My First Year Out- Cara Stapleford ‘ 17

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.

Any advice?

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.

Catamounts in Profile: Meet your fellow alumni!

We do a lot of checking in with your class, and we know that sometimes it can be easy to miss an email. So, we decided to create a catalogue for you this week: Here are all of the people from your class (or adjacent) we’ve featured during your year of afterword.

Click on their photo to read their story!

As we start to wrap-up your first year since graduation (yes, that means your weekly email from us will end in about 6 weeks), we look forward to continuing to hear from you!

If you want to be featured on Afterword as we bring on the Class of 2018, click here to refer yourself (or a friend) and we’ll be sure to follow up with you!

Want to have your own story on Afterword? Refer yourself here!

My First Year Out So Far – Kristen Roche ’17

This week we check in with your classmate Kristen Roche, 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.

Want us to feature your own first-year out story? Know a friend who might want to as well? Click the button below and refer a friend (or yourself).

My First Year Out – Travel Edition Part II

With graduation for the Class of 2018 right around the corner, we thought it would be fun to check in with two of your classmates.

This week we caught up with recent 2017 alums, Emily Scott and Emma Squier, who have spent their first year out traveling and teaching. Take a look to see what they’ve been up to!

We’ll start with Emily’s story.

Sa-wat-dee-ka from Thailand! My name is Emily Scott and I graduated from UVM in the spring of 2017 with my Bachelors degree in Social Work!

I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since graduation and I’m so looking forward to heading up there for a visit this summer! My 4 years in Burlington were everything I could have hoped for and more, and I find myself missing the mountains, the food, the people and the community every day.

Emma and I met freshman year and quickly became best friends and roommates. We bonded over a shared love for New World, Church Street, yoga and travel. In March 2017 as graduation approached, we both started thinking of applying to teach English in Thailand.

A few weeks after applying, we were both accepted to the same program! This program, CIEE teach, and their partner company in Thailand, OEG, helped us to obtain visas, connect with our schools, sort out our work permits and more.

When October rolled around, I flew from JFK and met Emma in Doha, Qatar to fly to Bangkok. Once in Bangkok we took a 12 hour bus up to our rural town, Chiang Kham, in the Phayao province of Thailand.

I taught nursery school (3 years old) to P6 (6th grade) at a small private school called Sathitwittaya Chiangkham School! Teaching English to 300 different students in more than 10 different classes was extremely challenging, but my students and I soon found ways to communicate through body language, smiles, mixed Thai/English and lots of drawing. Teaching ESL taught me a lot about patience, having an open heart and an open mind, and how to take everything one day at a time.

It was so sad to say goodbye to my students a few weeks ago, and I feel so privileged to have been welcomed into their school and their culture as “Teacha Emily” these past 5 months!

Once we finished teaching, Emma and I traveled to Laos for a week. Laos was absolutely breathtaking and so different from what we experienced living in Thailand. From mountains and waterfalls, to the capital city, the people are so kind and the food is so fresh and delicious.

After Laos, my parents came to see Thailand and we traveled to Chiang Mai, Krabi and Bangkok for 10 days before they headed back to New York! It was wonderful to see them and spend time together after being away from home for so long.

Now Emma and I are back in the southern islands of Thailand for a week before continuing our adventure in Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali, Australia and New Zealand!! While I don’t have a flight yet, I’m thinking I will be home sometime in the end of May.

Next fall, I will be starting in the Advanced Standing Masters in Social Work program at NYU! I have really missed Social Work while being here, and am excited to get back in the classroom and continue my education to help better serve my community. I am eager to take all I learned from my wonderful professors at UVM and explore it in a new capacity.

The past 5 months of working in SE Asia and traveling around Thailand and Laos have been full of surprises (bugs, lizards, leeches, you name it), lows (being away from home for Christmas), and highs (the feeling of accomplishment after finishing 5 months of teaching).

Being able to travel like this at 22 years old is a huge privilege, and I am so grateful I was able to work and take a trip like this right after graduation.  It is such a blessing and gift to be welcomed into someone else’s culture and have them share such intimate parts of their life and community with you.

Living here has truly taught me how to live in the moment, go with the flow and be present in this life I am so lucky to live.

Hello! My name is Emma Squier and I graduated from UVM in May 2017 with a major in Sociology and a minor in Studio Art.

UVM was the only school I applied to that was more than 2,000 students but I’m so glad I did because it ended up being a great fit for me. I fell in love with the friendly people, beautiful scenery, delicious food, and Burlington.

During the spring of my junior year I studied abroad in Nepal. While living there, I had the opportunity to complete my own independent study project and experience living with 8 different host families. Nepal was unlike any country that I’ve been to but getting to study and live there was one of the highlights of my time in college.

I knew that I wanted to go back to Asia, I just didn’t know that I would be back less than 2 years later.

Teaching in Thailand gave me the opportunity to travel abroad with my homie, Em Scott while at the same time earning some money. The timing of teaching in Thailand worked out perfectly for me because the 2nd semester for Thai schools doesn’t start until October. This allowed me to get an internship and part-time job back home in Maryland right after graduation.

By the time October rolled around I was nervous to depart for Thailand but feeling ready for my next adventure.

One of the biggest challenges for me while teaching English in our tiny Northern town was the lack of scheduling and communication. When I got placed at my school in Thailand I was told that I would be teaching primary students.

It was not until I arrived at my school that I found out I would be teaching 1st-12th grade!

As someone who had never really taught before, this made me nervous, but as with anything, over time I got the hang of teaching and formed bonds with my students. It turns out, some of my most enjoyable classes to teach were the ones with my older students.

Another learning experience for me had to do with scheduling in Thailand. As someone who is very punctual, having classes start 10-20 minutes late each day was something that was difficult for me to get used to at first. There were times when the dates of school holidays would get switched around or I’d walk in to teach one of my classes and none of the students would be there.

Traveling on the weekends, it would be a miracle if our bus left within 20 minutes of its scheduled departure time. If there even was a scheduled departure time.  There was one instance where our bus left the station 1 minute early and of course that was the time Emily and I missed the bus.

It was in these moments that I had to just go with it even though it was different from what I was used to.

Although my semester of teaching in Thailand was challenging and frustrating at times, I am so grateful for the opportunity. Teaching pushed me outside of my comfort zone and I got to experience living in a new country with one of my best friends. Traveling is so important because it teaches you about yourself and opens your eyes to how other people live.

Sometimes the hardest part is just getting on the plane but once you do you’re in for the adventure of a lifetime.

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).

Check in with your classmates, Part II

This week on Afterword, we are checking in with a few of your fellow classmates to see what they’ve been up to since graduation.

We connected with five alums; Teresa Dotson, Sarang Murthy, Abby Stone, Renee Cruise and Drew Cooper. See what they had to say about their post grad year!

We are always looking to hear from more of you, so click the button at the bottom of this post to refer a friend (or yourself)!

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

After graduating from UVM I had planned to take a gap year before venturing on my next academic pursuit. I was lucky enough to spend the summer working on Martha’s Vineyard and then once summer came to a close, I moved back to my hometown of Pittsford NY, where I began work as a high school rowing coach. Fall season rowing ended around early November so I was able to enjoy the fall/winter holiday season at home with my parents and younger sister. Fast forward to just after New Years, 2018 has been an amazing year so far. While I was on Martha’s Vineyard in the summer, a high school friend and I began planning a month and a half long trip, backpacking through South East Asia. That adventure began mid-January, starting in Hanoi, Vietnam, continuing through the countries of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar. It was the trip of a lifetime with so many incredible memories. I returned to New York February 27th where I got to spend 10 days at home before venturing out to Idaho and Utah to visit friends and explore some of the west coast.

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

So far my year has been fantastic, but I am very much looking forward to beginning an Accelerated Bachelors in Nursing (ABSN) program, most likely at Drexel University in Philadelphia! It will definitely be a challenge, as it’s a full bachelor’s degree condensed into about 12 months of intense coursework; nonetheless, I am very excited for this new challenge!

What are you most proud of since you graduated?

Since graduating, I’ve been most proud of saying “yes” more. After leaving UVM, and having loved my experiences there, I wanted the excitement and amazing memories to continue; and they most definitely have. Saying “yes” more, has allowed me to meet new people, see incredible sights, and make the memories of a lifetime.


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

I moved down to New York City where I work at a public policy think-tank as a Technical Research Assistant. Living in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan is an adventure, everyday!

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

One of my biggest challenges in the next year is applying to graduate school but also something that I am looking forward to. I have to make myself stand out among the increasingly competitive pool of applicants.

What are you most proud of since you graduated?

The thing I am most proud about is mastering the NYC subway system! I am originally from Dallas, Texas so the big city was an adjustment for me. It’s incredibly overwhelming the first few weeks but then it becomes second nature.


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

After graduation, I took a part-time job as a graphic designer at Alchemy & Science on Pine Street in Burlington. When summer ended, I found a new full-time job at Okemo Mountain Resort, where I am currently the Marketing Coordinator and occasional Snow Reporter!

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

I’m looking forward to moving to a bigger city, like Boston or Denver, but the biggest challenge for me will be that I won’t live next to a ski resort anymore.

What are you most proud of since you graduated?

Adopting my adorable dog, Maple, from All Breed Rescue in Williston and training her to enjoy being little spoon. (Seen in picture above)


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

After graduating, I spent the summer living and interning in Boston. I went to quite a few Red Sox games and enjoyed weekends at the beach. Currently, I am in the Masters of Accountancy Program at UVM’s Grossman School of Business. I’ve been enjoying another year in Burlington and another season of skiing! I’ll graduate with my Masters this coming May.

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

I’m really looking forward to starting my career in accounting as an Auditor for RSM. I’m also excited to move to Boston this Fall.  I think my biggest challenge will be studying for my CPA exams which I hope to complete this summer, before I begin work in the fall.

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

I spent the first few months after graduation packing my belongings in preparation to move to Europe. While I’ve lived in Vermont for the past 15 years with my mother, my father has lived in England for the past 10 years and offered to help me prepare for starting grad school in Germany. I was lucky enough to be accepted into a two-year Master’s program for Medical Neuroscience at the Humboldt University of Berlin. The program is run through their medical school, Charité Universitätsmedizin, which is analogous to UVM’s Robert Larner College of Medicine. The summer and fall were relatively difficult; saying goodbye to my friends and home state, moving to two different countries, and dealing with endless logistics and bureaucracy. I don’t even speak German! But despite the challenges, it’s been an incredibly fruitful experience thus far.

Berlin is an absolutely crazy city, more international than it is German. I’ve made friends with people from Mexico, Ethiopia, Russia, Greece, Pakistan, Spain; the list goes on. I’ve been studying like crazy — semester grades are based on single, comprehensive exams covering everything from neurophysiology to computational statistics to bioethics — but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the nightlife. Clubs are open well into the morning and there are next-to-no open container laws. Work-Life balance is at an all-time high.

Most recently, I finished interning in an ophthalmology lab as my first of four lab rotations. My research concerns thermo-mechanically activated transmembrane receptors called TRP channels and protein fragments of cellular immune systems, specifically within human corneal keratocytes. I’m still (clearly) working on a summary for my research paper, but I’m essentially investigating if immune responses can be triggered through temperature activation of the cornea. What I’m happiest about are the images I’ve captured using the microscopes in the lab — the cells light up like a Christmas tree!

But even better than that, I was able to have my best friend Jaden (Class of ’18!) visit me. He and his family have accepted me as their own for as long as I’ve known them, so to share my life here with him was nothing short of amazing. He’s the other guy in the above photo.

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

My biggest challenge will most likely be the one I’m still dealing with: Germany. I won’t preach too much, but given everything going on in the USA, people have a tendency to romanticize moving to another country, especially European countries. Living here is not easy. Most important documents are co-dependent; to get a German bank account you need a visa, to get a visa you need health insurance, to get health insurance you need a German bank account… you get the idea. To even have a chance at surviving here, somebody within the system has to take pity on you, the unaware foreigner. I have been the American Idiot many times and I will probably continue to be, but it does build character. I’m quoting myself here from an old piece I wrote in the Cynic, but there are things I do today that would’ve made me curl into the fetal position a year ago. I’m hoping I can still say that next year.

What are you most proud of since you graduated?

The fact that I’m in Berlin! Sometimes I still can’t believe I’m here! The application process was 6 months alone, my grades were average at best and I don’t speak the native language; what chance did I have? But lo and behold I’m here, and I’m actually doing well. I spent so many days last year assuming the worst in the world and myself, that I’d be better off taking the safe route staying at UVM and continuing my education there. And this is not a dig at UVM, because it’s actually my favorite part of my home state, but I knew I had to take a chance and do something that scared me to death. Those are the only experiences that show you who you really are as a person, and help you change into the person you want to be.