Sunday 23 April 2017

Post-University Blues

With graduation fast approaching, Tess writes about the limbo you might find yourself in once university life is complete                                                                                                
 - Tess Schiller

This summer I graduated after three fantastic years at the University of Warwick. I met a load of wonderful people, took on challenges and came out with fantastic memories and a good degree to match. Then suddenly it was all over - and I was left with very little idea as to what my next steps might be. As with so many other graduates, my only option was to move back to my childhood home until I found my feet.
I went to a school where every single person was destined for uni and therefore every year, there was a mass exodus from Norwich, leaving a few gap year students behind. But this post-graduation period is an entirely different story. There’s no common ‘next step’ laid out for all of us. Everyone is finding their feet and going about it very much in our own ways. Varying experiences mean that suddenly we’re not in sync in a way that we once were.
I miss university a huge amount and there’s no sugarcoating it. Moving back home, you feel like you’ve regressed. I made such progress during my time at university, and returning to the way you once were often feels like you’re losing a part of yourself. But it’s also tough for people around you. They’ve got their own rhythm and suddenly you’re back, mourning over how you miss a rubbish SU night out with a terrible DJ who plays all the same tracks every week. How do you say ‘I miss that place’ without sounding like you’re implying that you hate where you are?
There’s nothing I can do about graduating or having to find a job or even facing the realities of living so far away from friends who used to be 10 minutes down the road. Those are all realities of life. But when my mum searched for more information about post-university depression she found just two articles on the subject. When I compare this to the countless number of friends who’ve expressed their struggles with leaving university, it seems bizarre that this isn’t better researched. Warwick have been more than happy to check up when it comes to employment, but I don’t really know of any university that has a clear support system for graduates.
Just because it’s something that we’re all going through doesn’t mean there’s nothing that can be done about that feeling. It doesn’t mean we have to ignore it or, in the most British way possible, joke about it over a beer on those scarce reunions with old pals. My coping methods have been going back into therapy and finding new hobbies and motivations. It’s also been about actively maintaining relationships so that I still have my support system even if they’re now a phone call rather than a short walk away.
It’s different for everyone but it shouldn’t be ignored. Applying for jobs and trying to find your feet can sometimes feel impossible when you’re reeling from a loss that you didn’t even expect.
The amazing thing about university is that it can be a time to learn how to deal with your mental illness. Charities like student minds can equip you with the tools you need to do that, and getting a hold of both short term and longer term coping mechanisms can make the post-graduation transition far less bumpy.

Despite still feeling lost and clueless there have been some really amazing things that have happened to me over these past few months - like moving out of my childhood home and into a flat with my boyfriend. Creating something of my own has brought a level of stability to my life and made me feel settled and motivated again. Yes there's uncertainty - but I'm looking forward to what the future has in store for me.

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