On 4th August 2012 Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins woke up as Olympic champions with gold medals reminding them that a day earlier they had won the final race in the Women’s Double Sculls at Dorney Lake. But now they felt empty, lost and on unfamiliar ground. For every day of the previous four years all their plans had been about working towards 3rd August 2012. Everything they did in training, every little detail they planned was all about delivering their best performance on that one occasion – the final – with no second chances. The only deliverable which mattered to them was a gold medal on 3rd August. All their plans ended on that date. It was as if 3rd August was the last day ever, and nothing existed after it.
[Photo courtesy of International Business Times]
Graduates often experience exactly the same feeling – either as they walk away from their final exam, or on hearing the results of their finals… “Gosh, it’s all over… what do I do now?”
It is so easy to spend three years at university enjoying student life whilst working towards the goal of being awarded a degree. For many, wearing a degree gown and mortar board, shaking the hand of an esteemed dignitary and collecting the much-prized certificate is the goal. But it pays to remember that it’s only one of a series of milestones in a personal journey which started many years earlier, and which will hopefully continue for many more years to come.
At any one time we are are the sum total of our experiences to date. Everything we do somehow shapes us and makes us who we are. So it’s important for students to keep in mind that getting a degree might seem like the end, but in reality it’s just the start of something else. Work through the milestone, not to it. Acquiring new skills and experiences during those three years at university won’t necessarily lead to a better degree – but they’ll surely be useful once you’ve got one and you’re looking for a job!