Millennials Making It Work: Kim B.

At age 22, graduating from Boston University, Kim B. faced a choice confronted by many: Should she spend a few years in the workforce, build up some savings, and then tackle graduate school, or should she take a deep breath and jump directly into a Masters in Public Health?Kim2

Though it’s costly, Kim chose the latter. To save money, she also decided to work part-time and live at home in Reading, MA, while commuting to school in Boston.

While she refrains from being a wild spender, Kim admits her one weakness is coffeeshops. “I’ll try any one I see!” she says. So I bribed Kim with coffee and pastries, and she agreed to sit down with me to answer some questions at Athan’s Bakery. Here’s her take…

On balancing school, work, and class:

Kim works 3 days a week as a hostess at Joe’s American Bar and Grill in a nearby town. Due to her work hours, she has little free time on weekends.

Even on her one free day, which is Thursday, Kim doesn’t take a break. On that day, she usually rides the subway into the city to speak with professors and catch up on assignments in study groups.

On living at home:

It has its financial perks, that’s for sure. “I’m saving $10,000 to $12,000 a year,” Kim tells me.

However, while she says it’s nice to move back home after living in Boston for four years, Kim also admits that it’s somewhat isolating.

“I’m away from my friends, who are all in the city,” she explains, “And I’m working weekends, so it’s hard to see them.”

I don’t know if I can consider myself an optimist … I consider myself more of a realist.

On the economy:

“Most of the money I earn at the restaurant goes towards my school loans every month,” Kim says, “And, by way of budgeting, I use cash and try not to touch my debit card. If I don’t have cash with me, I don’t buy anything.”

When I asked her to which item at Toys ‘R Us she would compare the economy, Kim pauses and then says, “I would say that it’s like Legos. When you build something out of Legos, you can either build a really good structure that’s sturdy and can hold anything, or you can build a really bad one that crumbles, falls down, and topples over easily.”

Kim1On her personal accomplishments:

When asked what she’s most proud of accomplishing since graduation, Kim says, “Nothing academically, actually, though I’m doing well in that area. I’m actually most proud of the job I’ve been doing at the restaurant.”

While her work at the restaurant may make it difficult to make social plans, Kim credits her hostess gig with helping her overcome a personal challenge. “I’m not really a people person,” she tells me, “I’ve always felt a little awkward. But, since I’ve started work at the restaurant and become more comfortable with my co-workers and the guests, I’ve grown a lot.”

On her professional ambitions:

Kim tells me that when she first arrived at college, she was pre-med, but it didn’t feel right. “The straight sciences seemed a little boring to me,” she says, “I was more interested in the big picture and how it relates to our daily lives and communities.” Now, Kim appreciates the breadth and flexibility of her chosen field. She anticipates that her Master’s will open a variety of doors. Perhaps she’ll do field research, work for a non-profit or the government, or take on a role in a pharmaceutical program.

Public health, for Kim, is also a call to action. She points out the fact that many communities around the globe do not have access to clean water. “It doesn’t make sense to me that a lot of people in the world don’t have the basic necessities of life,” she says. “If they don’t have clean water, I’d like to help them figure out which system or resources work best for their needs.”

Not unlike much of her generation, Kim’s pursuing a career that’ll put her in a position to help others. (Check out my recent post about millennial altruism here.)

We’re innovative. We think differently from the generations before us.

On her feelings about the future:

When contemplating the future, Kim seems aware of the boundaries between idealism and practicality.

“I don’t know if I can consider myself an optimist,” she says, “I consider myself more of a realist. I’m positive that I’ll get a job after getting my Master’s. My dream job? Right away? Probably not.”

In ten years, though, Kim muses, she’d like to pursue her penchant for old cities and live in London. By then, she hopes to hold her dream job.Kim3

On Gen Y:

“I don’t think a lot of people realize how much pressure millennials face — Pressure to succeed, to do well, to make a difference in the world,” Kim says, “They’re trying much harder than most people realize.”

What’s more, Kim says, “We’re innovative. We think differently from the generations before us. Our generation’s really good at moving outside of the box.”

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