None that I feel qualified to give, since it’s only been a few months since graduation.

We’ll check in with Matt again later this year and see how he’s doing, and if any life lessons have come knocking on the door!

Speaking of knocking on the door…

Are you local to Burlington? Would you like to get a free lunch, and chat about how your adventures since graduation? Does this post have you feeling like this?

We’d love to take you out!

Click through here and suggest a place to get lunch, and tell us something cool about yourself- Then, we’ll be in touch to make a date.


My First Year Out – Telling Your Story

Here at Afterword, we like telling stories. Throughout the year we will bring you a continuing series called My First Year Out about recent graduates (including yourselves), to hopefully inspire and remind you that many UVM graduates take a variety of different paths to success in their first year out.

This week we are featuring one of our favorite check ins from last year’s class, Kristen Roche ’17, who took a chance on Portland, Oregon.

As her story demonstrates, if you network strategically and keep an open mind about what you want to do, you’ll put yourself in the position to do what you have always wanted (and learn more about yourself along the way).

Enjoy Kristen’s story!

Describe your first year out:

My first year of post-grad has been weird.

I can’t believe it’s almost been a full year since graduation. I’ve spent the past year focusing on myself and having fun trying to ‘figure it out.’ Don’t let anyone fool you, though, even if someone looks like they have it figured out…they don’t.

After graduation, I packed everything I own into my tiny car, and did the whole ‘cross-country road trip’ thing. I drove from Vermont to Oregon, to start my new life in Portland.

In my first five months here, I moved five separate times before finally signing a lease, on my own, in downtown Portland. I got a temp job working at Business Oregon, the State’s Economic Development Agency, helping with the Governor’s trade mission to Japan.

After that, I worked as a pizza delivery person for a hot sec…delivering pizzas until 5am at a very punk Portland establishment. Then I was offered a job as a Marketing Assistant for an Engineering firm.

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

I’m really proud of myself for getting a job that challenges me and sparks my interest.

Moving across the country with no connections and zero professional work experience proved to be quite the challenge. You always hear “it’s all about who you know” when trying to find a job, and I knew no one.

I joke around that it’s really impressive I moved to Oregon with nothing and could have easily been flipping burgers at McDonalds (nothing wrong with that) but instead found myself shaking hands with the Governor.

I overcame the struggle by reaching out to anyone and everyone that was pointed in my direction. You cannot let rejection and awkwardness inhibit you from putting yourself out there.

There’s a lot of little details you need to remember; writing thank you notes, making great first impressions, and consistently following through even if your first email gets ignored. It’s important to remember it’s not personal and that people are just busy.

It was an emotional roller coaster, and especially difficult when all of my friends and family were back on the east coast. In order to overcome any challenges, I am learning to embrace the experience and accept that life is supposed to be a little weird right now.

What did you learn from this experience?

I’ve learned that I love drinking tea, I hate Doc Martens. And no matter how hard I try I can’t paint to save my life.

In the bigger picture, I’ve learned that it is SO IMPORTANT to trust your gut and just go for it – whatever that may be. You really grow as a person and figure yourself out when you put yourself in tough situations.

What are you doing now?

Honestly, I’m thriving as I continue to use different gyms for their free-week promos. I’m learning to not spend $50 every weekend on brunch and which skincare routine works best for me.

I’m going out, making new friends and enjoying the fact that random strangers find me interesting and laugh at my dumb jokes.

Professionally, I’m a Marketing Assistant for a civil engineering firm. It’s really cool because marketing is done the same across the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) industry, so I’ve joined a niche community, SMPS, that I believe will immensely help me to develop professionally. I’m being exposed to a variety of different projects, and I enjoy knowing little details of what’s going on around me. I’m really interested in urban development, so it’s a really good fit.

Any advice?

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Put yourself in situations that force you to develop people skills and grow your network. Use your youth and ignorance as an advantage and ask for help, because no one needs it more than a recent college grad with absolutely no experience – plus people inherently want to help.

Take risks now because even if you fail, you’re still young enough to bounce back. Plus, it’s more interesting if you have adventures to tell stories about later.

Think you might be developing your own exciting first-year out story? Know a friend who will be doing something awesome? Click the button below and refer a friend (or yourself).

Check In with Your Afterword Hosts

Welcome back to Afterword!

This week we thought, as your hosts on Afterword, we would introduce ourselves and give you a little background about us. All three of us graduated from UVM, so we know what it’s like to be in your shoes and we wanted to share our stories with you.

We’ll be checking with other alumni and your own classmates throughout the year – so take a look at our stories and stay tuned for even more in the coming weeks!

What was your first year out like?

My first year out was a struggle to find a career identity. As an English major, I had skills, but was uncertain how to put them to use in a career sense. I moved back home with my parents to save money with a rough plan to go to graduate school, but in reality I should have either stayed in Burlington or moved somewhere else to get some internships and career work.

Now I always tell graduating students, go where you want to be, even if you have to rough it – basically don’t play it safe.

While at home (this was 2010/11) I binge watched TV shows on DVDs rented from local libraries and helped my dad with yard-work and read books in my spare time when I wasn’t working.

I visited friends in Burlington a lot and moved back up about 11 months after I left. Soon after I started graduate school at UVM. Everything worked out and I’m still living in Burlington.

If you could go back, what would you change about your experience at UVM?

I wish I got involved in EVERYTHING I could, more clubs, more intramural sports etc. – Now I volunteer at WRUV to sort of make up for missing that as an undergrad. I’m lucky to have such a cool opportunity.


What was your first year out like?

When I graduated from UVM in 2015, I had absolutely no plan.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I had a part time job at Macy’s working in the stock room, and enough cash to justify staying in Vermont while I began my search for a full time position. Within a month, I was working full time on the floor at Macy’s and with every closing shift I knew in my bones that retail was not for me.

When a Development Assistant position opened at the UVM Foundation, I decided to apply for it – A change of pace. I’m not sure what I expected when I took that position, but it didn’t fully live up to what I was hoping I would find in a job.

I told myself I would stick it out and stay for a full year. When I began my job search again, a year later, I realized how much I had learned about myself.

My job search didn’t go anywhere fast. Luckily, Six months later I was approached about moving into the Assistant Director of Annual Giving position at the Foundation. I love living in Vermont post-UVM, and was thrilled to have an exciting new opportunity to stay.

If you could go back, what would you change about your experience at UVM?

I would have gotten more involved with student groups. I found the people I loved, and I stuck with them. But, that doesn’t mean I found the THING that I loved. I think that if I had been a bit more outgoing and involved with things I may have found something that I was truly passionate about.

Same goes for my studies – I always envisioned myself going on to get higher degrees, but I never found the right mentor relationship with my professors, and didn’t find the thing that I loved enough to get me there.

But hey, let’s be real. Hindsight is 20/20, and I had a lot of growing up to do (I hope I still do!) and if I was 18 again I would probably make the same mistakes all over again. We’re all just the sum of our experiences, and that’s okay!

Everybody give yourself a break- you’re not going to know the answers right now, and that’s fine. Let’s enjoy finding the way together.


What was your first year out like?

After I graduated I had no idea what I was going to do professionally. I had an unpaid internship doing some graphic design work with a local non-profit animal rescue but other than that I didn’t have a plan.

I got in touch with one of my old professors who I had become close with and she offered me an opportunity to be her teaching assistant for her digital art class. It was my favorite class that I took at UVM so I couldn’t say no. Through that experience I got to work with students and her on various graphic design projects.

From there I fell in love with graphic design and I knew this is what I want to do for the rest of my life!

After TAing I got two other internships, paid this time (woo!) as a graphic design intern for the University of Vermont Foundation, spoiler it ended up turning into a full-time position, hence why I’m here, and the other one was at Meredith Corporation working with EatingWell magazine.

I was fortunate enough to get offered a position at UVMF after interning there for a year and have been there ever since.

If you could go back, what would you change about your experience at UVM?

If I could go back, there would be a few things I would change. For one, and this is a big one, I would have started out as a declared studio art major. Since I started out as a mechanical engineering major I had to do a lot of catching up after switching half way through my junior year and on top of that I could not afford to go to school for longer than four years.

Had I taken this path to begin with, I probably would’ve been able to take more of the art classes I wanted to take, instead of one that just fit into my schedule. Since I switched so late and was taking summer classes to catch up, I didn’t get any internship experience while in school because of my schedule.

This delayed my job search as well because most jobs now you need previous experience and I had none. Graphic design is an extremely competitive field and you need experience to even be considered.

I also would have loved to travel abroad and get involved in more groups and activities on campus to gain experience.

But all in all it ended up working out even though it took longer than I expected to get a full-time job but I did it.

My advice to you all is to stick it out! It took me about a year and a half to get a position that I liked so don’t give up!

Would you like to be part of our Check In posts? Head over to the Tell Your Story tab at the top of the page and submit your story or if you have a friend that is doing something interesting refer them to be featured!

Checking in with William Lemos

This week we checked in with one of your classmates, William Lemos who is doing exciting things in Boston. Read what he had to say about his first year out!

What are you up to in your first year out of UVM?

Since leaving Burlington I have been BUSY!

I’m a full time graduate student at Suffolk University working on a dual degree in Public Administration and Political Science. My focus is on government and professional politics. I’ve worked as a Graduate Fellow for the Universities Office of Student Leadership and Involvement, supporting their Fraternity and Sorority Life community. This past semester, I had the opportunity to be an associate intern at The Blue Lab, a political consulting group for campaigns in the Greater Boston and Massachusetts area.

When I’m not supporting Suffolk students or future politicians, I’m a Graduate RA for a fraternity at MIT.

Having my hand in a lot of different cookie jars has been both existing and exhausting at times but also immensely fulfilling. Every day is an entire new adventure and I honestly never really know what I’m going to have on my plate when I wake up in the morning.

I haven’t forgotten, though, the lessons on self-care and mindfulness that UVM taught me. I make time to focus on myself be it with early morning workouts or walks along the Charles River.

What are you looking forward to in the next year? What do you think will be your biggest challenge? 

One year from now, I’ll (hopefully) will have finished my degrees and will be graduating from Suffolk. Where the road will take me after that moment, I haven’t entirely figured out yet.

Will I be in Boston? Will I even be in New England? Better yet, will I be employed?

These are the big challenges and obstacle that are ahead of me in the year to come. Even with all this possible uncertainty, I’ll keep in mind the wise words from UVM Orientation: Be a duck!

What are you most proud of since you graduated?

Since graduating, I’m both grateful and thankful to still be able to work with undergraduate students through my roles at Suffolk University and MIT.

Being able to pass on what I have learned and share my experiences has been fulfilling and gratifying. The conversations that I’ve had about life, lived experiences, and the future with the students that I’ve worked with have been opening to me and, hopefully, supportive for them.

Being able to give back is all I want to do and that’s just what I’m doing now.

We are just a few weeks away from welcoming the Class of 2018 to Afterword!

Share your own first year out story with us we’ll tell it to the newest group of UVM alumni. Or, if you have a friend who has an awesome first-year-out story, we want to feature them on the blog too!