“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfilment.”
– Hilaire Belloc
Most societies dictate us the idea that we have to study, acquire some higher education diploma, get a job, make money and be fulfilled. Easy, ha? In what comes next, I am going to refer only to the people who can afford this privilege, because given the global situation, going through a form of higher education and then getting a well-paid job tend to become privileges. Therefore, some people are fond of this idea and go ahead with it and succeed, if they are lucky enough. They might not even follow this idea; they might just get lucky halfway there. And then, there’s the rest of the people: after acquiring a higher education diploma, supposedly having gained a great amount of knowledge, they start wondering how will they apply all that and who will be willing to consider their opinions or worldviews, when employers are just looking for someone who can do a particular job in the easiest and cheapest way possible. At the moment, I am in between the two groups: on the one hand, I am not on the Spanish shore, sipping Sangria during the Siesta hours as I imagined few months before finishing my degree; but on the other hand, I do have an entry level job which I like and allows me to put into practice what I have learned. You know what they say, life doesn’t turn out as you plan it all the time, though, I am still waiting for that Sangria moment. Anyway, this is not the point.
The point I wanted to explore came to my mind while I was working. I was transcribing a focus group discussion where different business owners were questioned about the Romanian labour market, most particularly, about a labour law for recent graduates and marginalised/underprivileged categories of people. For the more general questions about the labour market, all the participants agreed that they are looking for experienced people, even if the economic system does not permit high wages. Moreover, when asked about the particular labour law, the business owners barely heard about it, leave alone the fact that it is concerning recent graduates. So when employers look for already experienced people when hiring, how could a recent graduate immediately get a job? And also, why would a youngster look for employment immediately after graduating, when even employers say they do not need ‘newbies’? Let’s say this could be one reason why some people who finish higher education cannot or don’t want to directly get a job.
Another reason, which I believe gathered proportions especially in the past few years, refers to the tendency of students who choose to go abroad for their higher education experience, either from start to finish, either for the well-known Erasmus programmes. Being able to afford this, again, privilege, students live and grow up in international environments and at the end of the study period they are not necessarily concerned with getting a 9-to-5 job, in an office, in front of the computer. Of course, not all jobs are the same or imply the same schedule, but this is kind of the basic format. What they are interested in is to go see the world and check out the places that their colleagues kept describing. Being a foreigner between foreigners broadens your horizons, makes you more aware of the world and more motivated to see/explore/discover it and the diversity it shelters. So, going abroad to study leads to discovery and change of perspective on the one hand, and fun, distraction, exploration, on the other hand. And who would like to stop this all of a sudden and be in an office? Not many.
Having said this, I am no employer, I might not even be aware of the system or possibilities, but I am sure there are ways to develop a work and travel sector. Probably many are familiar with the Work and Travel programs which offer the opportunity to combine the two activities, without any accreditation though. Even if the existing Work and Travel programs offer job opportunities in certain sectors, it doesn’t count as work experience. And I believe this could change for better and for broader sectors, because a work and travel opportunity could represent not only a career related experience, but one on many more levels. After a chance like this, international students could then return even to the country of origins and apply what’s been learned and bring new perspectives to the table in order to develop and change whatever might go wrong. It is also true that numerous volunteering-travel programs are running and the outcomes apply both ways, but you usually have to pay for it, sometimes more than you can imagine.
All in all, in order to meet the requirements of employers, but also to enable the younger generation to combine the useful with the pleasant so that recent graduates (and of course, other categories of youngsters) could become more motivated to work, mentalities have to change. After graduating any form of education, especially higher education, people are expected to get a job and make a lot of money mainly because they have already invested a lot of time and money along the way. And sometimes it happens, sometimes you have to wait for years probably – especially if you come from abroad; you are not up to date with all the opportunities in the job sector, employers are looking for already experienced workers, the pay is not always as you expected and in the end you seem to wish for more than you can get. Maybe at one point, having a well-paid job makes life more enjoyable; but while you still can, I guess it is better to put other experiences at the top of your fulfilment list such as travel – or at least combine the two. This way, personal development and global discoveries come together and help one grow up in a much prosperous way.
Until next time, open your eyes and your ears to what the world has to tell you!
Written by: Ioana-Alexandra Tache