As a recent graduate from the University of St Andrews I have been struggling to navigate the uncharted waters of life beyond the bubble for almost a year now. I have experienced feelings of intense grief for the loss of my little town and the life that I had established there. I catch myself smiling sometimes as snippets of memories flicker across my otherwise jumbled mind. I reminisce the carefree spontaneity of sunset pier jumps, unplanned outings to the union and night-time chocolate runs to Sainsbury. Oh to return to those sweet sweet days! Every now and again I thumb through the old events planners I kept religiously since first year: Monday 8pm life drawing, Tuesday 6:30pm reeling practice, Friday 12pm lunchtime music concert and Saturday 2-4pm Catwalk rehearsal. Looking back now, I feel so unbelievably fortunate to have had such a vast array of opportunities right on my doorstep.
Whilst I admit to wearing slightly rose-tinted spectacles, I do not pretend to have forgotten the stress of endless deadlines and looming exams. As somebody who has made it to the other side, it would be easy for me to preach the importance of balancing work-life with home-life, of seeing the wood for the trees. I will however stifle the urge to be that elderly person giving unhelpful advice on appreciating one’s fleeting youth.
Instead, I will share one small bead of wisdom that I have gleaned from my time at university. Many students with myself included, feel an incessant pressure to make university ‘the best time of your life’ whilst also striving to attain academic success. I have learnt the hard way that this is an overwhelming and insurmountable goal which only provokes an even greater sense of anxiety. I have come to realise that it is only through temporarily casting aside such pressures that you are truly able to be present in a particular moment and to simply enjoy it for what it is. I seldom think back to that one event I ‘missed out’ on, nor do I choose to linger on the blind panic I experienced as I groped around for a post-graduation plan. Rather, I remember most distinctly those small moments laughing with flatmates, discovering that perfect secondary reading source and bumping yet again into a friend on Market Street; the moments that weren’t planned but simply occurred.
Taking some time out after my studies has enabled me to pause and reflect. Like the course of an undulating river, I have been sculpted and guided by my experiences at university and the people I have met. And, (bear with this metaphor) just as its water flows quickly and incessantly toward the river mouth, my time at St Andrews has slipped away and I have reluctantly merged with the vast and terrifying sea. Finishing university is both a daunting and exciting prospect for all fourth-year students. While a degree of anxiety is of course inevitable, I urge you to remind yourself that you are leaving university having grown into a stronger and more resilient individual. You are ready to face the outside world!
Lastly, I wish to reassure you that I am no longer floundering around aimlessly and I am grateful for the relief provided by what has been but a brief hiatus. With a graduate job organised for September, I now feel armed with a sense of acceptance and readiness to move onto a new and hopefully equally rewarding stage in my life.