After my final class (ever) on Thursday the 11th of March 2021, there is a strange sense of relief and disquiet. I have been in education since the age of 5 (year 1) and I am now 22, that’s 17 years of non-stop education! I find myself unable to separate my personal identity from a student into the graduate that I now am who is seeking to start taking the first steps towards a career in the heritage sector. I have been preparing myself for this moment, slowly, since the beginning of my bachelor’s degree in history in 2017, by undertaking a work placement every year. From being an archivist with the Ministry of Defence at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, to an oral historian for the Women’s Community Activism Project, to an artefact’s interpreter at the Mary Rose Museum until more recently developing a website for the All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Party and now, looking for my final placement for the summer term. Despite this, this new sense of disquiet has come to the fore as I start to submit my final four assignments for spring term and begin the process of writing my dissertation. I am filled with gratitude for my mother, family and friends for their support and encouragement as well as from previous/current teachers for their enthusiasm and belief in me. But I find this feeling has overridden any satisfaction/relief which accompanies submitting an assignment. I hope, however, that as my job search continues and I look towards the future to a possible PhD, I can find acceptance and excitement for the prospect of trying something new but right now I feel very unsure. This may be because of lockdown and not being able to take a break from my studies and get out to enjoy myself, that I am focusing too much on this feeling right now, but with the new guidelines on the easing of lockdown restrictions, I might get this break soon.
I have, however, taken this as an opportunity to reflect upon how hard I have been working and the grades I have achieved because of this hard work. As my brother Ashley likes to remind me, “if things were easy, everyone would do them”. I find I have a newfound appreciation for my teachers and the students I see studying during the pandemic, knowing how it is to study both within and outside of a global crisis but knowing that if they can do it, I can too. I was not able to have a formal graduation for my undergraduate degree which I feel has made this experience even more difficult for me as there was no closure of that chapter. I draw inspiration and strength from those at the university and schools in my area who are persevering despite all the hardship. I still have a few months left but if you are reading this, I want to say I am proud of you and do not give up. Enjoy the process and ride the waves. Once it is over, you will be able to reflect fondly as I have. Hopefully, this time, I will be able to graduate and close this wonderful year at the University of York.