Pitt seniors cautiously optimistic about post-graduation plans


Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

The Cathedral of Learning seen from Schenley Plaza.

By Patrick Swain, Staff Writer

With two weeks left until graduation for the class of 2022, senior Michael Malinak said he feels hopeful for the future.

“I foresee the next few years as a time to work and enjoy my youth while I got it,” Malinak, a marketing major, said.

After descending Cardiac Hill one last time, the graduates will venture into the real world — facing a daunting economy and student debt. The first summer after college represents a kickstart toward a career for some, while others unwind and reflect on their lives to come.

Malinak will be among the seniors jumping headfirst into the job market, starting two weeks after graduation as a recruiter for a staffing agency. He said he intends to make the best of the next stage of his life.

“Approaching the ‘real world’ will be the same as approaching college. I’ll be rolling into a new environment with people who have vastly different experiences,” Malinak said. “I guess the plan is [to] be like a sponge and soak up every experience and opportunity, and live it up to the fullest.”

Many seniors are pursuing further education, like molecular chemistry and history and philosophy of science major Mo Elfayoumi. He said he’s taking a break, but wasting no time preparing for graduate school.

“After graduating next month I plan on spending the summer working part-time as a medical scribe while simultaneously studying for the MCAT, which I am currently planning on taking in August,” Elfayoumi said. “After taking the MCAT, I will up my hours to full-time in my medical scribe position where I plan on staying for a year or two.”

Elfayoumi said a hiatus before medical school will provide opportunities for research and community service, but finances are also a factor. He will bear his share of the $1.75 trillion of student loan debt owed in the United States, like millions of others. 

“I feel like taking a few years off school will be beneficial for my mental health and will allow me to build experience in the real world before pursuing a higher level of education,” Elfayoumi said. “At the same time, the burden of student debt as well as stagnant wages for college grads does leave me a bit worried about my financial situation.”

Malinak echoed those concerns. He said he’ll be living a financially prudent lifestyle. 

“Let’s just say that I’ll be sticking to Top Ramen for a minute,” Malinak said.

Divya John, a senior economics-statistics major, said she’s preparing to travel overseas to explore southeast Asia after graduation. She will study over the summer in India on a Pitt Nationality Room scholarship.

“We’re flying out for about three weeks and splitting our time between [Indonesia and Thailand]. We’re hoping to hit a mix of cities, historic sites, nature and wildlife and beaches — and will eat lots of good food,” John said. “I’ll be doing a two-month program in Kerala where I get to learn Malayalam through immersion.”

John said she hopes the summer will feel cathartic after being stuck in the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s definitely a little nerve-racking to be leaving school and diving into new things so soon, but it feels like this is kind of my chance to get to travel and do this stuff, especially because I always wanted to study abroad but didn’t get to because of COVID,” John said. “So a lot of this feels very ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ for me — it’s a little bit scary but mostly exciting.”

While many seniors gravitate either toward a job or graduate school, environmental studies major Emily Dennis is doing both. She’s moving to Colorado to work as a sustainability intern while pursuing an online master’s degree.

“In this role, I will be working alongside other interns on sustainability initiatives, focused in areas like waste reduction, tourism, business, energy efficiency and climate action,” Dennis said. “I am excited for both of these opportunities and look forward to shaping my future career in the field of environmental studies.”

Dennis said the prospect of life far from campus is intimidating, but she is enthusiastic to branch out.

“While I am excited to move on from my time at Pitt, I am still very nervous, especially moving so far away from my friends and family,” Dennis said. “With that, I think it will still be a wonderful experience for me to use the skills I have obtained in the classroom and apply them in a real-world setting, while also getting to explore a new part of the country.”

Though finances make her uneasy, Dennis said, she feels secure in her decision to move out West.

“I am a little worried about moving out on my own considering the high prices of many items right now, and knowing I have a decent amount of student debt and other bills to pay,” Dennis said. “Luckily, my upcoming internship provides housing, so that made me feel much more comfortable accepting the position. I am also grateful to have incredibly supportive parents that are able to help with minor expenses if I am in need.”

After years of uncertainty and hardship during the pandemic, Elfayoumi said graduation represents a new chapter beyond Pitt.

“It’s a bittersweet moment for sure,” Elfayoumi said. “The pandemic has made my college experience a real roller coaster ride, but in the end I’m happy for the memories that I made and I’m excited to see what the future has to offer.”