Throughout the last few weeks of the university year, a choice looms over you: stay put for the summer, or go home for a few weeks. By and large, you choose depending on what your friends are doing. But staying put might be more useful than you realise.
When I was a studying in London, I chose not to go home for the summer inbetween my second and third year. Financially, it was almost certainly the best thing I could have done. Not only did I not spend summer asking my parents for lifts everywhere, but I was forced to get a job – something that I’d never quite got around to doing when I was studying. When you’ve got a regular load check coming in, the urgency to get a job isn’t particularly high. Certainly not as high as the urgency to go to the pub and talk rubbish for five hours.
I got a job selling insurance, which sounds really really dull. Without realising it ever would be, that job has been really helpful throughout my twenties. I went on to work in sales (for an insurance magazine) and picked up some really useful experience. I also had a job with surprisingly good hours – I usually did four hours shifts and was done by 9pm. I got paid as much as my friends working in the student bar when they returned.
I also made new friends that summer, outside of university. It wasn’t so lonely. It wasn’t so sucky having all of my friends go home for the summer. I got to experience London without the little university bubble around it. I got to be responsible for my rent being paid on time each month, and I got to learn how to budget my money. Sometimes I wasn’t very good at that. Once I spent all of my money on takeaway and couldn’t afford to get to work. That didn’t impress my boss at all.
I learnt how to take care of myself, without a financial crux. I guess I knew that if I really ran into trouble I could call my parents (actually, I’m pretty sure I did a couple of times), but I’d have found things much harder without that extra bit of experience.
The most important thing? I kept my job throughout my final year. It’s the busiest year of your degree but it actually helped me. I’m a procrastinator. If I’ve got spare time and a deadline that’s weeks away, I faff about doing not very much at all. Once you’ve got a job, you have to manage your time. Not only was I getting paid and earning my own money (hi new shoes), I was working harder as well. I think I was turning out better work because I had to be more focussed.
Getting a job over the summer isn’t just about the money. There’s more to it than that. Going home for the summer might be fun, but you’ll have excellent adventures if you stay put, and you’ll earn yourself a few bob while learning a few lessons. That’s probably more valuable than the pay cheque.