Printed in the Strathclyde Telegraph.
It’s a never ending cycle, this schooling business. Four years of running your fingers through your matted hair, squeezing your fists until sweat started to drip onto the pages of your Higher textbooks; four years of Secondary School anguish earned you your place in one of the country’s finest further education teaching establishments. For years later, you’re preparing to graduate with a degree – the ‘Class’ of which is dependant entirely upon the efforts you have made through each passing year. You might be starting to panic; you might be as confident as the sea’s waving motions. Inevitably, though, you might be being fooled.
A yellowed scroll placed into your palms, enclosed safely between curled, chewed fingers – the bearer, a professor, every bit as poignant as the degree you have earned itself. You are trusted to take this ticket – disguised among celebration balloons, self-portraits and teary guardians – out into the big, bad world and make something of yourself. Finishing your degree at Strathclyde University isn’t going to be the end, you see: it’s merely going to be the end of the beginning.
You were relieved when you finally secured your place on a course – whether it was your 1st choice or not – because it gave you four years to work things out. When the reading lists were released and you journeyed to John Smith’s to enquire about a library’s-worth of class texts and stationery needs, you weren’t just buying materials; you were buying time. By enrolling in university, you figuratively signed a contract agreeing to attend the establishment until the end of your degree programme, which is ‘however many’ years long – three? Four? Though, looking around, the once-occupied seats of the lecture theatre reflect the sincerity of that contract. Those ‘where are they now?’ friends from Fresher’s week have moved on to more exciting things within the 9 to 5 workplace and courses with more attractive names – but you. You, the one taking necessary steps that will enable you to emerge inside Barony Hall next July with blue ribbon adorning your shoulders like a medallion – you are a voice, and your potential is not exhaustive.
You are right to feel proud for what you have already, or are forecasted to, achieve at your graduation, however many years into the future that may be. But try not to be fooled. This degree does not owe you anything. Having a few letters to hang off the end of your surname does not entitle you to a high paying occupation or any pre-paid business trips to exotic places. These perks are out there for the taking if you continue to work towards them, but the harsh reality of the matter is: opportunities will never find you unless you find them first.
All we have is now. There’s no guarantee of a graduation ever happening for us but it doesn’t change a lot anyway. When you work where you want to go, my advice would be to start living it immediately instead of pinning your success to a 1st class degree and other things you’d like to happen in the future, because, if you’re not careful, your entire career could turn out to be one big sigh of ‘I’ll be happy when…’
Volunteer, get work experience, study abroad, learn a second language. And, when you do graduate, consider it to be one more thing to add to your resume, not a complete reflection of everything you’ve achieved.
Published in The Strathclyde Telegraph
Header image created by: Rachael Procter