Originally published in GUM
On the day of my graduation in June, I walked out onto University Avenue when the ceremony was over and was suddenly struck by a flurry of emotion. I abruptly realised that, if I hadn’t been returning for a postgraduate degree, then this might have been my last moment as a student. It was an unnerving prospect to contemplate – no more essays, no more student discount, no more afternoons spent researching in the library – but it’s one that, for most of us, will inevitably become real in the near future.
University can often be such a transformative period in our lives that it’s difficult to imagine a world that’s not ruled by impending deadlines and ridiculously long summer breaks. Crying fits in Week 3 and dissertation panics aside, it’s great being a student. And as a current postgraduate student bracing myself for entering the big bad world of full-time employment, this question is increasingly relevant when imagining some sort of life beyond graduation next year: just what are the things that we’ll miss when we’re no longer students?
As University of Glasgow students, the first thing that inevitably springs to mind is the beauty of our campus. Brutalist monstrosities such as the Boyd Orr and Adam Smith buildings aside, the views when walking around campus are genuinely unparalleled. A quick stroll down the library hill and you’re greeted with a magnificent view of the Gothic tower; a wander around the main building and you can see cloisters wrapped in glowing fairy lights, and courtyards that (as clichéd as it is) do appear to be lifted straight from Hogwarts. Not only that, but the surrounding area of the West End offers a myriad of world-class museums within walking distance (all free!), the sort that you can easily dip into as a nearby student: everything from Kelvingrove Art Gallery, one of Scotland’s most-loved attractions, to the university’s very own Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, housing William Hunter’s impressive collection. The West End is full of treasures like this: think of famously ramshackle second-hand bookshop Voltaire & Rousseau or the resoundingly successful A Play, A Pie and A Pint at lunchtime in the Oran Mor, now in its 24th season and showcasing 38 innovative new plays a year.
Of course there’s nothing to say that such activities and places can’t be enjoyed by someone who has left their student years behind. But the crux of the matter is that there’s never a better time to explore a city, an area or even an interest than when you’re a student. Unless you’re restricted by a demanding university timetable or work schedule, you’re guaranteed to have more time on your hands than you ever will working a 9 to 5 job, so why not make the most of it? Spend an afternoon gazing at paintings, or rifling through enticing piles of books. Get involved in student media, just to see what it’s like, or audition for a play to expand your repertoire. Another amazing thing about the potentiality of the student lifestyle is the wealth of clubs just waiting to be investigated: use that unstructured time you have to join something, anything – there’s literally something out there for everyone.
The freedom of university is another undeniably exciting aspect of the student lifestyle. Fourth year fashion student Jenny admits that the best thing about studying fashion at university is the liberty to explore whatever inspires her at that present moment – the autonomy to craft an entire collection without any restrictions on creativity. Similarly, second year history student Hannah appreciates the opportunity to learn from lecturers at the very top of their field – a fantastic prospect that often gets overlooked in the mundanity of day-to-day lectures – and the ability to delve into whatever features of a module fascinate her most. If you love your degree, then it’s often disheartening to think that there’s a world out there that might not value your take on gender in science-fiction; but when you unexpectedly find yourself immersed in a topic that you initially dismissed as boring, then that’s exactly what university is for: finding things you love, and having the freedom to explore them in any way you like.
I’ll definitely miss university and the invaluable, often unnoticed opportunities it brings: everything from student discount on cinema tickets (as recent graduates have reminded me) to the creative independence that comes from structuring my day to accommodate all my bustling commitments. But university’s just one small stage of our lives – just four or five years for most – and the opportunities certainly don’t end on graduation day.