When you start university you don’t really think about being in your third and final year (or fourth for some). It seems like a distant memory. You kind of assume you’ll have everything sussed by then. How to work the uni system, the best places to go on a night out, the friendship group you hang out with, your future plans after uni and so on. So you go on with the drinking, the pizza takeawaying, living the onesie life and enjoying making some brilliant university memories. One morning you wake up, take in the surroundings and then it hits you. Crap. I’m in third year. How did I get here? I thought I had a deal with the student gods of alcohol and takeaways to never let this happen. Who would do this to me? What did I do to deserve this travesty?! Okay Okay so it doesn’t really start like that but university goes so fast before you know it you’re falling up the steps in front of all your course mates trying to collect your degree/scroll/paper thingy – seriously what is it?! – in a silly hat and hilariously huge gown.
The one thing I learned with third year is no matter how prepared you try to be, there is a likelihood of it going tits up or you may never feel as prepared as you want to be. I expected the workload to be bigger and I expected I would get quite stressed out. Three weeks into third year I realised I had completely underestimated that last statement. The workload quadrupled, I had to tackle my dissertation, apply for grad schemes and try to be involved in more societies. I found myself seriously panicking about time. It began to take over my life. There were not enough hours in the day, days in the week and weeks in the term. The pressure I was putting myself under consumed me. My housemates and friends felt the same way. It was contagious. I found myself constantly thinking things like ‘how am I supposed to do my dissertation when I have two 5000 word assignments to do along with job applications?’ It was affecting my sleep, my appetite and my mood. If anyone asked me anything in relation to life after uni I would seize up and suddenly feel full of dread and anxiety. I was also facing personal issues at the time which only added to the pressure. Basically, to paint you an image, I was one big ticking time bomb full of anxiety and stress. By the time I reached half way through my first term in third year I crashed.
Okay I’m joking nothing majorly bad happened. No, I didn’t explode in the middle of the library. I did however jeopardise my personal well-being by stressing myself out under my circumstances. Eventually I was brave enough to seek help from student support who organised weekly meetings with me to chat and organise my life. I informed my tutors I was struggling and they did what they could to guide me out. I’m not gonna lie, there was an awful lot of retail therapy, ice cream and cake consumption during the recovery. By the time Christmas hit I was exhausted and in need of a breather.
I was facing rejection after rejection and stumbling head first into graduate scheme tests. It was awful. All the focus on job applications and stressing about my future had affected my uni work and therefore I had sacrificed valuable marks. And then it hit me, I needed to stop. Stop worrying. Stop panicking. Sort my priorities. At the end of the day, what good could be achieved wasting a weekend revising for a graduate job when I’m sacrificing the degree I need to get said graduate job?
I’m known for my diligent and super-efficient lifestyle. I dislike change and I need stability and routine. For the past 17 years I have had a set path. Education. I always knew I’d be going from one educational post to another. High school to college, college to university. After a life of always having a set future before me to going into a complete abyss of uncertainty is terrifying. In June I graduate, I move home and at this current moment in time I have no job and no money. In the early days of grad scheme hunting this was my biggest fear. For some reason I had convinced myself this is the equivalent of an apocalypse. I thought I was letting myself and my family down, I mean 3 years of a degree and I couldn’t even get a job? Shame on me. For me things didn’t work out as I thought they would. But that definitely isn’t a bad thing. I also quickly learnt a huge amount of my friends and course mates are in the exact same boat and I suddenly don’t feel so scared. I see now it is the most beautiful feeling. I’m 21, full of ambition, hopes and dreams and I have all of the rest of my life to get out there, make mistakes, make new memories, explore and build the career I want. For the first time in my life I feel so free. I feel I can do what I want and go where I want.
If I apply to a job and I get rejected I don’t mind. I’ll probably eat a tub of Ben & Jerrys and cry to Bridget Jones for an evening but then I’ll pick myself up and get back out there. Isn’t that what your twenties are all about?…I mean the bit about picking yourself up again and not just spending ten years eating ice cream and crying to chick flicks. So this is my warning to you current third years and future third years, keep calm and don’t panic. It honestly is okay if it goes tits up. So you don’t get the dream graduate job or you don’t get the postgrad course you wanted, that’s perfectly okay. If you’re stressing yourself out then it’s not worth it. Your studies come first. If it’s getting too much don’t suffer in silence, go to your tutors and get help. They’re not as intimidating outside of lecture halls I promise. You’re young, you’re opportunities are endless and the world really is your oyster! (People always say that, but how a shell fish is a metaphor for opportunity I do not know?!)