The Big Move


By Jacob Wilkowsky (Q19)

May marks the final month of classes for graduating seniors in Cohort 20. At the crossroad of their collegiate and professional careers, these last few weeks of college offer ample opportunity to reminisce and celebrate the accomplishments of an undergraduate degree. As graduation approaches, this final chapter of your time at College Park can be incredibly surreal, exciting, and sometimes intimidating.

The QUEST Community is incredibly supportive during this time. Discussions with faculty about the transition to professional life and ‘Senior Send-off’ are terrific experiences during this transition. However, a resource often underutilized by graduating seniors is QUEST alumni. Alumni are a terrific resource, eager to help you establish your new life outside of College Park. I personally relied on my QUEST Mentor, Aditya Yerramilli (Q14), when making my transition to professional life and still do today!

In order to jump start this process for current seniors from Cohort 20, I asked Mickeyas Alemayehu, Matt Henricks, Nicole Blahut, and Emmeline Zhu what questions they had about their impending moves to San Francisco, Seattle, Arlington, and Baltimore. Alumni in these cities answered their questions, and hopefully provided some invaluable insights.


San Francisco

Mickeyas Alemayehu (Q20), Software Engineer, Google

Alex March (Q19), Operations Coordinator, Google

Mickeyas: What do you really enjoy about living in San Francisco?

Alex: Gosh, there is so much to enjoy! I really enjoy the community of ambitious and interesting young professionals predominantly in tech, finance, and law. The sense of community and openness of San Francisco makes it very easy to meet others that share the same passions and interests. Also, the climate and abundance of parks makes it easy to spend the majority of weekends outside. Being so close to wine country, Tahoe, and Vegas isn’t half bad either. Plus, I love being able to beta test such a diverse range of progressive startups in this tech epicenter.

Mickeyas: What is one thing you wish you had known before moving out to the city?

Alex: I wish I knew more about the cultural differences between San Francisco neighborhoods before moving. Each neighborhood has its own scene (with many advantages), so getting a better idea of where in the city I wanted to live before I moved would have been very helpful!

Mickeyas: Any tips or suggestions for finding housing?

Alex: & Craigslist! Those are two of the best resources for finding housing. Also, start early and reach out to a lot of people. You never know which opportunity may open up. I would also advise doing your research on the neighborhoods, so that you know where you want to focus your efforts. Certain parts of the city are more expensive than others, but it’s all about what you are looking for in a neighborhood. I currently live in Russian Hill and absolutely love it! I would recommend using this site! Here is another fun article about the various hoods.



Matt Henricks (Q20), Software Engineer, Microsoft

David Rosen (Q18), Mechanical Design Engineer, Microsoft


Matt: What did you do when you first got to Seattle to make it feel like home?

David: Moving to Seattle, I stocked up the kitchen, bought new furniture, and unpacked day one. Getting these things done allowed me to really se(a)ttle in quickly. Of course, it’s strange living somewhere that’s so far away from home and friends. However, a little effort goes a long way when trying to keep in touch with friends and family.

Matt: Is there anything that caught you off guard in the moving process?

David: It’s expensive and a logistical nightmare- be prepared for it! I didn’t realize how much stuff I owned until it was sitting in a room in boxes. I also didn’t realize how much of this stuff I didn’t want any more. When you move, it is a great time to donate some of your old belongings and start fresh. If you hire a moving company for your car and belongings, you will likely experience tons of paperwork/deadlines/phone calls. Oh, I also almost missed my flight, so that caught me off guard too.

Matt: What do you think makes an on-boarding successful? How can I begin to make a name for myself?

David: First, creativity is power – there is a very big difference between knowledge and creativity. Providing a fresh perspective on an old problem will have your coworkers interested in your abilities. Second, take all project-related advice with a grain of salt… think before you act! Senior-level engineers and managers can be wrong too. If you take bad advice in the corporate world, YOU are at fault, not the person who gave it to you. Third, find a mentor. Try and find someone in a similar position as you with a little more experience (3-5 years). Ask your mentor tons of questions- there are going to be lots of things you won’t know how to do without help along the way. Remember, it’s always better to ask “how?” then to not know!



Nicole Blahut (Q20), Business Analyst, Deloitte

Sara Bleistein (Q19), Audit Assistant, Deloitte


Nicole: Being so close to UMD, did you end up coming back for a lot of games or alumni events?

Sara: The drive to College Park from Arlington is around 30 minutes so I am able to make it back to campus quite frequently. I am a season ticket holder for football games so I was able to make it back to campus for all but one game, including homecoming. Additionally, although I did not have season tickets, I was able to attend a number of basketball games including Michigan State. Random advice: As a young alumna, you are eligible to receive a discount for season sporting tickets with a small donation to the Terrapin Club Scholarship Fund. If you enjoy Maryland sporting events and will be in the area, I highly recommend taking advantage of this.

Nicole: How does Arlington compare to living in DC?

Sara: Living in Arlington is much cheaper than living in DC and, since it is less crowded, it’s easier to commute (if you commute by car). I personally work in McLean and my commute is either 30 minutes by metro or 20 by car. I can take a metro to Metro Center in under half an hour and also have the options of nightlife in Arlington which is only about a $5 Uber if you don’t feel like taking the metro.

Nicole: What are your favorite brunch places?

Sara: My favorite brunch places currently are A Town in Arlington and Irish Whiskey in DC. However, there are so many places to go that I haven’t checked them all out yet. So these rankings could be subject to change in the future.



Emmeline Zhu (Q20), RFIC Designer, Northrop Grumman and attending Grad School, Johns Hopkins

Matt Sarna (Q19), Law School, University of Maryland

Emmeline: Where’s the best place for happy hour?


  1. Cheap: Pickles – cheap beer, wings, always packed
  2. Medium Priced: Pratt Street Ale House – around 15 in-house brews and some solid fish tacos, right next to Camden Yards
  3. Good Networking Spot and Beer Selection: Max’s Taphouse – more beers than you could ever try

Emmeline: What’s your favorite thing to do in Baltimore?


  1. Getting a couple of cheap bleacher seats at the O’s game
  2. Going for a run through the InnerHarbor
  3. Grabbing food from the hundreds of shops in Lexington Market, specifically Faidley’s (I would recommend only going during during the day and not at night).

Emmeline: Would you recommend living in the city or nearby in neighboring areas, like Howard or Baltimore County? Why?

Matt: I personally live in Baltimore City on Eutaw St. I have a great situation; my apartment is a 1 minute and 15 second walk (yes, I’ve timed it) to both the Maryland Law School and Camden Yards. Here are my opinions of the top 3 options:

  1. Downtown: look at apartments with close proximity to the UMB campus (most of these buildings are predominantly graduate students and young professionals, are competitively priced, and all have plenty of reviews online)
  2. Close-by towns: Federal Hill or Canton – both of these areas are great for people right out of college and it will be the easiest transition from how/where you lived in College Park (great bar scenes, plenty of bus stops, apartment availability)
  3. Commuting: I am not too familiar with areas outside of the city, but obviously, the beltway and 95 are a mess every morning and every night.

Alex, David, Sara, and Matt were eager to help with this project and I’d like to thank them again for their participation. I hope that their insights were helpful to you and encourage you to look up alumni in your future city, industry, or firm. Wherever you start your career, there will always be QUEST alumni to help you along your way!


Special thanks to Mickeyas, Matt (H.), Nicole, and Emmeline, Alex, David, Sara, and Matt (S.)!

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