Sundial at FIU: Life After College for South Florida Graduates

College graduation is here. And you've probably been seeing a lot of photos of recent graduates from the class of 2019 with their caps, gowns and smiles. But what happens to South Florida graduates after they receive their diploma?

Some will continue their education into graduate school. Others are heading into the job market. Some will be staying in South Florida to build their lives and careers. And others will leave to try and find their dreams in another place. And many will be leaving with student loan debt.

WLRN Sundial hit the road for a live show at Florida International University (FIU). The panelists for the discussion were: Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Elizabeth Béjar, Director for Business Career Management John Nykolaiszyn and recent graduates Apriah Williams, Adrian Figueroa, Olga Bentacourt and Joseph Burns. The group of panelists talked to Sundial's Luis Hernandez about the next chapter in their lives post University.  

We've selected highlighted excerpts from Tuesday's broadcast. The statements have been edited lightly for clarity.

Job Search Preparation

It really starts with the simple question: what do you want to be when you grow up? That's the beauty of college. There are no rules or limits or limitations. It's really what you limit yourself to. We [FIU] start our counseling sessions with a student and I have three questions: "What do you want to be when you grow up? Where do you want to do it? And who do you want to do it for?" If you can start on that path, down that road you're going to work towards your dream or live your dream.

John Nykolaiszyn, director for business career management at FIU’s Business School

Next Step: Graduate School

It really depends on the discipline. When we [FIU)]talk about graduate school we fast forward five to 10 years... What is that graduate degree going to be able to provide for you in your career and your professional development? In some disciplines, it's absolutely appropriate to have some work experience and some practical experience in the field before you go to graduate school. In other disciplines, a straight path is actually the most efficient and effective path to a long and steady career.

Dr. Elizabeth Béjar, vice president of academic and student affairs

Florida Job Opportunities

As I was applying to residency programs, I applied to a healthy percentage in the state of Florida. But for me it was more about getting a diverse perspective and learning and living in a city that would push me both professionally and personally. Surely New York City is the place to do that. Being in a different city with different people who have all trained in different institutions offers a real diversity of perspective that can surely push you in a lot different ways. Collecting those perspectives really helps build your own portfolio as a young professional.

Joseph Burns, graduate from FIU’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine

Eighty percent of our graduates at FIU remain in the state of Florida. So we're not experiencing that brain drain [students leaving the state] that other universities and other communities experience at scale.

Dr. Elizabeth Béjar, vice president of academic and student affairs

Student Loan Debt

It's [debt] unavoidable. Medical education is tremendously expensive and I've been very fortunate to be the recipient of several scholarships through FIU. But that's not to say that I'm debt free. However, by being proactive about it and really understanding all the available options that have been presented [financial assistance or by doing your own literature and reviewing some other options] it can be done. You have to be aware of these things and have to be very diligent about paying it [debt] back and understanding your own approach to do so. It's a massive number, but it can be done.

Joseph Burns, graduate from FIU’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine

WATCH: Sundial Live at FIU