Moving on is bittersweet

Oh no, I’m graduating!

When you start studying, you expect this grand finale to be waiting at the end. But then you finally see the finish line, and anxiety and worries start popping up. ‘This part of my life is over now; that realization was a bit heartbreaking.’
1 July om 14:43 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 3 July 2024
om 14:19 uur.
July 1 at 14:43 PM.
Last modified on July 3, 2024
at 14:19 PM.
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Door Eoin Gallagher

1 July om 14:43 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 3 July 2024
om 14:19 uur.
Avatar photo

By Eoin Gallagher

July 1 at 14:43 PM.
Last modified on July 3, 2024
at 14:19 PM.
Avatar photo

Eoin Gallagher

Monika Radomska was at work when she got the email. She took in the notification that had popped up on her phone. ‘Okay, so this is it?’ she thought. 

The message she received in October said that she was now a graduate of the UG’s energy and climate law masters programme. She was happy to be finished, yes, but after four years of study it was also strange to be just done. ‘I don’t know if I expected some fireworks or what.’

But despite the joy, there was a sad realization too. ‘This part of my life is over now, I will probably never be a student again. That was a bit heartbreaking.’


Leaving student life for full adulthood can be a complicated mess of emotions. The moment you have anticipated for so long can also fill you with anxiety about finding a job and working out what you really want to do in life.

We have been students our whole lives basically

‘At the end, I was kind of dreading it’, agrees American Conley Austin, who graduated from his masters in international relations in February.

Throughout his studies, he looked forward to finishing. But in the final months, the anticipation turned to anxiety. As he worked on his last assignments, he couldn’t help but think about big picture questions, like what to do and where to go after he passed the oncoming precipitous graduation. ‘It’s kind of hard to adjust’, says Conley. 

And he’s not alone. The loss of the familiar structures of academic life that students have had since their early childhood can be difficult. ‘We have been students for many years! Our whole lives basically.’

Friends left behind

For Monika, leaving people behind was the toughest part of graduating. Departing the city where she has lived for four years, where she met friends and her boyfriend, is surreal. ‘He is going to be the hardest thing to leave in Groningen’, she says. ‘But I’m very determined to keep those friendships and relationships.’ 

‘Being here, having a lot of friends, like-minded friends, that is just amazing’, agrees Tim Bergmann, who graduated from his masters in technology and operations management in February. ‘It is not something you experience every day.’ Leaving that behind, he says, is hard. 

And then, of course, there’s the uncertainty that lies ahead. Not knowing what to do next and having the feeling that you should. 

Tim sees it happening around him all the time. He senses that there is often pressure coming from family, friends, and society that tells graduates that they have to have it all worked out. ‘Some people are lost a little bit and trying to figure it out.’ 

Take your time

He stresses to anyone who feels this pressure that it is not a race. ‘Take your time and figure out what is interesting for you and don’t rush it. Getting through this is about figuring out what you want and moving towards it’, he says while back in Groningen for his graduation ceremony. 

Getting through this is about figuring out what you want and moving towards it

He feels quite confident himself, though, as he will start an international graduate programme in supply chain management at a technology enterprise in Germany later this year. His goal is to go abroad and live in a more international environment again after getting some solid professional experience

Initially, he felt a little sad when he left Groningen, but he doesn’t think this is a state of mind you should linger in. ‘Instead of staying in this mood, take some actions, because you’re responsible for your own life.’


Josh Miller, who graduated from a masters in art history in March, felt the thought of graduating was actually much scarier than actually doing it. ‘I was a bit nervous about how it was going to feel’, he says. 

He too solved his problems by just taking time and accepting that not knowing what was next was part of this stage of life. To him, sitting down, updating his LinkedIn and having conversations with himself about what he was going to do, was stressful. 

You can build a nice life again in a different setting

But remembering fear and excitement are two sides of the same coin, and focusing on the latter, did help him to get a grip on his feelings.  

He is really looking forward to this next part of life; hungry for what it has in store for him. ‘I actually just feel a bit giddy. Kind of lightheaded. It’s a very positive feeling.’ 

Graduation has left him happily disorientated. He feels a mingled sense of liberation and excitement. ‘There’s almost a kind of harsh beauty to it’, he says. When he looks past any anxiety, he sees that graduation has opened up the world for him. 


Tim is proud of the life he made in Groningen and feels it has left him with the skills to do the same again wherever he goes. ‘You built this nice life here, so you can build a nice life again in a different setting.’

That is something Orestis Agathangelou, who is about to graduate from a masters in technology law, is planning on doing too. He is happy to move home to Cyprus and start work in a law firm there while studying for the bar exam. His step towards full adulthood excites him; to get himself a car, a real job and to visit the friends he has met here around the world.

But first, he is looking forward to a break from studying, and being busy. ‘It is a very fast life here’, he says. ‘I’m eager to have zero structure and figure it out myself.’