I used to think that moving out of the parental nest and adjusting to university would the biggest challenge I’d face in my early life. Constantly meeting new people, learning how to cook, how to budget, how to manage my time, how to reference my work, how to cope independently, where to go in Leeds, where to avoid, how to stay safe, how to share a bathroom, how (not) to wash my clothes- the list goes on. Every new day brought a new challenge until eventually, university life became the norm. I even started to call Leeds home.
Now that I’m a Leeds graduate I’ve realised just how wrong I was. I started my blog in 2012 to write about the ‘inconstant and unpredictable’ nature of student life. But living life out here in the cold and blustery real world has made me see just how stable and routine student life really is. It’s not called the student bubble for nothing.
Aside from the initial adjustment period when every fresher feels like the teeniest of tiny fish floating around hopelessly in the ocean, for the most part, university is a rose-tinted, bubble-wrapped version of real life, and you don’t fully appreciate it until it’s too late.
Life in the student bubble has actually been one of the most structured and straightforward periods of my life so far.
The path ahead is laid out in manageable, bite-sized chunks consisting of long and carefree summers and ten-week semesters. You’re encouraged to explore a whole variety of interests and commitments as freely as your heart desires, because that’s all part of the self-discovery process.
You can choose option modules, dip in and out of work experience, or try extra-curricular activities. Feedback is structured by a team of professors and mentors who are employed specifically to help you be your best. There are endless clubs and societies who would love for you to ‘find your place’, make friends and join their community.
Even the bumps in the road are relatively harmless. If you fail your exams there are always re-sits. If you don’t enjoy your degree after a year you can apply to change your course. If you don’t get on with a certain group of people you can always find new friends somewhere else out there- and when you do find your friends, they’re all in one place. If you need a break from studying you can always study abroad (because nobody actually studies on their year abroad.) You can even test the waters first and do a year in industry before running back to the bubble for final year. University is full of plan Bs, escape routes and second chances.
There are hundreds of extra benefits, too; student discounts, student bank accounts and student club nights, not to mention being part of the irresistible student voice. Whether it’s on campus, on Twitter, on TV or in the Guardian: there’s always a sense that you are one of millions of young people who all have something in common. (That something being a) not enough money b) not enough time and c) not enough food.)
By the time you graduate, you’re at the top of your game. You feel like you really know how to do this life thing. You moved away from home, found friends, paid bills, loved and lost, studied hard and came out the other side a stronger, smarter and more self-assured individual.
Good job, too. You’ll need all the strength and self-belief you have when you graduate and stare into a long and unfamiliar path full of immense responsibilities and difficult crossroads. Gone are the days deciding whether to drink wine or vodka at pre-drinks. Brace yourself. The real world has arrived, and the bubble is gone…
To be continued in Pt. 2: Facing the myths of graduate life