Students walking away from the Pharmaceutical Sciences Building
May 11, 2021
4 mins read

Choosing your next adventure after graduation

The Graduate's Guide to the Galaxy

For a lot of us who started university immediately or soon after completing high school, the end of undergrad beckons with the most freedom we’ve ever felt in our lives.

This is really exciting—your next steps are entirely up to you. It’s also a bit overwhelming to enter a world without the guidelines and expectations that you’re used to. 

There’s no right or wrong way to approach your post-grad journey, and you can always adjust your course if you feel like you’re not where you want to be. These 3 stories capture only a few of the options available to you!

Note: These interviews were conducted pre-COVID, and you may have to alter your plans based on current guidelines and restrictions. For tips on navigating uncertainty, check out this post on thinking about the future during a pandemic.

Grad school

Students in a lecture

Name: Amber Lum
Undergrad degree: B.A. ’18 in Psychology, with a Minor in Education (Interpersonal Development)

How have you been spending your time since you graduated? 

I started and finished my Bachelor of Education, graduating in November 2019. I now work primarily with elementary students as an educator-on-call. I am also now in my second year of my Master's of Education, studying Counselling Psychology.

How did you decide to pursue the path you’re on?

When I started university, I had a few ideas but no specific plans. I knew I was curious about human behaviour and wanted to support marginalized and vulnerable populations. I saw all the people in pain around me and wanted to do something that could help them in some way. 

Near the end of my undergrad, I started working at the peer support centre on campus. There, I met a lot of like-minded people and came to appreciate the richness of working in an individual support setting, which inspired me to pursue counselling. I knew that getting my education degree and gaining teaching experience would help strengthen my application to the counselling program I’m in now. 

What’s been rewarding?

The privilege of helping foster a positive and safe space for people to grow. Whether it be receiving a note from a student saying that I have made their week happier, or helping someone process their emotions, it has been a crazy but rewarding time so far. 

What’s been challenging?

Going straight into two degrees was tough because I felt like I hadn’t really taken a break from school since kindergarten. While I have always loved learning, it is really easy to burn yourself out. Also, as someone who is quite shy, even if I may not come across that way, both teaching and counselling are outside of my comfort zone. While I am passionate about both professions, they come with a lot of social risks and anxieties that I work through daily.  

Work

Students in a lab

Name: Becca Willes
Undergrad major: B.Sc. ’19 in Chemistry

How have you been spending your time since you graduated? 

I have been spending my time working, initially as a research assistant and now as a lab tech in UBC’s Chemistry department. Outside of work, I’ve been exploring new hobbies and spending more time with friends.

How did you decide to pursue the path you’re on?

Money for rent! I was very unsure of what I wanted to do after university, but thankfully a couple of job opportunities arose and I was excited to pursue them both.

What’s been rewarding?

I love having time outside work to learn new skills, such as cooking, sewing, and writing, because it was something I felt I didn’t have much time for during my degree. Additionally, I find it exciting to be able to facilitate students’ learning experiences through my job, especially by sharing what I found useful during my degree.

What’s been challenging?

The uncertainty that sometimes comes with finishing university can be very daunting at times. Now that I am working, I don’t have a set plan quite the same way I did when I was in school. It’s now up to me to decide if I want a career change, go back to school, or move away from Vancouver. It can be challenging to check in with yourself and decide what your next step should be and when to take it.

Travel

Sofia drawing on large sheets of paper in the grass

Name: Sofia Shamsunahar
Undergrad major: B.A. ’19 in Political Science and Human Geography

How have you been spending your time since you graduated? 

Because I predicted I was going to be pretty burnt out by the time I graduated, I decided to dedicate some time after university to reconnecting with my roots. I wanted to give back to my country, spend time outdoors, and live more slowly. So, after I graduated, I completed two internships in ocean conservation. For the first, I worked with sea turtles on an island in Malaysia. For the second, I scuba dived daily to monitor the health of coral reefs for an NGO based on a Filipino island, along with helping them create video content. 

I also spent some time putting together comic strips about my experiences interning and backpacking over that year. I would love to one day publish a book of my comic stories. 

How did you decide to pursue the path you’re on?

In my third year at UBC, the world started feeling grey. That experience taught me to be honest with myself about what makes me feel happy and at peace, and launched me on a journey of understanding what I was passionate about in the world. I narrowed it down to working to help others, and feeling human by being outdoors and connecting with people around me. 

What’s been rewarding?

My travels and internship have been my biggest adventure yet—it's been so rewarding to see how they have shaped me, helping me understand myself and this beautiful world better. My experience has taught me that there's a life out there that isn't necessarily just a 9-to-5 office job. 

What’s been challenging? 

Leaving such wonderful and special friends behind in Vancouver was tough. Sometimes I worried I wouldn't meet such amazing people in other geographic locations. Also, in my last year at UBC, my drawings and comics allowed me to have some amazing experiences and meet some great souls, so it was difficult leaving that community behind.

Whatever you decide to pursue in your post-grad adventure, remember that you are in control of your own life now—it’s up to you to create the journey you want!

Header, photo 1 + 2  photo credit: Paul H. Joseph / UBC Brand & Marketing