My Last September: Education, Enjoyment and Endings

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There is nothing more synonymous for me with the phrase ‘a fresh start’ than the month of September; the new school year or next step in the education system becomes a new chance for achievements, success, and progression. However, this September is bittersweet as it marks the last year for me in formal education after 21 years, even though it is a year that excites and intrigues me.

At this point in the year, I find myself falling into the routine of gathering notepads, cramming all the reading I should have done over the summer, and planning around my timetable – something that is completely familiar to me and that I have been doing regularly over the recent years. This year though, I am daunted by the fact that, this being the last time, I have no idea what I’ll be doing in a year from now and how I’ll prepare for it – something that also worries me for the year to come.

There is an immense amount of pressure on everyone’s final year of university for so many reasons – a pressure that left me silently worrying throughout the summer about how I was meant to prepare for such a crucial year. It was only after sharing work at an Open Day with a just-graduated student that all of the worries and stresses that had lined my summer were put to rest with the advice, ‘just enjoy yourself!’ To me it was funny that, up until that moment, I had never considered putting my enjoyment at the front and centre of my studies, but now it’s become a sort of pledge for my third year.

With my dissertation looming, as well as the numerous other essays, I hope that in my third year my enjoyment and passion for the subjects in which I study will prevail, allowing me to take pleasure in what I write and demonstrating my genuine interest. But, as the saying ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ goes, I worry that enjoying my year may make it go by literally within a blink – a fear enhanced by reflections from graduates that the last year goes by even faster than the second…

If I sit and reflect on my university career, I cannot quite believe that I’m already in my third year, when it seems like it was yesterday that I was moving down to Southampton as a fresher, and to be quite honest I don’t want it to end. The end marks the end of so many things that have governed my life for so many years – the structure of my days, the rigidity of a timetable, and the stress of essays – but also marks the start of my working life which, as I keep remarking to those around me, will offer no respite until my retirement.

I’m excited for everything that is to follow from this moment, but it would be silly to say that there are no nerves within me. Alongside writing copious amounts of essays, this year will be filled with filtering though applications, researching prospective graduate opportunities and trying as hard as I might to plan my future! But I don’t think there is any way to actually prepare for the year to come – useless I know. As with so many things that greet us along the course of our lives, I’m sure this is one of the things that no one can or will ever be able to prepare you for; you just sort of figure it out. Even if there were a manual for this year, and for so many other things, I don’t think it would be advantageous.

So what are my thoughts for this coming year?

Well, whilst I don’t have any words of advice and have no real idea of what to expect, I would say that I’m excited and scared in equal quantities. I don’t think I’m quite ready to wave goodbye to my time in formal education (cue my hatred for any sort of change), but in the same vein I cannot wait to start working! However, one sadness is that I have no idea what the new meaning of September will become, and I cannot know for a few years to come. There is a certain happiness and comfort for me in the ‘back to school’ September feeling, and I only have a few days left to relish in that solace before I find myself firmly in the workplace.

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