The Bleak Reality of Life as a Third Year

With Minister of State for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson, revealing that “Over 70 per cent of graduates now get a First or 2:1 – up by seven percentage points in the past five years”, it is unsurprising that I am beginning to feel the pressure as a final year student.  In between banging my head against a metaphorical brick wall as I struggle to dredge up some creative genius from a lost compartment in my brain, and crying about the fact Christmas 2015 will be remembered for 10,500 words of coursework, I remember that in less than a year’s time, I will be facing the abyss.  Yes, the abyss (as I have taken to calling my future) is currently one of my favoured topics of conversation.  Friends however, have stopped laughing at my little joke; I suspect through overuse and because they too have experienced nightmares looking into the black hole.  With grad schemes passing me by as I wave at them from my window seat in Hallward, and emails about postgraduate study building up in my inbox, I’m now feeling the pressure to act, and act fast.  


Perhaps the most soul-destroying part of studying English is the fact that no matter which way I turn, most of my job prospects require some form of postgraduate study.  Although universities may bang on about transferrable skills at open days and careers talks, no one actually cares about the fact you have read Arundati Roy’s The God of Small Things (great book by the way, give it a read) or can perform a linguistic analysis of Wordsworth’s poetry.  For someone considering journalism, therefore, I’m faced with two options: struggle for years in unpaid internships, or run to the loan sharks to fund an extortionate MA.  Because, bar selling all my possessions and living in a cardboard box outside McDonald’s for the next three years, this is the only way I will be able to find the money for a degree with a £9000 price tag.  And then, after all of this, I don’t even have a guaranteed job at the end to give my poor, penniless self some hope for the future.  Perhaps my family were right and I should have considered forcing my artistic brain into doing something scientific.    

In my more spontaneous moments, I also consider rewarding myself after all these tiring years of education, with a post-uni gap year.  Although this poses a similar financial dilemma, I figure that as long as I can raise the money for a plane ticket, everything else will fall into place.  I could make friends with ‘the locals’ and crash on a sofa, or rough it and sleep on a beach in Bali.  But then I remind myself I’m not Bear Grylls.  I can barely use Google Maps, let alone make my way penniless through the streets of Istanbul. Perhaps I could put on a fundraiser instead and title it: ‘Save Livy from her existential crisis’. I could even try arguing the health benefits; after months of basking in sunshine, and repairing the damaging effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (damn you, England), my pale skin may turn one shade darker.  With my ginger locks (see my last article), I know it is unlikely I’ll ever be accepted as native to any country outside Great Britain, but I could strive for something more than porcelain.  I’m reluctant, however, to join the ‘gap yah’ crew from first year who spoke incessantly of mediating with Buddhist monks in Cambodia and getting a (no doubt misspelt) tattoo in Thailand.  Unless I can hunt down these promised monks and gain a little of their wisdom, I fear I am running out of reasons to postpone my entry into the abyss.

The final and most terrifying possibility is of course, unemployment.  While I am all about the Netflix life and would quite happily trade in a pair of work heels for my fluffy slippers, I am plagued with visions of myself surrounded by empty Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough pots, the curtains closed, on the seventh season of 24.  After years of being steadily guided through life, from filling in UCAS forms to opening exam results, there has always been another stage to embark on , and another means of delaying going off into the ‘real’ world.  For the first time, I have to accept that the next step is up to me.

Edited by India-Jayne Trainor