I graduated in 2013 and I was completely unprepared for life after uni. I wish that a couple of months before graduation, someone would have told me this advice. So, with graduation season a few short months away, I’d like to impart some words of wisdom to any and all that are due to graduate this summer.
So the four year party is over and now the threat of the very expensive and confusing hangover is looming overhead. Graduation is crawling ever closer and everything is sorted; the clothes, the parents, the camera – but what next?
University life is fleeting but a lot of us get so caught up in the moment that we forget it has to end at some point, and once it ends, there is rarely a logical blue print to follow. Many of us went to university because it was simply ‘the next step’, but with the exception of professions such as the medicine or law, there is no logical ‘next step’ to take. We are free, we can do anything we want to now, but with so many options to choose from, it can all be overwhelming and we are in danger of sucking ourselves back into our shells and staying there for too long.
Graduation day itself will no doubt be exhausting for most of us, especially because we will have to have a semi-permanent, Barbie-like smile on our faces for the amount of photographs that will be taken by anyone and everyone present that will promise to cripple our cheek muscles for days afterwards. The day will also be full of gushing parents looking up at their children as they accept their scrolls, younger siblings being bored and wishing they were at a wedding because at least there would be a decent meal waiting for them later and the risk of the British summer pulling its usual stunt and raining on the figurative parade. But despite what actually happens on the day of days, when all is said and done, and at the end of the day, some of us may be asking ourselves – what now?
There are many options to consider when university is over – do you stay, leave, or do something in the meantime to help make a decision? For those of us who decide to leave university, getting a job is an absolute necessity. Unless you’ve been very well organised and forward thinking during university, many of us will not strut, walk or even beg our way into a line of work that is relevant to our degree immediately. Therefore, getting a job of any description is necessary to pay the rent, the bills, to go out and have a life and to generally stay afloat. Use the time you have outside of your job to look for work in your educated field so that you make your dream an eventuality, rather than getting stuck.
There is also the option to move back in with the parents. Whilst this isn’t considered a step in the right direction for most because of the stigma attached to it, if you use your time wisely it could be the step that helps you live the dream. Your parents will not likely charge you the kind of rent that private landlords would and you’ll get most of your meals sorted for you as a bonus. Save the money you would have spent on rent and other expenses of living by yourself to help finance your future – you’ll be amazed at how much just one year living at home will help financially. If this isn’t an option for you, try living with a group of friends; the bills will be cheaper, the rent is usually cheaper and you get most of the benefits of living at home whilst still retaining some independence.
For those of us who decide to stay on in full-time education, a job – any job – is also a necessity. As a post grad you will have the added responsibility of council tax to pay as the first of various other expenses and a job will really help keep you out of any further debt. It is also essential that you live with like-minded people. It is important that you live in a place where you can study, rest and relax in order to get a decent grade on your overall qualification – after all, why pay all that money to come out the other end of it with a mediocre outcome? Living with like-minded people will help to keep you focused on your long term goals and will help you achieve what you want.
For those of us who are in two minds about whether or not to stay on and get a higher level of education, remember that doing a post-grad course, or any educational course, does not have to be done right now. You can go to university and learn at any age. Why not take a break and go travelling? We are lucky to live in Europe; it’s a vast continent of art, culture, language and different experiences that’s so accessible to us. There many affordable opportunities to go backpacking around Europe, and if backpacking isn’t for you, there are plenty of package holidays that could keep you travelling for a while. Another option is to go abroad and teach English as a foreign language. This will not only fulfil a desire to travel, but it will equip you with new skills and you will get paid for it as well. The opportunities to teach English as a foreign language are available globally so there is a real prospect to explore one or several different cultures on a relatively low budget, and get some incredible experiences to boot.
Of course, travelling isn’t the only way to enrich your life once university is over – you could take a huge variety of courses if you aren’t sure about leaving education completely yet. Art, photography, dance and even courses such as fashion design are always available and now is as good a time as any to give it a try.
Graduation is going to happen and it is an idea we all have to get used to (some of us are probably thinking it can’t come soon enough) but it is also a time of uncertainty. Many of us didn’t know what to expect when the training wheels came off our bicycles, or what would happen when high school was over, or what to do during our first hangover – but we all got past those times of uncertainty and we came off better for it. Graduation is just another chance to do it again.