The only way I can describe what it feels like to be graduating in five months time is this; staring off the edge of a cliff. You see the sun rise and fall. You can hear the ocean. Sometimes you hear people playing on the beach below. The sun is the opportunities, the failings, the great news, the knockbacks and the ocean is ‘the real world’. The people building sandcastles are your family and
friends, those already established; your peers.
I’m romanticising the sheer pressure and desperation faced by those who are about to leave a system which has carried them since they were four years old. Hey, what are you doing on Monday? I have no idea. Nothing. No class, no meetings, no lecture, no interview. The world is your oyster. You can do anything! If you have a degree/rich parents/access to contacts in a fabulous industry where you did a fabulous internship/a car. Or even a clue about what on earth you want to do.
My specific chosen area of education relies heavily on practical experience, go out there and learn it in the field, meet people. In the last 3 years I’ve come to realise, it’s not what you know, it’s who you blow. I mean, know. GO GET ‘EM. There’s an awful lot of brown-nosing in the events industry, and some people are born to brown-nose and they do it real good, and to those people I
say, ‘Congratulations! You’re gonna go far’. I die inside when I hear someone refer to another person as a ‘contact’. I like making friends with people I work with/for and having a genuine connection with someone I’d get drunk with or comfort if their dog died, I don’t like seeking someone out for personal gain, a career-affirming enlightenment or a leg up.
But hey. Knowing people get’s you places, if they remember you. But I don’t go out of my way to force myself to the front and get real pally with a person who has a vague superiority over me just in case they know someone who wants to give me a job for life and a pension. This may be my academic downfall, as it were.
You could get firsts in all of your essays and exams on my course, and many others like it, and end up unemployed for years because you didn’t ‘make the contacts’, get experience, work for free doing shitty internships who expect you to live on air, and air alone. This does make a certain amount of sense. I’ve read job descriptions online lately (being optimistic and pro-active) wanting at least 2 years experience in the field, even in junior roles.
I’ve also read advertisements in windows for cleaners that need an NVQ. Give me a break. I couldn’t even be a cleaner. When will companies desire new blood to freshen up their business strategies with bright, innovative ideas? How about teaching what you know to others? Instead we are stuck with this insular world of segmented industries, and ‘old contacts’. I do wonder how these people who change careers half way through their working life ever move on.
Another gut wrenching realisation for anyone who has moved away to study is the high possibility of returning to the old parental home, with its disapproving sighs at lie-ins, instantaneous washing up, no music when it’s dark kind of vibe. And then there’s ‘board and lodge’. YOU MEAN I HAVE TO PAY TO LIVE IN MY OWN HOME? The ‘I found this job for you today’ every evening
over tea. It’s kind of like when you’re back home for Christmas and your grandparents ask if you’ve got a girlfriend/boyfriend yet. But every day at the same time. A slap in the face realisation that you haven’t got what you want which will enable you to move on with your life. And the disappointed faces that stare at you in awkward silence.
Another bugbear and fear lurking in my mind; London. Oh, all the jobs are in London. Have you ever thought about moving to London? Well, you know, London is the place to be for that industry. She got an internship in London and then met someone famous and now they live together and own their own PR agency and have loads of dogs and her life is fantastic, darling. I don’t
know how the North feeds itself, I really don’t, because everyone has a job in London. Alright. The Underground scares me. But that’s not the only reason I am holding the possibility of a move to The Capital at arms length (and I’ve got very long arms). I think the North of England is fantastically creative and needs championing. It’s worth building up small creative companies, really getting behind and investing in them, rather than swanning off to a super corporate expansive organisation with its private healthcare plans, gym memberships and Christmas parties at the Savoy. The North is trying to get attention from the South, and London is shrugging in its Prada suit, looking at its Rolex and vaguely wondering if the North is drowning or waving.
And let me tell you, this whole graduation thing sounds like a rip off. £40 for a daft hat you’re expected to throw up in the air for a Kodak moment, never to be seen again? You rent the gown. Not that you’d ever fancy wearing a graduation gown again that’s worth investing in, but what a kick in the purse. You pay to get an education then you pay to finish it. Your parents have got to come down on the train (bloody train fares) and get a Travelodge, go for a nice meal somewhere you’ve never even been to in the city you’ve lived in for 3 years, and try to forget about the other £40 you’ve got to fork out for the professional pictures of you holding a random rolled up bit of paper. No, it’s not your actual degree with your name on, your course and what grade
you received. It’s blank. And you will most probably detest that picture for all eternity, your mum probably won’t even like it but she’ll be damned if she won’t have it framed on her wall forever and ever, amen.
Allow me to be girly for a minute; what about my friends? When will the next time we can buy cheesy chips at 4am together be? When can I walk to my friend’s house down the road for burnt garlic bread and oven chips for tea before a night of bitching/talking about boys? You’re from down there, I’m from up here, it’ll never work; it’s like a bloody break up. Let’s sign each other’s shirts and write in each other’s year book and pinky promise we’ll speak every night on the phone. Next thing you know you’ve heard they’re living in London and according to Facebook you are friends no more.
So, yes, we are counting down til we no longer have to spend all nighters in the library, spending all our money on Sainsburys meal deals and printer credits, writing seemingly pointless and endless reports on nothing at all, but still. What will the world do for us once we are shoved off the cliff? And more importantly, what can we do for the world?
(Disclaimer: If I do happen to get a job through someone I have met from doing work experience/internships, move to London, de-friend you on Facebook after graduation, don’t judge me. It was always there.)
Words: Jennifer Jordan