For those that don’t know me, my name is Mary Kate Carroll. I’ve held various positions at Edge Magazine, from contributor to editor, throughout my undergraduate career. Currently, I am a fifth year student enrolled in Gannon University’s occupational therapy program. For the past six months, I’ve been out in the “real world” completing fieldwork. Essentially, I’ve been out in my chosen field working under a licensed occupational therapist to gain clinical experience required for my major. I have been performing all the duties an occupational therapist will perform once they enter the workforce, including treating patients, completing evaluations, educating staff and families, being crushed under mountains of paperwork, etc. I’ve dealt with the morning commute traffic, intimidating bosses, interesting coworkers, moving in and out of apartments, eating cereal for dinner – the whole shebang.

Like the proverbial son returning home, I am back at Gannon completing the last semester required for my Master’s degree in occupational therapy. I feel like I offer a unique perspective as someone who’s spent half a year in the real world and has returned to tell the tale, I’ve decided to bestow my wisdom upon you, dear readers, as a means of preparing you for life after graduation. This blog series will serve as me offering sage advice about prepping for the real world from someone who’s been there and back.

So, to quote one of the most beloved songstresses of our time, “Hello from the other side.”

Now, Gannon has done a wonderful job preparing its students for the workforce. I left for fieldwork with all the appropriate education necessary as an OT student. However, I wish I had the option of taking more classes that could prepare me for the months to come – classes like:

1. Apartment Management for the Busy but Lazy

Are you worried about living on your own? Managing your bills? Having trouble keeping track of which day is garbage day in your neighborhood? Do you find yourself still calling your mom to double-check that you definitely won’t die if you thaw chicken in the microwave? Then this is the class for you! In this course, the professor will guide you through the ins-and-outs of basic home management, from making a cleaning schedule to what you need to have in your kitchen to cook a simple meal that doesn’t come out of a can. There will also be a bonus unit titled “How to Call Utilities Companies Without Hyperventilating Into the Phone.” A must-attend course for the new graduate!

2. Communicating with Your Coworkers
Ah yes, the first day of lunch at your new job. You want to make small talk with your fellow cohorts and seem effortlessly relatable and cool, but you also don’t want to blow it by accidentally oversharing too much about yourself (like how you married your imaginary best friend in 3rd grade, which is definitely an example I just came up with and nothing more). You also want to make sure you can contribute meaningful input during in-service lunches or weekly team meetings to show that you’re engaged in your work. In this course, the textbook, “Your Coworkers and You” is required. The book will discuss communicating with fellow members of your office in both formal and informal settings. From talking to higher-ups without feeling silly to which dishes you should make for the office potluck, this book covers it all. Definitely consider taking this course if you have difficulty eloquently expressing your thoughts – or if you turn bright red and splotchy when talking to people that intimidate you.
3. Hey What’s Up Hello
I knew going into a medical field that I would encounter many different people of varying backgrounds, some of which wouldn’t be familiar with the English language. I wasn’t aware of just how often I would encounter people who were non-English speakers. I met all kinds of individuals from all over the world, including Mexico, Africa and France. I wish I had basic knowledge of some of these languages so I was able to at least communicate with my patients. Things like, “Hi, how are you? Do you have any pain? Do you live alone?” This way, I could make my patients feel more comfortable by speaking in their native language. And also feel less weird trying to mime out “put on your pants” in front of a set of very confused sisters from Nigeria. Fortunately, there are many methods of learning languages, so I can definitely pursue this “class” on my own time!
4. Budgeting for the Impulse Buyer
Buying new things is fun. Everybody loves buying stuff. We are living in a material world and I am a material girl. However, I realized how quickly I blew through money when I was living on my own. I had lived on campus for my entire undergraduate career. I never had to worry about paying for utilities like gas, electric, or internet because they were covered in my room and board. Once I started having to cough up money for basic things to survive, I had to choose how I spent my remaining money very wisely. This meant avoiding my favorite place in the world, Target, for a solid three months and limiting how often I went out to eat at restaurants. I wish I had broken the habit of impulse buying early on in college. I still need to avoid the Dollar Spot at Target to this very day.
Being shoved out into the real world is an eye-opener. If I had some of these classes, I definitely wouldn’t have been as frazzled my first few weeks on my own. Now, most of my fictional classes’ criteria could easily be achieved with a little bit of research and self-control. The good news is that we can figure out this whole “adulting” thing together, one baby step at a time.