Welcome to the real world

How my college lifestyle changed drastically upon entering the workforce

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When I finalized my summer internship plans earlier this year, I did not foresee all the lifestyle adjustments I would need to make in order to become a successful adult in the workforce. I’d had summer jobs before — camp counselor, kayak shop booking agent, nanny, etc. — but nothing resembling an actual career. I figured it couldn’t be that hard of a transition. I was excited to embark into the marketing field and gain valuable experience for the future. But after a few days on the job, I discovered the college habits I’d developed over the past two years weren’t going to cut it in the real world. 

The first wake up call to this reality was the act of waking up itself. Once I began college, I forgot there was ever a time in my life when I woke up early enough to slide into my high school desk by 8 a.m. Creating the ideal college schedule becomes an art form perfected by time and enrollment priority. By second semester second year, my schedule was a masterpiece — no classes before 11 a.m. and no Friday classes at all. 

I consider myself to be of the nocturnal breed, so when my alarm went off at 6 a.m. on my first day of work, I felt like a vampire exposed to sunlight. It seemed that no amount of coffee could quite compensate for the horrific hour at which I had to function, and the routine did not get easier by the day. The college student in me still longs for mornings that are actually afternoons and weekends that are an additional day long, but by being forced to operate on the clock of a normal adult, I have gotten to experience days to their fullest, and I’m beginning to appreciate their longevity.

Over the past two years, I also managed to forget the concept of commuting. One of the best parts about living in a college town is that everything is within walking distance. On week days, I could snooze my alarm clock — so long as I walked a bit more briskly to class — and I never had to worry about hitting rush hour traffic, maybe just a few slow walkers. With a half hour commute to and from work, those five extra minutes of snoozing or the time it takes to toast a bagel can be the difference between smooth sailing down the freeway or bumper to bumper SoCal traffic. 

Though my steps have been at an all time low this summer thanks to the incessant sitting, I do enjoy the relaxing aspect of a commute that scurrying to class doesn’t allow. I can sip my coffee casually and make it through an entire playlist without skipping tracks by the second chorus. I can laugh along with AJ & Sara in the Morning, get all the dirt from Geena’s Big Scoop and listen to caller after caller fail out of Tammy’s College of Hollywood Knowledge. I can watch the sun get lower and lower along the coastline as I drive home in the evening, and I can call my friends on the East Coast who have just finished dinner to chat for a while. Though commuting is more expensive and less convenient than a short walk to class, it has its perks and trains me for potentially worse commutes to come.

Since my days are so much longer now, I’m also much more hungry. While in college I averaged about two big meals a day because I so often slept through breakfast, at work I’m hungry all the time. Something about sitting at a desk for eight hours makes my stomach growl. I attempted to compensate for this by eating an absolutely massive lunch, but I ended up putting myself in a food coma for the rest of the afternoon and hindered myself from much needed productivity. In college, one El Jefe from Roots could fill me for an entire day, but at work, I’m an immobile cookie monster, and something has to change.

I’ve never been an exercise fiend, but I figured that since I wouldn’t be doing as much walking during the summer as I had been at school, I might as well take up working out here and there — interns even get a $20 gym membership for the entire summer at a nearby Crunch Fitness. Then I realized something terrible — after a day at work, all I want to do is sleep. I’m beginning to feel elderly. When the clock strikes 9 p.m., I’m beyond ready for bed. I can’t fathom the thought that in college, 9 p.m. was considered early. Now, while my little sister goes out to see her friends, I roll upstairs with my parents.

On my short, two day weekends, I really have to give some thought about whether or not I want to give up a night by staying out late with my friends or catch up on much needed sleep instead. Though I usually bite the bullet and choose to be social, I have to pound a coffee around 7 p.m. — or else I end up falling asleep in “Ocean’s 8,” as I did last Friday. I do, however, appreciate the fact that no homework, papers or studying overflows into my weekend. When I shut down my computer Friday at work, I know my weekend will be more relaxing than in college, and I can go into hibernation stress-free.

Additionally, in college, I would be lucky to have one person I knew in my class. I’ve discovered that at work, it’s survival of the friendliest. When you’re trapped in an office environment for eight hours a day, your coworkers are your only source of social interaction — whether you like them or not. Luckily, I’ve become great friends with my fellow interns and coworkers over the past few weeks, and I enjoy going on coffee runs with them, eating lunch with them and even meeting up on the weekends. I’ve realized the importance of going the extra mile to get to know those around you in the office, because at the end of the day, they’re the difference between having an enjoyable or lackluster time at work.

I’m only about a month into summer, and adjusting to the work world has been no easy task. Though it’s a slow and sleep-depriving process, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be a real adult, and it’s helpful to get a taste of what the rest of my life will look like — and I think I just might like it in the end. When I hang up my business-casual attire at the end of the summer and once again break out the athleisure-wear, I’ll be sure to take advantage of my last two years as college student and the unique lifestyle that comes with it. 

In the meantime, I’ll make the best of the daylight, sip my coffee extra slowly on my commute, try new and exciting foods for my five meals a day, relax to the fullest extent on the weekends and cherish my new office friendships. The morning may be bright but so is the future. 

Katherine Firsching is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com

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