Last year I was working on my placement year in Meteor Electrical in County Tyrone. A 5 minute drive from my home. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience working there and my placement year was definitely something I enjoyed doing. I knew coming back to university there would be a huge difference again as there are many changes in lifestyle from both years.
I have found it quite difficult to get back into the flow of University life after a year of placement. From working for a full year and getting a taste of the real working world, up each day in a set routine to coming back to University. I feel there are many key differences between the two years.
Whilst working on my placement year I was living at home with my parents. There was many differences with this compared to final year where I am back living with friends in Belfast. Each evening after work I came home to a warm welcoming home, with a nice dinner on the table. In Belfast you come back from a day in Uni to your “home” (a cold damp dungeon in the Holylands). And have to begin making your own dinner and fending for yourself. This was one of the key differences for me. Also by living at home you save yourself a lot of money. No rent, food costs, heat or electrical costs.
Another difference is the routine established on this year out. Up every morning at 8am, to start work at 9 and finish at 5. A structured day which you could easily plan around. This is different from Uni when you are only in class a few hours a week. I found it a lot easier to get motivated to go to work. You must be there every day of the week, whereas at Uni it is very easy to lie on in bed, and waste a day doing nothing when you don’t have class to go to.
Living at home with work in the morning I also felt there was a lot less temptations. During the week if you asked one of your friends to go for pints on a Tuesday night they would think you aren’t wise. There would be no one in our local bar on a Tuesday night, where as in Belfast it is buzzing every night of the week, and therefore very easy to go out a few times a week, especially living with your friends.
The main difference I feel though is actually getting back into the University work. With deadlines fast approaching it is time to begin writing essays, searching for references and revising for tests. After over a year out of this routine it is hard to get back into the flow of this academic work. After 5 o’clock each day that was work forgot about until the next morning. Whereas with Uni if you have a deadline it must be met, regardless of time.
Although I really enjoyed placement year and am excited to finish my education in 6 months’ time, I feel there will never be a more enjoyable time in my life than University. It is true that it definitely is the best days of your life. Although now it is time to really get into the Uni work and make sure it was worth it, by having a great time and meeting new friends over the 4 years, but also graduating with a good degree and setting yourself up well for the future. In 5 years time when everyone is working full time we will look back fondly on the Uni days and wish we could go out every night of the week again and have the time of our lives.
Colum Loughran is a final year BSc in Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter: @ColumLoughran