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Embarking on Graduate life: take your time

My academic journey at Sussex is reaching its end, yet with only two months to hand in dissertations and complete my undergraduate degree I am surprisingly calm.

Despite this truth, I am utterly aware that two weeks before my deadlines I’ll be in hysterics. I know it will happen. I will be filled with dizzying self-doubt and skittishly biting off my nails that are currently finely shaped and painted as I scramble to finish my final pieces of work.

I also know that when I do finally type the last words on my screen, sprint to Shawcross to print them out, fill out my last pink cover sheets and hand them in, reality will slowly begin to seep in. When, and if I finally get dressed up in my gown, receive that diploma and say my final farewells to University I will be overwhelmed with relief and ecstatic joy, but also with an uncontainable melancholy. That will be it. All the stress, the panic, the doubt, the rush and the accomplishment of the last two months will have ended in an instant, just like my last three years here at Sussex

It will be an almost unbearable and anti climatic moment when I internally ask myself: what now? I will undoubtedly miss the life I’ve created in Brighton. It feels like both yesterday and an eternity ago when I first started here. It was September of 2012 and I was nineteen years old. I had just arrived alone to Brighton after leaving everyone I knew back in Spain. I had corn rows in my hair, clothes too summery for England, only one friend in the city and I was initially studying Sociology. But I also had a longing for a change and I was ready for an adventure.

Since about the age of ten I knew I wanted to go to university. My parents didn’t attend further education until later in life, but they had always placed education alongside happiness as number one priorities in their children’s lives. Thanks to them, I took my studies greatly serious as a kid.

Consequently my dream became that of any ten year old (of course not); I wanted to attend Oxford, complete my PhD and become a Professor of English Literature. Evidently, now at the age of almost twenty two, my childhood hopes and the ones I hold now could not be further from each other. A decade later, I did not attend Oxford nor did I have any intention to. Instead I chose the beautifully open minded University of Sussex. A decade later, I did not study English Literature. But I did finally choose to study Media and Cultural studies. Ten years on, I have no intention of becoming a Professor; in fact I have no intention of becoming anything, just yet.

Leaving university and flipping the page to the next chapter is daunting, especially when that next page is blank. Like some, or most (I am not too sure on the percentages here), I do not have a full time job lined up after graduation nor am I embarking on to post graduate education. I am moving back home.

There, I plan on working part-time, saving money, volunteering and exploring in depth some more of my many interests. However six months ago I was formulating any possible plan that would detain me from doing this. Going back home to live with my parents was, in my eyes a step back. A very, very hefty step back. But at the present time I am content with this new plan. A bit uneasy and unsure, but overall content.

The truth is I don’t see myself applying for a ‘real’ job just yet and making a commitment I may not be ready for. Neither do I want to apply for a Masters just yet. Again it is a substantial commitment, both financial and personal and I am just not sure what I want to specialize in. Yes, I sometimes may feel like the ‘lost’ one, destined to go back home and transform into a frivolous failure, but then I remind myself that maybe it’s okay that I don’t know what I want to do, just yet. Not picking the common path doesn’t necessarily make it the wrong one.

I can’t expect to have the same experiences as everyone else nor compare mine to the rest, because I am not the rest. Back in A levels my entire class was starting University immediately after summer, except me. It wasn’t because I wasn’t ready, or because I was lazy, I really just wanted time to think, reflect and time to experience a little bit of the world outside of education. Plus I think I secretly I enjoyed being the odd one out. My gap year was not your stereotypical spiritual journey through South East Asia. Instead mine was an emotional year of semi self-discovery (it’s never ending). I began my gap year by moving out from my parents’ house and into my best friend’s paid-for apartment in the next city over. I didn’t have to pay rent and I was living with my best friend in a new place. I took my time looking for a job, maybe too much time.

When I eventually ran out of money, still having no job, I moved back home and began working as a part-time ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher at my parents’ academy.

A couple of months later my grandfather passed away. I immersed myself for a while in the night life, hanging around older people with no direction at the time and feeling a bit confused about, well, just about everything. Eventually, I quickly realized spending time with my family was what I needed and wanted; after all I was leaving them in a short time. Before coming to Sussex, my feelings about life and the future improved. I was ready for a new start. Three years later I am in the same place again. I have grown a little more as a person; I’m a little wiser, I am little more disciplined, a little more mindful of the world around me and although a little weary I am hopeful and eager for the future.

When I look back at my time at Sussex it seems like it can all be resumed in what feels like a second of my life. And the more I think about it, I know that in much sense that is exactly what this experience will be; an extraordinary, but nonetheless brief moment in my hopefully long lasting journey. Time is a precious and strange thing. Sometimes days drag on like weeks and months flash by like days. But if it’s one thing we have as young and still naïve individuals is: time. Not having a concrete plan just yet is not symbolic of being lost. I have to time to figure things out and time is exactly what I am going to take. There is a befitting line that goes like this: Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind, but the race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself. Take your time. If I could offer any advice to any fellow graduates moving back home it would be this; it’s not the end of the world, it’s just the beginning.

Jemada Cicely

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