Many of you may be going into your final year of university with gusto! Your final year is the last for everything and, let me tell you, you will find every single opportunity possible to name things as your last:
Your last first day of term. Your last chance to join a sports team. Your last Christmas ball. Your last 9am – or was that your first?
My last year of university was the time that I most appreciated where I was, and all the opportunities that I had throughout my other 3 years. I learnt a lot in that year, more so than I did when I was finding my wobbly feet in freshers.
1. The importance of a work-life balance
I was very fortunate on my year abroad to understand how to strike a work-life balance. I learned that I didn't have to put the energy of every single cell of my body into working, when I was more efficient when I also allowed myself to chill out a little. It was unfortunate that I hadn't learnt this sooner.
In my final year, whilst I still did a respectable (but not ridiculous) amount of nights out, I did manage to take a lot more time to break away from my studies. I realised over my 3 year degree that I was more productive when my mind had a chance to switch off. I sorted out a good routine for myself which meant I had a whole day of doing nothing, and every day I had scheduled times to relax. I pushed myself hard – hard enough to get the results – but never over the edge. I realised that sacrificing my mental health and happiness was not worth my degree classification.
2. It is never too late to try new things
I was so excited for final year to make it to my final Freshers Fair. I let go of all my preconceptions and let my ambition rule. I joined the ice hockey team (despite being unable to skate), took up belly dancing and belonged to the Ladies Cricket Club. Whilst I did start my first year with an understanding of how much the year counted towards my final degree, I was more than willing to try out new things and make the most of the opportunities that university offered. As a result I had the best year and made solid life-long friendships.
3. I could manipulate my studies to be in my favour
I knew how much was riding on my final year at university so I made the most of my module choices. I carefully calculated where my interests lay, whether I wanted to do more exam based or coursework based subjects and how I should split the weighting over the first and second term. This, I believe, was my saving grace. I went into both university terms feeling very prepared and enthusiastic for the subjects. I knew what was required of me and I was prepared to excel. I sought help from my tutors like I had never done before and used all resources available to me to make sure that this year I tried my hardest. I took a bit more of a comfortable road which challenged me enough, but didn't see me losing days by reading Milton's Paradise Lost.
4. I needed careers help
I am such a fan of spontaneity that I really hadn't thought that much about what I was doing with my life. I dodged careers fairs like dog poo on the street and tried to make my career goals as ambitious and international as possible. That saw me applying for a job in India which I narrowly missed out on in May, which meant I had 2 months left of uni with no career direction or even a place to live, since I wasn't going to be moving back in with my parents.
It was in this lost and desperate situation that I sought the help of a careers advisor. I put away all my shame at how under prepared I was and tried to get all the help I could. I admitted to my indecision about a job and my non-existent internship history and worked with them in follow up sessions to get my life on track. In a few weeks I was feeling very motivated for the next stage of my life and am now looking forward to starting my new job!
5. I had to look to the future
For so long, going to university WAS my future. It was something that I had thought about since primary school – my mum had even prepared me a spaceship themed pencil case for university when I was 12 years old. Don't ask.
Here I was in my 4th year of university and I was clinging on to it. I didn't want to let go. The community I had at university was so precious to me and so well-suited that I didn't want to even think about leaving. But I soon decided that rather than fearing what was to come, I had to embrace it. I couldn't live life knowing that I had just left behind the best years of my life. Up to this point, they really were the best years of my life but I know that what's coming for me now can be equally as amazing. University for me, I now see, is the winding road on the clifftop. And here I stand, on its edge, ready to jump off into the next adventure.
About the Author: Laura Ash is a recent English and Spanish graduate from the University of Southampton. She has published for Barefoot Vegan magazine, The Costa Rica News and the Wessex Scene as well as on her blog; Plane Ride Stitches. She won the Year Abroad Blogging Scholarship in 2015-16 for her university and wrote about her experiences as a cricket coach in Argentina.