Around this time last year, I remember reading an overflowing newsfeed of status updates along the lines of: “done with college,” “never going to the library again,” “just finished my last final ever” and my personal favorite, “boom.” And I remember updating my own status, which read: “ARIA AUERBACH IS DONE WITH COLLEGE!!!!!!!!!!” (obviously showing my excitement with all capital letters and an unnecessary number of exclamation marks).

A year later, I’m wondering: how long after you graduate is still acceptable to say: “I just graduated college”?

In addition to the excitement and craziness of holding a Diploma with my name printed on it—which, in retrospect, really just looks like an oversized picture frame with the calligraphy branding paper inside—I remember being a bit worried that all the academic knowledge I stored in my brain from my Psychology degree, wasn’t the same kind of information I was going to need when I moved to New York City.

Things I learned in college:

  • Statistical equations I’m not sure I will use
  • To memorize the MLA and APA style guide
  • Theories named after people who seem especially important
  • Read and highlight. Read and highlight. Read and highlight.
  • Bring coffee to the library

Things I wish I learned in college:

  • Rules of the Microwave: Is it aluminum or plastic that can’t go in? Why is the Popcorn button always 30 seconds more than time than it says on the bag?
  • Do your checks get signed on the bottom right or bottom left?
  • The difference between business casual and business attire
  • How to install a cable box
  • How can I participate in organized volunteer days outside of college?

I learned very quickly that aluminum should not go in the microwave. The popcorn button burns the popcorn. Checks are signed on the bottom left. Business casual can mean anywhere from nice jeans to kitten heels, while business attire does not include jeans and almost always requires a nice jacket. And the cable box…well, I learned to call a handy man.

Three hundred and sixty five days without a science class or a practicum trip to a nearby pre-school, has challenged me to immerse myself in a different kind of learning without a concrete syllabus. A course that is timeless and in which I will always be enrolled: exploring day-to-day “real world” experiences as they come.

So far, some of my most valuable post-college learning has come from experiences of helping others. I’ve begun to learn that the simplicities of my life may be privileges for others. By volunteering at the HOPE Count in early January, for example, I realized that complaining about the tininess of my NYC bedroom is selfish, when clearly there are plenty of folks who do not have a real room to consider home.

In the same way, working for an organization that promotes service and volunteerism has taught me that this is just the beginning. Learning about different kinds of service – whether in my own community or around the world—and understanding that these experiences are powerful for both the person volunteering and the community it helps, has taught me that we can make a difference. And that even I – and other college graduates like me – can be creative, in how we choose to promote and change the world.

Even though I completed my last undergraduate college class a full year ago, I still just graduated college. Sure, I have a different routine now and I don’t spend my weekends in the library. But I still enjoy learning and being stimulated in educational ways—whether it be through working, volunteering, cooking, or exploring new adventures that come my way.

And now, in addition to my academic education in college, and through my initiation into the working world, I’ve also started working toward a degree in RWE, “Real World Exposure.” This is a degree I’ll pursue throughout my life.

So this year, I am eager to recycle part of my college graduate status from last year: “STILL a recent college graduate, with an enhanced understanding of life!”

Can’t wait to see what it will be in 5, 10 and 15 years…

What words of wisdom do you have for this year’s graduating seniors? Tweet us your bits of wisdom for our latest grads using #RepairGrads12.

This post is written by Repair the World Development Assistant, Aria Auerbach.