Leaving College Behind: Lessons from Post-Grad Survivors

When I started at Fordham four years ago, most people I talked to said, “Cherish it, because it will be over before you know it.” At the time I was too overwhelmed with being a college freshman to actually believe that this wonderful, carefree life would ever end.

Now,  four years later, I realize that this life — of course — has to come to an end. And at the risk of sounding cliché, college has been the best four years of my life. While parents and educators would like to believe that college is a period where students live in the library and prepare themselves for their future, it has meant much more to me.

Beyond the books and the classrooms, college has been a series of beautiful moments. A rooftop Bronx sunset, a late night Billy Joel sing along, a lunar eclipse at the top of the bleachers, a first kiss under a street lamp, ringing the Victory bell, getting lost in the Botanical Gardens, hangover bacon-egg-and-cheese cures, snowball fights on Eddie’s, a Spring Weekend crowd surf, Kan Jam season, and riding the ram. Winning championships, and losing them. Making friends and losing them, too. It has all shaped me into who I am today.

I think the scariest part about graduation, is the realization that these beautiful moments were fleeting ones. The people we live with, the memories we’ve shared, the home we have made at Fordham, will never be the same. And that is one scary thought.

For the first time in most of our lives, we are blindly diving into the unknown. We are starting a new chapter where there is no fenced in campus, comfortable classroom walls, or professors and parents to cushion our falls.

So in the vain attempt to curb seniors’ anxiety, I reached out to those who came before us and have already taken the plunge into the real world and survived. And what these survivors — some you may know, and some you may not — have to say, just might surprise you.

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” -Tom Pecora, Men’s Head Basketball Coach, Adelphi University ’83

“Be proud of what you’ve accomplished and  use your acquired knowledge to affect the world — the “little,” all too real world you will be living in — and continue learning.” –Dr. Frances Parmeggiani, Modern Languages Department, University of Bologna ’89

“What I’ve learned over the years is that anytime you create anything – a story, a song, a book, a recording – it takes on a life of its own, and can work to your benefit years after your created it.” -Paul Levinson, Communications Department, NYU ’74

“Frankly, I believe at this stage of your life you’re not supposed to know what you want to do. It’s a really tough question and the only way to get the answer is to go out and live a little. Embrace couch surfing, jumping from city to city, and banking on the life blood of $40 open bars.” –Andrew O’Connell, Athletics, FCRH ’12

“Don’t worry about having a job you love, first jobs are not supposed to be permanent. Try to do something you really want to do, not something to allay mom and dad’s fear.” –Marano Vincent, FCRH ’84

“Pick a job/career that you are passionate about. [Don’t] worry about the salary as that will come if [you] are passionate about your career.” -David Roach, Athletic Director, Springfield College ’71

“I could write a book about what I didn’t know then that I wish I had. Learn to listen to others and take constructive criticism with a smile. Don’t get into that habit of thinking you know everything. No one does. Have high aspirations for yourself. Work as hard as you can every day and always put your best foot forward. Try new things and take risks. And try to make your mark on the world through generosity and gratitude — it’s a beautiful and powerful way to go through life.” –Beth Knobel, Communications Department, Barnard College ’84

“I would have really enjoyed every moment to the fullest and not have been so nervous about feeling I had to get an A in everything I did. I would make every minute count because it goes by soooo fast.” –Stephanie V. Gaitley, Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Villa Nova ’82

“Put a large amount of value on the time you spend with your friends between now and graduation. And find what makes you happy and satisfied on a day-to-day basis with what you do and how you live, and it’s hard to know what that is until you’re out there trying things. It’s not college and then forever/the-rest-of-your-life. It’s college, then the time after that, then the time after that and the time after that.” –Rob Nguyen FCRH ’05, GSAS ’06

“I would tell my senior self to relax, not to worry about getting a job in the first two months out of school, there will always be an entry-level position somewhere. One thing I would do differently would be to travel before I settled down to start my career — life moves fast, and [now for me] just heading out on an adventure is not feasible. -Dr. Philip M. Cicione, FCRH ’87

“Don’t forget the incarnational learning you’ve experienced here – the concrete people and lessons that make Fordham the transforming place it is. That memory will sustain you for the next chapter as a proud alumnus. And find humor in life – when you are studying, interviewing for a job, asking someone out on a date, or hanging with friends. An intelligent and educated person need not be boring, cold, or dismissive. Most intelligent and educated people I know are funny.” -Dr. Robert J. Parmach, Dean of Freshman Fordham College Rose Hill