Graduation is one of those experiences that is peppered with all kinds of imagery, metaphors and expectations. You get to wear a gown and funny hat and clutch onto a rolled up piece of parchment while your parents stand beside you, looking staunch and proud. Your name is called out in a large arena and rise like a phoenix out of the ashes of a three-year degree to collect your prize. People applaud, and your all to zealous nan stands up in the crowd and cheers while the rest of the crowd laughs politely.
Like many experiences in life, our anticipation of an event by far exceeds its actual splendor. In this case, I would have preferred to spend an evening cleaning out my mums craft cupboard than listening to a tonne of people go on and on about the grandeur of an institution that up until that moment, I had been unaware had its own song, slogan and coat of arms.
I suppose I should preface this insanely pessimistic reflection with the fact that I did enjoy some aspects of my studies, that I did challenge my brain, drink copious amounts of cheap wine and marvel at how there could be so many technical problems within one school. Oh, whoops, I’ve gone all pessimistic again.
Unfortunately, it’s only been after the completion of my degree that I have realised the following disappointments.
1. You don’t actually get to throw your hat in the air.
It may cause injury – aka financial loss to the institution. Fail.
2. University is not the place to find yourself.
Given the mazelike geography of many tertiary institutions, more often than not, you find yourself lost in a sea of building numbers, levels and rooms with codes that only the computer science nerds can decode. The discovery of one’s real self often occurs when fellow lost students concede defeat and collectively decide to drown their sorrows at the easily locatable pub around the corner from campus. This only really works if you’re actually at the campus you thought. Many times I was not.
3. Nobody really gives a rats unless you have a PhD.
Before attending university, PhD was a form of intense raving that required its participants to wear ridiculous jeans with hoola hoops sewn into the hems. After a few semesters, I began to catch on to the fact that PhD had more to do with intense hours of study rather than a sweet shuffling style. I also discovered that upon completion, people respect you and you can officially be called a doctor. You also get to wear a hat that looks like it belongs on the head of some twat in a Shakespearian drama.
4. People don’t sit around smoking weed and listening to Lou Reed on campus.
Owing to the fact the university is no longer free, people have less time to sit about and lament about the state of the world. In fact, students now spend more time working at KFC between classes than lounging on the grass plotting their annihilation of the bourgeois. I was dismayed by the lack of fiery political types, or hopeless stoners. Universities are no longer filled with people who have nothing better to do, in fact, they are dominated by people who more often that not, already have better things to do but need a degree to do them. Uni is more like an obstacle than an experience.
5. Your lecturers will actually come and have a beer with you.
It’s cool but kind of unsettling because it shatters that whole idea that teachers are not actual humans.
6. Having a degree doesn’t mean you’re smart.
I know a lot of people who haven’t been to uni, and honestly, looking at their lives, I wonder if all that time I spent away from the world and in front of a screen was really that helpful. I mean, I’m pretty sure most of what I learned is obsolete anyway – my friend just taught me how to use hashtags on Instagram because I was too busy studying 60s theories of communication. Unfortunately, I am now inept at communicating in the mode of this decade.
7. Most of your friends will move away.
After graduation, many of your friends will promptly return to their respective homelands to besotted parents who have just paid a fortune for their offspring’s ticket to a high paying job. Those who stay behind have no such luck in acquiring aforementioned high positions and will often take off for greener, or should I say, less elitist pastures. Either that or they’ll depart for a year of enlightenment and end up landing a ‘dream job’ which drives them to drink themselves stupid or decide to spend their lives meditating in an ashram. Or they’ll become domesticated middle class twits with no souls.
8. Graduate positions are no better than the internships you suffered in placement.
Internships are basically an excuse for companies to outsource the shittest of jobs to wide-eyed students who want to gain meaningful experience in the field. Said tasks can range from tweeting on behalf of a wanker called Greg who helps seniors grasp the in’s and out’s of online banking to stuffing envelopes, taking minuets or doing multiple quinoa salad runs. Despite momentarily losing the will to live, we hold on, in the hopes of one day being able to instruct a baby intern to clean out the filing cabinet that dates back to 1987 and alphabetise the entire lot and then decide we would actually prefer a colour coded system. Nay my friends, nay. Graduate positions are actually more soul destroying than internships because although you’ll be completing the same demoralising tasks, you’ll have a piece of paper of your wall that says you should be doing better.
9. Your parents won’t love you more.
As long as they get the photo to put on the mantle piece, they’re happy. Don’t be thinking your going to get any extra love or praise; after the ceremony it’s business as usual. They will also not accept ‘I’m busy studying’ for a lack of visits or a valid excuse for dropping off your dirty laundry.
10. Your brain is tired.
There’s a certain contradiction after you graduate. There’s that sense of pressure to dive right in to the industry, to make connections, to go to events and to immerse yourself into the world you want to be a part of. Then there’s that other niggling feeling, the one that yearns to be away from thinking and to avoid any kind of commitment for at least twelve months. After graduation, everyone gets absolutely pie eyed and goes on about their grand plans, but after a few months, few have actually done anything aside from have some down time; because there’s only so much of one thing your brain can take.
If you’ve just graduated, congratulations. I actually mean that, and I hope you’ve come out of the tertiary education system with a greater sense of accomplishment and purpose than I have. If you haven’t, see ya’ll at Centrelink!