Compared to senior Sam Santos’ small hometown in Massachusetts, Burlington feels like a major city. So when she got the opportunity to work locally and stay in town after graduation, she jumped at it.
With 38 regional alumni chapters based across the U.S. and Europe, Elon University encourages its graduating students to expand their job search worldwide. But some soon-to-be Elon graduates have chosen to start the next chapter of their lives in the same place they closed the last — Alamance County.
“A lot of the student base is coming from the Northeast, and a lot of them want to go home afterwards, which I think is why, as a university, we push Boston, New York and LA for post-grad opportunities,” Santos said. “Burlington has a lot to offer in terms of businesses and different majors. … But I think it’s just overlooked because of the fact that that’s where we’ve been for four years, and it’s like, ‘OK, I want to go somewhere new.’”
One aspect Santos is most looking forward to is leaving the Elon bubble and being a part of the local community. In her new role as the director of hospitality and ticket operations for the Burlington Sock Puppets baseball team, she’s focused on community outreach. But beyond work, Santos said she wants to get involved in the community on a personal level.
Santos said she wants to connect her experiences at Elon with her new job and plans on using her time living locally to stay connected with faculty and staff at Elon. She said some faculty and staff are going to come to a Sock Puppets game this summer.
“It’s really important that I give back to them what I got out of Elon these past four years, as well as get Elon faculty and staff just a little bit more involved in a different side of Burlington they’re not used to,” Santos said.
Elon alumna Simone Royal ‘17 grew up in Alamance County and initially moved out of state after graduation. A few years later, she came back to Elon to work with the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education, first as a program coordinator and now as the CREDE’s assistant director. Her advice for graduates staying nearby is to break out of the Elon bubble by exploring and getting out of their comfort zones.
“Alamance is a very unique county. It offers a lot of different perspectives, and there’s a lot of culture here as well,” Royal said. “Try new things. I always say, ‘Don’t be scared to take risks. It’s OK if someone says no.’”
Though graduates staying in Elon or Burlington have already spent years in the area, Royal said living in Alamance not as a student will likely be a different experience.
“Elon is a very pretty place, and the rest of Alamance County is not that,” Royal said. “And I mean that in a lot of different ways. Not just looks, but people. Interactions with people will be different. … There’s poverty, there’s food scarcities across Burlington that many students at Elon do not know, homelessness, and so it’s just more of the real world.”
Royal said she thinks living in Alamance can be a great learning experience for graduates, though the transition from student to local resident may feel abrupt.
Graduating senior Camryn Black is also staying in Elon after graduation. She said her past two years living in an off-campus neighborhood surrounded by local families will make this upcoming transition smoother.
After this week, Black will no longer be an underclassman in the community, but she isn’t ready to completely move on from being a local student. She hopes to be a graduate student at Elon and is applying to Elon’s physician’s assistant program after gaining more experience in a health care setting.
“That’s actually my dream,” Black said. “I tell everybody that if I’m not back at Elon in two and a half years, I failed in life. I definitely want to stay here and go to their PA program.”
Whether she ends up back at Elon or not, Black said she didn’t feel ready to leave yet and thinks being near campus will help her acclimate to post-graduate life.
“It kind of eases the transition a little bit,” Black said. “Because if I ever feel uncomfortable or feel like it’s too much new, I could just take a stroll through campus and feel like I’m a student again.”