Graduating represents a strange time in one's life. The structure of education collapses within an instant - no longer are summer holidays at least six weeks long and timetabled lectures and seminars that are sporadically spread across the week are removed and replaced with the daily 9-5 slog. Graduation, whilst indeed a time to celebrate your achievements, is accompanied by an inevitable sense of loss, closure and uncertainty.
It's unlikely you will ever experience the amounts of fun you did at university - the countless fancy dress parties, the excitement of the annual sporting varsity and even the times you spent simply chatting with housemates late in to the evening, the time you spent at university was characterised by an unrivalled social life. Graduating marks an end to this, and although this is upsetting, the potential for 'the next chapter' has never been greater.
Most graduates will choose to place their first foot on the career ladder. Applying yourself in the real world is both fun and challenging, but you have to get there first. It's no secret that the job market is incredibly competitive so it's important to be primed for the challenge; compare CV's with your friends in order to improve your own, practice cover letter writing and if interviews really give you the shakes, set a little cash aside for some interview skills training. The odds are in the favour of graduates though, some 90% were employed six months after graduating and the BBC recently reported that the UK's leading employers are advertising 4.6% more jobs than in 2012. Undertaking unpaid internships may be worth your while in the long run - it will do nothing but good to your employment prospects if you're networking and socialising with the right people.
But what other alternatives exist alongside the career ladder?
The first, perhaps most obvious opportunity, is that of travelling. The time between the end of university and the start of a career represents one of the few times in your life where you will be completely free - no job (yet!), no mortgage, no children - the world is quite literally your oyster. You'll also still be able to take advantage of student discounts and young person travel fees. Working whilst travelling can also be advantageous as it provides you with real life experience through interacting with people from all socio-economic levels and provides you with a bit of cash to help pay your way around the globe.
Given that you enjoyed university so much, why not stay on in education and pursue a career in academia? The most important thing to consider here is why you're staying on? Do you want a career in academia and therefore a masters and PhD are necessary? Does your chosen career path require additional qualifications? Or are your motives concerned entirely with prolonging the student lifestyle a little longer and knocking back a few too many pints every week?
Whatever you decide to do after graduation, one thing's for sure, it will be an experience. The scaffolding of education has slowly been taken away from the age of 16 and now you're free to stand alone and choose your own path. As the old cliché goes - it's the beginning of the rest of your life, so you might as well start as you mean to go on by doing something you enjoy.