Embracing a World of Possibilities

An Essay by Lauren Aguirre

As a recent college graduate, Lauren Aguirre (SMU '15) sees both challenges and opportunities for herself and her classmates. And while there is cause for worry, there is more cause for optimism that this generation is uniquely prepared for the world.

SMU students at graduation, May 13, 2016. (Guy A. Rogers III / SMU)

College graduates face many hurdles when entering an independent, adult life. At 22 years old, I am a graduate of Southern Methodist University and I am headed into the world.

There’s a stereotype that millennials are lazy and expect everything to be handed to them. In my experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I cannot speak for all millennials, but I am optimistic about my future. Think about it: I have my whole life ahead of me. I enjoy my current job and am looking forward to building on my experience to further my career. What’s not to like about this sense of freedom and exploration?

Of course, challenges lay ahead of me. Some will come faster than others. 

Like many graduates, student loans are hanging over my head. I’m glad for the six-month grace period after graduation. There are also several different repayment plans available for federal loans. However, paying off these student loans will still impact my financial future. Like many Americans, I want to eventually buy my own house. That may be more difficult considering the amount of debt I have taken on to gain a good education.

The way ahead for me, as well as for others in my generation, is getting a job and saving. I am fortunate to have a solid job in journalism, my industry. But, for millennials, finding a decent job doesn’t automatically guarantee an opportunity to save a lot of money. With the rising cost of living, along with other expenses like a phone plan and Internet access, it is getting harder to save consistently. This should get easier as my career progresses, but I am currently pinching pennies. Those student loans are waiting for me.

Fast-changing economy

The way ahead also involves being able to swim in a fast-changing economy, one that is digital, rewards knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math. It is also hyper-competitive. Today’s work force — especially in media — is required to have a broader range of skills than past generations.

The way ahead also involves being able to swim in a fast-changing economy, one that is digital, rewards knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math. It is also hyper-competitive.

Having a plethora of digital skills can be a big plus on your resume. Many jobs require computer, Internet and social media literacy. In journalism, there is also an increasing demand for data reporting. With advancing technology, there is a higher demand for employees not just with basic technology skills, but also with more technical and advanced coding knowledge or deep interest and insight in social media branding and audience-targeting.

Journalism is indicative of these big changes. Automation and technological advances do take away jobs, yet those same technologies give us more opportunities. Automating stories covering straight-forward subjects like quarterly earnings reports frees up a skilled reporter to focus on a more complicated, in-depth story.

With advancing technology, there is a higher demand for employees not just with basic technology skills, but also with more technical and advanced coding knowledge or deep interest and insight in social media branding and audience-targeting.

SMU prepared me for this changing industry, which is what we need schools and colleges doing. Colleges and high schools need to teach students to be versatile and think fast on their feet. Far beyond journalism, the economy requires people who can innovate and solve problems. 

Millennials and culture

Culturally, my preference is not to own a car. This is a little weird in Texas, where everyone drives everywhere. Right now, it is mostly an economic choice. I would rather focus on paying rent and other essentials. I use public transportation as my main mode of travel, but if I’m in a rush, I’ll use an on-demand ride service like Uber or Lyft.

Culturally, my preference is not to own a car. This is a little weird in Texas, where everyone drives everywhere. ... I would rather focus on paying rent and other essentials.

Many might see these modes of transportation as annoying and inconvenient, but there are many positives to not owning a car. I like not having to worry about parking or gas. On a less direct level, I am also reducing carbon emissions by not driving every day. 

Because I do not use a car regularly, I value walkability. Dedicated footpaths make it much easier to walk through and explore Dallas. I love visiting public parks and having that free, more peaceful space available in a densely populated area. It is an oasis in the urban jungle. Walkability and public parks actually do help lower a city’s carbon footprint.

I also value technology. It can improve our lives, despite all the talk about people being hooked on video games and social media. In my lifetime, there will be an exponential amount of technological advancements — and I’m excited to see these new developments.

Some would say that we are too involved in the digital world to actually care about the physical one. I disagree. A smartphone can be a distraction, but it isn’t inherently one. It is simply a tool. You can use it to mindlessly watch cat videos or talk to someone miles away. Every smartphone, every computer, every tablet is a portal to the rest of the world. Technology has given us capabilities that we never would have had otherwise. It enhances our ability to learn and grow.

Education matters

My parents valued and supported my education throughout my life. Learning was a part of my upbringing and is now ingrained in my habits. I continue to read and learn every day. This is only natural for me, coming from parents who relish new information and stories. 

I attended public school my entire life until I was accepted to SMU. I was fortunate to live in a decent district that offered options like Advanced Placement and dual credit courses. These classes challenged me and kept me going.

The most valuable skill my college years taught me is how to learn. Teaching and learning are never solely confined to the classroom. Learning does not end when you receive your diploma. As technology advances and the economy adjusts, there will be more and more skills to pick up. Adults who can learn throughout their lives will best be able to weather the changes to come. 

In many ways, I am optimistic about the future, but I am especially optimistic because of the technological and digital world in which we live. Technology isn’t a bad omen. There will be changes in our economy and society, but I believe those changes will be for the better.

I am especially optimistic because of the technological and digital world in which we live. Technology isn’t a bad omen. There will be changes in our economy and society, but I believe those changes will be for the better.

While many are not ready for the changes to come, they are inevitable. The only thing you can do is embrace them. Prepare for the worst and look forward to the best. The world isn’t ending — it’s transforming into something new.

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