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Thoughts on Graduating

Until someone mentioned it this morning, I hadn’t realised that next week I will go to my last undergraduate lectures. From under the pile of final term work it’s easy to miss just how fast time is going. Now, as I fight off a minor ‘I’m not ready to leave’ crisis, I thought I’d channel my emotions by sharing some of my thoughts on coming to the end of my degree.

As a fresher I had no idea what I was going to do after uni, but I figured I’d work it out at some point over the next 3 years. Sorry, younger Vicky, but we still don’t have a perfected plan. I’ve applied for a couple of Masters courses and I have an idea of where I’m headed, but nothing is definite. I think we all need to get rid of the expectation and pressure to have everything completely sorted out by the time we graduate. Lots of people change career decades on from where we are now; the job you pick straight out of uni is not what you have to do until you retire. There’s always time to try out several options and change your mind. If you know what you want to do and how to get there then that’s brilliant, but don’t freak out if you’re graduating without having found your calling.

On that subject, it’s ok to decide that your degree isn’t what you want to do forever. I, for example, find Evolutionary Biology fascinating but I knew by Christmas during my first year that I’d never be a researcher. Whatever your subject, you’ll still have developed qualities that will help you in most jobs, and employers will appreciate the fact that you have a degree from a good uni. It’s all about those transferable skills.

It feels like a forever ago that I started here, but at the same time it all seems to have gone stupidly fast. I am a very different person to the one who moved a ridiculous amount of stuff into my accomodation in Glasney Parc. Some of that is to do with my course and the academic side of uni (like learning to give a talk without crying), but I reckon most of my change has ocurred because of the things I’ve done outside of studying. To anyone in the lower years: try as much as you can, seriously. Yes, you’re ultimately here to get a degree, but when else do you have as many opportunities for new hobbies and skills?

In 2014 I had done D of E and I rode horses. In the last 3 years I have become a decent rower, gone to the gym and enjoyed it, learned to fence, written for Her Campus and the Falmouth Anchor, been in a musical and joined the army. I signed up for even more at the Fresher’s Fayre, but it’s about finding out what you can fit into your schedule and what will most enhance your time here. Soak up the knowledge being thrown at you, but make the most of your spare time!

It’s a big jump going from the bubble of university life to the ‘real world’. Uni has been stressful at times, yes, but I’ve been surrounded by other people in the same position and there have been lots of weekdays when I haven’t had to get up until 10. Once we leave we’re among people who will appear to have their life together, and we’ll be tackling taxes and colleagues and regularly getting up at 7. It’s certainly going to be different, but I can’t spend the rest of my life eating Quorn chicken nuggets and doing my best work at 3am.

We have been sheltered in our beautiful corner of Cornwall and now it’s nearly time to acknowledge that the rest of the world is still out there. Whether I end up getting into my dream job making documentaries, or have to stay at home and go back to life working in a bakery for a while, university has had a huge impact on me. I’ve hit my lowest point here, but I’ll also be leaving with some of my fondest memories and great friends. When I throw my fancy hat in the air (and probably fail to catch it), it will be with a huge jumble of emotions.

To those of you also preparing to leave, try to look at this as a new adventure rather than the mildly terrifying thing it currently seems to be. To those of you who still have time left to go, it’s not all going to be parties and societies and fun, but it’s also not just about all-nighters and deadlines. Make the most of this amazing opportunity, and make sure you get what you want from it. Don’t worry about making it ‘the best years of your life’, just enjoy it. I swear you’ll blink and be where I am now.

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Victoria Williams

Exeter Cornwall

Hi! I'm Vicky, I'm 21 and I'm a third year Evolutionary Biology student at the University of Exeter's Penryn campus. When I'm not learning about the weird ways animals reproduce you'll probably find me wrapped in a blanket with a book and a whole packet of custard creams.
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