Lovelace and her friends take on climbing on the Mediterranean Coast. Eva Lovelace | Courtesy Photo

For many soon-to-be graduates, there is a great deal of pressure to follow an extremely strict pathway. However, while graduates often enter the workforce soon after graduation, this is neither the only path available nor better. There are a number of alternatives a graduate can choose, many of which can help a new graduate stand out when applying for a job later on in life.

Eva Lovelace graduated from Cal Poly in 2014 with a degree in psychology. Feeling unsure about where she wanted to attend graduate school, or if she even wanted to go at all, Lovelace decided to make the monumental decision to go abroad. By her final quarter at Cal Poly, she had finalized her plans to travel to Spain to pursue rock climbing and become an au pair.

Deciding to go abroad

“I wanted an adventure,” Lovelace said. “I had originally planned to go for just six months, but ended up staying for several years.”

When Lovelace made her decision to go abroad after graduation, she was excited and scared. She knew she wanted a challenge, but occasionally experienced self-doubt, which stemmed from not following in the footsteps of her fellow graduates.

“Occasionally, I felt nervous about making such a big change when there were other, what I thought were ‘easier’ options, out there after graduation,” Lovelace said.

Support behind the decision

Many students are terrified what their friends or family may think if they chose not to go straight into the workforce. Lovelace experienced pressure from her friends and family to have a plan after college, but no one criticized the plan she chose for herself.

“I received a lot of support, and I think generally people see the value in these sorts of experiences,” Lovelace said.

Traveling abroad on your own holds a great deal of valuable experience that not only benefits an individual’s character, but also benefits their potential to stand out among their competitors when searching for a job as well.

Lovelace said traveling taught her about who she was as a person.

“It took traveling to the other side of the world for me to learn how to trust in my own instincts and discover what truly holds meaning for me personally,” Lovelace said.

Standing out in grad school applications

When Lovelace returned to the U.S. ready to start graduate school, she stood out among the other prospective students.

“You’d be surprised by how much more relatable and memorable you are to others, which can make a difference when you’re up against a huge stack of other people’s resumes and applications. It took me a while to realize this, but people truly value what I consider intangible human skills, skills that can’t be learned by rote memorization and studying, but rather by practice and experience,” Lovelace said.

However, at first, Lovelace’s experience wasn’t as magical as she had envisioned it. Albeit tough, her challenges never prompted her to abandon her plans, they only made her work harder to achieve what she wished for her new life in Spain.

Lovelace said one of her most important experiences abroad happened in the first month she was living in Madrid. Originally, she was meant to be nanny to three children and help the family learn English. However, things did not go according to plan.

“I was immediately unhappy with the arrangement and knew I needed to leave. However, it never crossed my mind to move back to the United States: I felt like I was there and needed to figure this out,” Lovelace said. “Over the course of two weeks, I moved out of the family’s house and into an apartment downtown, found a different job, and joined a climbing gym. From this point on, things really turned around for me and I found a way to make myself happy and my lifestyle work.”

Worth taking the risk

A two-year trip abroad is something that few people take the risk to experience; it also entails things that many may not have the means to complete. For example, a plane ticket might be too expensive, or going abroad may not interest some individuals. However, Lovelace said she believes that alternative, risky and unique experiences prove to be extremely valuable to an individual’s life.

”I really believe just taking a risk and doing something you’ve never done before can teach you life-changing lessons, and it doesn’t have to include an expensive international plane ticket,” Lovelace said.

Overall, Lovelace’s experience abroad not only helped her discover her identity, but it made her stand out against her competitors when the time came for her to move onto the next chapter of her life back in the US. If you aren’t ready to jump straight into a job, or even feel that you don’t have enough life experience to start off in the workforce, take a risk. Whether you go abroad or not,  taking a chance has the potential to not only make you a better version of yourself after graduation, but it also sets up an incredible adventure after college.

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