Life after University

I take my seat at the graduation ceremony after rushing around trying to find a toilet. I squeeze past people through the narrow aisle and sit down. I keep trying to remember the rules. Shake the first person’s hand, but don’t shake the second person’s hand. Also don’t trip over. What if I put my hat on backwards? How embarrassing. I try to cross my legs with the small amount of room that I have. I crash into the chair. No better not do that. My mind is bouncing back and forth between thoughts. Just calm down. I could be nervous or it could be all of the excitement leading up to this day.

It has all come down to this moment. Three years of an emotional roller coaster with triumphs, and failures. It’s not easy to sum up all the good, and the bad. The day I left home was the day I had taken baby steps to becoming independent. No more nice home cooked meals. I had to fend for myself in the world. I packed my bags one day with my blankets in a dustbin bag, and a suitcase filled to the brim. A fresh eyed deer arriving in Wellington ready for new beginnings.

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I really was in awe because I had never lived in a town where it was always buzzing. There were so many things to do. The atmosphere was creative, artistic, and people expressed themselves with no hesitation. There were people with curly hair, green hair, pink hair. Paint stained their fingers. Baggy colorful jerseys were worn and big boots. The old fashion was making a come back. People smelt like coffee, old leather jackets, and something else. Something new. I made the time to go exploring as soon as I arrived. Having a sip of a cold drink in a stylish bar. Discovering quirky cafe’s with art all over the walls. Finding little clothing stores. Seeing performances from Matt Corby, and Ed Sheeran. Going to festivals, and soaking up everything the town had to offer. Running home in the rain just to have a cup of tea afterwards. Going to museums, and galleries. Walking on the beach where the sand is jagged and feels like crushed pebbles. There was always something happening in windy Wellington.

I felt like I  was part of the culture it was something special. It felt like my first day of school shopping for stationary, and getting organized. I was enjoying my summer holiday, but slowly the day arrived where I had to go to University by myself. On my first day I knew about two people from back homee. Well this is a good start. I tried focusing on the papers and getting my head stuck into it, but it took time to figure out what I enjoyed. The first year was core papers, and I liked some subjects more than other papers. It was also the year of finding new friends, and going to social gatherings which can sometimes distract from studying. It’s good to have a balance right? One of the best parts for me was meeting so many different people who all have a unique outlook on life. Without them I don’t think it would have been as much fun. Having friends who are supportive, and can make you laugh no matter what mood you’re in are the ones you should never let go. As one of my favourite writers puts it Beau Taplin;

You have always been a good and devoted friend to me. You speak the same language, elevate my spirits, and embrace me despite my many shortcomings. My affections for you are unyielding and true. You are family to me. And I am family to you.

Sometimes words don’t need to be said when you’re in the company of a few good people. The music can be playing, and somehow you’re on the same level where you connect with a simple smile. The late night missions to get takeaways in the freezing cold. Talking or just having a laugh. Everyone has a busy schedule so it feels pretty superb to catch up with a friend knowing they will make a bit of time for you. There was always that one coffee shop we went to on Courtney Place. The hang out spot. I still have those friends from University I kept close to me, and I am always thankful for them because the journey wasn’t over yet.

When the second year rolled around there was no time for messing around. Well except for playing games in drama class that was a good way to unwind. Jumping up and down the room, and balancing pillows was rather hilarious. On a more serious note I had to find myself to figure out my strengths, and weaknesses as a writer. I thought I was good at high school but this was not the same. I was tested. I had to share my work in class in front of peers which was kind of terrifying. Drama, performance, and writing fiction are not my best strengths. I’m not a shy person as such, but in the creative papers for performing I was quite happy to disappear into a corner and pretend to be a pillow. Getting up on a stage to act is a nightmare. In my third year I took a paper which was leading up to the final performance of a play. I did not want to be in it at all. I thought about switching papers, and crying in the corner. With encouragement I persevered and played a villainous character. Even if I was sick with a cold on the day of performance, and sneezing back stage. I was still glad I did it. Performing on stage is meant to boost confidence and help you later in life. Hopefully if I ever have to give any more presentations in front of people, or play a captain with a cool hat I will be prepared. It was a big moment for me and something I can always look back on, and feel proud of.

There are times where I was also not so proud. This is the part where I indulge with the stressful times because three years is a long time. There were a lot of days when I wanted to give up. I got distracted by doubts, and people that weren’t so good for me. I wondered what on earth am I doing here I’m no genius there are plenty of better writers here than me. Not a good way of thinking, but yes it did cross my mind. There are many theories put forward to to say that everyone has their own talents. Give me a pen, paper, or a keyboard. I will write, and write. I don’t think education stops after school. We are constantly learning new things through research, and things that happen in life. Situations we’re put in can test us and make us learn more about ourselves. Like eating out or making your own dinner. The decisions become tough.

I was interested to know what others thought so I asked some friends what they found was the most stressful part of University. Exams? Getting no sleep? The workload can be a bit daunting, and it depends on the type of degree as well. The most common answer;

Trying to have a social life, have a job, and get good results.

Those C’s don’t get degrees! It is a challenge getting a workload of study done. Some students I knew had two jobs along with studying. Or they would study all day, and at night then somehow go out to a birthday party or a function. Where they got all of that energy from amazes me. Perhaps it’s the pure instinct to survive. To make ends meet drives people to work hard, and earn that well needed money. Somehow I managed to have jobs, and study at the same time. Massey even sends cute emails to say well done your grades are good! If I could go back in time to give myself some advice, and anyone planning on studying it would be the following;

  • I found it hard going to bed at a reasonable hour so don’t study late get some rest.
  • Get enough sleep take lots of vitamins.
  • Don’t bother with umbrellas.
  • The cafe’s can be a bit expensive so a packed lunch and snacks are always good.
  • Quiet snacks in lectures are good, but not crunchy crackers in the library I got stares for doing that.
  • Although a student budget is limited I did try to eat well with proper food, and chocolate of course.
  • Browse for flats on Trademe, and there are Facebook groups with lots of posts.
  • Studylink. Lots of forms and paperwork so apply early.
  • If you’re struggling with finding work check out this website studentjobsearch I found all of my jobs on there it’s an amazing way to help students. Why struggle when there are hundreds of jobs out there?

Personally I believe University put me through a test where I had to choose whether or not I would succeed. I could have walked away at any given time, but by staying committed and following my passion. I hope one day I can use it for something I like to do. I wouldn’t have met the great teachers, and friends who helped me through. I wouldn’t have become more independent, and hopefully now I’m a bit more mature. I still enjoy Disney movies though I watched a lot of those during the University holidays. Overall I made the right choice taking the plunge. Don’t worry about the money or student loan because some people spend the equivalent on a car or something else. At least my degree is something I can hold onto it won’t break down or get stolen. It’s worth a lot more. Dive in to the challenge and don’t be afraid!

I’m brought back to the present moment when the speaker calls out my degree. There are only about four of us in this first ceremony. After a few hours of clapping and proud yells from the audience “That’s my Grandson!” It is our turn to get up. I stop fiddling with my hat and walk up to the stage to collect my degree. My family are clapping in the background. I get to graduate with my best friend which is priceless. It’s more than just money or education. It’s a ongoing journey. A curiosity to learn more. This is only the beginning.

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