Riding on the wave of post deadline euphoria, most third year university students have one thing in mind: alcohol, and lots of it. A string of trashy nights in packed clubs, with equally inebriated friends, is all that’s listed on the agenda for the next two months. The promise of real life, with all its responsibilities, is held at arm’s length. Six months on, and with my uni days swiftly becoming distant memories, I’ve learned a great deal taking those oh so important steps into my [insert unemployed/frightening/what the f*** am I going to do!?] adult existence. For those of you embarking on those very same steps, my following list of life experiences may reassure you that you are not alone out there in the big bad world. For those of you yet to graduate, I strongly urge you to buy yourself some time and submit that master’s application before it’s too late.
- The unpaid internship
We were all warned it would be tough; eager students lapping up the advice of industry professionals during a journalism talk. “There are 100 media graduates to every one entry-level media job”, lecturers from Trent reminded us, their eyes boring into our souls to see if we were cut out for the brutal world of journalism. Someone gulped. Another person coughed awkwardly.
Scrolling through the pages of Gorkana and Mediargh can be pretty disheartening as a graduate. In almost every job description, you will be asked for at least two year’s paid experience with a commercial publication. And for those that don’t, you can bet that the pool of hungry recent graduates will be fighting over the remaining jobs like animals over a carcass. Sounds extreme? I wish I was exaggerating. For those of us who don’t have links on the inside, a famous celebrity relative or exceptional bribery skills, the common way in is the dreaded unpaid internship. With expenses sometimes covered by a compassionate employer, the unpaid internship is the deceptive tool used by companies to convince you they are accelerating your career. Meanwhile, you’re picking up skinny lattes, avocado toast and the ed-in-chief’s repaired iPhone before noon.
- Pulling pints
Saving a small fortune for train fares and overpriced Costa lunches requires part-time work. Therefore, living in a historic town, known for its collection of pubs, my choice seemed obvious when I signed up for work with my local boozer. Five months of conversations with families enjoying a Sunday lunch, visitors from across the pond admiring the ‘quaint, old-fashioned beams’ (yes, the pub really was built in the 16th century), and regulars, who call in like clockwork at 8pm every Thursday, teaches you a lot about the diversity of human life. I now understand that there is a certain nobility in working as a barmaid, having spent countless hours providing a free counselling service for a number of customers: soothing broken hearts, chatting about job concerns and discussing the problems with our Conservative government. In spending more hours working than socialising, I have come to view the half-cut punter as a kind of friend.
- Moving back in with the rents
Recently talking on the phone with a friend still at university, she asked about my plans for Friday night. A beat. Mind racing, I try and think of something other than the sad truth. “Umm, I might be going for a drink” I reply, heart thumping, mouth dry, all the while knowing my Friday night was unlikely to move beyond the sofa, watching a rom com with my two cats. A pause on the other end of the phone, a sigh: “Liv, you’re not going to sit and watch TV with the cats again are you?” Admitting my lie, I soon learned there was no point trying to disguise my new, prematurely middle aged existence. Returning home to a ghost town, with friends scattered around the globe and a bunch of 60 plus year old’s as my only evidence of new friendship can be a pretty tough burden to bear.
- The dating pool
This brings me to the dating pool. That ever-shrinking, tiny, muddy puddle, which seemed like an oasis of hope while you were at university. I once wrote an article condemning apps like Tinder, believing them to be the antithesis of romance. I criticised their role in making all singletons walking, talking ‘swipers’, at risk of developing early arthritis from the movement. With romantic opportunities on the downturn, however, I decided to challenge my inner cynic and embraced the apps. I laboured over which profile pictures to use and consulted with my Tinder Management Team (aka other fellow singleton friends) about the best openers and where to draw the line on sexting. A couple of months in and I’m relieved to say I haven’t been catfished. The jury’s still out on this one.
- Letting go
Relaxing in the Gili Islands, kayaking along Ha Long Bay and visiting the old tea plantations in Sri Lanka are some of the next big adventures on my list. Although I fully expect to come up against a number of challenges (sunburn is a definite and being scammed probable), I’m hoping to come back enlightened, cultured and maybe sporting a slight tan if I’m lucky.
Returning to Nottingham at the end of this week signals a brief homecoming to my favourite city in England. So many memories, from university balls and society events, to graduation with my best friends, were created here. This time, however, I am returning as a graduate and fully fledged adult. Well, perhaps the last part isn’t exactly true. But I’m working on it.