This week I get to chuckle because I’m taking a page from a Metro columnist. A few weeks ago, there was a column in the Metro talking about what happens when a columnist runs out of ideas to write about. Well, I feel like I reached that point this week, but unlike that Metro columnist I won’t be writing about political correctness – I’ll write about student life.
More appropriately, a major challenge many of us will inevitably face – upheaving our cosy lives and facing change. Many students have already had to face this once; Universities Canada (2012) shows 10 per cent of students move to a different province to attend post-secondary but there are no real numbers on how many students have to move out of their parents’ house, or away from their hometown, to pursue post-secondary. Yet given the popularity of university residences and student rentals, I think it’s safe to assume it’s the majority.
However, usually this transition is cushioned by our student lifestyle. Student loans, scholarships, and the good ol’ bank of Mom & Dad cover living expenses and part-time jobs bring in spending money, leaving students’ only worries: studying and partying. Of course, that’s the idyllic image of student life and it certainly isn’t true for everyone. Yet for many students, at least part of this scenario is true and it creates a bubble that we continue to live in during our student existence.
For many, that bubble will pop at graduation. For some, it may gently dissipate as they transition to a career in the same city where they completed their degree. Lifestyle changes may be minimal as they transition to struggling graduate instead of struggling student. Others take the transition well, bursting through the bubble and taking their life in hand. But for many students, the bubble popping is a rude awakening into reality.
Find a job, find a new home, leave your friends behind, pay your bills. Sure, you may have been exposed to that if you moved away for post-secondary, but now, things are different. Student loans aren’t coming IN to your bank account anymore, they’re going OUT. The bank of Mom & Dad has stopped offering free money as the owners either have a new client (hello younger siblings) or have closed up shop to go into retirement. And suddenly there isn’t a safety net of advisors and other students to help you find your way around. If you’re moving away from where you received your degree, you’re losing your entire support network (for some of us, AGAIN!).
This can be an incredibly tough transition. It’s one thing to find a new apartment while you’re still a student – find someone looking for a roommate, or search your well-known local rental companies for vacancies. In Edmonton, it’s ridiculously easy to figure out how to find a new place. When you’re moving to a new city, you don’t know the first place to look.
Then there’s the lifestyle change. It may seem easy to just substitute work for classes and studying but it’s not that simple. When you’re moving, it’s not just about a small change in schedule. All your activities, the connections you’ve made with fellow students, neighbours, and in your community will be changed by this massive upheaval.
It all sounds pretty terrifying, right? The thing is, this kind of transition is almost necessary. It’s not enough to simply graduate from your program. There are many reasons why this bubble pops, rather than simply dissipating. Not enough jobs in your city, changing life circumstances, maybe even your own goals; these can be the impetus for this major post-graduation change. Yet this change can also be the springboard to your future success.
For many students, regardless of our student debt, we are in the best positions in our lives to be flexible and adventurous. Post-graduation is when you can be mobile in your career and in your life. Want to live in London for a year? Want to take that job with a non-profit in Africa to boost your resume? Now’s the time; before you have a mortgage or kids to support. Take that crazy job offer up in Nunavut – just because you’re no longer a student doesn’t mean you have to stop learning.
Yes, graduation is a huge, terrifying transition. If you aren’t careful, reality can come crashing down before you realize it. But if you are willing to take charge, pop your own bubble, you’ll be able to hit the ground running. Or at least tuck and roll!
– Nicolas Brown, Issues Editor