Finishing university can be completely overwhelming, let alone during a global pandemic. My second semester of third year was probably the most stressful time of my life. I had constant deadlines to meet, an 8,000-word dissertation to write whilst trying to cope with the pressure of achieving my best mark. How would I be defined if I didn’t get the grade I wanted? These thoughts never left my mind.
In March 2020, COVID-19 began to impact many peoples’ lives and it suddenly hit me that I had to return home for lockdown and leave university three months earlier than I had planned. I didn’t get the chance to say bye to all my friends or thank my lecturers for all their help with my work over the past three years. It was extremely hard finishing my dissertation and all my other assignments at home; there were so many distractions and I missed being at the library where I felt like I could be the most productive.
The day finally came when I submitted my last assignment. Although I was completely over the moon that I had finished all my work, it still felt bittersweet. I wasn’t 100% happy because I had no idea what my next steps were, I didn’t know what career I wanted to go into, and I genuinely didn’t know what my purpose was after the best years of my life were over so quickly. Whilst feeling like this, all I wanted to do was go back to Sheffield and celebrate finishing university by going on a night out with all my friends. Obviously this couldn’t happen, and it was the worst feeling ever because I felt like my achievements and success didn’t mean anything.
I really struggled with moving back home. The independence I gained when living on my own at university and becoming an adult felt like it had completely disappeared, and it was almost as if my life had gone backwards. I was constantly comparing myself to other people on social media who had secured a graduate job, and I felt like a failure because I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I had to deal with the constant overpowering questions such as ‘so, what do you want to do now?’ or ‘when are you going to get a proper job?’. My mental health really took a turn for the worst because I couldn’t stop thinking about the future and all the uncertainty that came with it.
It took me several months to finally realise, why am I actually stressing out so much? Just because the job I have now isn’t what I want to be doing forever and I haven’t exactly figured out what my next steps are, this IS okay. I’m only 22 years old and I definitely don’t need to have my whole life planned out. Not to forget the fact that we’re currently living in unprecedented times and finding a job is more difficult than ever, which is why putting unnecessary amounts of pressure on myself isn’t healthy.
I wanted to write this article to make sure that other graduates who may also be feeling like this know that they’re not alone. There is so much support at university when you’re a student, but as soon as you leave you can feel completely isolated and not part of a community anymore. Even though COVID-19 has made this difficult, it’s important to stay in touch with your friends from university who may be struggling with this transition too and reach out for support if you need it.
I’ve tried to overcome my post-university blues by keeping busy, taking regular breaks from social media so I’m not constantly looking at what other people are doing, and making sure that I’m patient. If like me, you’re not set on what you want to do, try to see this as something positive! You have time to travel, volunteer, or even work abroad for some time if you want to experience a different culture and gain some experience. Remember that you’re still young and it’s better to give yourself time to think about what you want to do, rather than committing to a job which you might hate and end up regretting rushing into it.