International student perspective: graduating from university

International student perspective: graduating from university

When finishing university, the question I found myself asked most was: “Where to next?”. It’s a difficult question to answer for any new graduate who hasn’t quite figured it out. And an even harder question when you’re an international student.

For as far back as my first year this question has hung over my head I would often say to my friends from back home: ‘Don’t worry, three more years and I’ll be back!’ This is a timeline which has continuously shifted each year, facing new obstacles and factors that make the decision to stay or go daunting, yet simple at times.

Leading me to ask myself: what’s most important? So here are the things that I took into consideration while making the bittersweet decision to stay and coming to terms with it.

Number one: Visas

A crucial aspect of being a graduate, an adult and an international student is time. With the visa clock hanging over your head it’s important to understand your options and the way in which to use these rules and guidelines to your benefit. When I graduated in 2021 the UK government had just released the implementation of a graduate visa. As an international student you could spend two years seeking employment after completing your formal education. To say this was a lifesaver would be an understatement! When I had left university, I had no work lined up, no ambition to do postgrad studies, or any clue what career I wanted to pursue.

This visa thus far has afforded me the time to explore different jobs without the mad rush to find and keep visa sponsorship under the skilled worker visa. A path I would recommend to any international student who finds themselves lost after graduation but doesn’t want to limit their options by immediately returning home. The graduate visa, although brief, does allow you to upskill, gain experience and make ground to eventually find sponsored employment thereafter if planning to stay longer in the UK.

This guides me to my next point. Career aspirations, and how ithey can affect one’s decision to stick around.

International student perspective: graduating from university

How do your career aspirations fit into your environment?

As a graduate this was one of the most important questions I was asked. Does the career I want to pursue afford me mobility, does it allow me to live and work anywhere? This question was something I’d never explored prior, and why would I? At that point I had no clue what career I wanted to pursue, and no interest in expanding on anything to do with my degree.

I decided I needed a year out to explore what I may want to do, and in a true turn of fate I ended up falling in love again with the career that I wanted as a child – working within the fashion and creative industry.

That being said the country that I come from is quiet small and still in the very developmental phases of the creative industry, making it a great place to build and improve the existing industry but not necessarily to gain experience and infiltrate the larger fashion industry and creative market. Making the decision of staying the most logical one, at least for now in order to gain experience without great environmental limitation.

Having to deal with the fact that you may be left alone.

An aspect which I valued most when I first came to the UK and still value was the group of friends I was able to take with me. Through having this community, I was able to plan girl’s trips, have a sense of home in various different cities, converse with people who were walking the same path as me and seek comfort in those that have known me.

This to me was the hardest factor in coming to my decision on whether to stay or go, especially as we were all reaching the same crossroads where it seemed easier to group together and follow each other on to the next path. However my career ambitions and dreams didn’t quite fit with the idea of me going home, leading me to reflect and ask myself: Rati are you going to be okay alone?

To an extent yes, I luckily have been able to make friends from the UK who are like family and I will hopefully continue to make friends and a community. On top of that my friends from home will always be there as friends and a support network even form far away. However, some opportunities and experiences might not. So, it’s really important to figure out – what’s important? Which decision will leave you without regret?

International student perspective: graduating from university

Therefore, when deciding whether to stay or go, each person needs to consider their personal pros and cons. But as an international graduate the last piece of advice I would give, is to remember that home will always be there, and no decision is permanent! Don’t limit yourself.

Written by Oratile Mookodi

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International student perspective: graduating from university

Emily Goodwin

Marketing Co-ordinator for Emily manages all marketing activities for Tyfy. As well as her own Mental Health Monday column, Em also carries out Marketing, Research and Development for the Company.