It’s the end of February, and graduation is looming on the oddly sunny horizon. Allow me some dramatics; when you’ve been at uni for two-and-a-bit years and feel like you’ve found your place, your friends, and yourself (to a certain extent) here, the prospect of leaving is not a fun one.
For me, it’s mainly the fact that up until now, I’ve always had a plan for my life – when you’re a kid, your parents make all the difficult decisions for you, and going to university was kind of a given for me personally. Now, as a final year student, I barely know what my dissertation is about, let alone what I’m going to be doing in a few months’ time. No matter how many times I’ve been told “it’ll be fine” or “you’ll sort yourself out”, I can’t help but feeling an increasing sense of dread about graduation.
A lot of it is definitely a fear of change, and more than that, the inability to put it off. As I’m writing this, I should probably be writing my dissertation, doing my course reading, cleaning the kitchen, applying for a grad job – these are all things that I can easily and gladly procrastinate. Graduation, on the other hand, is very much set in stone: I know the date, the time of the ceremony, and where it’s going to be. It’s all very concrete, and unless I really screw up the next few months (not ruling it out, but let’s be a bit optimistic), it’s inevitable.
None of this is to say that I’m not looking forward to any of it: I’d say the opposite. The concept of never having to write another essay or sit another exam is one that makes me very happy. Likewise, I’m planning on moving home when I graduate, and for me that means going back to my family’s home in London – a pretty good place to be in when you’re job-hunting. If I’m being honest, I’ve missed living in a big city full-time and while I’ll be sad to no longer be living in my Exeter student house, I definitely won’t miss the hills and lack of efficient public transport here.
Despite this, the panic about post-university life sometimes takes over. I’ve nearly finished my degree and I still don’t know what I want to do with it. I’ve basically lived away from home for three years, and now I’m about to move back into the bedroom that saw me through my GCSEs and A-Levels. It feels simultaneously like a step into the unknown, and a step back into comfort; I’m just not sure how to turn it all into a positive step forward. A panic Master’s application or some hundreds of grad scheme suggestions have been made to me (all perfectly legitimate options), but nothing really seems to be standing out as my one true ‘calling’.
To my fellow final year students who are experiencing similar feelings of doubt, ambiguity, and despair, I’m going to be a huge hypocrite and tell you to try not to worry. Instead, try to look at the positives – once you’ve graduated, you’ll have a degree. It’ll make you more employable. You’ll no longer have to wait with a gnawing sensation in your stomach for that essay grade to arrive in your inbox. You might even get to go back home for a bit and enjoy a clean kitchen and a fridge full of in-date food – what’s not to love?
At the end of the day, most graduates are only in their early twenties. Life expectancy is on the rise and we’ve got a long way to go; leaving higher education is only the start of a long journey. Console yourself with a healthy dose of time spent with your friends. Eat a bunch of chocolate (I’d recommend Mini Eggs before they disappear from supermarket shelves once more). The internet does exist! It’s not like you’re never going to talk to the people you’ve met here ever again. And while the nice weather sticks around, take a walk around Exeter and stop stressing about your work – remember why you chose to come here in the first place.