“What are your plans after you graduate?” – The dreaded question

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Christabelle Quaynor talks about that question every final year student hates to hear.

“So, what are your plans after you graduate?”   

It is likely that the more you hear this question (that unfortunately requires to be asked), the closer you are to graduation – and closer to leaving university life. University is a liminal stage in life, I personally see it as the birth of your adulthood as it marks the beginning of our twenties for most of us. There is a newfound freedom – even more so, if you choose to live away from home. The blurry memories of the late nights and attending new events, bursting to get out of your comfort zone exemplified by that first-year pressure of doing everything and anything in order to get yourself out there.   

Yet, whilst you’re balancing this new identity on your shoulders you learn the importance of basic adult skills, including building a schedule, budgeting, deadlines and all that jargon. These are all accumulated within the three-year period of university, and we settle, and get comfortable within our ‘university/adult’ lifestyle. All we’ve known for three years. Even more so, if you consider the small circle of your peers in the bubble on campus. So, every time we are asked “so, what are your plans after you graduate?” that kind of translates to “what’s your plans once you make that permanent step into the real world?”   
 
For some, perhaps this question doesn’t weigh a burden on your shoulders. You could have a new job lined up or you’re fuelling your academic achievements by doing a masters or another course or planning to see the world. However, it can be a heavy question for some because it is the end of our adult childhoods. In any situation, when a person has been committed to a stage in their life (in this sense, a degree), it can be overwhelming to imagine a time where our daily routine will completely contrast from our current ones. Several scenarios flow into my head; for instance, calling in sick to work contrasts is more difficult in comparison from not turning up to a seminar class.

Time is an important factor – as a student, you have much more time on your hands whereas working full time you have a lot more financial stability, but only the weekends and the evenings. It’s no surprise that postgraduate study is a lot more intense and requires more dedication to your work in comparison to undergraduate study. However, saying goodbye to student life may have its benefits – entering the real world and finally utilising your degree in a working environment is a new chapter we have not been fully introduced to. Some people may also find the limbo aspect of university frustrating – I have practically lived out of a suitcase for four years! Maybe a permanent change won’t be so bad. 
 
There is also the sudden realisation of trying to simultaneously make use of the student life; you’ve only got a few months. You hear from the nine-to-fivers how much ‘the working world will always be there – make the most of your youth and freedom’ which perhaps, is true. But at the same time, they earn a lot more money than we do. I could go back and forth all day, the grass is greener on the other side and everything has its advantages and disadvantages. The amount of times the statement ‘university will be one of the best experiences of your life’ has been echoed is countless. Also, ‘university will fly by super-fast’ is heard even more. And both statements seem to be true. 
 
I am in the same boat as you are in terms of that heavy question, and I will say this: it is important for the dreaded question to be asked because it enables you to think. It really is vital to have some sort of loose framework as to what you want to do, because you can’t postpone that time. When people asked me that question, I would freeze because I would often get conflicted with “what is the right thing to say?”  Those who have graduate jobs lined up must feel great satisfaction. Until I realised, there is no wrong answer. But do make sure you have a vague idea as to what you want to do. There is no harm in planning.  
 
The point of this article is to let you know you’re not alone. It’s perfectly okay to be uncertain about life after university. University is not only an academic process to receive a degree; I believe it also plays the role of a crucial transition between the end of your teenage years to the beginning of your twenties. Situations we have all encountered in university really build us to be the adults we currently are. There is a reason we have reached the end of university – and honestly, congratulations to you all for making it. It can be challenging and stressful. Bottom line is, we are the next to enter the transition period from student into ‘the real world’. Make sure the grass is always green – on your side. Because it can be. 
 

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