Leaving University Was One of The Hardest Things I’ll Ever Do: Grace’s Graduate Story
As graduation season looms and thousands of students enter “the real world”, every day this week we’ll be hearing from graduates about what life outside of university is really like for them.
In this series, we’re going to be shining the spotlight on what it’s really like to be a graduate in 2016. Each story will highlight the difficulties, disappointments, surprises and moments of happiness that come with being a recent graduate.
This is Grace’s story. Grace moved back home after uni to fund travelling, but finds it hard seeing her friends climb the career ladder.
Grace: Leaving university was a huge struggle for me. I believe it’s one of the hardest things I’ll ever have to do.
I was very fortunate to make a special and concrete group of friends at uni, who I lived with, which made leaving especially difficult. I also worked with a beautiful team of girls on my weekends, and got to know a few amazing people on my course. Moving away from those people, and inevitably losing touch with a huge proportion of them, is more heart-breaking than I’d imagined.
Friends aside, student life in general has been very difficult to lose a grip of. At what other point in your life will it be considered normal to delay the start of your working day till 5pm, do cartwheels between the library bookshelves at 4am because your open exam has driven you mad, get smashed in a club on a school night with your supervisor, and classify a can of monster as an adequate meal to get you through seminar reading?
Being a student was at times a massive challenge, especially financially, but also, I think, the most fun I will ever have. Losing that is something I don’t think I’ve quite gotten over.
Student life in general has been very difficult to lose a grip of.
Even the negatives of uni life become something you don’t want to lose, purely for their irony and usefulness when you need a good anecdote. Life outside of the student bubble is pretty mundane, and certainly leaves you with fewer stories to tell.
So what is it really like to be a graduate? Well, for me, it started off very similar to what I expected, as I pretty much had this year of my life mapped out. Travelling is a huge passion of mine, and I am very lucky to have backpacked 13 countries and several US states since starting to save all my pennies at the age of 18. Asia was the next place on mine and my boyfriend’s bucket list, after having already covered Western Europe, Canada, the Eastern US States and a quick peak of Morocco.
To ensure that we could afford to travel South East Asia and more of the States, we signed ourselves up to a summer of working in a call centre as soon as uni ended. It was hell. Being on the phones and receiving constant grief from angry customers gave me awful anxiety, but the cash soon stacked up.
It really sucked watching our friends enjoy their summers, but with our flights to Malaysia already booked, we knew it would be worth it by autumn. Travelling was genuinely sensational! Vietnam especially blew our minds, and Christmas in New York was like a dream.
I also learnt to be aware, when I was a travelling as a new graduate, that I’m not doing anything new. In my experience, about 30% of graduates spend their first year free from university travelling, 30% are in grad jobs, 30% are doing PGCEs, while the remaining 10% do something different. If you think you’re doing something no one else has done or going somewhere no one else has been, you’re probably not, so be prepared to be shot down. But there’s something comforting in that, particularly when you’re struggling with graduate life, and travelling was an amazing experience nonetheless.
The next part was definitely the worst and most depressing part of my life so far. Once the travel bubble had burst, reality hit.
My boyfriend packed his bags for London to become a real life lawyer in the real world. All my friends were half way through their teacher training, finishing up their degrees, half way through their Master’s or settling into the first year of their careers. I, on the other hand, had no job and no official offer for further education. After months of travelling and a financially crippling final 10 days in LA, I had 0p in the bank.
What you don’t realise about graduate life is that, unless you are organised, you will suddenly be confronted with feeling like a completely useless person with no purpose. I found a job quite quickly and love the girls I work with and I plan to move this September to start a Master’s in Early Modern History at King’s College London.
Though I’ve struggled, I wouldn’t advise students to go straight into a career or further study.
In the meantime, though, things are tough. Moving back into my hectic family home, though I adore them unconditionally, tests my patience to new levels and it’s hard to see everyone else progress in their careers when you feel like you aren’t.
Though I’ve struggled, I wouldn’t advise students to go straight into a career or further study immediately after graduation. I would probably suggest the opposite. Moving home, losing a lot of independence and feeling as though I have little purpose has obviously been difficult at times, but it’s also really refreshing and has allowed me to continue travelling.
Many people I know who didn’t give themselves this break now regret it.
Graduating is incredibly difficult in some respects, but as long as you stay positive and ensure you have lots to look forward to, you’ll be alright. There are so many opportunities to be enjoyed.