Finishing University: ‘We don’t need to become ‘lost’ after university in order to find ourselves’

It’s a strange phenomenon when the time eventually comes for you to pack your bags and travel home after three years away studying at university. There is the glorious high of finishing your degree and celebrating with friends, followed by uncertainty, doubt, and fear at what the future holds. With fierce competition for graduate jobs and the possibility of being able to afford to live in the city that you have called home for the last three years unlikely, the reality of life immediately after finishing university is a daunting prospect for many of us. 

This is where I currently am at, in a state of limbo between the end of one chapter and the start of the next. When I go to interview clients for the blog, it always gives me an overwhelming sense of pride to hear and share other people’s stories and to learn of the challenges they have faced and overcome throughout their careers. These stories are filled with compassion, hard work, determination and positivity that inspire the next generation of young people like myself to step up and take the reins, excuse the cliché. 

But, nicknamed the ‘lost year’ by many students who have gone before me, I’m apprehensive of the changes and challenges that lie ahead. What do I want to do? Where can I find a job that earns me enough money to live? Do I move back home? Do I do a Masters? All these questions are haunted by the ridiculously high expectations of employers who determine that ‘we’ as a group of undergraduate academics are never quite good enough. Not only do we have to compete in an already overcrowded job market for a menial wage in comparison to the substantial debt we have acquired over three years of university, but we also have to have countless job experiences, unpaid internships and probably have to know someone of influence within the company to even get a second glance at our CV’s. However, don’t think that I’m blind to the realisation that it’s just young people that are struggling to keep their heads above water. From the moment we learn to spell our names, our minds are filled with the possibility of endless opportunities that will be out there when we ‘grow up’, although the reality more often than not falls far from the social illusions that we are told as children. 

Not many people know where life is going to take them, however, the pressure to decide on a path that we want to pursue is immense. From the ripe old age of fourteen, we are told to pick subjects to learn that are meant to determine the rest of our lives, however only a fool would believe that everything would be this straight forward. Although knowledge is vital, it is life experiences that determines who we are as individuals. When we grow up, we are told to travel the world, but then told not to go alone as it is too dangerous. We are told to campaign for what we believe in, but then forced to stop when a following grows. We are told to accept all kinds of love, but then experience violence and abuse from those who disagree. We are told to be strong but soft, ambitious but easy-going, confident and yet open-minded. We are always being told what we want and who we should be, but it is only through collecting tokens of experience throughout every day that we truly discover ourselves. Maybe the structure of university that disappears when we graduate should not be translated into being ‘lost’ but into being free. It is the start of a new chapter and the pages are merely empty as we have not yet begun to write. 

My dissertation result comes out tomorrow, so then I will know what grade I’ve graduated with. I’ve applied to study a PGCE in Spanish for September, and I have secured a place on a Business Management Masters course as a plan B. I’m not quite sure where I go from here, but what I do know is that Love Island is on every night apart from Saturdays, so I am pretty sorted on that front. 

The ‘lost’ year post-university has got me on the run, and I’m doing anything and everything I can to avoid being dragged into its inky depths. However, being free from the ties of university or any other long and structured period of time doesn’t have to equate to being ‘lost’. It is a time of discovery, of peace and of mindfulness. The achievements of university should not have to be dubbed by the need to have the rest of our lives organised straight away. We don’t need to become ‘lost’ in order to find ourselves. If there is one thing I have learnt from the blog, it is that no matter how many setbacks you may face, you have to keep moving on. Finishing university is both a beginning and an end, and students should never be underestimated for their ability to endure, their capacity to work, and their tolerance to alcohol. 

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