by - Wednesday, November 01, 2017

This is a post I've put off writing for a long time. I actually started drafting the majority of this blog back in October but never got around to publishing it. Perhaps I was worried that people would think I was being a melodramatic, whiny graduate. Now, I've realised that a lot of people my age are probably going through the same thing so I'm sure many of you reading this can relate. Let's talk about life after university, the part that no one tells you about.

University is constantly branded as "the best three years of your life." Though there have been some rocky moments, I'd have to say that I generally really enjoyed my time at uni. I've made a lot of amazing memories and met some people I hope to have in my life forever. I even managed to graduate with an impressive grade despite being convinced I'd done the worst. I knew that when uni ended, things would be different – no more nights out at the Student Union followed by the 4am pizza binge. Yet, I must say that I wasn't expecting it to be quite like this.

I feel as if I'm 18 years old again. My mum wants to know exactly what I'm doing at all times and I'm back at my old part-time job. But that's only the half of my current frustrations. A lot of people don't realise that it's not just the drastic change in dynamics that can cause stress after graduation. We aren't sat around feeling sorry for ourselves all day, reminiscing on the good times where we had no "real" problems. The issue is so much deeper than that.

I graduated from uni in July of this year. Although it's only been a short amount of time since, I'm already feeling the pressure of being a graduate. Almost everyone I've spoken to has asked me whether I've already gotten a job, what my plans are for the future and so on and so forth. Even family members have been pushing me to kick start my career, saying that I need to "put my degree to good use". All of these questions (though most of them are good-natured) have started to take their toll on me. I've always been under the impression that the summer after uni is reserved for fun, travelling and general relaxation (exactly what I have been doing), not stressing about the end of my life as a student - the only life I've ever known. Luckily, my mum has been pretty supportive with me taking my time to figure out what my next steps are. I almost feel scared to tell people that ideally, I want travel around and see the world before I'm forced to get a 9 to 5 job, as if it's improper of me to want a break. In reality, some time off is exactly what I deserve, after spending nearly 20 years of my life in education.

However, it isn't just the expectation to "live up to our potential" that graduates face. There's also the tough job market, where it seems as if no amount of experience is enough. I've seen advertisements calling for recent graduates with "2 years minimum experience." Generally, professional "experience" and "recent graduate" are two things which are pretty incompatible, yet it's not uncommon to see them as necessary requirements. It's easy to become disheartened when you haven't got enough experience for 90% of the jobs you want to apply for. It seems as if the only way it may be possible to get experience is through internships, but as most of them are unpaid, it’s not a realistic option for most people. If your family aren’t able to support you while you work, or if you live on your own, working unpaid for any length of time isn’t a clever idea.

Now, for those who haven't graduated from university recently, it would be easy to say that I'm being melodramatic, but the reality is that thousands of young people are going through the same thing.

We need to stop pretending that post-university depression isn't a legitimate issue. And depression isn't a term I would ever use lightly. Statistics show that 1 in 4 university students suffer from depression, but what about those that have recently graduated? So far, there haven't been any studies into the effects that graduation (and the generally unstructured period that follows) has on young people. It's expected that we just get on with it because everyone else is going through the same thing, so surely we'll get out of our "slump" soon enough. Social media doesn't help either. Seeing the success of others broadcasted everywhere while you're still trying to figure your life out can feel like a punch in the face.

Now, I always like to end my posts on a positive note. So, if you’re reading this and are going through the same thing, remember that so many of us are too. Even though the future looks pretty bleak right now, don’t give yourself a hard time trying to find your “dream” job. Most of us don’t even know what career we want to get into. And that’s completely okay. We’re still young, and we have plenty of time to figure everything out. In the meantime, why not pick up a hobby to keep yourself distracted? I’ve been practising my Spanish through programs and websites online. This is the perfect time to just focus on yourself, health and wellbeing. Like I said in my last post (you can read that here) when you focus on the positives, all the negatives start to fade away.

Nat x

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