Life after University
Being in my third and final year, the panic of what to do following graduation has certainly set in. It feels as if everyone around me is hastily applying to graduate scheme after graduate scheme in order to line up a job for September. Everyone I’m living with is going through the motions of tests, video interviews and assessment centres, and this undoubtedly makes you feel as though this is what you should be doing too. However, I’ve decided that this is simply not right for me at this point in time. The pressure to follow suit with the conventional route from graduation to graduate scheme is indisputably ever prevalent, but I quickly came to the conclusion this year that going directly from University into full time employment was just not right for me.
Making the choice to take a step back and take some time out is no easy decision, nor is deferring from the conventional route everybody around you appears to be so contently following. But, I have always had an underlying feeling that I would need to take a year or two following University to travel and work abroad, and just to generally do some of the things around the world that I’ve always wanted to do. This has largely stemmed from how I’ve spent my summers during my time at University, having spent a month in both Morocco and Thailand teaching English (TEFL) in consecutive years. These experiences have undoubtedly pushed me to want to reach out of my comfort zone even more, and to get some ‘real-world’ experience before applying to a job or graduate scheme.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a multitude of ideas for what I want to do in the future, and part of me can’t wait to start pursuing my career. From a career in the civil service, or within social work, or completing a master’s in Journalism, I’m not short of things I would love to do. I am, however, in no rush to commit myself to one of these career routes without taking some time to travel and work abroad beforehand. Mostly, this is because I’ve realised it will be a lot harder to do any of these things once in a job, particularly as most graduate schemes that I am interested are 3-4 years in length. Thus, I decided this was not something I wanted to do just yet.
So, I may not have a graduate scheme lined up, but I do have a one-way flight booked to Vietnam for 2 weeks after my graduation, where I’m heading to work at an NGO for a month, with the opportunity to be hands-on working on policy and proposals. Following this, I plan to continue travelling throughout Vietnam, and then onto Cambodia, Japan, South Korea and India. I’ve also got countless other ideas for what might take up the next year or two of my life, from paid teaching in China, to travelling South Africa and South America, or working on projects promoting Sexual Health education internationally.
Of course, this does mean that, if you choose to follow this sort of route, you need to get a considerable amount of money together. For me, I’ve been working part-time throughout my time at University, which has helped me fund my previous trips travelling during the summer. This year, all of my wages that I’ve earned have been put aside for my travels. As I also have a month or two following my exams before I go away, I can also try and work pretty much full-time during this period to try and get together as much money as possible before I go. And, when I come back, I know I’ll be back working in England for a few months before I can go away again. Though, there are also options such as teaching in China, which is paid (TEFL), or doing a season in somewhere like Ibiza, or a summer camp in America or Canada, which mean there are opportunities to make money whilst on the go.
What I would recommend anyone to do, is to take a step back and reflect on what you want to do before you jump to the natural next step from University without looking back. There’s no rush. You’ve secured your degree, and it’s not going to disappear if you decide to travel and work abroad for a year or two (or five). Of course, if landing that job or graduate scheme is what’s going to make you the happiest, then great, that’s what you should do. But, I definitely urge anyone to think about exactly what they want to do following University for themselves, because there’s most certainly not just one route you have to follow.