What happens when you leave the uni bubble?
It’s that time of year again where Albert Park is swarmed by parades of black gowns. Beside the bright-eyed young grads stand beaming family and friends, flashing wide smiles for the camera, while the rest of us watch on through the foggy windows of Gen Lib or celebratory Instagram stories, swallowing our FOMO as we long for our own cap and gown moment.
Especially in this yucky time of semester where the last thing any of us want to do is log onto Canvas, or spend more time studying in Kate Edger, the shimmering promise of graduation can seem extra beguiling. After all, receiving that degree is meant to be our official ticket into the so-called “real” world, where we can pursue the exciting and endless possibilities that await young working professionals.
But is post-grad life as grand as it’s cracked up to be? Is being a uni student really all that bad?
Fortunately, Craccum’s young grad readership have provided us with the answers to all of your burning questions about life after graduation.
Work, Work, Work
For a lot of us, graduating university means jumping into full-time work to kick-start our careers and pay off our student loans. How does that measure up to the tight student budget lifestyle, where our hours of work are capped, or limited due to study and placement hours?
Unsurprisingly, Craccum’s young grads said that earning more money and having increased financial freedom is by far the biggest perk of post-graduate life.
“There’s simultaneously more paychecks and less time spent contemplating decisions like ‘should I purchase that air fryer?’,” explained Trent.
Similarly, Hannah also commented “thank god for having a good salary,” despite missing their university days.
While living off packet noodles and Munchy Mart pies is something that uncannily bonds all uni students together, we can all agree that having extra income to purchase lunch that isn’t pre-packaged in a plastic wrapper is definitely a major bonus.
When it comes to the structure and lifestyle of studying and working, the consensus among Craccum’s grad readers is pretty divided.
On the one hand, some grads argue that the set schedule of working provides a robust and healthy structure to follow.
“You feel like your free time is actually free and not just you slacking off uni work,” said Bridget.
Similarly, Stella added that “working has set hours whereas with uni, I always felt like there was something I had to do.”
On the flip side, other grads commented that they not only preferred the freedom and flexibility that comes with being a uni student, but didn’t realise they had taken these liberties for granted until after they finished their studies. They shared that:
“I miss the freedom to say fuck it and do what you want on any given day,”
“I miss the flexibility, you can go shopping on a weekday and do laundry on a sunny day.”
Other grads said that they missed having the free time to work on side hustles, hangout with mates and just muck around.
“I miss spending time on campus, seeing friends in classes, studying and procrastinating together, that connectedness of sharing the same space and the same goal of surviving and graduating made it feel like we were still young people who hadn’t quite sprouted into adulthood just yet.”
“I miss making connections and building relationships in uni. It gets harder as we get older, Aotearoa is small.”
Finding ~Meaning~ In Our Silly Existence
Although it’s a running joke among students that we all can’t wait to sell our souls to the corporate world after graduation, is it really true that life has less purpose when we’re working full-time?
Some of our grad readers would disagree. Sara feels that their work is far more meaningful than when they were studying and working part-time.
“When I’m working, I feel like I’m being more productive and contributing to society,” they commented.
“I can see the impact of my work.”
Similarly, Dean remarked that they found working full-time more satisfying than when they were just focused on their studies.
“The work I do now is more open-ended. There’s no set solution or tutorial, it takes trial and error, research, and networking to find a solution to the problem.”
On the other hand, some grads found that leaving university worsened their existential qualms and uncertainty.
Luke shared that they felt under-prepared for the post-grad life:
“Throughout uni, I studied with the main motivation to successfully graduate. After I achieved my goals, all that energy I had to achieve suddenly came to a halt. I felt lost and unsure, and regrettably should have planned ahead to move onto the next step.”
Likewise, Jade found that entering the workforce led them to further question their values and what they ultimately wanted their life to look like.
“It’s pretty scary realising that the career field you thought you were passionate about is something you could never see yourself doing long-term. You really begin to second-guess your ambitions and preconceived notions of what ‘success’ or ‘fulfilment’ looks like.”
Clearly, there’s some good and some bad in post-grad life and every experience seems to vary wildly from person to person. But as current students, what should we do to prepare ourselves for when we empty the nest?
Fortunately, Craccum’s grads have plenty of wise words of wisdom to share with us. From the responses we received, the overwhelming majority of our graduate readers strongly urged current students to just enjoy and make the most out of their time at uni.
“In hindsight, I wish I would’ve had more fun. Have that drink! Have that burger! Who cares if you’re going to have a bad hangover and you have an essay to write. Maybe your non-sober self writes better, you never know!,” commented Gabbie.
“Stop looking forward to ‘when I graduate I’ll…’ and enjoy the time right now or you’ll spend your whole life waiting for the next milestone and never vibe with your life,” shared Grace.
“Try all the overseas experiences, research and club opportunities. It’s all within reach and you’d probably do a better job than most of these people, right?”, added Caitlin.
Although being a student comes with its challenges, and it’s only natural to feel FOMO when we’re watching our friends leave campus in their graduation regalia and overpriced flower bouquets, there’s still something special about being a student that we’ll never be able to replicate elsewhere.
After all, where else can you voice your opinions to other like-minded individuals, without needing to worry about office politics, or who you should butter up? Where else can you nerd out about the nichest theories and case studies and have access to swaths of information from enthusiastic experts, who are just one office hour away, or lecture away? Where else can you readily dabble in a variety of social activities that fulfil almost every interest, from pole sport to folk music instruments?
While being a student might not be the most glamorous time of our lives, there’s still plenty of joy and beauty to be found in the mundane. In a couple of years when we’ve left campus behind, we’ll think back to those morning coffees before class, Albert Park afternoon strolls and late night study sessions with a certain fondness only retrospection can offer. For all its good and all of its bad, there’s no period in our lives that will ever be quite like being a student. While we’re here, we might as well live this era to the very fullest.