As much as we might like to pretend it’s never going to happen, the day is drawing close when our favorite seniors are going to accept their diplomas and walk away from Morningside Heights. In an effort to capture everything these seniors have to share before they take off into post-grad life, Her Campus Columbia Barnard is running a series of profiles of some of our favorite members of the Class of 2018. This week, we’re chatting with Ellen Guo, a Columbia College Math and Anthropology major with big plans for her future.
Congratulations on graduating! What are your post-college plans?
Right now, I’m trying to do a semi-technical, customer-facing role at a tech company. I’m not really sure what I want to do in the future, so I’m trying to find a balance between tech and business. I can learn business skills while still doing techy work!
Do you have any plans for grad school in the future?
Not really. It’s funny- I always saw myself as an academic and thought I would go get my PhD and become a professor. But I’m not sure if I can imagine that life anymore. I feel like I need to be doing things and not reading all the time. I thought about getting a PhD in anthropology because I’m really passionate and interested in all the subjects that I’ve studied, but there are a lot of practical and professional considerations that have stopped me.
What is your biggest fear about leaving college and entering the real world?
I’m really scared about being lonely. I’ve always heard that the first two years out of college are the loneliest years or something! In college we have this very easily available social network, you walk anywhere and you’re always surrounded by people in your peer group. But then, in the real world, you live in an apartment by yourself, not in a dorm. You don’t go to the dining hall to eat, you don’t go to class, and you don’t go to clubs. So I think it’s the readily available social network, leaving it, that scares me. I’m scared of leaving the people that I’ve met through those things. As of right now, it also looks like I’m leaving New York post-college, and that really scares me!
What is one thing you’ll be happy to leave behind?
I guess I’m ready to leave behind the lack of work-life balance in college. It’s kind of expected, almost, that sometimes you’ll have to pull an all-nighter. And it’s expected that you have unhealthy living habits! Whereas in the real world, you actually have space to be a healthy, fully-functional person. So that’s something I’m looking forward to leaving behind: the expectation that you have a bad work-life balance.
Although college is trying at times, what is the best opportunity you’ve received in your time at Columbia?
How sentimental should I be?! This is really corny, but I actually think that my best opportunity was joining CU Dhoom. I danced on and off growing up, so I’m not the best, but I really love it. However, I found that in a lot of other dance spaces on campus, I wasn’t feeling valued or appreciated for my skills and passion until I joined Dhoom. I felt like I was actually being valued as a dancer for the first time on campus and I also found this awesome social community, which is also great because a lot of my closest friends graduated last year. I felt like, ‘Oh no! Senior year I won’t have any friends!’ but Dhoom fixed a lot for me.
Safe and friendly spaces for creativity can definitely make a huge difference her at college. Are you planning on pursuing dance as a hobby after college?
I’ve thought about this a lot! I’m trying to have conversations with my dance teachers right now about it. I probably won’t be in New York and I won’t have access to the incredible New York dance community, but I want to keep taking classes regularly. Drop-in and open classes are expensive, but I’ll have a job to balance that out! I’ve looked for performance or competitive opportunities. It’s hard because my focus is modern and contemporary, which isn’t really team-oriented; either you’re a professional or you don’t do it! So, I’m thinking of expanding my skill set. I’ve thought about looking for Bollywood teams since that’s something that I’ve done. I’m thinking of also learning more hip-hop since I think that would open up a lot of opportunities. I don’t have specific plans but I definitely want to keep taking classes and getting better!
So cool! Going the opposite way: what is one thing that you most regret about your college experience?
I wish I hadn’t been a transfer student because – and any transfer student can tell you this – it sucks. It just really sucks socially, and you end up having a much smaller network because you didn’t meet tons of people your freshman year. And every single transfer student has a bad experience with it, I’ve bonded over it with other transfer students.
What advice do you have for underclassmen?
My advice is to fully take advantage of the opportunities here on campus. There are a lot of things that you can only do in college. It’s freaking me out that I don’t think I’ll be able to do them ever again. For example, certain types of clubs just don’t exist anymore when you go into the real world. So taking advantage of those things while you’re in college is super important because it’s your only chance.
What do you still have to do left in your time here?
Nothing specifically! I’m trying to do all the ‘senior things’ and things I just haven’t done yet. For example, going to Holi because I hadn’t gone before at Columbia! Last question: Are you happy or content with where you are right now, as a person?
Yeah! I’m actually very happy with where I am right now. I’ve had a really good year academically, socially … I’ve learned so much. This was the year where I really delved into my interest in anthropology, and I’ve learned so much from reading social theory and taking different kinds of classes, and thinking a lot about people! I’ve also had a really great year socially and dance-wise because I joined Dhoom. I choreographed for Orchesis finally! That was on my bucket list, actually, but I did it already. Yeah, I’m very happy with my current situation! Which makes me more sad to leave, but it’s okay.
Thank you, Ellen for your amazing reflections and insights. We wish you the best of luck in the post-grad world!
Think you or someone you know has something to share before graduation? Reach out to Her Campus Columbia Barnard for a chance to be featured!