Considering last decades it is relatively easy to find a job nowadays, even before you actually graduate. Companies care less and less about the diploma and more about your skills and interests. Students, especially those in technical fields, tend to start their professional careers as early as possible, even during the first or second year of their studies. It easy to start putting work before everything else and in the end “settle down” before you even get a taste of the real student life.
Why do we do it? The first reason seems to be pretty straight-forward - for money. Some simply can’t afford not to work when at university, some want to start saving up for the future, others need more funds for a comfortable, consumption-driven life. And while it is all fine, we need to be careful not to get lost in the chase for money and lose the best times of our lives. Another reason is the belief that professional experience is best to be gained at a big, respected company and that the sooner we get it, the better. I have observed many of my friends being afraid to dedicate themselves to some activity because they felt like finding a job will be more profitable for their future. They couldn’t be more wrong… Everything you do shapes who you are, and only when you try enough things you can truly decide what it is that you want in life.
Your university years are the time to experiment and try out different things. It is the time to join a student association, travel, study abroad, find your hobby and things you dislike. You will have your entire life to work, but you only get one youth.
We are coming into the era when less and less people decide to volunteer and join NGOs - it’s quite apparent even on the example of what I noticed among my friends joining ESN. People become somehow active on the local level, at their universities, but in the end they never fully engage in their section or try to join national or international level. They ask: “It takes so much time, what will I get out of it? Friends? Memories? Experience? What is that worth?” My answer to this would be “Actually, more than you would think.” There are so many areas you can join and observe in ESN and other student organisations: organising events, managing bigger projects, creating graphical content… the list goes on and on. You improve your teamwork, communication, time management, you get to know multiple tools and concepts that can be applied at your future job. To go even further, it is not that rare that a person becomes involved in something completely different to their major and changes the course of their career! A student organisation is a safe place to develop your interests and skills, where you can make mistakes and have fun along the way. It doesn’t pay? Sure, it doesn't pay money, but sometimes it is about so much more. You get amazing experience, learn how to deal with challenges and act under pressure, you form lifelong friendships and get inspired by people with passion every single day!
Another area where the issue can be observed is that although according to the European Commision the amount of student mobilities within the Erasmus+ Programme continues to grow, more and more students fail to see it as an amazing opportunity to go abroad, experience other cultures, travel, and gain experience that will make them that much more attractive on the labour market. They see it as a time of additional expenses. Some of my friends, when facing a chance to go on exchange, decided to stay home because they were too afraid to quit their current job or to lose a relationship. The truth is, they will most likely find another job (and to be perfectly honest after the experience gained while studying abroad they will probably be able to find a much better one). When it comes to relationships, those strong enough can make it through anything and they only grow stronger. The others would have broken up anyways. Being away from each other is a true challenge and the best evaluation of the relationship and commitment you can get. There is no need to be scared to lose the love of your life - you need to believe that if it’s meant to be, it will be.
Of course, there is nothing wrong in wanting to get professional experience in a company during your studies. However, it is extremely important to remember that there are more ways to learn and that informal education is often far more valuable, especially when it comes to youth. You have to be careful, because starting work too early, you might wake up in 10-15 years longing for a change and realising that what you do is not the thing that you actually love. So, take your time to figure yourself out, try out everything you can and live your student years to the fullest.