Ten years of my life were dedicated to practicing horseback riding. I loved the feeling of companionship that you get when you train with a horse long enough, I loved the speed, the adrenaline, I loved feeling the change of pace when you (gently) nudge him/her to start cantering instead of trotting, and certainly I loved jumping and doing an obstacle courses. My family constantly used this sport as a metaphor of what life can be like, you see your obstacle, you take your time to get ready, you face it and you overcome it. Alternatively, you take your time to get ready, you forget a detail, the horse doesn’t follow through (as horses naturally won’t jump unless you give them the incentive to do so) and you fall down. When this happens, though, you get back up –not necessarily immediately, sometimes it takes a good solid minute to get back up from a bruised ego– you quite literally shake it off and then you try again. Either way you do not give up.
I was quite young when I started practicing it, what mainly drew me were the horses. Later I understood what my family saw in the sport, as I explain it above. But it wasn’t until I had to stop practicing it and gained some perspective that I realized another big aspect of what made me love this sport: I always knew what would come next. Sure, I could never fully predict how my horse would behave as he had a mind of his own. Nonetheless, I knew that after this obstacle I would need to face this other one and then another one until I was done. I could go through the course several times in my mind until I knew like the back of my hand, before I even had to actually do it. Knowing what would come next gave me a sense of control. Even if my horse had its own plans, I knew what would come next, and thus I could prepare myself and make the necessary arrangements so my horse would be ready to face the jump as well.
Needless to say, this is not how life works. Life does not give you a map of the obstacles so you can prepare ahead of time, it just plumps them right in your path. In life there are plenty of other factors that you cannot control. It is not just the horses mind that lies out of your reach.
Not knowing what is coming next is part of life and yes, that includes university. As you see the end of your time in university, it is possible that a lot of questions and the anxiety they may trigger creep in. What am I going to do next? Do I want to continue my education and do a masters or PhD? Will I get a job? How can I get an internship? All these are very valid and quite important questions, and if you feel a little bit drowned by them, I do not judge you at all. If you are international and are looking to stay in Europe then I salute you because I know that that opens up a whole other can of worms.
Additionally, knowing that you can “take your future into your hands” does not help at all. Mainly because, sure I can, but there is a mountain of variables that quite literally are out of my hands and are therefore not up to me. Being completely honest, this can be quite upsetting. However, something that has helped me a lot when after searching and searching for what to do next and not finding suitable options, is to go to my tutor or to the CareerZone. In my previous university we did not have these type or services or dynamics, it was pretty much “every man for himself”, and when moving to a new country this prerogative takes a whole new level when you factor in the fact that you might not know the job market as well as the one from your home country.
Yes, it doesn’t matter where you come from, the jump from student to the grown-up world of the work market is daunting. Nonetheless, this does not mean that you have to make this jump completely unprepared, which can make the difference.
One of the things that appealed to me the most about this university was the CareerZone platform they had and the different schemes and services it provides. During the past few months I have felt less anxious when I see that they have catered the information they send me for my needs and interests. It gives me a sense or a sneak peek of what I will find in the rest of the work fields that interest me. To know that there are indeed opportunities out there eases my mind.
What has also helped enormously is to take it one step at a time. Much like doing a jump course, you do not think of all the obstacles you will face, you have to take it one jump at a time. You need to focus on what is right in front of you. You will worry about what comes after you’ve made the jump. Otherwise you will, more often than not, become overwhelmed and distracted and fall off your horse. With the CareerZone and my tutor I have been able to dissect the “what comes next” into more doable steps, things that I do have control over and that I can improve upon. My CV, my cover letters, sending the right application, doing more research on the job market of my particular field, opening up for more career paths. All these are things that overall contribute to that big question that you have agency on.
I think of them the same way I used to think of my coach. They help me prepare, they nudge me in the right direction and quite literally walk the obstacles with me. They help me prepare, so that when I make the jump, even if I’m making it alone, I will still feel like I had a good platform from where to jump from. Even though they cannot apply in my name and there are still lots of variables that are out of my hands, talking to my tutor about my concerns or making different appointments to career zone to talk about what options are available and how to best approach the, makes me feel even more prepared.
True, sometimes it doesn’t matter if you’re prepared or not, you will fall down. But that does not mean that you should not give it your best shot and come at every obstacle with all what you have got. And making use of such platforms or spaces has allowed me to feel that I am making use of the tools that I have access to, in order to face what’s coming. It also gives me a sense of companionship and that I am taken care of, that the place that I am at is aware of the reality that most of us are going through and is there with us, helping us in whatever way they can.