Why You Can’t Ever Go Back to Undergrad

They say undergrad will be one of the best times in your life, and in almost all ways it is. They also say that it goes by way too fast, and it does. But what they don’t tell you, is that you can’t ever go back.

Because here’s the thing:

Your undergrad experience isn’t just a place. It’s not a bar or a restaurant, or your apartment. It’s a time. It’s a four-year period when almost all the people you loved, liked, or just wanted to be around (in my case other Western students) were in the same place, not just geographically, but in their lives.

It was a moment where any and every bar were filled with faces that were at least familiar to you. When you couldn’t be on campus, like anywhere on campus, without running into at least 5 people you knew, and this familiarity, this feeling of community felt so solid that it didn’t feel like it could ever end, like it would never not exist, but you come back and you realize that it has. There’s been a diaspora of your graduating class, and it means that even if the places never change, even if they stay there forever, the moment you lived in for four years isn’t something you’re ever going to get back. It’s a moment —a feeling really— that you’re never going to have again.

A moment of pure undergrad joy captured by the lovely Nicole De Khors

This is the big secret our alumni events committee don’t want us to know. It’s the thing that’s swept under rugs and disguised by promises that alumni events will let you “relive your ‘insert university here’ experience!” It’s the elephant in the room. Because despite the yearly homecomings, the friends you make and manage to keep, and the places staying (relatively) the same. Once your time is up, you can’t go back, not to undergrad and certainly not to the moment you felt the opposite of loneliness, not even for one night. I learned this for myself the hard way recently.

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I came up to visit friends (who are still doing their undergrad), drink, go to ceeps (aka my favourite bar, aka London’s best bar), and honestly, to feel a little like myself again. To for one night be the girl who drinks pornstars, never waits in lines and knows everyone in the room,  a kind of Cinderella night.

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However, it turns out that even though that girl still lives inside me, even though she’ll always live inside me.There are no Cinderella nights for post-grads. Our moment has just simply passed, our clock has struck midnight, our magic nights are over and done and once they’re gone, we can’t get them back.

Now, that isn’t to say I don’t still bleed purple, and happily dance through the pain in four inch heels to Fetty Wap, because on occasion, I do. (Though not for as long or as well as I used to). It’s to say that, for the first time, I’m realizing post-grad is hard, not just because it’s a change, but because in many ways it’s also a huge loss, and I think that without even realizing it, a lot of us grieve for it as such.

So all that being said, I think it’s time. It’s time to shatter this myth, that our undergrad is something we can go back to, can re-visit on for a night or a weekend, or at a homecoming event. And it’s time to stop propagating this myth that we can go back, because believing this doesn’t prepare us for how it feels when our undergrad bubble bursts (and how to cope with that), and it also doesn’t help us enjoy what we have while we still have it.