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Turning Tassels #WhatTheyDidn'tTellUs

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Stephanie South

For most of us who join the program, the El Pomar Fellowship is our first professional job out of college. It’s the first time many of us don a suit, work an eight-to-five day, get a paycheck, or revert to eating like a college student because we spent our first paycheck the first week we got it. For me, it was also the first time I realized just what my early twenty-somethings had gotten me into—a whole lot of growing up with a whole lot of growing pains.

There are things they don’t tell you in college about the working world. Maybe it’s because none of us would really ever leave if they told us what we would find on the other side of that stage. Or maybe it’s because many of our favorite college professors don’t remember their early twenties. Or maybe it’s because they just can’t tell us because there isn’t a way to tell us.

As I write this, I am well into my last afternoon spent at El Pomar Foundation and nearly finished with the last column I will post to this blog, and what I want to tell you, Fellowship Class of 2012 and recent college graduates who will join the program next month, are a few the things they didn’t tell us. These are some of my insights from the first two years spent out of university. They may not be helpful. They may not prove to be true for you. They probably won’t prepare you for what you’ll find in your first two years, but at least it’s something.

Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it buys some really great things—like plane tickets to see our best friends and health insurance that makes the first time you made yourself dinner and nearly cut off your finger a little less painful. This is to say that the first paycheck, which is probably more money than we’ve ever gotten at a single time before, isn’t what it appears, so make a budget…and then stick to it.

You may lose some friends. When I moved out of a house with twenty of my sorority sisters, I knew there would be some girls that I would never talk to again, but I didn’t know how many of them I actually wouldn’t talk to again. Even with iMessage, Face Time, Hey Tell, Gmail, and the ever-attached-to-our-hip cell phones, it’s hard to stay connected without that class three times a week or crossing paths at the gym. You’re going to lose friends, and that’s okay. You’ll make new ones, but it will take some time. And you’ll hang onto the ones that matter the most, but it’ll take some effort.

Co-workers are not necessarily confidants, and walls are thin. There’s a fine line to walk regarding how much you share at work. The Fellowship is a great place to make close friends, but it can also provide an unwelcome introduction to the concept of separation between personal and professional, especially when you work, play, and live with other fellows. The walls are thin; keep this in mind in both your personal and professional lives.

Where you came from made you who you are. It doesn’t need to define your future, but it did help get you to where you are. Be grateful for it. Be proud of it.

Learn. As much as you can. From everything. From every single person you interact with. These next two years, especially if you are an El Pomar Fellow, will change your life if you allow it. There will be good days and worse days and even better days and even worse days, but there will be something to learn from every single one of them. In fact, that’s my one word that I use to explain what the Fellowship is about: learning.

As I sign off for the last time, I wish you the best of luck with your next two years, and with all of my heart, say thank you for the experiences I had and to the people who made mine what they were.