Life After Ripon – Karena Schroeder ’15

Chapter 1: Becoming an Alumna

[Editor’s Note: Raymond Allen ’15, Karena Schroeder ’15, and Madeline Poullette ’15 are writing rotating monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their post-graduation experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life After Ripon!]

Happy summer! I hope you are all enjoying the beautiful weather wherever this wonderful season has you located. The post-graduation life has been wonderful, and I am so excited to keep in touch over the next year, updating you all on my adventures. As a quick little introduction, I graduated in May with a double major in communication and sports management as well as a minor in business management. I am currently in the ten-week manager-in-training (MIT) program for Sam’s Club in the Twin Cities Metro area. This means that I have the privilege of jumping between these nine different clubs, shadowing and picking up best practices from current managers within the market. After completion of my training, I will take on a position as a department manager within one of the clubs I had the pleasure of shadowing! It has been incredibly enlightening thus far, and I am so blessed to have had so many great individuals, from family, friends, sisters and of course the Ripon College staff and faculty who have helped me arrive where I am today.

Looking at Ripon College from the perspective of an alumna is a position I never considered. Now, that’s not to say I didn’t plan on graduating from Ripon at any point, or never looked into the future at what I might achieve or who I might become; but still – for whatever reason, I never came to the realization that I would one day be an alumna of Ripon College. In fact, when I would think about Ripon College alumni, that population of individuals may have been a species all on its own. In my mind, alumni were the people who have their lives together. They are successful in their careers, and they love every moment of their newfound jobs in an exotic land, completely foreign to much of the Ripon College population. They are getting married and have the perfect wedding because their six figure salaries can afford such a thing. They take vacations whenever they want because their bosses love them and feel they deserve the best. They come back and visit the College, but it is only during the few times that they can because they have huge and exciting plans every other weekend (because of course they get every weekend off.)

As I write this, I have been an alumna for exactly ten weeks and four days. As I progress, I understand that my misconstrued assumptions about alumni life were very similar to the way in which we scroll through Facebook and Instagram, envious of the glorious and adventurous lives of others. Before I continue, I must say that I am not, by any means, complaining about work or my living situation. In fact, not a day goes by where I feel the drudge of repetition or boredom at work even as I near the end of my training. The first few months of the summer I have lived in downtown Minneapolis, and this weekend will be relocating to my very own apartment in downtown St. Paul; both very safe and very stunning locations. I went from being from the small, friendly farm-town of Clintonville to an enormous, yet still friendly city full of beauty and endless opportunities. I am close enough to visit home if I would like to, but far enough away that I am able to fulfill my sense of adventure and independence.

See what I did there? The good stuff. The great stuff in fact. What I have discovered in my short time as an alumna is that life after college is beautiful and ugly; it is exciting and it is boring; and it is hectic and peaceful. So for those of you out there who have yet to find the perfect job or the ideal living situation, trust that something – maybe not what you expected – but something will come along. Until then, enjoy where you are now; wherever that may be. If you have not found a job, then enjoy what might be the rest of your non-working life (until retirement). During this time, pick up an easy hobby – I recently learned how to play tennis and am very slowly learning how to golf – or at least how to hit the ball off the tee (baby steps). Teach yourself how to knit, go for a few runs a week, walk your dog, learn to appreciate being alone; do anything that will teach you to appreciate even the smallest things in life no matter what situation you are in, because regardless of where you find yourself, life will always be beautiful and ugly, exciting and boring, and even hectic and peaceful.

Here comes the part I wouldn’t bring up in a quick conversation about how my new life is going. When I am officially a manager, I MAY get ONE weekend off a month if the schedule works out in my favor. I do NOT make a six figure salary, and I will not be allowed any vacation time in my first year with the company. Managers are not allowed to take vacation time during December or the holiday season period. I miss my friends immensely and wish that I was savvy enough to keep a texting conversation going for more than three responses so that I could properly keep up.

As of now, the good of the alumni life certainly outweighs the bad. Nonetheless, I am able to confirm that the alumni species is nothing like what I had previously observed. Free-time is available much more than I had anticipated, but I can assure you that it is not spent partying or taking expensive vacations to far off lands. This means it is important to be happy with yourself. Right now, I am very happy with where my life is, and I hope you are too. There are always ups and downs to whatever step of life you find yourself, but no situation is permanent, therefore there is no sense in avoiding finding some satisfaction with your situation while you search for the next step. So for those out there who are lost or confused or unhappy, keep your head up and continue on my friend!

All the best,

Karena Schroeder ’15

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