STUDENT AND THE CITY: What happens when I am not a student anymore?


Student and the City is a column dedicated to asking the big questions that all college-aged students are asking. It will explore different social concepts within the younger generations regarding relationships, lifestyle, social media and more. 

As another semester comes to a close, I look to plan what comes next. I pick my new set of classes, buy some new school supplies and prepare myself for the inevitable heavy workload ahead of me. This month, I did this for the last time. 

Since I was only five years old, I have been sitting in a classroom. I have had the privilege of learning something new every day and receiving an incredible education. When strangers ask who I am and what I do, I say “I am a student.” It is my identity – and has been for as long as I can remember. 

The question is: what happens when I am not a student anymore?

Honestly, I am not sure what I am going to do with myself once I leave university. I have been told throughout my entire educational career, the harder I study in school now, the farther I will go in the future. So I have dedicated my days to writing papers, completing assignments and studying for my next exam. My syllabus has told me how to spend each day of my existence. I have become comfortable in the routine I have created for myself. This “future” that I have been working for is here, what should I expect? What am I supposed to do with all my time? 

Holding this distinct status makes me feel safe. I am not afraid to take a trip abroad or an internship opportunity that may not be right for me. As a student, I feel as though I stand in this gray area between being a kid and an adult. I have all the freedom of an adult without the real consequences it comes with – I still have room to make mistakes and to learn. I can take risks and I have my identity as a safety net to fall back on. Who am I now?

Undergraduate life gives me a sense of importance. I have a purpose. My only real responsibilities consist of getting good grades and growing as a student. Every time I prepare for a test or tirelessly persist through a difficult assignment, I know I am planting a seed for my future. I am confident my time is not wasted when I am committing it to schoolwork. I do not have to feel the pressure that I am not doing enough.  

Soon, I will be thrown into the real world. The city will not just be the place I go to school. It will be the place I start my life. Each decision I make will be my own, and at my own expense. What comes next? A job? My own place? More school? Marriage? A kid? Let’s back up. Without school to schedule it all for me and tell me what to do, my possibilities are overwhelming. There are too many roads I can go down. 

How will I know if I passed or failed without a grade? How will I meet people when I am not introduced to new classmates each semester? What will I do for fun when there are no clubs to tell me what activities to take part in? Who will I look to for guidance once my teachers are in my past? With a mix of excitement and fear, I am about to be free-falling into this new realm of new promises and potential failures. 

When I walk off the graduation stage, will I jump right into my dream life? Will I land the perfect job, spend my days doing what I love, with a full bank account and lots of credit for all the grades I received over the last couple of decades? Or will I return to my childhood home, drowning in the job search and watching reality television with my parents each night?

A school-free life is scary and thrilling. It’s not something I am prepared for, and I am not sure if it is something I want. Ready or not, here it comes.