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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Conversations with some of Grinnell’s “super-seniors”

By Hannah Bentley
bentleyh@grinnell.edu

For the majority of students, the approaching winter break means finalizing class schedules for next semester, or maybe preparation for a semester abroad.

But for a select group of students, it’s also the very end of their time at Grinnell. This group of third and fourth-year students, graduating either early or late, will complete their undergraduate degrees by the time most students head home for a winter break.

When asked about what it has been like graduating at a different time than their same-year peers, Esther Hwang ’19 said, “I am involved with the Grinnell community but it’s not my priority.”

The first thing I noticed about Esther was their calm demeanor—something that isn’t typically prevalent when speaking with other students at Grinnell. This was something I picked up from all the students The S&B spoke with for this article: they were all calm and collected.

Hwang, who took a semester-long leave of absence to focus on their mental health, is on track to graduate December of this year with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. It was “exactly what I needed,” they said.

They used much of their time off to visit friends, work, and focus on their mental health.

“It felt like a nice buffer time,” they said, “because while everybody in my class was, like, stressing about post-grad I was like, I’m chilling, ‘cause I’ll still be in Grinnell for a bit.”

Like some of their graduating peers, Hwang plans to live and work in Grinnell in the spring after graduating this December.

Julia Dursztman, ’19, also plans to live and work in Grinnell after graduating this December. A political science major, she took a semester off to take advantage of an internship for the television show Late Night with Seth Meyers.

“Oh, yeah,” she exclaimed when asked if the internship was worth taking a break from Grinnell for, “the internship was amazing … it was just my dream.”

The internship even helped to shape what she wants to do for her long-term post-grad life.

After working in Grinnell during the spring semester, “I’m probably going to move home … which is in New York,” she said. “I’m going to try to work in television, probably, and have a bunch of side-hustles … I would love to work for Late Night again.”

Much like Dursztman and Hwang, Moe Sabai ’19 was able to gain a new perspective from taking time off.

Sabai, who took a medical leave of absence for one and a half years, said, “In terms of taking that break that I needed and thinking about what I want to do, I came back probably, like, a lot more, like, clear and, like, conscious about what I wanna do after I graduate.”
Because she took a year and a half off, Sabai was able to work full-time—a nine-to-five job—back home.

“I like routine,” she said, “When I came back to school I was really, like, on top of my things.”

In line with Hwang’s and Dursztman’s experiences, Sabai’s time off allowed her to take a step back and focus on herself, as well as to find what was truly important to her.

After graduating this December, she hopes to eventually find or create a career in which she is able to combine her interests in libraries, helping others, economics and data.
“Economics isn’t just about finance and making money,” she said.

She wants to do more with her upcoming bachelor’s degree in economics, something which combines different focuses to cultivate something that she, personally, is interested in.
Like Sabai, Hwang also wants to create a career that they love.

Although they plan on living in Grinnell during the spring, in the long term, Hwang says that “education is a big part of [my] future.”
They hope to eventually teach English in Korea, as well as to take on various creative projects.

When asked whether Grinnell prepared them for post-graduate life, I received mixed responses. Hwang said, “Grinnell prepares you for grad school, not life.”

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