Students Share Mixed Emotions Before Graduation

Graduation is less than two weeks away and as many soon-to-be college graduates anticipate their last final, they also recall fond undergraduate memories such as freshman year, gaining a sense of independence, excelling academically and, above all, finding themselves.
On June 19 and 20, the graduating class of 2004 will toss their caps in the air at the 39th annual commencement, and move on to apply what they have learned at UCI to their futures.
Diana Casillas, a graduating psychology and social behavior major, has been involved on campus since her transfer here three years ago. She has taken part in research projects such as the Criminology Outreach Program and the Social Ecology Peer Mentor Program while also working part time at the Career Center.
Casillas believes that UCI has given her a sense of community, one that she will miss once she graduates. As a mother of two, Casillas feels ‘at home’ living in Verano Place, one of UCI’s on-campus graduate housing communities.
‘I have a lot of single-parent friends in Verano who I know I can count on,’ Casillas said.
After graduating with honors, Casillas plans to attend graduate school to obtain an M.A. in occupational therapy. ‘I definitely have a better view of the world now than before I came to UCI,’ Casillas said.
However, other seniors are still undecided on a career path.
Lang Tran, a graduating fifth-year social science major, foresees many paths for her future and is keeping her options open. After graduation, she plans to work in retail management before attending graduate school. She feels that being a social science major has given her a foundation for many career paths.
Tran took part in three internships, undergraduate research, the Student Fee Advisory Committee and Best Buddies while working part time at the Career Center. While sad to leave, she welcomes the future with enthusiasm.
‘I’ve grown a lot being away from home,’ Tran said. ‘I’ve learned not only through academics, but experiences.’
While enthusiastic about the future, Cece Yanik, a graduating fourth-year economics major, feels a bit of anxiety as well. ‘When applying for jobs,’ Yanik said, ‘you realize how much competition there is.’
Nearly every job that she has applied to has required three to five years of work experience.
After graduation, Yanik plans to take time off to visit family in Colorado, followed by a trip to the East Coast with her roommates. Then she will begin the task of finding work.
Seniors that share Yanik’s anxiety often turn to the Career Center for assistance into the next phase of their lives.
Every year, the Career Center sees more seniors coming into the office than the previous year, particularly during spring quarter as commencement approaches.
Many seniors are worried about finding employment after graduation. However, Linda Drake, assistant director of the Career Center, assures seniors that the slow job market is an obstacle they can manage.
‘Even in the worst of times there are jobs. All that’s needed is effort,’ Drake said.
According to Drake, seniors with post-graduation anxiety are assisted by counselors to explore and clarify career goals, get resume critiques, statement of purpose assistance, or letters of recommendation.
‘It’s all a process,’ added May Lansigan, Career Center marketing coordinator. Lansigan explains that while UCI educates students and provides excellent resources, it is up to the students to utilize those resources and prepare for the real world.
For some, graduation isn’t quite as intimidating. Many seniors are confident and focus on their accomplishments rather than on their anxiety.
Geoff Cariker, a fourth-year biological sciences major, anticipates attending physical therapy school, though he will miss the friends he made at UCI.
‘I’m going to miss the relationships I’ve built,’ Cariker said. ‘But I’m ready to move on.’
During his two years at UCI as a transfer student, Cariker has participated in cancer research, served as a peer consultant for the Career Center and volunteered at Hoag Hospital.
Overall, Cariker is satisfied with his time at UCI. ‘I have grown tremendously while here,’ Cariker said.
The seniors of 2004 will be leaving their college careers behind to take on new ones. Whether their new destination be graduate school, an occupation, or altogether unique journey of self-discovery, most will cherish the time they have spent at UCI.