I was in UCD last weekend. It was first proper time I'd been back in two months. Even counting every summer over the past 4 years it's the longest I've been away from UCD.I am such a nerd...
And while I should be reflecting on why I was on campus (ASIST - Suicide Prevention Training) and I will make a mental note to do so later on, right now I want to look at the complete difference in your social life not being in University makes.
As socially isolating as I found University at times, not being in college can also be isolating. This is my first year since I was 3 years old NOT in education. This is the first year I don't get at least 2 weeks off for Christmas Holidays. This is post-academia and it's really kinda scary.
What a change entering the 'real world' is, as I like to call it.
I turned up at the weekend training session expecting not to know anyone at it - as if my 2 months since stepping foot on campus had meant an entirely new batch of faces had replaced the old.
I was extremely pleasantly surprised to see people I knew. And people I hadn't seen in ages, or even spoken to in ages. Honestly, I think it was what I needed. On the Saturday evening all I could think about was how I missed this. I missed seeing my people I liked. I missed drinking tea with my friends.
I regretted thinking I didn't have the time to keep in touch with them.
See, college has a lot of unnoticed-at-the-time perks.
Take the freedom - in 3rd level institutes you're not tied down to fixed or heavy hours. Obviously this is course depending - I did know people with scarily long lab hours. But I did Arts and Social Science. I had max 16 hours a week. And it was awesome.
Students are also allowed to be stingy. Complaining about budgets (lack of budgets), not eating, spending your week's money on one night in Coppers. Once you get a job, no matter how shit-ly it may pay, no one wants to hear you complain. Trust me, because I've been doing it for 7 months.
If you went to UCD like me, you don't even have to leave campus to go to a bar. Apart from 2012-13. Those were dark days that we say don't like to speak about, but yet we still do all the time. Do you know how difficult it is trying to go to a bar at 5pm after work? Or trying to decide where your 'local' should be? Or the price of alcohol when it's not part of a student deal? Thank heavens for UCD's non-expiring date student cards!
But these are minuscule in comparison to having the opportunity to see people on a daily basis. People you like. Your friends.
You're in classes with others on your course. Most people sit beside friends or at the very least acquaintances during these. There's an hour of limited social contact happening that you didn't even notice.
Then there's the structured socialising.
Or you can become heavily involved in extra curricula activities like I did in my last two years (having spent the first two years knowing what is like not to be involved).
You can go for lunch together.Go for coffee in between classes.Catch the bus into town when you finish for the day.
There were society events on daily and you could choose to attend or not. But the option was THERE.
Or take my friend Micheal (because I know he's what he calls a 'secret reader' of my blog). As a student I didn't see Micheal that much - I figured he had more important things to do to be perfectly honest with you - but I could always call into his office or drop him a text. And I always knew that.
There were natural things that could just happen. Bumping into a friend and going for lunch. Calling into the society office to say 'hi'. In college you would meet people casually. Or you often knew where to find them if you wanted to bump into them 'not so casually'....
Now everything has to planned.
Do not get me wrong. I do love a good plan. BUT -
Now I'm working 9-5, 5 days a week (and this is not a complaint, I love it as I have always loved keeping busy). But after my day job I'm either working in my other job, or making lunch for work, doing laundry, or sleeping. On special occasions I see people. We had a Christmas dinner just this week which was awesome. But I no longer have the option of dropping into Micheal's office just to say 'hi'. And because I WAS quite active in college (later years I mean) I randomly saw people every day. And I totally under-appreciated it at the time. This type of social contact is also great for your mental health (see my social contact blog post).
And while I am still glad to be in the 'real world' and in a new challenge - out of my comfort zone essentially because I had become so comfortable in UCD. I'm just saying that I miss this aspect. And it took me being right back in the midst of UCD to realise that.
Perhaps it's the fact that an awful lot of my friends are still in uni, and it's harder to see them now. Or the fact that it's harder to see anyone.
But I do miss my student days. And the transition to a non-casual, non-random social life is pretty tough for me.
And it'll probably take some time for me to adapt to the 'real world'.