Rachel Campbell reflects on the pressures final year students face as they go into their last semester of university.
Though this time of year tends to be filled with the remains of that post-Christmas festive spirit, for students - particularly fourth years - this can be far from the most wonderful time of the year. I am in my final year of an English Literature/History degree, and at this halfway point it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the prospect of this chapter of my life ending. As I look back on my time here and ahead to an uncertain future, I have many mixed emotions, which can be a lot to handle.
I have really loved my time at uni. I never considered changing my course or dropping out. I’ve had interesting classes, brilliant lecturers and incredible opportunities while at Glasgow, not to mention the friendships I’ve made or solidified while here, and the sense of community I’ve gained from societies. That does, however, make it all the harder to leave. With my plans after graduation yet to be determined, I worry about how I’ll retain the friendships and the sense of belonging I’ve found here. While my friends discuss their plans to do master's degrees, I’m pretty certain that’s not the path I’m taking after graduation. Although I love studying and might come back to it at some point, I feel as though it’s time for me to take the leap and apply for jobs. With that said, I already have pre-emptive FOMO about no longer being a part of The Glasgow Guardian, meeting equally-stressed friends in the library or having guiltless midweek celebrations.
Of course, it’s exciting: the idea that I could go and do whatever I like after graduation. On the other hand, standing on the precipice of endless possibilities is terrifying. With an English and History degree, I get a lot of, “have you thought about teaching?” or “so what jobs actually look for that degree?”, to which I feel I have to justify the wealth of experience and knowledge I’ve gained studying an arts course: “I mean, it’s all about communication…” Unlike subjects like accounting or business, the jobs I’m looking at are less likely to recruit graduates a year in advance, meaning all I can do for now is keep an eye on what’s coming and going, knowing the job search will be frantic as soon as I finish my degree. No pressure.
"Of course, it’s exciting: the idea that I could go and do whatever I like after graduation. On the other hand, standing on the precipice of endless possibilities is terrifying."
With that in mind, I’ve known for a while the importance of having more than just good grades when I go into the world of work. “They’re all looking for experience nowadays,” they tell us. That’s not to say the only reason I’ve taken up opportunities is to build my CV - I’ve been able to do things I never thought I could due to the extracurriculars I’m a part of - but would I necessarily be undertaking an internship, editing for the student paper, tutoring Higher English and working part-time in retail, all while writing my dissertation and keeping up with classes if I felt it didn’t make a difference to my career prospects? I doubt it. Though I’m grateful for and proud of the things I’ve achieved, it is extremely overwhelming trying to spin all these plates.
There’s also the terrifying prospect that it will all be for nothing. That, despite how hard I’ve worked during my time here, I’ll struggle to figure out what I want to do and secure a job I’m happy in. The idea of working in retail for much longer doesn’t thrill me. When trying to meet deadlines and keep up with other responsibilities, it’s easy to get burnt out and bogged down with these nihilistic thoughts. None of us can predict the future, and so it’s hard to know it will all work out in the end. This halfway point is tough when you still have months of hard work to go but haven’t yet reaped the rewards.
Ultimately, we will get there, and it will be worth it regardless of where we end up. But, that doesn’t make the process less stressful. I find it useful to remind myself we’re all in the same boat. Mutually ranting with a friend about everything you have to do won’t lift the workload, but it will remind you you’re not the only one. Nobody is breezing through their final year, no matter how much it looks like it.
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