Back from the future: What's it like to revisit your mates at university when you've got a real job?

Having graduated last year, Helen Burch finds that student life is a little different from the other side of the fence

After my first few months of a "real job" in the "real world"; I revisited my university town for the first time since graduating. Would I be tempted to sign onto a masters course asap or dismiss student life as hopelessly juvenile?

In the money

My week of renewed studenthood began in a civilised fashion, at a gorgeous Thai restaurant. Chomping on prawn crackers, I realised that something was different. Like many students, I’d lived on a tight budget during term time; constantly counting my cash, budgeting, and still ending up mysteriously broke.

Now, for the first time in three years, I could go out for a meal in the old place without a nagging, guilty feeling reminding me that a nutritious lentil stew at home would be better for my bank balance. I could even order a bottle of Moet & Chandon to accompany our meal in style – nothing was stopping me – apart from the fact that a bottle still cost £51...

Going out

It was great to visit the familiar, fantastic selection of pubs again, and to enjoy the good natured atmosphere. However, I wasn’t so sure about revisiting the clubs.

I’d never seen so many hipsters in one place. The cobbled street was packed with boys in oversize denim and scrunchy-sporting girls, who were chain-smoking rollies and shouting at each other.

“How are you meant to tell them apart? They all look the same,” I said to my friend.

“So do you,” she pointed out. I left it at that.

It took 30 seconds in the town’s biggest nightclub to remember why we’d never gone there in the first place. The fetid carpet stank of ancient pints and the dance floor was packed with ultra-intoxicated dancers who didn’t think they were moving properly unless they were elbowing somebody in the head.

Visiting campus

We visited the campus library on a Friday afternoon, whilst it was pouring with rain. Everybody was hunched over Apple Macs, looking miserable because they didn’t want to be there. We didn’t have to be there, so we left.

Making the most of it

Coming back for a short time made me really appreciate all the great things about studying in such a beautiful place. We visited the beach as many times in one week as I had in the whole of third year. Catching up with friends made it easy to remember all the best parts of university and dismiss the bad ones.

Should I stay or should I go?

By my last day in town, the urge to stay forever and write/paint/busk/do something cool was threatening to grab me. All I needed was a casual job to pay the rent…

We went out for a final drink, and I had a chat with barman Ollie. He’d graduated two years ago. I thought Ollie’s life looked pretty fun; he was surfing by day, making cocktails by night, and he had a rather snazzy haircut.

What did he think?

“Graduating was the worst experience of my life. It’s really depressing; everybody you know leaves and there are no proper jobs. I want to move but I don’t have the money-”

He broke off, distracted by a middle-aged man with dreadlocks who was eyeballing us.

“That guy comes in every night and he keeps staring at me. He graduated 10 years ago,” he told me.

The ex-student swayed slowly to the beat of the music playing inside his own head. It wasn’t what the rest of us were listening to.

So what have I learned? Well, student life with no academic work and a pay cheque is great fun - but I don’t want it to last forever.

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