Gwennan Rees

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1 Year Out Of University - What I Have Learnt.

1 Year Out Of University - What I Have Learnt.

A year to the day since I finished university - what are the biggest lessons I have learnt?

A whole 365 days ago I was furiously rushing round mere hours before the opening night of my final degree exhibition on the very last official day of my undergraduate degree.

It freaks me out a little that it was a whole year ago - my work fell off the wall a few hours before the show, I rushed home and got dressed up in record time and then I whizzed back to uni for the opening night with my family. Oh and my name was spelt drastically wrong in all the booklets which is cute when you've only studied there FOR THREE YEARS. 

There is no bigger wakeup call than to look back and realise you've already been out of university a year and what the fudge have you done with your time? 

With that in mind, here's a few things leaving university taught me...

* People will become obsessed with when you're getting a job. I don't know about any other fresh graduate but the idea of going back to work and deadlines and getting up early made me want to vom. And that's from someone who was going self employed. Forget a summer off, parents, grandparents, any person over the age of 30 will be obsessed with asking what job you're getting and when you're getting it and you'll want to scream. 

* It's hard to separate yourself from all the 28490237858926783621736 other graduates. I felt like when I left uni my Facebook was full of every other graduate my age celebrating their 2:1. We all go one and it just makes you feel a bit like 'how in God's name are you supposed you all compete for jobs?' It's become very apparent very quickly that it's the extra curricular stuff you have on your CV that counts so try and get shed loads of it!

* 90%* of graduates are moving back home these days and shacking up in their parents houses in their childhood bedrooms - and that doesn't mean we haven't made it. The cost of living is insane and for twenty somethings who are already in their overdraft, staying living away without funding just isn't happening. The majority of us have to do it and it doesn't mean a step which I originally thought it did. It's ok. 

* Student loans seems like some kind of mystery people talk about but never see. You get a letter sent about 6 months after you finish letting you know you start owing SLC a portion of your fees (with interest, cute) when you start earning £21,000 but that's kinda it. I don't know anyone paying off their student loans and although you know you're in tens of thousands of pounds of debt, it's like a fake figure in the wind that you'll probably never finish paying off. 

* University taught you a lot more than academia. Yes you got a degree and yes you worked for it and you have a certificate proving it but even if you didn't realise, uni taught you a lot more than 4 lectures a week. It taught me to be independent, to cook, to live by myself, to live without my mum's help, to function on my own and to manage my life. If you feel a bit underwhelmed with your degree, remember what else uni taught you. 

* A degree doesn't equate a career. Since leaving uni I think the biggest thing I have come to realise is that a degree doesn't give you an automatic god given right to a career. I think it is drummed into us these days that we do GCSE's, we do A Levels, we go to university and we get a degree. I would 100% do uni again just for the fun and the independence but I am increasingly more and more of the opinion that it isn't always the best thing for someone and maybe those people who left school at 16 and got a job and now have a house in their name were on to something. 

* Not having a job in what you're qualified in doesn't mean you'r a failure. You might have gone to uni, done three years of one thing and now decided you hate it and want to move on. There might not be any jobs in your area in your qualified subject and you're working in a bar just for the pennies for now. It might be that you're self employed and have zero savings and are thinking about jacking it all in for an office job. It doesn't matter, we all have to do it because the cost of living is too high and the jobs plain aren't there. Our time is coming. 

* University signifies the end of something. I found it really weird when I came out of uni that there was suddenly no ending, no final date where something changed. Like obviously moving home and graduating were symbolic endings but it just felt like moving home for the summer at the time, it was the lack of the end of summer that bothered me. I felt like summer could be as long or as short as I made it and there was no date middle of September where I boxed all my possessions up and traveled the 4 and a half hours back to Wrexham and that lack of ending really bothered me. Now looking back I realise it was an ending because my education finished and that chapter of my life finished and I don't think I fully appreciated that or gave it enough weight in my mind. 

* Keeping up with friends is HARD after university. Staying in touch with my friends when we were all doing degrees was easy, we all came home for summer, christmas and easter and we all met up, standard. Staying in touch after uni is 100 x more difficult. I now have a whole bunch of different sets of friends to stay in contact with. I have the people I lived with at uni, I have the people in my class at uni and I still have my friends from school. Suddenly we are all spread out across the country from Edinburgh up one end to Cornwall down the other and now catching up requires spending money on travelling and a hotel. It is 100% worth keeping in touch and making the effort, especially when you've graduated. 

* Your independence is key. Being self employed my money comes from my work and the income I bring in based on what jobs I found. I don't get a salary, I take my own tax off myself and if I don't work one day I just don't get any dollar. When things are quiet this does mean borrowing the odd 20 quid from my parents to pay my phone bill or put petrol in the car and it kills me every time I have to do it. It feels like coming out of uni and taking 10 steps back to when you were getting pocket money but really, it's ok, a lot of us are doing this and we should be thankful that we have parents nice enough to help out (even if they're just another person in the list of 1289275982375 we owe cash to!) 

* I should have saved more money when I was studying. Even after paying rent and fees and materials and food and bills, being financed three times a year meant I was the best off I'd been in a long time and whilst I saved over a grand I think I could have saved more that would have set me in a better financial situation when I graduated and had to spend that grand on a car within 6 months. It's boring but save while you can if you're still doing a degree whilst reading this!

* I should have made more of the time I had whilst I was there. Don't get me wrong, I had a lot of fun in uni, I went to the cinema every month to see new films, I daren't think about how much I spent on eating out, we had games nights, we had film nights, I bloody loved my time in Wrexham. But the last 6 weeks I was there I really realised time was running out and I made the most of the dwindling days and I wish I'd done it sooner. If you're still in uni I 100% recommend you make the most of it, explore where you are and (despite my advice on saving) not worry about money for a day and just go have the best fun. 


How do you think university shaped you? Did you decide against a degree and now regret it or think it was the best decision you ever made? Leave me a comment!

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