What happens when the ‘real world’ calls? – By Rachel Martin

I’m not the first and I am sure I won’t be the last to say, finishing university is a big deal. As the sun sets over Sheffield City Centre, thousands of students are rising from a deep sleep, ready and armed to hit the neon jungle, and here I am, ready for bed at 10pm (11pm at the latest), asking myself – when did I grow up?

I’m sure you’ve heard countless stories about the student lifestyle: cheap drinks, cheap food, clubbing 24/7 – it’s all true. For a while it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you. Endless amounts of freedom, alcohol and greasy ‘morning after’ takeaways – what’s not to love? Well, a lot of it actually, especially the painful hangovers.

I’m not saying that I wouldn’t want to go back, because given the chance I would do it all over again – and probably again after that. I know as I watch the fresh faced first years unpack their lives from the boot of their parents’ cars, I miss it, I miss it a lot.

Having been lucky enough to find a job straight after university I was thrown in at the deep end. University coursework and exams hadn’t quite prepared me for the ‘real world’ after all. I guess pulling pints and managing a bar full of students doesn’t quite cut it in the boardroom.

I fit in nicely – I think. Using the skills I learnt at university to quickly teach myself that ironing your clothes with your hair straighteners and drinking five nights a week are not skills that readily transfer to the office.

And after this comes the truly pressing question – “what do I wear?” I managed the first few days of ‘business casual’ dressing, whatever that means, and I’m pretty sure I nailed it. Tailored trousers and a blazer, right? Odd socks are alright as long as nobody notices them. Ensure you wash your hair daily. A can of deodorant and bottle of perfume in your bag is a must. And then you start to wonder, does anyone else even care half as much as I do? These are still the kinds of questions that keep me up at night.

At first, daylight was my worst enemy. I quickly learnt that the smell of fresh morning air undoubtedly smells better than stale alcohol and yesterday’s leftover kebab.  I’d never realised how beautiful the sunrise was until I stopped trying to shut it out of my bedroom at 6am.

When you set off for university your family use the obligatory line “off into the big wide world you go” but university is only the halfway point. Being a student might have opened my eyes to the reality of the real world but it hadn’t quite prepared me for as many aspects of the professional world as I hoped. I’ve adapted, sure, but I still have so much to learn.

Sometimes I still find myself baffled, completely stumped. How did all that academic research and mastering the Harvard referencing system not prepare me for this? Sure being a student is great, and going to university was the best decision I have made to date, but I still have a long way to go.

Swapping Sheffield’s night life for the ever changing world of work is the second biggest journey I have embarked on. So far it’s great, until my alarm wakes me up at 7:30am that is.

My favourite black stilettos now take their at the back of the wardrobe, only to be worn on special occasions, hidden by rows of professional footwear. I’m ok with that and I’m ok with not being a student anymore – I think the professional lifestyle suits me.

So here I am, in the real world. Ready to do business, ready to show the world what I’m made of, and finally ready to be able to buy all those expensive things I now don’t have the time to use.