One of the reasons many students - myself included - chose to go to university in the UK rather than elsewhere, was that most degrees here are only three years long. Back in the day, when we were filling out our UCAS applications, it seemed like such an advantage. UK graduates would have a whole year on their US counterparts. Think of all the things you could do with an extra year!
Well, here we are. It's almost time for that year. As the autumn leaves cover the beautiful college grounds I have called home for the past two years, my life - and the lives of everyone around me - has become shrouded in a mess of grad schemes, careers events and CV editing. The future is just around the corner. This is it. Everything we have been working for.
Here's the problem. After two years of the education that was supposed to catapult me into a successful career - I am lost.
I sometimes think that international students like myself didn't really think things through properly. Because right now, wouldn't it be great if I knew exactly where my home is and where I should go when I graduate? When I was filling in my UCAS application, I played my international card so much I thought they were going to disqualify me. I did not grow up where I was born, and my parents don't live where most of my friends live. My passport is different to my face, and I feel most at home at airports. I speak a couple of languages almost by accident. Not all of this is to my own credit - it's just the way my life has turned out. Yet it seems to impress people at dinner parties, so I play my part as global vagabond, and use my homelessness to my best advantage.
But I have to say - now it kind of sucks. I was filling in a job application the other day and got stuck on the first page. It wouldn't let me fill in my college address as my home address - but I awkwardly don't really have another home address right now. I moved on to another application that asked for my language skills. My strongest language isn't actually my native language, but the only choices on the drop down list were native and fluent. So I just said English is my native language, which is actually a blatant lie.
The thing is, people like me are no longer rare. I know quite a few of them. You should never ask these people where they're from. The answer usually takes more than 40 minutes. I recently read an article that actually gave people like us a name - third culture kids. Apparently we are people that were born in one place, but grew up in another culture, and as a result kind of just flounder about, fitting into each culture a little bit, but not completely.
Now that we are in the process of starting real life after university, this international student situation is proving difficult. Most careers involve commitment to some sort of home base and office. But I almost feel like if I chose somewhere, I would be giving up the entire world for a job. When I look at companies offering graduate schemes, I can't help but despair as I think about trying to fit into just one culture for my career. I haven't stayed in the same country for more than two months in over two years. It's hard for me to map out a 10 year career plan. I've thought about doing a profitable job for a little bit, and then taking off to do something meaningful, maybe in Peru, darling. I told this to a friend who was about to start a job at Goldman Sachs. I think the noise he made at me was something along the lines of: "Arhmph."
I know I have the luxury of saying these things because I am an incredibly fortunate person, and at that ridiculous stage in life where I am not responsible for anything, and also don't fear the lack of an income as much as I probably will learn to. But I do wonder if maybe it's time for us as a generation to rethink the concept of careers. There are some enlightened people who know they want to be an engineer in London, or a doctor in New York. I envy you. I'm speaking on behalf of the slice of modern youth that kept their options open, and is now mired in the after-effects of 2008. Surely, if the crunch taught us anything, it's that we never really control job security, and that following the money is not all there is? Does anybody else feel this way?
As a politics student, I've spent the past two years writing essays about cosmopolitanism, the future of a globalized world, and the deeper meaning of cultural exchange. Sometimes I really feel like I've lost the meaning more so than I've found any. If university was suppose to instill into me a sense of meaning in staying in one place indefinitely for a starting salary of something K, where I can gain experience in important things like synergy, so that I can go forth and make ridiculous amounts of money for someone else 9-5, while bombs are going off in Syria and Mitt Romney might become the leader of the free world - that's failed. Obviously university wasn't supposed to do that. Like I argued for in my UCAS application, I wanted to become a citizen of the world, not just to be able to afford a big enough TV that will do justice to Downton Abbey. But it seems there is a gap between what we are educated for at these high-end educational institutions and what we can expect from the real world. So now I'm stuck in this Nietzsche infested quagmire, where the world won't pay me if I try to change it.
I suppose at this point I should try and come up with an alternative solution that can be meaningful to disillusioned and stressed international students like me. I don't really have one, unfortunately. But this I know - I am determined to at least try to accommodate what I came to university with to what is out there. As much as I kind of wish I'd gone to university in America now, where I'd have one more blissful year of student life, I think it actually is a blessing that I am going to graduate a bit lost. It means I'll keep looking. And if I don't find anything - at least I can watch Downton on my laptop.
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