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University Afterlife

Monday, October 7, 2013

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Written by Alice Lin

The holiday season is coming up and you are in your final year of university, pending graduation. You’ll be sure to be getting a lot of this: “What are you going to do after you graduate from university?” the million dollar question that many undergraduate students are frustrated with answering.

Like many of my peers, I am beginning to panic as I near the end of my academic career. Initially I was feeling quite excited about starting a new chapter of my life. I answered the question whole heartedly with detailed explanations of my plans and motives.

However, the more I hear this question, the more anxious I feel about the need to establish a concrete plan for the next five years of my life especially because I am the type of individual that finds comfort in structure. Needless to say, the ad-lib prospects of my future are the most daunting aspect upon graduation.

There are a lot of expectations and a healthy amount of unnecessary judgement that follows depending on your response (especially coming from family members). Often, the assumption is that you are on the ‘right’ path into the real world if you have a job interview and potential placement lined up. If you can define what you want, it is a sign that you are well positioned in life. However, if you are still uncertain about your direction and do not have plans to work full-time, then there is often the assumption that you are lost.

Looking over my five year plan, I wondered about the possibility of venturing away from this plan as a result of uncertainty. What if I decide in the beginning of my job that this is not the career I want to pursue? Should I be making a new plan? If I venture off this plan, would I have the time to travel the world before I am 30?  And the worst question of all: when is it too late to be experimenting and changing career paths?

What adds to a lot of student’s anxiety and stress, are the various unsolicited advice about how to go about defining their future. It seems that most people disregard the fact that uncertainty is inevitable in life, especially in the real world. Even if you know what you want to pursue in your career, you can only do so much to prepare for uncertainty. My solution? Embrace it.

Even if you may not be comfortable as a drifter, realize that to be successful, it is important to embrace opportunities as they come. A career mismatch really is not the end of the world not does it mean that you have been unsuccessful. Even if you have spent four years of your life in university studying something that you may never end up developing a career in, it does not mean that it is completely useless. Furthermore, I do not believe anyone should feel obligated to settle down if you do not want to as it simply just mean that you have not reached that stage in your life.

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