Life beyond Oak Park: Episode 3 – Augustina Ullman

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[intro music]

Sri: Hey there Oak Park, welcome to Life Beyond High School. I’m Sahana Sri, and in each episode, I’ll be interviewing Oak Park alumni about their memories from high school, and what life is like after graduating. In this episode, I’m interviewing class of 2017 graduate Augustina Ullman.

Sri: Thank you so much for being here! Could you please introduce yourself with your name and what year you graduated from Oak Park?

Ullman: Sure! My name is Augustina Ullman and I graduated in 2017.

Sri: Very cool! And what did you do after graduating? Did you go straight to college or did you have other plans in between?

Ullman: No, I went straight to community college at Santa Monica College for two years before then transferring to UC Berkeley.

Sri: Nice! What did you major in?

Ullman: At Berkeley, I was an Urban Studies major, which is effectively like urban planning.

Sri: That’s awesome. Did your high school experience sort of influence that decision?

Ullman: It did. I didn’t find that my high school curriculum was particularly a good fit so I didn’t really feel engaged in any of my coursework. Ultimately, just being a California resident, it felt like the best option was to utilize community college education and tuition before then transferring to a much better school than I likely would have been able to get into right out of high school.

Sri: I think a lot of students can agree with that, especially nowadays.

Ullman: Yeah.

Sri: What are some of your best memories from Oak Park? Are there any lessons you still carry with you?

Ullman: I definitely carry the people with me. I met some really great people at Oak Park. In terms of any memories I carry with me, I don’t think that there are any specific to Oak Park. Of course, I just feel very fondly of those years especially for them being my last years at home before moving out. But none specifically to the school.

Sri: Okay, so what are some things that you miss about being in high school, just in general?

Ullman: That’s hard! To be honest I really don’t miss anything from being in high school. [pause and chuckle] Yeah, I don’t really miss anything from high school if we’re being honest. My friends from high school, the people I met there, are now my very best friends even after going through college but it’s not really the same in a social setting in high school. We were really never that close until after we graduated.

Sri: I see. So then what are some of the best parts about being an adult? What are some things that high schoolers right now can look forward to?

Ullman: There’s so much freedom in being an adult. I feel very liberated which is really great. It can be both terrifying and immensely liberating at the same time. That’s probably the best part for me, just doing whatever I want whenever I want. And then also after post-grad, there’s a lot of freedom in being able to select your path: one that’s more tailored to you and your interests, as well as your coursework and curriculum, or if you choose a different path than college. That’s also really great; I think high school was really restrictive in a lot of ways, being told what to study and what classes to take, what time you need to be at school and what time you need to leave, being a little bit pressured to be in exactly one or two sports and then one or two other extracurriculars. It’s just all felt very formulated and in a way that I didn’t really love. So that’s something you can definitely look forward to after graduating.

Sri: Yeah, that’s understandable. Do you have a lot of free time since you’ve been out of high school?

Ullman: A lot of free time: yes. It’s never free for very long. I think that’s what’s also really nice; I had a ton of free time in high school—which was great—but I love to stay busy. So it’s also really great to have a lot of agency over my time now. I don’t have as much as I used to have in high school, just by virtue of working and doing other things, but yes. The answer to your question would be no, but yes.

Sri: And what are a couple of things that got you through high school?

Ullman: Do you have any examples?

Sri: Like for some people it would be, “My friends kept me motivated.” Or “I brought a blanket to every class period I didn’t like.” You know, just things like that.

Ullman: So I mentioned I didn’t love my high school years, and there was nothing specifically that got me through it. But I would say other than just putting one foot in front of the other, and having finally graduated, I think that is my answer. Because sometimes there’s some chapters where it just requires putting one foot in front of the other.

Sri: Yeah, and do you have any advice for current Oak Park students?

Ullman: Yeah! I would embrace everything that you are, genuinely. I know that’s so cheesy and I know that’s impossible when you’re in high school. But I would embrace your interests and your path—especially if it’s different, especially if it feels weird and scary, especially if it’s not like everyone else’s, which is also very cheesy. I would embrace those qualities that make you really unique and knowing that you don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. You don’t have to go straight to a university if you don’t want to, you don’t have to go to college if you don’t want to. Knowing that, but also working really hard is key. So I felt like I was really pressured to have a very traditional path, and I think that’s what broke me a little bit in high school, especially given that at Oak Park there’s just a lot of pressure on students for some reason. That’s just completely unnecessary. And you don’t really realize this until after you’ve graduated college and joined the workforce, but it doesn’t matter where you go to school. It actually never mattered from the beginning where you went, it didn’t matter what your grades were, it didn’t matter if you went to a community college or not, or transferred or not. It really just mattered what you did with the time you were given, whether that was in high school or in college, or in post-grad. So I think also knowing that as well, and tailoring high school to whatever you are, what your interests are, and not just going with the whole “Oak Park” thing. I don’t know if it’s changed, the environment has changed since I left—I hope it has. But in the case that it hasn’t: you don’t need to enroll in every single AP class, and get no sleep, and all of the things.

Sri: Thank you so much for your time! This was awesome!

Ullman: Yeah, of course!

Sri: Thank you, Oak Park, for listening to this episode of Life Beyond High School. I hope you enjoyed, and I’ll see you next time.

[outro music]