I was surprised to get the request for an Ideas and Creations blog post at the beginning of the month. On some level, I knew that alumni blogged for Ideas and Creations, but I suppose I’d figured that meant established alumni who had been out of college for awhile and had accumulated wisdom to share. Then I thought about it, and I realized that even the few months I’ve been out of college have already given me plenty of perspective that I didn’t have while I was in college. So here’s some of what I’ve learned.
First of all, a year of service is a great idea, especially if you aren’t sure what’s next in the long term. This time last year, I was weighing law school, grad school in economics or public policy, and seminary, and I felt totally unprepared to make a choice that would affect my entire future. So, instead of applying to grad school like many of my friends did, I applied to Lutheran Volunteer Corps. It’s been a great experience so far. I live with five housemates, none of whom I knew beforehand and all of whom I have come to adore. I work full-time at a nonprofit as their Communications Manager. I make a small stipend, but what I give up in pay I make up for in the experience I’m getting, being basically a one-person department and getting an intimate inside look at the nonprofit sector. Plus, it’s a gentle transition out of college and into more independence: I have host families and a program manager I can contact if things go wrong, kind of like somewhat-more-distant RAs. It’s nice not to go into the next phase of my life completely on my own.
Secondly, I undervalued English and foreign languages while I was at Luther. Yes, I minored in English and nearly got a Spanish minor, but a significant part of me wanted to go further in both of those fields, and what held me back, especially in the case of English, was a sense that majoring in a field in the humanities would look frivolous on my resume. Yet I barely use what I learned in my more “practical” major of economics at all at work, whereas my English education comes into play every day. Indeed, my strengths as a writer and editor are what got me my LVC placement, and I might have been eligible for more placements if I’d worked harder on my Spanish.
Third--and this may seem to contradict what I just said about the humanities--more computer science classes might have been helpful. I’m the techiest person in my workplace just by dint of being the youngest by 36 years. But the truth is that I’ve always struggled with technology. While it’s true that the bulk of my work is writing, I’m also wrangling plenty of different types of software. Everything I do at work is on the computer. On any given work day, I use Salesforce, WordPress, Microsoft Publisher, Lightworks video editing software, Canva (a graphic design site), Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,YouTube, and MailChimp. I’m not sure if Luther has any computer science classes focused on, say, WordPress or Salesforce, and I actually got some WordPress experience in ENG 211: Writing for Media with Professor Mike Garcia, but being more comfortable with technology would be extremely helpful in my job.
Fourth, not having homework can change your entire lifestyle. As someone who reads rather slowly and always tries their best, homework took most if not all of my unstructured time from about fifth grade through the end of my college career. Now that I can leave my work at work--a firm tenet of LVC placements, luckily for me--I have time to keep a journal, read for fun, make new friends, catch up with old friends, and engage with local politics. Most of these are things I made an effort to do before I graduated as well, but not having homework has allowed me to have a life in a completely different sense than I had one while I was in school.
And fifth, you can sing after graduation, though it’s not at all the same. I joined a church in Minneapolis that’s just across the alley from the house where I live with my housemates, and the church has a choir. We practice Wednesday nights 7:30-8:30 and Sunday mornings for about 20 minutes before the service, and we sing one SAB or SATB piece every week during worship. It’s nothing like my experiences in Aurora, Cathedral, and Collegiate, but it’s still a way to get my music fix. I have mixed feelings about whether I’ll miss Christmas at Luther or revel in having time at the end of November and beginning of December for the first time in years, but I know I’ll miss choir tour in the spring. Hopefully my old choirs will come to the Twin Cities and I’ll be able to hear them and join Collegiate on stage for “To Luther” at the end of the tour concert.
As a teenager, I wrote a letter home from summer camp that said, “If I were an animal, school would be my natural habitat.” I genuinely enjoyed my time as a student, both in K-12 and in college. I like learning and having time and space set aside to digest and debate ideas. But I’m also immensely enjoying this break from school, as I figure out how to function in the work world and set my own priorities for the rest of my time. So here’s my advice to current students: Learn to write. Learn computers. Make lots of music. And then take a gap year with a supportive service corps. At least, it’s worked for me.
Linnea Peterson, Luther class of 2018, is a member of Lutheran Volunteer Corps and is serving as Communications Manager for a Minneapolis nonprofit called MicroGrants. She is working on applying to law school.