Navigating the Post-Uni Void

Emilia doesn’t know where she’s headed after university – can you relate?

When I submitted my final piece of coursework a few weeks ago, I burst into tears. As students, we all imagine how we’ll feel when the hard work is finally over. The words which came to mind when I envisioned this momentous occasion were ‘relief’ and ‘celebration’, and while these were things which I experienced, I didn’t anticipate how unsettling it would feel to press that ‘submit’ button for the final time. Three years of my life had culminated in what transpired to be a rather anti-climactic moment and I was suddenly faced with the burning question, ‘what next?’ It felt like I had stumbled over the finish line, only to be presented with a roadblock in the shape of a question mark, reprimanding me for not thinking further ahead.

It felt like I had stumbled over the finish line, only to be presented with a roadblock in the shape of a question mark

For those of us who haven’t got a clear-cut idea of what we want to do straight after university – either not having applied to Masters and internships or being undecided over whether to pursue them – post-uni life can feel like a bit of a void. Suddenly, the student life that has defined us for three or more years melts away. Our uni friends disperse across the country; we falter when asking for a bus ticket, realising that our student cards have expired; and we spend hours scrolling through Indeed, searching for the financial independence that will allow us to postpone the almost inevitable move back home. We find ourselves packing up our bedrooms in our student houses and bursting into tears upon finding a pen that we got free at Fresher’s fayre, as it reminds us of the very beginning, when the end felt so far away. During this sorting process, there remains a melancholy, nostalgic remembrance of our fresh-faced selves arriving at university in anticipation of what shape those formative years would take.

Suddenly, the student life that has defined us for three or more years melts away

After some time spent looking back, our focus once again shifts forward to what lies ahead. This is the ‘panicking about the future’ stage. This stage is best depicted by Oregon in Fresh Meat who – when her vision for her future falls apart after finishing her degree – attempts to give some shape to the void by frantically ‘applying for a PGCE’. At this point, because the future remains so uncertain, it seems like any plan is better than no plan at all. So we start scrolling through various post-grad courses that we’re not really interested in doing, taking Buzzfeed quizzes that tell us which career to pursue based on our favourite type of pasta, and looking up flights to Australia because everyone knows that the best way to deal with the fear of the unknown is to run away from it. Right?

Because the future remains so uncertain, it seems like any plan is better than no plan at all

For myself, and many others who I have spoken to, university has always felt like the end point, the final goal that we spent so many years in school working towards. It’s only since reaching the end of this end point that filling the years which come after has become more pressing. But can’t we find an excitement in these upcoming years? A thrill in the not knowing, in the thought that the shapeless void stretching out ahead is soon to be full of new and exciting experiences. The reason we fear the future is because it feels like we are stepping into the unknown. But wasn’t there a point when coming to university felt like similarly scary? Since then, we’ve coped with a lot of unknowns – making friends, working to a degree level standard, and even figuring out which energy providers to use. University has prepared us for adult life in so many different ways, opening up possibilities, opportunities, and different routes that our lives can take.

University has prepared us for adult life in so many different ways

While it is normal to feel a bit lost at the end of this chapter in life, it is also important to reflect upon the personal, social, and intellectual growth that we have all experienced at university. Everything that we have gone through, and all that we have learnt, has set us up for the things that we’ll go on to do after university, whatever they may be. We don’t need to have picked the career that we will stick with forever. It’s okay to not know exactly what we want to do with our lives. The only thing that we must know and remember is that if we can get through three years of: coping with the stress of countless deadlines; striving to get out of our overdrafts; and combatting the challenges of living away from home for the first time, there is nothing that we cannot do.

How are you dealing with the post-uni void? Do you empathise with Emilia? Let us know in the comments. 

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