Transitioning from Student to Alumni in Santa Barbara

UCSB Graduation

By Melissa Gasca

UCSB - lagoon lookout point

As hundreds of other Social Science majors took their turn on stage before me at graduation, my head drifted over to the lagoon, and like a quick scene change in a movie, my memory flashed back to my freshmen orientation. It was a vivid picture of my parents taking pictures of my roommate and me in front of the lagoon as we smiled with our bags full of UCSB gear and first college books. Four years later there I was, hearing my name being called, receiving my diploma, and shaking the Chancellor’s hand. As fast as I could ask myself, “Is it really over?” the celebratory day passed.

Two days after graduation I found myself waking up in my bed at home asking, “My God, what do I do now?” Luckily for me, right as I started to engage in a mini freak-out session, I realized that I still had one more fabulous summer awaiting me in beautiful Santa Barbara. But little did I know that being in Santa Barbara as a UCSB alum would lodge me even further into college nostalgia and the graduation blues.

The beach, crazy Isla Vista, sun, friends, and absolutely no classes or schoolwork, sound like the ingredients for the perfect summer, right? Well, factor that I am now a financially independent college graduate and all those Santa Barbara summer luxuries begin to fade into the background. We are the set of grads who internally scream, “Don’t ask me that question!” when our extended relatives ask, “So what are you going to do now?” When I told them I would be spending the summer in Santa Barbara and then moving home in the fall to find a job and apply to grad school, most assumed that the summer in Santa Barbara was a procrastination tactic. While I wouldn’t admit it to them, they were pretty much right. But it didn’t take long to realize that no matter where I am after college, the realities of full adulthood cannot be escaped.

When I was home for those two days post-graduation, my mom handed me a car insurance bill, and said “Well, this is yours now, that’s the last of it.” She seemed so proud to hand it over to me, as if I had willingly asked to add another $80 to my monthly expenses. But like the responsible and mature college graduate I had become, I took the bill and added it to the rent, groceries, bills, gas, emergencies, car problems, and other lists that continue to build daily. My parents did an excellent job in preparing me for financial responsibilities by adding new levels for me to reach each year of college. I believe I can speak for many fellow grads when I say, post-grad responsibilities come as a new reality check despite years of preparation.

Recently my friend Bryan, also a recent UCSB grad who moved home immediately after graduation, wrote, “The hardest part about being out of college has been not seeing friends at gatherings, events, or just passing on the bike paths. I think it has been easier being away from everyone in SB because it makes me think of them less than I would if I was still living there. I’m sure that living in SB would make post-grad life a bit more difficult. It would make me miss the crap out of college- even the academics.”

 But with nostalgia comes a deeper appreciation of the things left behind. How many people, let alone college students, in this world can wake up every morning to the sound of the waves crashing against the cliffs? When will I ever again be able or want to ride my bike everywhere I need to go in life? When again will reading two books a day or busting-out a ten-page paper in one night be the most of my worries? If there’s one thing I’ve learned while staying in Santa Barbara for the summer, it’s that as a UCSB student, I really had it made.

I could say that spending a post-grad summer in Santa Barbara was like being stuck between college-sickness and knowing it’s time to move on to face new levels and responsibilities in life. The post-grad transition is not an easy one and I’ve heard it takes much longer than a summer, but I’d rather be spending the front end of it at Santa Barbara than anywhere else. I’m not making forty grand and I’m probably paying too much rent for someone with students loans to pay off but if one last summer here can allow me to find a new appreciation for the last four years of my life, then it’s all worth it.