Columns / Discourse / May 15, 2019

Letter from a recent grad

Dear Institute of Higher Education,

Upon my graduation I’ve been asked one thing more than anything: “How did Knox College prepare you for your future endeavors?” In this particular case, the question came from the Office of Communications at Knox itself. They wanted to know how they had prepared me for my service in the Peace Corps which begins this September.

The question came before I could even have the chance to actually start my service. This question infuriates me for a few reasons, the main reason being the college blatantly taking credit for my own accomplishments. I will not deny that Knox College gave me opportunities I might not have had elsewhere, but my acceptance to Peace Corps was my own doing. I will thank every individual person who helped me correct my essay and helped me prepare for my interview, but I will not thank them for preparing me for my future, because sitting in a classroom did not prepare me for the struggles of Peace Corps. My answer to that question is this:

To be honest, it’s hard to predict how Knox has prepared me for Peace Corps since I haven’t started my service, but after living in China for the first months after graduating, I don’t think Knox has prepared me at all for the struggles that come after graduating. I am very grateful for all the opportunities Knox gave me to study abroad, and those experiences have prepared me more, but there was not a single class at Knox that showed me how to cook when you’re unfamiliar with the ingredients. I did not learn how to wash my clothes by hand when I was sitting in George Davis Hall (GDH) talking about theory. One thing we have to remember is that we are all very privileged to have the opportunity to go to college, but college is not reality. Nothing at Knox taught me how to accustom myself without the luxuries many of us take for granted in the U.S., things like a shower head, a blender, a toaster, and in some cases uncensored internet. And it could be that maybe I took the wrong classes while at Knox, but sitting in GDH or Old Main did not prepare me for the loneliness or the communication issues or the lack of basic necessities I expect to experience once in Peace Corps.

I will say, the frat parties did show me how to deal with sexual abuse and the Knox administration showed me how little governments care about the rights of women.

I know for a fact that I am not the only recent grad who feels like this. After talking to friends who’ve already graduated and others who are still on campus, this is a common feeling. As more and more students prepare to graduate, many of them are trying to figure things out like how to pay the enormous student debt they now owe or how to accomplish basic everyday tasks like budgeting a bank account or getting utilities set up for an apartment or just adulting in general.

I am eternally grateful for the experiences I’ve had at Knox, but I will not let Knox use my success for their marketing campaign, especially when they did not prepare me for the challenges I am going to face.


Julia Volpe ‘2018


Julia Volpe

Tags:  knox grads peace corps

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