I’ve always thought of my university experience as this bubble-like state. For the past 3 years, I’ve known exactly what I’m doing and when I’m doing it. This limbo between being a teenager and entering the ‘adult’ world brings with it an incredibly comforting sense of certainty. Unfortunately, however, it can’t last forever. The thought of not knowing what life holds for me after graduation is absolutely terrifying. But, at one point or another, this is something that we all have to face. So here are my tips for trying to handle your transition out of your university bubble:
Accept that it’s going to happen
As much as I’ve tried to pretend that there isn’t only a matter of weeks before I officially finish my degree, this isn’t a long term solution. It’s going to happen (whether I like it or not), and I’ve found that facing this head on has allowed me to start looking forward. Whether you’re graduating in the next few months, or you’re just about to finish your first year… the future and what this holds may already be playing on your mind. The best thing you can do to tackle this is to take a positive, optimistic attitude; this is a lot easier said than done, I know. And while feeling anxious is completely natural, don’t let this dampen the excitement. Accept that this change is going to happen and allow yourself to embrace the opportunities.
Be realistic about what you can handle
It’s important to start thinking about what you want to do once you finish university, but don’t let this overwhelm you. For me, I find trying to handle too many things at one time stressful and, ultimately, detrimental. I can just about juggle the coursework, dissertation, revision and trying to sustain myself on diet of anything other than just the crème eggs I have left over from Easter. Other people, however, are absolute pros at multitasking all of this, as well as the job interviews...and I take my hat off to them! There is no right or wrong way to tackle this planning process. Everyone handles things differently, and it’s a matter of finding a way that works best for you.
Don’t compare yourself to others
I’m 100% guilty of doing this over the past few months, so learn from my mistakes. Some of my friends have decided to stay on at uni and do a Masters, while others have already got jobs lined up. And while I’m incredibly happy for them, it’s really difficult not to compare myself, and where I’m currently at in my planning process, to them. So much so that I spent a good few months trying to convince myself to apply for a variety of grad schemes that I actually had very little interest in.
I’ve quickly learnt that such comparisons are completely futile. I’m not them and they’re not me! We have completely different work styles, attitudes, and ambitions for the future that are naturally going to be approached in different ways. Take things at your own pace, and don’t feel pressured to do something just because those around you are. It’s got to feel right for you.
Start thinking about the practicalities of life after university
You may not have a plan for after graduation set in stone. And that’s okay! However, if (like me) this is happening in the next few months, you do need to start thinking about some of the practical issues that you’re going to face. The main one of these is probably knowing how you’re going to support yourself financially. Even if you don’t have any grand long-term career plans, maybe start to think about what you’re doing to do in the meantime to earn some money. From there, this may influence your decision as to where you want to be to do this. Are you doing to stay in your university area? Move back home? Go somewhere completely new? Whatever your decision, you may find that once you start to cement some of these options, other elements will start to fall into place. Again, you’ve got to find a realistic route that works for you.
Remember that you don’t have to handle this on your own
Whether you’re anxious or excited about all of these decisions, this isn’t something that you have to try and handle on your own. There are people and services out there to support you.
For further advice about what path you might want to follow after graduation, go to your university’s careers support office or speak with your personal tutor. These are people that know their stuff and will be more than happy to help you with these decision making processes. Your personal tutor is also likely to be the one writing your reference for whatever it is you decide to do, so try and touch base with them every now and then to keep them in the loop about your plans.
I think it’s also really important to try and talk these things through with those that are close to you, whether this be friends or family. Many of your friends are probably in a very similar position, so you may find that they’re experiencing the same stresses and anxieties that you are. However, you might find it difficult to detach this sense of comparison when talking to these friends. If this is a case, you may find talking to a family member, or a friend not in university, to be a more comforting thing to do. Whoever it is, find someone that you trust and can be open and honest with. You’re not alone in this.
Enjoy the now
Yes, it’s important to start thinking about the future… but don’t completely ignore the now. The complete uniqueness of this university bubble is something that should be embraced. So work hard, but be sure to make time for yourself to.
Take a break from the revision or coursework or job searching and visit a friend, go for lunch, have a night in front of the TV with your housemates, or go to the pub. If this is your final year, you only have a few more months to make the most of having your friends literally on your doorstep. And it’s so important to take these breaks to make sure you’re looking after yourself too.
The university bubble is great, but doesn’t last forever. Enjoy it, but be sure to embrace the changes that transitioning out of this stage in your life will bring.
Ellie is in her third year at Cardiff University, studying English Language. She also writes a blog ‘Forget the World’ about lifestyle and university experiences.
Note: 'Student Blog' pieces highlight the student perspective on issues relating to ProtectED measures. Consequently, this article reflects the views of the author and not ProtectED.