Reflections on Transitioning from Student to Working Woman

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Recently my sister moved back into the family home for her first taste of the London working world. In the lead up to the start of her job I didn’t have much hope for a smooth transition; like most students she slept for a vast proportion of the day, watched copious amounts of Netflix and did uni work late into the night. She’s actually coped rather magnificently and is usually awake and perky far earlier than me (which makes me question my ability to function as an actual human being before 9am). But nevertheless the change in her lifestyle made me think about my experience of leaving the student life and entering the big bad world of work.

I loved my university years a ridiculous amount, and this was a lot to do with being in the amazing city that is Bristol. Myself and my housemates enjoyed student living to the max, all the way through to the end of third year. We would go out 2-3 times a week, maybe more, have house parties and dinner parties and any-excuse-for-a-party parties, and spend our days in bed or on the sofa interspersed with small amounts of work here and there. It was great. We literally had the most amount of free time you ever have in your life, with only 2 hours of contact time a week in final year. Of course those 40 hours were meant to be used for independent study and revision and stuffs, but what’s a student to do when there’s daytime TV to watch and summery activities to enjoy..? (I did do some work at uni, promise).

As much as I made the most of being a student and appreciated the freedom, by the time I graduated I was ready for work. I was ready to get a regular paycheck and be a smart working woman in the city and actually do something with my life. However my transition was not smooth. I bummed around as a waitress for a couple of months before getting an office job in Bristol, but even after I started my proper adult job I found it hard to grow out of student habits and routines. I still thought midweek student nights out and drunken dinner parties were appropriate and turning up to work hungover was a standard thing. I didn’t fully commit to my life in Bristol because I came home to London most weekends so I constantly felt in between and never settled.

As time moved on I gradually cut down the student behaviour (a tricky business when living with students), but I realised that I hated my job so I still didn’t completely immerse myself in the working world I was a part of. I was always distracted by other parts of life and looking for new opportunities. A summer of volunteering and a temporary receptionist role later, I’m actually settled in a job and a career and although I live with my parents I feel like I’ve fully transitioned, and this is my life. Seeing my sister transition into work so well impresses me, and makes me wonder if I would have progressed more with life if I’d let go of the student life.

I miss lots of things about student life. I miss living with my friends and having all the time in the world to gossip and be creative with cooking and house decor and spotify playlists. I miss having the energy to go out for 5 nights on the trot, and the community feeling you got at student clubs when you said hi to 38 people you vaguely knew from some society or house party. But I wouldn’t go back now. Looking back at uni life I see a lot of fun but also a lot of wasted time. Part of me salutes my student self for being a slob for the time of life when it was possible, but part of me wishes that I had used that time to be productive in a way you never have time for once you work full time. I would love to be able to fit new opportunities and creative outlets around work and social events but life just doesn’t allow for that.

University should be something that we reflect on with fondness for the memories we created and the friendships we made helping each other vomit (or you know, the normal way). We may wish for that time and that freedom now, but in reality it wouldn’t make us happy. Doing a job we enjoy and getting the perfect work-life balance is what should make us happy now. Being professional working women with careers should make us happy. Who wants to be a student and eat pasta pesto every day? To celebrate my sister starting her career we went out for lobster. I may not be able to afford my phone bill or new shampoo, but who cares. We are strong independent working women and we can go out and eat lobster if we damn well feel like it. That’s what transitioning into the world of work is.

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