It is June, dissertations have been handed in, exams are now over and the time has come to start packing up and leaving university life behind. The feeling is bittersweet. On one hand we are now uninhibited by the shackles of endless work, and gone are the days of existing on pot noodle alone. Yet the thought of saying goodbye to new friends, freedom from parents and 3 years of solid partying is going to be hard to leave behind.
So what now? We all ask ourselves, what am I going to do with my life? These are the initial thoughts that circulate as our parents and their friends inquire about our next move. Well I have learned that the key is not to panic, or feel ashamed that you don’t have all your ducks in a row, and just because Jo Bloggs is doing a masters in Journalism, and Jane from next door is going to Law school does not mean that you need to have it all figured out right away… I didn’t!
After leaving university at 21 years old, you are not supposed to know who you are yet, this is the period to discover what turns you on, what you are good at, and who you want to be. The one thing I have learned is that time is on your side. You are about to enter the next phase of your life, so don’t get stressed about it, it is exciting! This interim period is your free pass to do whatever it is you want before you have to join that rat race, start paying off your loan and becoming an adult with 20 days of free time a year. Why rush? Take an internship, go travelling, these experiences are what shape you and help you to realise your aims and goals.
My father told me that life is all about roads and avenues, life is about taking the path even if you are not sure of where it leads, but you may find yourself on an adventure that you never imagined you would take. This is what I did and I never looked back.
After graduating from the University of Nottingham with a degree in history of art, they asked ‘ooh what do you want to do with that then?… do you want to teach?… work in an art gallery?’ and I did not have an answer, because the truth was that I myself did not know what I wanted to do, or even who I was. All I knew was that I had a thirst to explore and learn what it meant to really challenge myself somewhere outside of my comfort zone.
So, I found a month long internship programme that was based in Shanghai and decided to apply. While all my friends were planning their summer holidays, and 21st birthday parties, I suddenly felt nervous, what was I doing leaving all my friends to go work half way across the world? But my dad reassured me, that it was just one month, and even if I did not enjoy it, after it was over I would come back to my friends. So I listened to his advice and off I went. I had never been to China but this was exactly what I was looking for, somewhere where no one knew me, that I could thrive, be myself and really experience a brand new city and culture.
From day one, something clicked and my world suddenly fell into place, I felt truly alive for the first time in my life. The energy of the city and the people were just incredible, and I truly burst out of my shell and found myself. After the month ended, I knew that I could not possibly leave this new exhilarating world. I got a job working for the biggest English lifestyle and entertainment magazine in China, called ‘City Weekend’, and it was there I realised my passions, my strengths and talents and what I wanted to do. I began writing online blogs for their website, and recognized that being an editor is a dream that I needed to pursue. Since then I have been in Shanghai living this dream. My dad was right, if I had not listened to his advice, I would have stayed at home in my comfort zone where it was easy.
Life is a rich tapestry woven together by the choices we make, the roads we take and the challenges we face. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated, but by taking a new path it helped me to discover what I was searching for.
So my advice would be don’t panic that you do not have a plan, even if the road you are on now may seem winding with no clear direction, just remember that you choose where you want to go. Try something different, make targets of what you want to achieve and how you are going to do it. Now is the time to discover your dreams, all it takes is one step, and everything else will fall into place. Take that path, because you never know where it might lead, but you may end up one step closer to realising your goals. Good Luck and remember time is on your side.