Wow, so who could have predicted that by the end of March we would all be in lockdown?
Weddings and holidays have been postponed or cancelled, friends are trapped in various far away places all around the world. The last few weeks have definitely been a bit of a whirlwind, I think everyone is still adjusting to this new rhythm and trying to find their feet. Some of us might be feeling anxious and overwhelmed by this big unexpected change to the year, and that’s okay! It’s going to take some time to adjust.
For many of you graduating in July the university experience that you were used to has now ended; exams have likely been postponed, and your work has moved to being online and is now very individual. It was probably very abrupt, and it’s not surprising if you’re feeling a bit shell shocked by it all!
Graduating from university is a massive deal. It is a big transition into a new stage of life, and even if you have everything planned out for the next few years, it still marks a move into the unknown. For some of you leaving university might feel like a relief, and for others it might feel scary and that you’re losing something you love. Either way I think it’s important that you don’t just allow the next few months to pass you by, but actually reflect and process the end of your university experience in a healthy way, becoming aware of how you’re finishing and recognising it as a significant moment in your life.
When you move into whatever you do next, there are going to be some changes. There are going to be some aspects of your life now that will not be compatible with the next phase you move into. Your time might be allocated differently, your location might change, you might experience a shift in friendships. There are going to be some things that you will lose, and this may translate into having some needs that are no longer being met. Considering and acknowledging what these things are can start to give closure and facilitate a better transition into what comes next. Of course, this might look a little different from inside the four walls of your parents’ house, but I want to suggest that there are some meaningful and practical ways that you can say goodbye to university well.
Say ‘Thank you‘
Firstly, it’s really important to say thank you. It can be easy to focus on the negative things, but what parts of university are you really grateful for? Take some time to reflect; what places or people enhanced your experience, what stood out, what grew you? Maybe some of these things won’t follow you to where you’re going next. How can you begin to symbolically say thank you and goodbye to the things you’re going to miss? I’ve heard a lot of people talking, in the midst of all the negatives of lockdown, about how we’ve actually been given the gift of space. The pace of our lives has forcibly been slowed down, and we do have more room to think and reflect. I think using some of this time to consider and process your university experience can be really powerful in helping you to finish in a positive way.
Secondly, this time of processing does not only have to be about looking backwards. The aspects of university that you loved might contain values you want to bring with you into your next stage of life. Equally they might be things from the last few years that you want to purposefully leave behind. Ask God these questions too; what does he value in your life now?
It’s more than just about finding a job and making money, it’s about figuring out how you are going to approach this next stage of life.
We can sometimes be addicted to busyness, but by taking time to ask God what He is doing in these final months of university and where he is leading can prepare your heart to jump fully into whatever is next. It is more than just about finding a job and making money, it’s about figuring out how you are going to approach this next stage of life. We can dream about what we want our future to look like and enter it with real hope! But if we have not fully acknowledged what we’re losing and let go, we can focus instead on mourning these things and looking back with regret, which can then pull us out of the present and make us less open to what God has for us. God is full of new and amazing experiences that he wants to reveal to us, as this passage in Isaiah highlights:
16 This is what the Lord says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
17 who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
20 The wild animals honour me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
21 the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise.
– Isaiah 43: 16 – 21
We want to position ourselves to embrace whatever newness God has for us, and I would suggest that a lot of this is reliant on us first properly saying goodbye to what we’re leaving behind.
During these final few months and into wherever you go next, community is also so valuable and such a gift. A lot of what I’ve said is about us taking personal responsibility for how we finish university, but it is also so important to get people behind you who know what you’re going through and are championing you through it. It’s likely that a lot of people around you are experiencing similar feelings, so keep checking in and talking about your worries and hopes. Just because lockdown has resulted in the majority of us are working from home, it doesn’t mean that the last few months of university have necessarily become any less stressful.
Many people might be feeling quite isolated and lonely as they work towards submitting deadlines; there’s a lack of contact with people going through the same thing, and no shared student workspaces. I would really encourage you to reach out and message or facetime friends you know are also graduating, to check in and pray for one another. God is so present and sees you exactly where you are; keep encouraging each other to keep going and to continue to focus on Him.
One of the saddest impacts that corona virus has had on all you future graduates is that a lot of you may not experience graduation in the same way, or at all. But this definitely does not mean you should not be celebrated! Finishing university and getting a degree is a massive achievement! You might not have lecturers or course mates around you to recognise final submissions or deadlines, so make sure to tell people about them!
Find out deadlines of friends who are graduating and celebrate them too. Maybe crack open a few drinks over Zoom, or get dressed up have a fancy dinner at home. You could even make a makeshift cap and gown and get your mum to take an embarrassingly large number of photos of you. Just make sure that you congratulate yourself for all your hard work and everything that you have achieved.
No one really knows yet what the next few months or even the next year will bring. It will definitely usher in some change, and probably with that a lot of uncertainty. It is so important to keep pursuing God; He isn’t daunted, He’s not worried about your future. He’s holding you tightly and pouring out His love on you. He can do amazing things even as you enter the home straight of your time at university. Whatever the next few months end up looking like, keep trusting in God and his ability to carve something beautiful out of them, and continue to support each other as you finish and head out into the big wide world.
Whatever the next few months end up looking like, keep trusting in God and his ability to carve something beautiful out of them, and continue to support each other as you finish and head out into the big wide world.
Words by Alicia Swaby.
Alicia is a recent graduate with a Masters degree in Business Management and an Bachelors in Music from the University of Manchester. She is now a Worship Intern at Vinelife Church, alongside working with vulnerable teenagers in the Greater Manchester area.