University was honestly the best two years of my life (I was there for three but didn’t really take to it at first). The freedom of living away from my parents with people my own age and being able to eat what I like, leave my mess until I was ready to clean it up, and stay up past ten o’ clock without my mum complaining that my going to the toilet after this time was waking the rest of the house up (yes that has actually happened). The end of my final year was filled with celebrations and free of degree work. There was even more free time now that I didn’t have my grueling 7 hours a week in classes (what a rip off for £9000 a year), so my friends and I made the most of it. We went to the races, the summer ball and did all of the tourist things imaginable, which we had neglected to do over the past three years. Then there was graduation, and everyone was over the moon that I now had a degree, consolidating my parents’ belief that I’d been working for the past three years and not going out partying several nights a week.
So, this all sounds good so far. But what happens after graduation? The part that nobody talks about, real life. It creeps up on you while you’re having fun, and nothing quite prepares you for the major steps backwards you’re forced to take in your life and, for many, the loneliness that can come with it. I’m not trying to scare current students, obviously adult life can be fun. I just want to make people aware of my reality after leaving uni and relate to those who may be feeling the same way. So, here’s what I found:
1. You will probably be unemployed for a while
At first, I pitied those super organised people who went straight into a grad job after their last exams, thinking I was the lucky one who got to spend my summer like I was still in education and had weeks to do what I wanted in the sun. But when the summer ended, I realised that I was now deep in my overdraft and that I had been living in blissful ignorance. Ok, so I’ll get a job. I have a degree now, a high 2:1, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find someone who wants to employ me and offer me a respectable salary right? This was my mindset going into the application process, cheerily writing my cover letters and sending them to the best advertising agencies in the country, thinking I would hear back soon and everything would go to plan. But instead this was followed by rejection after rejection due to the fact that I didn’t have the thing that employers value more than the degree you just paid for, experience (which I had none of due to the fact that I had spent my summers working catering jobs). One interviewer informed me that I wasn’t right for their graduate job because I didn’t have a years’ worth of marketing experience- I wasn’t sure when I was supposed to have got this, having just graduated from being a full-time student, and before that attending, school as legally required. This meant climbing off my high horse and accepting that I would have to start applying for work experience and internships, working for free for a while until I had something to put on my CV that would make me fully employable. Some lucky people do go into an graduate scheme and progress up the career ladder. Some chose to prolong the student life with a postgraduate degree, then a phd. But some, like me, are just unemployed.
2. No more student loans
Not being a student anymore means no more cushy student loans every term, along with the daunting thought that you are now up to your eyeballs in debt. I’m not trying to scare anyone- in the UK you only pay this back when you start earning over a set amount and little at a time. However, for many ex-students this debt looming over you can still cause a lot of stress. Then there’s the realisation of how much life costs. Looking through my dream homes on estate agent websites I realised that it’s going to take me a lifetime to save up enough for even a one bedroom flat somewhere decent and desirable, and that’s if I literally sit at home living off tap water and air. This means no more Asos orders when you need a new going out top (I’ve cried a few times over this), no more going out for meals, or to the cinema, and even having to turn down a few nights out (cries again). This is probably the poorest time in many graduates’ lives, and to make the situation worse, you’re no longer eligible for student discounts! (There definitely should be such a thing for graduates in my opinion). So, you have to save and scrimp, which leads me to point number three…
3. You will probably have to move back in with your parents
Now that you’re broke, and university is over you have to say goodbye to your housemates and move back home to live with Mum and Dad. Don’t get me wrong I love my parents, and am extremely grateful for them allowing me to sponge off them, rent free, for more than the 18 years that they probably thought they were signing up for. Suddenly you become the same 18 year old child that you were when you left three years ago, as if the years of independence meant nothing. ‘Where are you going?’, ‘who are you going with?’, ‘what time will you be home?’, ‘your room is a tip’. Going from living with your friends and cooking what you want every night, watching TV, or blaring music out till the early hours of the morning to a life of dinner at 6pm, followed by midsummer murders, then bed at 10 is comparable to how a child feels when their new toy is taken off them. Though living at home does come with its perks: a clean kitchen that is safe to prepare food in, home cooked meals, free food and being able to turn on the central heating in the winter.
4. You will miss your friends more than you can imagine
This was probably the hardest part of leaving university, waving goodbye to the people who had become my family over the last three years knowing that I wouldn’t be seeing their faces every day. You’ve grown up with these friends, helped each other through homesickness, breakups, degree stress and evaluated whether their chicken is too off to cook multiple times. Now they’re miles away in a different part of the country and you can’t just barge into their room to watch a movie when you get bored or lonely in the evening. Arranging to meet up requires expensive and tiring train journeys and has to be planned months in advance to fit around everyone’s schedules now that some work weekends and others don’t. But when you do get to meet up it makes it so much more exciting and it also gives my liver a much-needed rest after three years of neglect.
So, post-university life hasn’t been the best time of my life so far, but I feel the lost period is a rite of passage that must be endured to make it through to what will hopefully be a stable and enjoyable adulthood.