Life After Grad

By Alistair Shipley

What is life like after graduation? For obvious reasons each individual will experience the world differently after his or her well-earned stroll across the post-secondary stage. This is my story.

Some would say students fall into two categories, those who have strategically planned and executed their goals leading up to the job of their dreams (or close to) or the students that have no set destination following graduation, but plan to enjoy the unexpected life that awaits them. Many of you have never met me, but my closest friends would categorize me as the latter, a student known to wander. I only had one reason for choosing to go to Mount Royal University and that was to become a successful businessman. Once enrolled at school I had no idea what aspect of business I wanted to focus on, let alone a set dream job that I wished to obtain post graduation. Fortunately enough the choice to take the general education course, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Experience, solidified my educational calling. I wanted to graduate as an Entrepreneur.

Throughout the following years at Mount Royal many aspects of my life changed. Teachers became mentors and their instruction was valued as verbal gold, classmates became life long friends and some even business partners, and school projects quickly grew into successful business ideas. Time slowly crept up and soon it was my time to wear the blue graduation gown and mortarboard. My final conversations with classmates soon revolved around everyone's employment future. When asked, "Where do you plan to work"? I would respond proudly, "Just for a startup company that I founded while in school". For once I felt like I had a purpose after graduation. I was in love with entrepreneurship and the idea of being my own boss. However, like many students when it came to leaving my educational safe haven and venture off into the real world, I became scared. I even related this feeling to Peter Pan, Neverland and the Lost Boys in a Facebook status posted the day I walked the stage.

"Growing up one of my favorite movies was the Disney classic, Peter Pan. I loved the idea of being a kid forever while having the opportunity to be adventurous everyday. Mount Royal was my Neverland. I was able to be audacious and explore the world of opportunity and never had to worry about growing up. I was fortunate to gain a group of life long friends that I'll forever consider my "lost boys" (and of course girls haha). But for all of you that know the movie Hook, even Peter Pan eventually grows up. I am grateful for the experiences shared at Mount Royal, but now it's time for me to grow up and go into the real world. Thank you for the memories and I can't wait to see what the next chapter of my life entails."

Soon after receiving my Bachelor in Business Administration my own adventures had begun. Unfortunately the dream of running my own business venture had left my attention while I pursued a large payday working for a summer door to door company. As I traveled around Alberta the one thing that I did struggle to push out of my mind was school. During my time at Mount Royal I had been involved in a community of like-minded people and felt a sense of comradery. I also missed the safety of the classroom where every idea was protected. For the first time in my life I felt the need to support myself.

Graduation can be a shock to many people. I especially felt the change, but don't most people argue that change is good?

Quickly my summer employment came to an end and I found myself frantically trying to think of my next chapter. I had no school classroom to celebrate going back to in the fall and I had not narrowed in on a future job, although I thought the summer months were sure to help lead me in the proper direction. I once again found myself acting as Peter Pan and avoiding the responsibilities of adulthood through unplanned adventure. Without even researching online or purchasing a "How to Book" on backpacking I decided to embark on a series of impromptu journeys.

After being on the road for four months with my summer job I only spent thirty-six hours at home before jumping into the back of an over-packed Toyota Matrix, in a quest to chase the final days of summer in Ten Sleep, Wyoming for ten days. This was my opportunity to disconnect and reengage with my favorite outdoor hobbies rock climbing and camping. This was the lead up excursion to my big adventure however…Europe.

On September 21st, 2014 I boarded a plane to Bucharest, Romania with nothing more than a backpack and a feeling that I needed to find a purpose for myself during my travels. I once again was proving myself as a wanderer; I had no real destination in mind, just a plan to enjoy the unexpected life that awaited me. It was officially my first time travelling outside of North American and I had a fun time leaving my parents out of the loop as to where I planned on visiting and what kind of trouble I planned on getting into. It was all about achieving my own independence.

Over three months my adventures led me across eight countries and brought me life long memories and acquaintances. I spent my early mornings reading about successful entrepreneurs; afternoons immersing myself in the various cultures, and my evenings enjoying the company of people a world away from Canada. The more I talked to other travelers I realized I wasn't alone in how I felt about my life career search and my need to understand myself before hopping into a job back home. This shared perspective helped to relax, comfort, and even elevated me. Soon I found myself falling in love once again with the idea of entrepreneurship, just this time in countries foreign to me.

Although I had no set idea for employment or a well-outlined five-year plan, I still set my sights on coming back home just before Christmas with a lifted spirit, eager to get involved in any opportunity that presented itself. Time once again whizzed by and before I knew it I was back home in a foot of snow, but guess what? I was fine with that because before I even arrived back home I had already booked a vacation to Cuba. Again dodging being home for too long.

Surprisingly this was the trip that I spent the most time reflecting. Europe had left me with a lot to think about. I chose to join a family vacation with a Mount Royal Entrepreneur friend who has had success in his own personal venture. Through multiple discussions with him and his family, sometimes over a Cuban cigar, I began to realize how life couldn't be forced. Many things in my life, as well as my friends, had occurred due to sheer chance and could not have been manufactured or planned. I was incredibly fortunate to have experienced everything that I did over the past few months, but I was trying to force it. Thank goodness for this new found clarity.

My recent life has been an adventure in quest of finding independence and a purpose, but these travels have been a huge positive for me. Subsequently after touching back down in Calgary I have been driven and confident in my abilities. I am currently pursuing a position in new business startups and have had no problems finding potential jobs. Although I can't say what the future holds for me I know that graduating from Mount Royal University has led me in the right direction and I'm sure I'm not alone here. It does not matter if you have a plan after graduation or just wish to see how life pans out, in the end everything works out for the better.

"To live will be an awfully big adventure." ― J.M Barrie, Peter Pan

What is life like after graduation? It is one great big adventure.