Dealing with Life as a Graduate

The end of Summer means only one thing, the start of school/university again. Yet this year, for the first time in 18 years I will not be going ‘back’ anywhere. Life has truly begun. I’ve graduated and no longer have the security and stability that full time education provides. How scary.

So far, this blog has captured my move to London, how I’m finding hunting for a job, dealing with rejection and just generally getting out and about exploring the city. It is such an exciting time in my life. I’m planning to move in with my boyfriend and cannot wait to find the perfect job for me! But damn, graduate life is not easy.

I recently went along to the first Gals Who Graduate event hosted by Bronte King. After leaving university, she realised that so many girls were struggling and not quite knowing what to do. Whether that’s how to cope moving back in with their parents after the freedom of University, dealing with that overdraft that is supposed to be decreasing yet seems to be impossible to defeat, or the difficulties in finding a job in the competitive graduate market. So she decided to set up the Gals Who Graduate platform for girls to come together, share advice and discuss their problems. The first event was held at Kalifornia Kitchen on Percy Street (the food was INCREDIBLE!) and there was the best atmosphere of support and solidarity amongst all the girls that were there.

Very quickly I learned that I was not alone. Everyone was somewhat struggling to deal with the highs and lows of graduate life. There is so much pressure to know what you are doing as soon as you leave University, to get a job and not move back to the family home. To show on Instagram that you are living the high life, free from education and your parents. However in reality it’s a lot more lonely than that. Constant job applications leave you dealing with a lot of rejection, quite often moving to a new city where you know very few people and struggling to find financial balance after the drain of student life.

Ultimately, there is no correct path. I met girls who had moved country to find their dream job, girls who had moved back in with their parents but were loving their new job, girls who were still looking for a job, girls living with their boyfriends, friends, strangers, girls who had absolutely no idea what they were doing and just came to meet new people. It was so refreshing. I had met nobody there before, but it didn’t matter. There was a strong sense of community and I left truly feeling that I had a great support group of other girls who would be there if I had a question, even if they were just online!

So if you’ve just graduated, a massive congratulations! University was hard, but I think life as a graduate might be slightly harder. Most importantly though, you’re not alone! Reach out to your friends, chat to the other graduates you meet in your office, try and put yourself out there to meet new people, because chances are, they are feeling as nervous and overwhelmed as you!

Gals who graduate logo, Bronte King

What I’ve Learned at University

University is certainly a whirlwind experience. There are so many ups and downs and nothing can quite prepare you for what you are faced with, from the mountain of dishes that appear in your flat overnight to actually having to make big decisions about your future.

As my time at St. Andrews is drawing to a close, I’ve found myself reflecting upon what I have actually learned at University, whether or not it was worth the five years of intense studying, terrible hangovers and the mountain of debt I am leaving with. My answer is undoubtedly yes.

Aside from leaving with a very detailed knowledge of how print has developed since the founding of the printing press and slightly more German vocab than when I started, it’s amazing how much I have grown as a person, both physically (weekly netball spin sessions combined with a newfound love for chicken dippers and mayo) and mentally.

First year can only be described as rocky. I met some of my best friends, loved my new independence, realised how much I enjoy the weekly food shop and finally got to achieve one of my main goals of studying at St. Andrews. However I also discovered alcohol, discovered people can be mean and messy, somehow managed to fail a module and had to learn to navigate the incredible tricky social sphere that appears when you have thousands of students and only three main streets in the town. First year was a learning curve.

In second year I discovered how much more fun it was to hang out with my friends in the day and attempt to fit all my work into a late night library visit, which also ended up being me hanging out with my friends. However I did work hard when I needed to, learned how to manage my time and made up the credits I needed, picking up some medieval German along the way. I solidified friendship groups and learned how to juggle them when they refused to overlap. I also made the biggest decision to spend my next year teaching abroad in Germany and then learned how hard it was to say goodbye. Crying at Ed Sheeran’s photograph in my student union hugging my friends at one of our last nights out of the year was potentially a low point…

Then only a few months later I was sitting in the Einwohnermeldeamt in Nuremberg waiting to register as a citizen. I won’t even pretend it’s possible to condense that year of experiences into one paragraph and the things I took from my year abroad are numerous.

Then I landed back with a bump. How do you fit back in to a life that has been going on without you whilst you have been experiencing other things? With great difficulty. I had learned too much and had too many new experiences to come back as exactly the same person I was when I left. Things had also changed in St. Andrews, with my friends making new friends, having had their own experiences whilst I was gone. Friendships were tested and survived, others faded away as we outgrew each other. It was also the first year my grades counted towards my final degree. I worked hard and became obsessively organised. But that didn’t mean I stopped having fun and somehow met my boyfriend in my Thursday morning 9am class who somehow fancied me when I turned up incredibly hungover from the night before. I then learned how hard it was to balance a new relationship with spending time with friends and studying. Then I had to learn how to say goodbye all over again as most of my friends graduated having not done a year abroad, knowing that next year I was going to have to do my final year without some of my biggest supporters and shoulders to cry on when things went a bit wrong.

But it hasn’t been all that bad. I still see some of my friends as regularly as we can and somehow I have made new ones. I’ve taken on more responsibility, had lower lows, but also higher highs as I got to complete some of my favourite St. Andrews traditions with my boyfriend and best friend by my side. Making decisions about the future has been hard, but now I am so excited to take what I have learned at University over the past five years and apply in it my new life in London. It’s going to be very different from the little town with three streets that I have called home over the past half decade, but I do love a challenge.

My university journey and what I learned at St Andrews outside the classroom!