You’re often told to make the best of your time at university because it will be the best time of your life. Or something like that. I hope that’s not true. Yes, make the best of your time there (whatever that means), but don’t wrap it up as the best years of your life.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my three years at university and am delighted with what I learnt there, both in terms of academic skills, and also in terms of what I learnt about my self. But to suggest that it is to be the pinnacle of your life has to be misleading.
‘It’s all downhill from here’? It probably isn’t.
Yes you might have to take a rain check on the number of ‘big nights out’ you have. Life might have to start to become a little bit more serious. Heck, you might find that most of the theories you learnt at university simply don’t work or can’t work in the ‘real’ world. None of that means that life after university is necessarily going to be worse, though. I guess different people see their time at university in different ways. For some, those prospects I just outlined may well seem to suggest a worse situation than the comfort of university classrooms. For others, the unknown of life after university is what they’ve been waiting their whole life for… (Put me in the second category).
I’m probably writing this for myself as much as for anybody else. It’s merely a reflection on what I learnt at university and why I can only ever see that as foundational not determinant for my future. As I previously wrote, my degree was in Liberal Arts & Sciences, with a focus on philosophy. The degree itself has as much of a bearing on why I can only see it as foundational, as does the way I approached my time at university. I think most subjects which don’t fall under the category of ‘vocational training’ have to, in some way, be seen as providing a basic underlying education. The skills acquired in these non-vocational degrees are broad, transferable and entirely necessary; in this sense they are foundational. They are not, however, determinant. They do not determine what you will do after that degree, often they do not even suggest what you should do.
On my graduation day I was asked a lot ‘how does it feel?’. My only answer: natural. I chose a degree, then I chose a university, I got involved in the university, I enjoyed my time at said university, I learnt a lot, and then I left. Yes, I look back on it as being ‘special’ in certain ways. The community, the atmosphere, the common room, the events, the ‘people’ – they all made the three years enjoyable and rewarding. Yet, I left with an insatiable desire for more. I am still working out what exactly that desire for more is for, but it exists and lies within me – as I suspect it lies within many soon-to-be graduates or recent graduates. There’s a certain feeling of existing in a bubble whilst at university, and as soon as that bubble is close to bursting (graduation, if you excuse the metaphor) there is a hunger and a desire to find something different, and something better. Better doesn’t need to be defined. It just has to be more.
There is no need to rush to find the next thing, as long as you can support yourself or are lucky enough to have people to support you (i.e. family), then take the time to explore, to keep growing, and to try to quench the desire for more.
We are going to be working until we are at least 70, so keep the insatiable desire for more alive for as long as possible. It’s one way to survive.
The day of most people having a single-career path for their working life is probably over. In order to maintain the motivation and enjoyment of life for the rest of our working lives, we may well find that changing careers every now and then will help us to keep going. Especially as recent graduates, we have the wonderful opportunity to do internships in different fields (albeit with some requirement restrictions), to do volunteer work and to try our hand at a number of things for the coming years. I am looking forward to exploring the post-university world and, without the burden of perceiving my university years as the ‘best 3 years of my life’, fully hope to experience a better life after university. I am looking for more, and without the constrictions of university, I expect the desire for more will rumble on within me. I hope it never stops.
University was good, and to some extent it was just a necessity, but I can’t glorify it as being the best 3 years of my life. I am on the hunt for more and look forward to leaving behind me the memory of university as a place where I learnt a lot but was left unsatisfied. The actual university I attended is not to blame for my dissatisfaction, I feel that any establishment would have left me with the same feeling. In fact, university should leave its graduates with a desire for more, it should not be heralded as the defining, utopian 3 years of our existence.
Keep exploring, keep learning, keep growing. Keep searching for more. Keep searching for better. Don’t give up the hunt.
Finn, a recent graduate on the hunt for more.