As much as finishing my degree was a huge accomplishment and relief, with Final Year being the most stressful moment of my academic career, one thing I was never prepared for were the emotions that came with post-university life.
Many would see finishing university as returning to the ‘real world’ and make joke of having to live like a normal person again, free from partying and student life. But what is hard for those to understand is that University, for me at least, gave me purpose and independence for the first time in my life. It made me confident, self-expressive and allowed me to find myself, and I mean that wholeheartedly. Prior to going to Uni, I struggled immensely with my mental health and didn’t have the best time during school. Uni was an escape from all of that, a chance to start afresh and study what means the world to me.
Then, rapidly and without chance to process it, it was over. I handed my dissertation and final essays in at the end of April and was welcomed to the world of unemployment and the hometown that didn’t feel like home anymore. I applied for over 150 jobs, hearing back from next to nothing, and felt completely helpless. My everyday changed from intense workload and an end goal in sight, to applying for jobs and nothing to do with my free time. I felt like my degree had left me in open water with no direction and no idea where my life was heading. Things felt dark and helpless again and memories of my depression aged fifteen, came flooding back. My family were at work and my days were spent home alone searching for jobs. I wasn’t just lonely, my life had no purpose and everything I’d worked towards felt like a waste of time.
One thing I will say, and what I know isn’t helpful to hear at the time, is that it is a temporary situation. Every graduate in the country has the struggle of ‘what’s next?’ and it’s not a race to find your perfect job or prove that your degree was ‘worthwhile’ the second you’ve left university. If anything, the pressure put on you is to please others and have that answer to ‘what are you doing next?’ You can only do what you can and something will come.
Just take care of you and focus on the positives, as insignificant as they may seem. ‘Cause you’ve just got a degree that you worked hard for and no one can take that away. So keep posting those graduation pics on Instagram and reassure yourself that you’ll get there, even if it means working in retail (and telling every customer you’ve just bagged yourself a degree!) to afford train tickets for interviews!