3 years… That is how long I have been in Hanoi ever since I took up the offer from VinUniversity and moved to the capital for my studies. Honestly, I now relate to my parents’ perspective of time more than ever before. I swear my high school years feel a lot longer than this. Regardless, my college years are about to come to an end with my fourth and final year approaching. It is an exciting time, for sure, with my peers and I becoming upstanding, tax-paying citizens. Yet, there is also this uncomfortable feeling of anxiety that accompanies this realization. Will I find a good job? How can I survive with such an expensive cost of living? Where do I draw the line between burning out and laziness? A lot of questions and yet, so few answers. Beyond those simple questions, seniors also suffer from a lot of other worries and complex emotions. My goal of writing this article is to hopefully describe the phenomenon which I have coined the term “Pre-Graduation Anxiety Syndrome” (PGAS).
So what is PGAS? Well, to put it simply, similar to the aforementioned points, PGAS is a psychological condition whereby final-year college students begin to feel excessive anxiety and undergo immense stress, all to consider their future prospects. That does sound awfully vague, I admit. That is why I am dedicating an entire section just so I may write down my own list of symptoms that I have noticed from my personal experience. Appropriately, there are 3 of which I think match perfectly for the 3 constants of time: Past, Present and Future.
First among the many is the most obvious: anxiety. Yet, anxious regarding what exactly, you may ask? Well, the worries are plenty but most of them, one may reckon, come from the vision of the future. Some fortunate few may have already known and stuck with their expected career path. However, the rest of the “les misérables” such as yours truly are not quite certain what type of work they would enjoy and be able to find. I study Nursing, sure, so my expected outcome would be to become a nurse… right? Well, things get complicated when you put the human factor into it. I enjoy various aspects of nursing and medicine but through the internship I have attended, I figure clinical nursing work is not for me. This leaves me dangling at a crossroad wondering what alternative path I can take. Researcher? NGO worker? Academics? All too many options and yet all too uncertain. I believe that applies to many other students as well when you finally have to sit down and seriously consider your future job. Some jobs are just not as fun and rewarding as you hope and when that illusion is broken, you are left with more worries than ever before.
Second on the list, after the future has been contemplated, one starts to feel stressed in the present. The fear of the unknown future can be very overwhelming, to say the least. Once it sips down onto your present moment, you begin to doubt if what you are currently committing to is appropriate.
“I could be doing A instead of wasting time on B.”
That is the common question I have asked myself which paralyzes my ability to finish any work productively and on time. Without tangible results and constant pushbacks as well as late deadlines, it is no wonder the college students start to feel the weight of the world, of their family expectation on their shoulders. Failing to finish any work adds on top of the surmounting pressure. Even more worrisome, some may even take up too much work than they can handle, all for “the sake of their future”. Such a self-destructive act would evidently harm their mental health even further, putting them on a downward spiral of anxiety and depression.
Finally, once the dust has settled, the seniors sit down and regret. The past is haunting for those who have the biggest of ambitions. Again, this is my own story. For a long time after entering college, I did not know exactly what I wanted to do and if the major is really for me. Hence, I study only the bare minimum and spend my time lazing around doing next to nothing productive. Yet, once I finally got an idea (or at least close to one) of what that future may look like, I am already near the end of my Year 3. Is it too late? What could have been if I had done this? Those questions haunt me and make me feel even worse about everything.
THE REMEDY… OR IS THERE EVEN ONE?
Reading up to this point, I might have painted to you a dark and nihilistic picture of the senior experience. Honestly, from what I have read so far, this is a feeling any young people of the 21st century can share. The hopelessness of everything pulls you down and beats you to a pulp. However, lucky for me, I have had the courage and received in return a lot of great support from my peers and professors. Essentially, the answer boils down to…
Yes, you may have wasted your college years doing nothing productive and now you are stranding. You could have done this, you may have been better off with that. One thing to another, so many other paths. But then, so what?
“You are young, live and enjoy that time. Leave the worrying to when it really happens.”
That is probably the best advice I have received when it comes to combating PGAS. The genesis of PGAS ultimately goes back to the fear of the uncertain future. Yet, because of such an obsession with “what will happen”, we may have forgotten “what is really happening”. What you choose to do now that seems counterproductive and useless may very well serve you better in the future than you thought. Maybe you like parties a bit too much? But you did make the most out of your time in college having fun (whereby entering the workforce, less fun may be met) and maybe, just maybe, those parties lead you to meet interesting and important people. Keeping such a positive mindset and concentrating on the present is the key to success in this case. Youth is finite and mistakes can be infinite. Even when we found ourselves with a good-paying job, screw-ups are not unheard of. As such, why not just make the best of our current time and leave the worrying to when it is truly required. Live and let live, I say.
At the end of this article, I would just want to clarify that the point I am making with it is to relate to everyone through a common feeling and through such, deliver a message of positivity. It can be quite difficult growing up and realizing you can no longer be as carefree as you once were. Yet, one should not let that become detrimental to their own health and daily life. Graduation may be coming and your days as a “kid” may come to an end but up ahead is an infinite future where you can show yourself to the world and become a force of positive change.
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