A response to younger (un-graduated) Catherine – OurWarwick

A response to younger (un-graduated) Catherine

Way back in September, pre-lockdowns two and three and before I had even moved back to Warwick to start my final year, I wrote a letter to my current self: that is, an older, graduated Catherine, expressing my hopes and worries for my last year at Warwick, and what I thought I wanted to do after university. Having received my degree certificate yesterday in the post, and having a sort-of faux graduation ceremony with my family, I think it is now time to reply to my letter. For the original blog, see here:

A letter to future (graduated) Catherine

Naturally, the first thing I addressed is what on earth my final year will look like, given all the virus-related restrictions and sudden government decisions. Indeed, it was a wild year. Whilst I certainly got lucky with quite a lot of face to face teaching in term 1, even if it was a bit strange having to speak different languages with a face mask on, terms 2 and 3 were completely online, which was a bit of a let down. Especially the term 3 classes, as many finalists were hoping to use those to say goodbye to our teachers in person, having been taught by them for four years. However, I am pleased to say that I did make the most of my final year academically, trying different modules and assessment styles, and really getting to know my teachers better. I’m really happy with my degree result, and I feel that despite the chaos, I didn’t let the lockdowns impact me too much.

Unfortunately, my year group and the year prior are still waiting for graduations, and whilst Warwick may have been able to plan a ceremony this year given the July 19th “Freedom Day,” given the state of the cases around the country and the fact that most people my age haven’t received their second vaccine, I’m rather relieved I don’t have a ceremony to attend. I think most people have really made the most of their individual graduation ceremonies, whether that is by buying their own gown and cap, or just enjoying a bottle of champagne, and that is the most important thing. I for one have not avoided the emotional nostalgia of looking back at my time at Warwick, and really celebrating what a lovely four years it has been. With the prospect of a “summer party” next year for all Warwick graduates who have missed their celebration, it’s looking like I’ll never have the proper experience, but I think this year has taught me how to embrace what we do have, and not get too hung up on missed experiences.

Ahhhh jobs. The next part of my letter touched on the annoying subject of the next steps. Like most finalists, I was indeed intimidated by the lack of stability which comes hand in hand with graduation. One minute you’re on the education train, just simply going to the next stage like everyone else, with instructions to tell you how to do it, and the next, you’re in control of your life, meant to know what on earth you want to do, and how to get there. I won’t lie, I was terrified of this stage, and so did everything I could to ensure I wouldn’t end up graduating without a plan, and luckily in November I got a job for the following September. Whilst I will be working in London, which is really exciting and means I will see a lot of familiar Warwick faces, I will confess this is not my dream job. However, given the state of the world and the fact that I still haven’t worked out my dream, I’m very glad to have this role to support me whilst I work out my next steps, so can’t wait to get stuck in. I did briefly consider a masters, but I couldn’t think of anything I immediately wanted to study, and didn’t want to waste a year and a whole lot of money on something random. However, I don’t think I’m quite finished with academia and education, and I hope to consider doing a masters degree later in life, although don’t ask me what!

And then we get to the heart of my letter, where I wished that my final year was rich in unexpected surprises, both good and bad, and that I was able to find some silver linings in cloudy situations. Second year was such a wonderful year to me; having finished my year abroad where I found so much confidence and really learned how to embrace surprises, I really threw myself into Warwick life, something I regretted slightly about not doing in my first year. I tried new societies and said yes to a lot of whacky experiences, and met a lot of new people along the way. Whilst I knew final year would be difficult, given the academic pressure and virus restrictions, I had hoped it would be a bit better socially. The endless lockdowns and regional restrictions meant the wonderful spontaneity of university was certainly lost, and there were plenty of times where it all felt a bit pointless. Of course, it’s important to remember that it has been a crap year for everyone, and look ahead to better days of socialising. Many people say that university are the best years of your life: I plan to not follow this trend. However, a huge shout out must be made to my flatmates. Whenever I felt down this year I was so grateful for my house, who made every Friday games night into a memorable evening, and were always up for watching my awful film suggestions. These are the final year moments I will remember, even if they are all from my Canley house <3

Regrettably, I do have to break younger Catherine’s heart and announce that I could not half-drunkenly watch Eurovision 2021 on the piazza, as the event could not go ahead. I did, however, throw a really fun Eurovision party to break up the exam stress and enjoy the wonders of Italy’s performance, and so for that I have no regrets. Even if the next day was a bit sore…

In summary to younger Catherine, final year will indeed be unexpected, with plenty of highs and lows and lots of surprises. But it will be special, even if that means something completely different to previous years at university. I’m happy to say that when I left Warwick for the last time two weeks ago all I could think was “I want another year.” I believe that this the best way to end something, leaving when you still want more. And of course, whilst there are aspects of this year I would kill to change, this has been my final year, and I am glad that I got to experience it.

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