Author’s note: Honestly, it was painful for me to write this blog post. It hasn’t even been one year since I graduated from university. That’s why I kept pushing the deadline… It was originally due on the 15th, as I’ve decided to publish 2 articles a month (or basically every 2 weeks) as from now! So stay tuned, and if you don’t want to miss anything, be sure to subscribe to the monthly newsletter at the end of this post.
I often think back to the days right after graduating from university. They were somehow rushed, but with an illusion of having everything under control. In a way, that was my first mistake.
Okay, here’s a little bit of context for new readers here (hi!): I graduated from Monash University Malaysia in November 2017, where I was an international student who came from Mauritius. After graduation, I knew I had to face the harsh truth: I had to leave all my friends and my well-established life and go back home, found miles away, and into another culture and lifestyle.
It wasn’t easy and my initial approach to the whole situation wasn’t ideal.
If any of you are going through the same transition period, then this article is for you. Learn from the 5 most influential mistakes I made at that time.
1. I jumped straight into my first job.
After I completed my studies, one month before the graduation ceremony, I started to panic because I didn’t know what I was going to do afterwards. I needed to find a job. Or else the people around me would annoy me with questions and would pressure me to do something with my life. Thus, instead, I became the one to put pressure on myself and started applying.
Maybe I was lucky (or, in relation to this article, rather unlucky), but I was offered 2 jobs rather quickly, and the starting date of the one I decided to accept was… technically right after the weekend I’d arrive in Mauritius. I was already working at my first full-time job the week after I had said my goodbyes in Malaysia!
2. I did not meet up with any of my friends.
Most of my closest friends were still studying abroad while others lived too far away. Moreover, we were all busy with work, knowing we could only meet over the weekend. And most of the time, weekends are packed with the other stuff you couldn’t do while at work.
I was only able to enjoy a proper night out with a group of university friends when I was on the brink of quitting my job (oh, more of that in a future post). That night, I finally felt less alone in my current situation, since I was surrounded by people who had been through the same transitioning struggles as me.
That night also led to more meet-ups with other friends. And frankly, meeting up with your good old friends has a huge impact on your morale. In all, go out and meet people, even if you don’t feel like it. You won’t regret it, I assure you!
3. I kept comparing my life then and now.
Everything was better in Malaysia: the culture, the nightlife, the food, the neighbourhood, transportation… Back in Mauritius, I felt alienated and disconnected. The culture didn’t speak to me as much as the one I experienced in my Malaysian city. In fact, I didn’t feel like I belonged. I had lost my community.
I would keep on comparing the two strikingly different lifestyles, seeing only the good in my past student years and only the bad in my current way of living. This negative way of thinking made me miserable.
Slowly, I considered the things that made me unhappy and sorted them out into the things I could change, that I could control, and those I couldn’t. And I started to make little changes. Going out more with my friends, as mentioned above, was one of them.
4. I allowed unhealthy habits into my routine.
Since I felt so miserable, I would abandon my previously healthy routine (which I could easily keep up in Malaysia). I barely worked out, I drank a lot and I ate a lot. I would also complain a lot. Indeed, bad habits can either be physical or mental: both so destructive!
After identifying those habits, I decided to tackle each one of them one by one. Transforming one habit at a time is the key to not feeling like you’re not making progress or feeling overwhelmed because you are trying to start too many new routines.
For instance, I decided to moderate my drinking to once a month (or less), as compared to drinking every week. Now, I’m trying to focus on finding a workout routine that fits my current schedule and energy level. Yes, it’s been nearly a year since I’ve graduated and I am still working on my mistakes.
5. I let toxic people get to me.
Finally, I let my self-esteem get crushed by other people. I let my environment define me. To the point that I also believed I was not good enough. To be honest, I have no idea how many instances in my life I have allowed myself to be broken down by other people.
Self-esteem may take years to build, but it will only take a few days (one day? Hours?) to destroy it. I have probably always had this fear of not being worthy enough, and I fight it every day. But the fight gets much harder when you are surrounded by the wrong kind of people.
The solution? Find other people. Leave your job. Move out from your current living space. Yes, those things take time, but there are no quick-and-easy solutions to maintaining a healthy lifestyle after graduating from university.
These mistakes may often be unavoidable for international students after graduation, but at least after reading this, you would be more aware of them. Hopefully, you’ll be able to catch yourself in those moments and get a hold of your new adult life sooner than I did.
With that said, let me know in the comments if you have any of your own personal advice in dealing with the university-to-adult-life transition!
D. K. Waye.
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