> There is a wonderful bubble called university.  We spend three yars drunkenly floating about in it, before something nasty alled reality comes along and pops it. Welcome to the real world.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things – Corinthians 13:11.

Now I’m not a religious man, but this struck a chord with me as I got older. As a child, life is simple I’m sure you’ll agree. We go to school, we play, we bathe (occasionally), we sleep; lather rinse repeat.

The older we get, the more complicated life becomes and we hopefully adjust accordingly, a process known to experts as ‘growing up.’ Life though, remains relatively straightforward with little discernable change from earlier childhood routines.

Then, suddenly, it’s time to make decisions and take actions which will influence the rest of your life. Scary times but with the help and support of friends, family and faculty we muddle through as best we can.

What is common throughout the early chapters of our lives is structure and guidance. The path, for many, is a simple one: School, GCSEs, A levels, university. Now though, we have a problem.

Around this time, following Christmas and those tedious January exams, many of your minds will doubtless have turned to the future. Dissertations will (hopefully) be coming along nicely, and your university career is coming to an end; so what now?

Those of you hoping to find an answer in this article will be sadly disappointed, for I do not have one. Not a conclusive one at any rate, because there isn’t one.

Some of you will already know what you want to do once you graduate. Some will have plans to continue in education, going on to do a masters or PhD and some may already have a job waiting for them. The majority of people though will be in the same boat, looking to the future trying to work out what to do next.s

The wonderful thing about this though, is that you are far from alone. If you are one of those people coming to the end of your academic career, with no greater idea of your future than when you started, you are in fact part of an overwhelming majority.

For many people the scary thing is the loss of the structure and order; since the beginning of your academic lives the next step has been glaringly obvious. There is a commonly accepted, almost natural order to things. We finish one step, begin the next, and so on; until now that is.

For some of you this will be the first time that you have been solely in control of the path your life will take. The structure which you have relied on for the past 20 something years doesn’t extend beyond this step. From here on in, you’re on your own.

As scary as this notion can be, try to think of it in terms of excitement and most importantly, freedom. Now, without the admittedly useful structure of academia, you are free. Free to make your own choices, your own decisions, and your own mistakes. You are now 100 percent in control of your life, and you may do with it whatever the hell you want.

All this new freedom though, brings with it an inherent sense of responsibility. While you are now free to make your own decisions, unhindered by external influence, you are also responsible for their consequences. Fear not though, for your time at UWE has been about much more than lectures and exams. The life lessons you have learned over the last 3 years will serve you well in the future, whatever you choose to do.

The mature students amongst you will know how important life experience is, how invaluable simple lessons can be. The day-to-day things which seemed so alien and difficult when you arrived at UWE will by now be second nature. Your education has not been confined to the classroom. With every new day and each new experience you have been learning by osmosis; absorbing information and knowledge from the second you arrived without ever knowing it. Three years later and your university education is complete. Your time at the University of Life however, is just beginning.

The University of Life accepts all applicants, there is no interview and there are no exams, enrolment is compulsory and the classes are really rather hard. But just like your secondary school education prepared you for university’s academic trials, the things you have learned here, both in and out of the classroom, have prepared you for the rest of your life.

Those who came to university a little later than usual, like me, will tell you that life without a decent education is a great deal more difficult. Your university education is like a video game cheat; you have a greater knowledge and understanding than many of those around you and best of all, you have your degree. That piece of paper will open more doors and opportunities than you can possibly imagine.

If you only take one thing from this article, make it this: Life is hard, very hard. It will test you constantly and there are no resits. But it is also exciting, unpredictable, enchanting and exhilarating, the rewards far outweigh the trials and for the first time, it is all yours.

Corinthians 13:11 tells us that as adults we must put away childish things. Just put them somewhere safe and keep them with you always. Life is indeed difficult and challenging and maturity is a valuable commodity. But what is the point in and toiling and struggling if when all is said and done you can’t enjoy the fruits of your labour?

Work hard, make good decisions, do the best you can but let the child in you come out whenever you can. They know what life is really all about. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Steve Maguire