Reclaiming Your Identity After University by Ashlyn Baker

Before we dive in, let me introduce myself- I’m Ashlyn (@ashlynbaker.yt) from Liverpool, UK. I neverusally have to tell people I’m from Liverpool because they can guess from my accent. I don’t have an official title like ‘influencer’ that I align with so Content Creator will have to do for now. I create content for Youtube and Instagram at the moment. I’m introducing myself here as it gives you insight to why I am writing this article. 

I launched my YouTube channel on my birthday, the very beginning of my YouTube channel was university advice videos as that was what was relevant in my life at the time. I was 19 and totally in the University Bubble. I capitalise this as it is an entity in itself. If you, lovely reader, are in university at the moment firstly, god bless you for staying on during such a tumultuous time you have my upmost respect. Secondly, you may understand what I mean by the University Bubble without me having to explain. An analogy I can assimilate it to is reality tv like Love Island or Big Brother (you can tell what I like to watch here..). Those humans in the reality tv house are so invested in life inside the house they find it hard to think or relate to life outside the house. They take on the identity of ‘islander’ or ‘housemate’ and this is something which they will identify as for the rest of their life. Or as long as their Instagram account is popular for. In this instance, humans at university identify as ‘student’. ‘Student’ has connotations outside of the University Bubble and brings along a stereotype. Lovely reader, you may find yourself being pigeon-holed as a ‘student’ or ‘studenty-type’ for the rest of your life.  When you leave university, people will make jokes at your expense on account of your ‘student’ identity and you will feel differently about yourself especially around this ‘student’ identity. This is something NO ONE prepares you for. You’re welcome. For writing this article that is. Not for delivering hard truths. No nice person enjoys that.

Let’s talk about me for a while. (As a Leo Sun, that’s something I like to do a lot). During my time at university, I was so deep in the University Bubble that I struggled to maintain ties to people not at University. This included family and friends who hadn’t gone to university yet. I was accused of pushing people away and this wasn’t entirely untrue. To me however, it felt like there was such a disconnect between us and them that I didn’t know what to talk about. There was nothing we could relate to. My day-to-day living was not at all like it was when I was living at home and studying for my A-Levels. For example, I could work whenever I wanted and staying for extended periods at the library was a normal occurrence for me and my housemates. See, another similarity to Big Brother! At university, I finally understood why office hours are 9am until 5pm. I lived for the weekends to drink my exam stress away. I was surrounded by peers who could empathise with me 24/7 about everything. 

So what happened when the University Bubble popped? Well, lovely reader, I freaked out. There are so many emotions you feel when you graduate; important note here, I define graduating as much more than a one-day ceremony. Graduating is the gradual change from university to moving back home or moving into the working world. Makes sense why it’s called that now doesn’t it? When you graduate, you will feel relieved and apprehensive in equal measure. No longer under the duress of coursework or revision, it is like a weight has been lifted. On the other hand, how do you divide up your day, your week, your month or even your year? (I hope I can’t get copyrighted for that reference and I hope that you understood that reference!) It will feel like the blinkers have come off and you can see the ever-stretching expanse of the world unfolding in front of you. You will grasp at the tiniest idea of routine. This will feel even stronger if you don’t have anything lined up after university. News flash, no one really does. Even those who have plans, life will find a way to mess those up. Trust me, I was in my dream job before Miss Rona stuck her nose in. I wasn’t even good at my dream job but that’s a topic for another blog post…

Ashlyn, get to the point I hear you cry! How did you reclaim your identity after university? Lovely reader, I’m not sure I have. Who am I? Humans have been asking themselves this question for millennia. Here are some things I do know about my identity: I can understand ‘student’ issues and relate to how I felt back when I was in that position. but I no longer completely feel like a ‘student’. When trying to stick to short-courses during lockdown I found it really really hard to motivate myself. There are no deadlines to adhere to so why would I bother? Watching YouTube is much more fun. (Especially my channel *ahem*). With this said, I also still cling onto some aspects of being a ‘student’ in particular, binge drinking on a weekend with my friends (albeit via Zoom) to unwind. Not much has changed there! This may just be a character trait of mine though. I suppose what I’m saying is that when I see Facebook ads mentioning ‘student discounts’ or ‘back to uni’, I don’t click. They won’t grab my attention anymore. Studying content and pretty notebooks just don’t have the same gravitas. 

Identity is a bit of a grey area, lovely reader, and there are other aspects of it I’d like to comment on. Part of the process of moving home is reclaiming your identity not only for yourself but from others too. You can reclaim their previous perception of you/identity and show them how it has changed. Fingers crossed for the better. When you leave home, your parents/guardians worry about you because you’re not that ‘mature’ yet. Don’t get offended! More often than not it’s true. You haven’t had certain life experiences which they have had, it’s not a bad thing. It’s a simple fact of life. When you come back you probably will have had those experiences but because your parents weren’t at your side when you went through them they find it hard to accept you’re now more ‘mature’. Lovely reader, this is fine too!! This could be a whole other blog topic too so I’ll be brief here. Reclaiming your identity from others is harder than reclaiming your identity for yourself. There will be no guarantee that much of someone else’s preconceived ideas will change. Yet, you should still try! Hey, it may happen naturally. Lovely reader, who will you become after university? I’m excited for you to find out!

Thank you for reading and a MASSIVE thank you to Alice for allowing me to contribute on this blog !! Here are all my social links if you’re interested in hearing more from me…

Instagram | @ashlynbaker.yt
Youtube | Ashlyn Baker
Medium | ashlyn1baker
Enquries | ashlyn1baker@googlemail.com

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