After three years’ worth of coursework, exams and student debt, knowing that the end of my degree is drawing near isn’t as upsetting as I thought it would be in my first and second years. The student life has been fun, but the shine has most certainly worn off. And yet I can’t say that I’m excited for what comes next.
When you are in your final year at university this side of Christmas, the future starts looking a lot more real. It is no longer something that you can easily push to the back of your mind. University emails about booking graduation tickets and ordering gowns remind me on a regular basis that the official end of my degree is only a few months away. Don’t get me wrong, the opportunity to buy a new dress and shoes is one that I’m glad to have. But after I’ve thrown my hat in the air: what then?
Having spent my life so far doing what has been expected – first school, then university – it is daunting having so much choice about what I want to do with my life. There is no longer a set route to take or a tick-list to check off, or at least not one that interests me. I don’t have the money or inclination for months of solo soul-searching and travelling around the world.
With a History degree, there is no clear career I should aim for that does not involve teaching or archive-work, neither of which I think I would be good at. And three years of university education and £40,000 of debt have showed me that enrolling onto a master’s course and continuing in academia is not a path that I want to take either.
It’s not quite as hopeless as I’ve made out – I do have some ideas. “Something in publishing” is what I said to the careers advisor, but even entry-level jobs in this industry are like gold-dust, and I know I will need a lot of (unpaid) experience before I can start seriously applying to most of them.
The most likely scenario is I will move back home. But what if I’m not able to move back out again, or at least not for a few years? I like my 18-year-old bedroom just fine in the holidays but moving back in permanently after the independence of university is a depressing thought, especially knowing that I’ll be watching everyone around me get their real lives started.
That process has already started. When I’m talking to housemates and friends who have post-grad opportunities confirmed or signed the dotted line for jobs in London I’m always happy for them, but a selfish part of me still thinks: what will I do?
And then, what about if it does happen? If, by some happy miracle, I get a job that I can start in September, or relatively soon, I’ll have to cut ties with home permanently and be a real adult, who has a real job and changes their own light bulbs when they break. What if that’s lonely? How will I meet young people after university? They aren’t sat in lecture halls any more, or in societies. What if the Netflix loading icon and sad after-work takeaways are all that’s on my horizon?
The blank canvas in front of me is scary. I don’t know what marks to make, or roads to take. I have to hope that the adage proves true: everything will work itself out in the end.