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THE CAMPUS CROWD : Tough Times : College grads face an uncertain economy. Some of their choices include joining the priesthood, traveling to Baja or staying put.


When the economy is down and the going gets tough, the tough start getting sick. Which might be good news to some of the new college graduates from Ventura County now out in the world. Along with other recession-proof fields such as accounting and computer programming, students are flocking to jobs in the health services, said Cassandra Sheard, director of career planning and placement at Cal Lutheran University.

When the going gets really tough, the tough start praying. At St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, the priesthood is a career option for the majority of this graduating class. Of the 25 graduating seniors at St. John's Seminary, 16 have decided to follow the calling, according to Eric Nicolet, dean of academics. "That's a very good percentage, and the cardinal said he was quite pleased," Nicolet said.

Another popular option for those who just finished college is to get right back into it. "The recession really affected students and many are going on to graduate school because they fear there are no jobs out there for them now," Sheard said.

For Sean Kelsey, the decision to go on to grad school and study classical philosophy wasn't based on practical considerations. "I enjoy what I've chosen to study and I believe this will be a beneficial experience," said Kelsey, who was elected commencement speaker by his peers at Thomas Aquinas College. Before going on to Princeton, Kelsey will wed and then honeymoon in Europe over the summer.

Traveling through Europe and doing the traditional Eurorail venture has long been a summertime ritual for American youth. "I think it's especially popular among the graduates because this is our last chance to do something like this before having to settle down," Kelsey said. Included on Kelsey's list of wild and crazy things to do this summer is a visit to the Vatican and trying to catch a glimpse of the Pope.

Although graduates and other vacationing students would like to participate in the Eurorail quest, many have to stay at home and work this summer. One such student, Mellanie Reeve of Ventura College, said Europe is "definitely the place most people would like to go but they're just not able to. I used to hear a lot about more people going there in the past than I have this year. That probably has to do with the recession." Plus, she said, many students who attend a community college already have full-time jobs and families.

"We get CLU students here but they're not booking as many flights as they had in the past," said Jeannette Mosely, an agent with Thousand Oaks Travel. "And if they do book one, it's usually closer to home. The short cruises down Baja are inexpensive and very popular." The other current hot spots, she said, are Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and the Caribbean.

For adventures even closer to home: "There's always a road trip waiting to happen," said Andy Chandler of Moorpark College. "Sometimes we'll be sitting around Denny's late at night with nothing to do, just tweaked on the whole situation. So we'll get in the car, hit an ATM, and take off to wherever."

Some of the true American car gypsies are spending this summer following the Grateful Dead, a band which has been the nation's Pied Piper since the 1960s. Masses of tie-dyed cloaked, backpack toting, peace-sign flashing people tour with the Dead, traveling from concert to concert around the country. Many live out of their cars, preferably Volkswagen buses.

"A lot of my friends are going on tour for the whole summer," said Moorpark College's Poorang Nori, who was planning on touring as well until a recent financial mishap forced him to stay in town and work.

"There's a saying that your spirit is naturally attracted to stories and music, and the Dead have both of these. Their music can take you to places you've never been before," said Nori, who is referred to by friends as "Poo the Persian Deadhead."

Nori said he never even heard of the band while he was growing up in Iran. "When I came to America I was an A-1 nerd. But I was always easy-going and mellow and liked kicking back. Later on, a girlfriend told me I should see the Dead, that they're my type."

These days, Nori has some concerns about making enough money to go to school. But he tries not to stress out "and when you're at a concert and the music starts, nothing else matters."

So, it seems, when the going gets tough, the tough get mellow and go see the Dead.

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