What Comes Next?

Starting your studies puts you on a new path in life. One that is exiting and new and offers you so many different possibilities you might have never thought of before. When I started my first semester at university – now a couple of years ago – I did not know what beautiful people I would meet, what places I would see and what kind of person I would grow into. I certainly never expected to end up in Helsinki.

However, the years of studying also provide a certain sense of security. While there are many things that happen unexpectedly and you are never certain where they lead you, you can be sure that the journey continues. At the beginning of my studies, I knew that at the same time next year I would still be studying and the year after that. I was not sure where I would be studying at a later point, or if I would go on exchange. I did not know where I would end up working part-time or where my future internships would be. I have left my comfort zone various times and tried new things I might not have dared to do before, but being a student was always something I knew in my mind I could fall back on.

Of course, there was always the possibility of not liking my studies, changing them and moving on to something new, but after a certain time at university I realized that this was the path I would stick to for the next couple years.

So, despite all the uncertainty, the essence of university life was the one certainty I could be sure of. I knew that, no matter what, being a student meant that there were always people in the same point of life as me, that this was the time of making mistakes and finding solutions and that, somewhat at least, the “real life” seemed removed and far away.

Now, however, that will change. I am (hopefully) just a few months shy of graduation, but I am still uncertain of where I will be going next. Right now, there are so many different possibilities out there that the thought of them alone seems daunting. Worse, are the open questions: Am I ready for this? Who do I want to be? Who might want to work with me? Can I do this?

I know me – the student – but who will I be as a working professional? The thought of being outside that student bubble seems scary. I have been working throughout my studies, both part-time and full-time, but I knew, in the end, I was foremost a student. This had become part of my identity. Graduating will force me to change that part of me that I have gotten used to over the last couple of years. This will be different to moving across Europe to start university in another country because my identity did not have to change for that one. I just changed from being a bachelor’s student to being a master’s student.

I realize that change is probably one of the only constants in life. There will always be the question “what comes next?” And, I do enjoy it. I like the new beginnings that come with it; the feeling of leaving behind the old. The next step will just be a bit bigger step.

And maybe we need to look at this from a different angle. Maybe we are not losing certain identities or exchanging them for something else. Maybe we are just adding onto them. No matter what comes next, we will always continue to grow. So, even though I will no longer officially be a student after graduation, the experiences and knowledge it gave me will always be a part of me.

I still cannot answer the questions above. I have no idea who I will be – nor who I want to be for that matter – but I know who I am now. I do not know where life will take me in a few months’ time. I do not know what comes next. Is this scary? Yes. Is it exciting? Absolutely. I guess it is just time to take a leap into the open water.