Wednesday 17 October 2018

A Note On Graduate Mental Health

In this blog, Emily talks about her mental health as a recent graduate and gives advice to those in a similar situation. 


When I took my final exam back at the end of May, the one thought that went through my brain was not “I finished my degree, time to celebrate and relax for a while!” It was “I finished my degree, what do I do now? What happens next?” All of a sudden, the life that had been lectures, assignments, exams, and stress was over – forever. I didn’t even have the distraction of the university paper to focus on as the final issue of the academic year had already been printed. 

As a Graduate, which has taken a lot of getting used to, I do think that in some respects, I am lucky in the fact that I have had jobs throughout the summer and have a pretty exciting opportunity lined up. About a week or so after finishing my degree, I was browsing the Internet for jobs in Europe – imagining myself teaching English in a sunny country like Spain or Italy. I came across an advert for a job with Education First (EF) teaching English in China and I just thought “why not? If I don’t do something this extreme now, I never will!” That’s how I’ve ended up preparing to go and work and live in China for a minimum of fifteen months. 

My Graduation ceremony back in July was quite a surreal blur of an experience. I was more interested in getting my certificate to begin the process of applying for a VISA to go to China, than I was about the ceremony itself. Also, I was halfway through a month-long contract teaching English in a summer school, which was a very intense and exhausting job to do. It didn’t hit me until a week or so later that it actually happened, and this is my life now.

University is definitely like this protective bubble in a sense. We have responsibilities and our own lives, but we also have a lot of support and guidance when it comes to education, work experience, careers advice, mental health support, etc... Once we’re in the “real world” that all sort of ceases and suddenly, we’re on our own and the world feels huge and scary. Since Graduation, and since leaving Swansea, I’ve experienced a dip in my mental health. Personally, for example, I’ve been feeling as though I need to be in consistent, constant employment rather than temporary contracts here and there until I eventually move to China. Graduate mental health, I believe, is a complex thing, and it is very easy to fall into the cycle of not feeling good enough when getting rejected from job after job, and also missing the friends we’ve made at university, comparing ourselves to others and feeling as though we “should” be in a certain place at a particular time in our lives. 

If anyone who’s recently graduated from university and finds themselves feeling similar, here’s some important tips to remember:
Remember that you’re living your life – you’ll end up where you’re meant to be when you’re meant to get there, with who you’re meant to be there with! (That’s a mouthful).
Remember to practice self-care, which includes being kind to yourself physically and mentally. Whether it’s congratulating yourself for something you’ve done, or just doing something you enjoy doing, be kind to yourself! 
Remind yourself that you graduated from university. It is a massive achievement. That degree certificate, that grade – whether it’s a 1st, a 2:1 or a 2:2, it doesn’t matter – it represents years of hard work, dedication, commitment, passion and focus. 

To quote one of my best friends – “No one truly has their life together; we are all on our own little journey and go at our own pace.” Keep going! 

My name is Emily (Em). I have recently graduated from Swansea University with my BA degree in Modern Languages, Translation & Interpreting; I was also passionate about and dedicated to Swansea Student Media and the University students’ newspaper – Waterfront. I blog for Student Minds because I have experienced mental health issues as a student and now as a graduate, as well as other health issues, and I support friends who also have mental health difficulties. I am a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences – both in helping me to explore and to cope with my mental health, as well as sharing my story in order to help others.

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