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Life after Graduation and the Road to Wellbeing. Alumni Blog by Hannah Greaves

ALUMNI WELLBEING

 

Hi Everyone,

I want to begin my blog by saying I am sharing my personal experience, in the hope that it will help others realise they are not alone whilst navigating post graduate life. It can be a daunting experience for the majority of us and there are a number of things I want to address, from the prospect of ‘getting it right’ to dealing with external pressures such a friend’s landmark of achievement announcements on social media too, as this is something I’m still coming to terms with three years later.

To introduce myself, my name is Hannah, and I am an alumni member of Northumbria University, having graduated in June 2018 and then returning as a staff member a few months later. At present, I currently work as a Wellbeing Coordinator within the Human Resources Department.  

The concept of securing my first job was unnerving, and the aspect of the ‘big wide world’ sometimes overwhelming. I didn’t know where to start, but after practicing interview questions for what felt like an eternity, thankfully I secured my first role at Northumbria University, the same place I had just graduated from which was surreal. I would often find myself taken aback in my role as I couldn’t believe the number of staff working in the background of the university, after spending my student years thinking I knew it all… whilst in reality, I knew very little of how much work it takes to keep Northumbria University running day to day.

Where it all started…

As I look back and reflect on my first year, moving from a small town in Yorkshire to a new city I had visited once, this was incredibly daunting. My first few days in student accommodation in the centre of Newcastle were a blur, I vaguely remember just counting down the days until I could go back home, at the same time dealing with a million thoughts rushing through my head, alongside trying to make friends, and most importantly figuring out what to say people when I dropped out.

My emotions were all over the place, and if I I could go back in time, I would want to give my 18-year-old self a big hug. Eventually, with time, the nerves settled as everyone always said. Within 6 months, I found myself really enjoying the experience of living with my friends, going out, having freedom and I’m proud of myself for sticking it out, even when the reality of University wasn’t necessarily what I had envisioned.

 

In fact, each corner of University took me by surprise. I would often question if I doing enough – would I be looking back in 10 years’ time and be resentful that I wasn’t the captain of a team or leader of a society?  In reality, I felt most of my time at University consisted of trying to find my feet and keep my head down, especially in big lecture halls – I would avoid all eye contact to make sure I wasn’t chosen to answer a question.

I always felt pressure to ‘live my best life’ and to ‘make the most’ of my time at university in both the education and the social side too. I would question this on a regular basis and picturing the ‘perfect’ university experience, it sometimes felt as if you could never get the balance. In fact, I distinctly remember listening to the ambassadors at open days speak so passionately about working at the University once they had graduated and I would question why they wanted to continue their career at the same place? – Now, fast forward, my reality, currently collecting my thoughts in the exact same position, the irony… and upon reflection, the issue was not with my experience but my issue with comparing myself to others.

Therefore, I came quick to learn that every single one of us was winging it and once you stopped worrying about everyone else, then life became a lot more straightforward.

Looking back, I wish I could have started University with the same confidence I have now, but equally University has shaped me to become this version of myself. The thing I would tell the university version of me is not to try and grow up. Not to worry about the landmarks of achievement to recognise success at the expense of everything else along the way. Allow yourself to enjoy the present and use this time wisely to find out what your interests and passions are.

Once I had graduated, I hadn’t convinced myself entirely that I knew what I wanted to do. The prospect of this felt too overwhelming so the first few months, I promised to work a year in my degree related area and then revaluate 12 months on.

 

My role now…

Now, three years later, I feel fortunate that I am in a role which I enjoy, I feel a sense of purpose and it aligns with my future career plans. I am still learning and having the opportunity to support the wellbeing agenda has been extremely rewarding, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.  I love having the ability to design wellbeing resources and find information, even if it helps one person, this is something that is important to me. Spending the past year working from home has allowed me a great sense of flexibility, which I cherish but it has also at times, been challenging due to this event happening in the first few years after graduation when you are still understanding the office environment etc, which is an important as ever.

Looking after my wellbeing…

In terms of looking after my own wellbeing, I often find the times when I feel stressed, exercise is my main source of stress relief. Half the battle is forcing myself to get changed and getting started but I guarantee once you are in the middle of the workout, you will always feel better for doing something, even 10 minutes of walking is a bonus some days!

Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I try numerous activities, such a yoga, breathing exercises or going for walk and sometimes this doesn’t eliminate a bad mood entirely, but it does help. Usually, I then need to go back to basic needs and figure out if I’m getting enough, sleep, eating well or if I am trying to juggle too many plates etc.

I think the pandemic has allowed us all to take a step back and identify what really matters to us, what gives us motivation and just pause for moment. Many of us, especially at the age of 25 feel we need to have it all figured out and have everything aligned up to match our goals. But I am reminding myself daily that this is not the case. Just remember, your chapter 3 should not be compared to someone else’s chapter 20.

Nevertheless, I am always on the search for ways to support wellbeing. But overall, the thing I think that has most improved my mental health and wellbeing significantly, is the idea of giving myself a break. It’s important, more so than ever to acknowledge that even if you don’t feel as if you are in your ‘forever’ career or have your personal life sorted, that is ok and there is no age limit to achieving what you had planned. Even if you don’t have a plan, that is still ok too.

Regardless of what anyone says, never change what motivates you because you think it’s what others expect from you. It’s normal to feel lost after graduating, but similar to my experience when I first started University… be proud of what you’ve achieved. If things don’t work out, sometimes that can be one of the most rewarding lessons but please do make sure you try every opportunity and shape the future you want for yourself.

Hannah x

 

 

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