Iftekharul Islam is a senior majoring in economics at the University of Dhaka. Like many other senior-year students, Iftekharul often ponders about his future after graduation, and sometimes the thoughts are so overwhelming that they take away his night's sleep. While talking to the writer, Iftekharul said,"I had a distinct career plan in the first year, but as I moved onto the third year, my career plan changed and I found interest in a lot of different things, hence I find myself at a loss nowadays, and not much time is left before I end up with an undergraduate degree, hence I find myself becoming anxious way more than I would have been if I had more years left."
Iftekharul is not alone in this, as pre-graduation anxiety is a thing that affects almost every fourth-year student, and the uncertainty after graduation is something that affects the fourth-year students the most, as graduation is only a stone's throw away and most of them do not have any concrete idea about their career path after graduation.
However, there is another side to the story as well, with many people being completely sure of what they want to do right after graduation and successfully pulling off their ambitions. Zaem Al Ehsan, research associate at the Poverty and Equity Global Practice of the World Bank, told the writer in this regard: "Honestly, the thought of life post-graduation wasn't that scary. I was blessed to have studied in an institution that had a great track record of placing graduates in the best companies in Bangladesh (guilty of institutional pride). Hence, I knew I would land on my feet sooner or later. I am also privileged in the sense that I do not have any dependents. I knew I could take my time and ease my way into adulthood."
However, he took the decision to change his academic track immediately after graduation, and this, in his own words, was horrifying. He said,"I enrolled in an Economics master's programme immediately after graduation since this was a subject I always wanted to study. Concurrently, I was only applying to jobs in the development sector and research. This is where the actual fear of the unknown started to creep in. Why would anyone hire a BBA grad?"
Along with these, he also found himself burdened with the thought of earning enough to fund a postgraduate education abroad. Although he eventually pursued economics and got to work at the intersection of development and research, something he has always been passionate about working on.
However, things are not rosy for everyone. Shehrij Pritul (pseudonym), a recent graduate from a renowned private university in the country, describes his pre-graduation anxiety as having severely affected his life in such a way that he found it quite hard to focus on anything.
In his words, "I always wanted to become someone whose name would be remembered by people even after his death, but it became abundantly clear to me at one point that I don't really have what it takes to be another Rabindranath or Einstein, and that's why, despite a decent academic result, the time just before my graduation was really bad for me, and I would never want to relive that."
He also added that he has a quite good job as per Bangladeshi standards now, but still, this crippling sense of not unleashing the entirety of his potential still haunts him to this day.
Pre-graduation anxiety is something that is not widely known among university students of the country, however, this affects almost every student in their senior year; sometimes students from the master's level also become afflicted by this. Hence, it is really important for university students to at least raise awareness about this so that it becomes tolerable in the days to come.
The writer is a fourth-year student majoring in Economics at the University of Dhaka.