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To travel or to return to home – why there is no correct answer for post-university options.

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bristol chapter.


POV: university has finished. At least 3 years of studying, partying, and socialising have come to an end. You are (in theory) the most intelligent and qualified you have been in your life to date – then why do you feel more dread than excitement?

You may be browsing your university’s careers service, looking at an endless stream of vaguely appropriate graduate vacancies in cities you’ve never even heard of and suddenly, the next steps become too daunting to comprehend.  

In an effort to prolong this rapid plunge into a professional career, you consider the following: returning home or satisfying a lifelong ambition to travel. One option promises comfort and security, whilst the other offers an indeterminate period of new experience.

The immediate factor to consider when deciding your next course of action is finances. 10 years ago, taking a spontaneous gap year in-between university and full time work was a far more feasible choice. In the current cost-of-living crisis amidst soaring rent costs and stagnated maintenance loans, many will find themselves having to look for temporary work to help build those initial funds.

No problem. What better way to save than to return to your home-town and live with family or friends who will presumably offer far cheaper living costs.

But maybe you’ve fallen totally in love with your university area. Perhaps all of your friends whom you have lived with throughout your university experience are staying in the city and already putting offers in for their first non-student accommodation. The FOMO is real and the thought of returning to a quieter life after the tumultuous student years has already made you restless.

Another consideration is what jobs are actually on offer to you in your hometown. Not all students will have the privilege of returning to a city like London where employment and networking opportunities exist around every corner. If you’re from a rural or impoverished area, finding a job which will allow you to save money quickly can be a difficulty on its own.

On the flipside to this, wanting to go home to simply decompress and compose your thoughts is more than understandable. The final year of your degree is a hectic and stressful time which any empathetic individual can sympathise with. You shouldn’t feel pressure to throw yourself into another adventure straight away and studies show that university students are at higher risk of mental health struggles than their peers who went straight into working life.

More emphasis should be placed on students having time to refresh once their studies have come to end. Though living at university gives you that first taste of freedom away from your family, it is still a structured system which comes with its own unique pressures and challenges. If leaving the country to travel is an option for you, then a less structured year of expanding your comfort zone and developing your interests could be invaluable in helping you feel more prepared for your adult life.

You never want work to be something you resent. You want to enter your dream career (if you even know what this is yet) with the assurances that you are ready to be successful within it. Regardless of whether you need rest or adventure, listening to what your mind needs at any given point is vital. It may be that after your year out, you realise that your priorities have changed and that is totally fine too, especially if you have come to that conclusion through your own lived experience.

My advice to students who are facing this post-university dilemma is to remind yourself that you have more time than you think. University careers services tend to offer their support for up to three years after graduation. You will have access to their resources and job opportunities throughout this period so you can hold off on applying for anything until you see something that feels right for you. Government research shows that 87.3 per cent of graduates are in employment so it is highly likely that the right job will manifest itself.

Use LinkedIn to reach out to university alumni who studied your course. Network with professionals who have gotten a foot into the industry you think you’d like to pursue. There will be so many opportunities you haven’t yet considered simply because you didn’t realise they are available to you.

You won’t have any true idea of what will make you happy until you’ve had a go at doing it. Employers are often sympathetic about gaps or shorter work stints in graduate CV’s, especially if you fill this time with opportunities for personal development. You’re young – you don’t have to have everything perfect straight away.   

Ella Woszczyk

Bristol '24

Third-year English Literature student at the University of Bristol. Aspiring to work within the journalism industry. On the senior team of our university's award-winning student newspaper, Epigram – working as Deputy Editor.