Beyond the Gates
Post-Graduation Stories of a World Unexpected
Published: Friday, January 24, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 24, 2014 22:01
At least once a year, Georgetown students can be found camped outside Healy Hall at 4:30 in the morning, waiting for admission to listen to world leaders, members of the cabinet or one of the Clintons.
Resumes are lined with internships from Wall Street and major consulting groups. Suits are kept ready for pre-professional networking events.
This attitude reflects Georgetown students’ academic paths — and their plans post-graduation. While the plurality of graduates goes into consulting, many follow less traditional paths, whether or not through their own volition.
From struggling to find full time-employment to dropping ambitions of becoming a doctor to pursue acting, three recent graduates and a current senior share their experiences of taking on the world outside of Georgetown.
"I felt like I was lost at sea."
Robert Miller (SFS ’13) grew up in a middle-class family in Kentucky. He dreamt of traveling abroad, an opportunity he didn’t have when he was younger. With an older brother who served as a Marine in Iraq during the initial invasion in 2003, Miller grew up hearing stories of the world beyond his hometown.
“His service and stories of travel to Asia and the Middle East made me want to serve my country through an avenue other than the military,” Miller said.
Drawn to Georgetown because of its location, Miller planned on making the most of internships and academics. He majored in international politics and decided to graduate in three years instead of four, figuring that it was cost-effective and would look impressive on a resume.
What Miller didn’t plan for was a global financial crisis. According to a study done at Northeastern University, 36 percent of college graduates in 2013 were employed at jobs that don’t require a degree, a figure that has increased by about 10 percent in the last decade.
Those kinds of numbers didn’t allow for a lot of flexibility when it came to reconsidering an academic pursuit, especially since Miller’s schedule at Georgetown was already constricted by a shorter road to graduation. Unfortunately, it was at the time he was solidifying his major that he began to question how much he wanted to devote his career to the United States government.
His personal political opinions began to conflict with public political decisions and Miller began to struggle with the knowledge that he was stuck majoring in something that he no longer felt compelled to pursue.
Unfortunately, this lack of passion seemed to be evident to employers as well.
“I applied three times, unsuccessfully, for an internship with the State Department before I reached the point where I started to consider other career paths,” Miller said. “Suddenly, I was faced with the prospect of having to compete in the job market. And I felt like I was lost at sea.”
Yet he felt confident that having a degree from Georgetown would make the world after college relatively easy to navigate. Miller encountered an entirely different reality and ended up landing a job that his classes didn’t prepare him for.
He started working retail at Macy’s.
“I nearly reached the level of long-term unemployment,” Miller said. “The longer you go with a job, the more employers are inclined to think that something is wrong with you.”
Miller has since moved back to D.C. and is currently considering going back to school for energy policy.
“I still have plenty of time to figure this whole life thing out," Miller said.
"What if I studied French for nothing?”
For some people, there’s something irresistible about foreign languages. Liz Frothingham (COL ’14) is one of these people. Her love of languages began back in high school, where she began learning both French and Spanish. She originally began her college education at Colby College in Maine, where she majored in French. Although she changed universities, eventually landing at Georgetown, she retained her major, an interest that was solidified by a semester abroad during her freshman year.
Georgetown offered Frothingham the opportunity to study something that she was initially interested in, and gave her the ability to pursue it on a global scale.
“I’m seeking to teach English abroad in France with Teaching Assistantship Program in France,” Frothingham said. And while TAPIF requires only a single online application it also means that Frothingham is in a state of flux until she receives her admission decision letter, in the spring.
“Until the spring, I get to sit here in the unknown, being constantly peppered with the dreaded, ‘So what are you doing after graduation?’ query,” Frothingham said.
Although Frothingham is confident in her decision to teach abroad and is looking forward to applying her major to help others, she admits that she is not above the fear of having wasted her education.
“While I have ideas about what I might like to do, whenever I begin to nose around for a job within a field, I fear that what I find, or what I am qualified for, doesn’t match what I imagine the workforce to be,” Frothingham said. “It also beckons questions about my studies: Did I pick the right major? What if I studied French for nothing?”
“I’m now in my freshman year of life and I’m loving it."
Zoë Lillian (COL ’13) did not know that after four years of rigorous academics, she would be pursuing a career in a field that inspires high-school graduates to head to California every summer.
Originally, Lillian maintained a mentality shared by a majority of students. She had lofty ideals of one day becoming president. She considered disciplines in which she would get her doctorate, if she decided to go that route. Despite starting her Georgetown education interested in typical Georgetown subjects, Lillian developed an interest in linguistics and later added a minor of theater and performance studies.