Student is a full time job

After three weeks at home over the Christmas period you’d think a twenty year old student would feel relaxed, pampered and prepared for the term to come. For me, the day before returning to University, this couldn’t be any farther from the truth.

The sarcastic cries from the parental generation at how sorry they feel for us students soon ceased to be amusing. With three exams approaching in the next two weeks I’m on the precipice of completing 20% of my degree, the preparation of which has been arduously drawn out over what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. I had a lovely Christmas, a solid 3 days of it, but the crash back to reality on December 27th all but completely shattered any remaining festive cheer I had within me. I appreciate that I haven’t yet experienced the stresses of full-time working life, but many of those who laugh at the woes of students haven’t experienced the stresses of full-time studentdom either. It certainly isn’t a leave-it-at-the-office occupation like many; the deadlines remain looming, the bills are constantly on the increase and it’s just a matter of time until every bedroom in your student house has mould growing in it (for me, that time has finally come).

I’m not going to pretend I’m a poor student. I have a student loan that comfortably covers my living each term, I’m lucky enough to have parents who contribute to my accommodation costs and having a part-time job more than allows for the occasional purchase to treat myself. Despite this, I do find myself feeling hard done by every now and then, and I’m certain that there are others who are in far worse financial situations than myself. I may have socialised sufficiently whilst being back home in London but not without its costs. I’ve seen my friends, but that is after 12 long weeks of separation, some even longer; I’ve let my hair down the occasional night out, as is part of any student lifestyle, but now I find myself underprepared, sleep deprived and the host of the most inconvenient and vicious cold. Sure, I could have locked myself in my room for three weeks and been constantly revising, but to what end? Students face the inconsistent triad of sufficient sleep, good grades and a social life: pick two, because you can in no way have all three. I myself have opted for insufficient sleep this Christmas, although this hasn’t particularly aided in either of the other two anyway…

student triangle

In May 2013 it was estimated that 20% of UK students consider themselves to have a mental health problem. A strong enough figure on its own, but that is only those who recognise it themselves. I’m sure there are an abundance of others who are either in denial or in complete ignorance of their mental health status. The comments we receive about the ease of our liftstyles in comparison to those in the working world are unjustified. We’re away from our homes and families, experiencing financial obstacles (and in many cases troubles) for the first time and not to mention the pressure imposed by exams, course work and making crucial career choices.

Speaking of which, it’s becoming ever more evident to me that the supposed competition and stress that awaits us in the “working world” isn’t just something to dread, but it’s something that us students are dealing with here and now. Even after the fighting tooth and nail for our well-deserved university places, a large percentage of which aren’t even first choices, within university all we are exposed to are our future competitors in the boxing ring of employment (or unemployment in a lot of cases, I’m sure). Of course, degree classifications are a result of individual learning, perseverance and intelligence, but as we all know getting a First won’t get you very far nowadays. We work tirelessly to fulfil coursework deadlines and to achieve high marks in exams all for the purpose of contributing towards our fast-approaching futures, but sadly outside of the student bubble there are thousands of other candidates and competitors who opted for the apprenticeship and placement routes after finishing A Levels (or even GCSEs). And what do they have that we don’t? The prized experience. No, it’s not enough that we voluntarily gain £40,000+ worth of debt or sacrifice our physical and mental health for three years, because all employers are asking for now is experience. And what does that require? Internships! I’m less than 24 hours away from my first exam and even now I’m fretting over my perspective internship placements for summer: will I be successful? Will my applications be submitted in time? Should I be applying to more places? As if the next two weeks weren’t going to be hard enough for me…

I think it’s fair to say that University isn’t the easy route to adulthood. We can’t leave our student digs for the Christmas holiday and pretend we’re not students anymore. We’re still living out of the same overdraft, revising for the same exams and struggling to maintain the same relationships with our acquaintances both old and new. All I’m saying is, if one more person tells me to stop complaining and “wait until you get a job” then they’ll be standing at the business end of a stress-induced, hormonal hissy fit.

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One thought on “Student is a full time job

  1. I’ve done school, and I’ve done work, and I’m doing school again. You’re right about one thing – work doesn’t follow you home. School is with you at home, at work, in the bathroom, in your car. It’s inescapable. I find school to be much more stressful than working full time. Once you get to things like dissertations, it probably quadruples!

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