With her final exams behind her and her graduation looming, Kirsty Bennett bemoans the end of student life...
I will never forget the moment I stepped out of the last exam of my degree.
Given, it was only about two months ago, but it will stay with me for years to come - and for all the wrong reasons.
The afternoon started well enough, texting everyone I knew with 'woohoo' messages and setting off into the city with a friend in tow, on an uncommonly sunny afternoon.
I was going to have fun. The past three months slumped in front of a computer typing essays and memorising Shakespeare meant I wholly deserved it.
My friend and I engaged in suitably student activities. We went and had a two-for-one lunch and a £6 bottle of wine, before heading to the student mecca of H&M to spend money neither of us had on clothes we would never wear.
But it didn't feel quite right - I was behaving like a student, dressed like one, and drinking in the middle of the day like one. Yet there was a creeping feeling of anticlimax, and the pervading sense of being an imposter.
I was clinging to a world of mid-week parties and 11am lie-ins that was fast disappearing behind me.
This feeling wasn't entirely new of course, it had been slowly encroaching upon me since late February. I just had tried my best to ignore it. Yet, whenever I got chatting to freshers down the pub I found myself muttering phrases like 'don't know how lucky they are', 'best years of their lives' and 'if I could start all over again'.
Then in May I turned 22, and when I told people my age I noticed they asked 'What do you do?' as opposed to the altogether more familiar and less threatening 'So what do you study?'
For the past three years I have written on countless forms and informed countless people that my occupation was 'Student.' That one word was like a get out of jail free card, an excuse for why I wasn't really doing anything in particular, least of all paying tax.
I am at a loss now my comfortable label has left me. Now, on the final day of my undergraduate career I felt myself once and for all cross over to the unholy no-man's land of the 'Graduand'.
'Graduand' is the altogether horrible term for someone in between final exam and graduation ceremony.
It is supposed to be a kind of safe house, an eight week period where one can legitimately do nothing, work through the remainder of the overdraft and drink turbo shandies in a desperate attempt to cling onto the student days. But it really doesn't work that way.
My friend and I were enjoying our £6 wine, when I suddenly remarked that, for the first time in three years, we had nothing to do.
It was terribly liberating and terribly frightening.
No essays to write, no books to read, no seminars or lectures to attend. We could go home and watch Australian soap operas. We could return to the sweaty hell of student nightclubs we visited in our first year, burn all our notes and stay in bed on a Sunday until 2pm.
The thing is, now I can do these things for my eight week grace period, they don't seem as appealing.
On the day before my essays were due a month previously I had spent three solid hours playing spider solitaire, adamant that I had to win five games in a row before I could start proof reading 3,000 words on disability theory, which meant this task was put off until about 4pm.
Now, those little electronic cards leave me cold.
I have also suddenly noted, after three years of denial, that Hollyoaks is complete piffle. Even my illusions of Neighbours has dulled after meeting Karl Kennedy on a singing tour of Walkabout pubs and finding him somewhat lacking in comparison to the medical superhuman that graces Erinsborough.
It is completely true that university leaves you ill-prepared from the real world beyond. For starters, when embarking on my first temp job since becoming a 'Graduand', I realised that I do not own any trousers that aren't made of denim, and my shoe collection is woefully limited to either scruffy trainers or ridiculously high party shoes that are only worn for about four hours at a time and definitely not made for stairs.
My first paycheck signalled a return to H&M, but instead of buying 'ironic' t-shirts and stupid earrings, I was in the smart-clothes-at-low-prices section buying budget office wear. It was terribly upsetting. I longed to circulate in the summer-clothing section, but retreated after stares from some first years who seemed uncannily aware that I was no longer one of them.
So for those first few week my fellow Graduands and I did what we could to hang on to the old ways. Like freshers once more, we could go out every night guiltfree, shop and socialise, but one by one we shut up shop and moved out of our student digs.
I have just a week left before D-day (or should that be G-day?) when I am no longer a student, a freeloader or a Graduand, but a fully fledged Graduate.
And oddly enough, I have started to feel rather positive about it. I may not be able to go out for student-only £1.50 vodkas on a Tuesday anymore, but those kind of nights always made Wednesdays something of a struggle.
I have also started to think that earning a salary might make a nice change. Maybe then I could upgrade to the £8 wine which bars actually put in the fridge before you drink it. The Holy Grail that is the £10 variety, that comes in its own ice bucket, will have to wait until I clear some debts, but in the meanwhile I shall be able to indulge in both my sensible office clothes and those of a summer variety.