James Borrell is a biodiversity scientist and science communicator researching how people and nature can adapt to environmental change.

A Year on from the End of Exams

Watching the notifications of revision despair popping up from friends still at university, exam season is clearly upon us. I can barely believe that a year has flown past since I escaped the exam hall for good and set about putting it all to use.

My plan was quite simple and very optimistic:

  • To wake up excited and enthusiastic on a Monday morning.
  • For each day to be different from the last, and bring new challenges.
  • To feel that I was working towards something bigger than myself, my job, or career.

Now, a year on, I’m not quite sure how to quantify where I’ve got to or where I’m going, but I can give at least the first two a tick, and I hope I’m working towards the last.

So it was quite exciting and a little unexpected to be invited back down to the Exeter University student conference. The instructions were to join a panel of alumni and speakers from a range of professions to speak about my chosen career path. Having avoided real jobs like the plague since I graduated, I was a little worried about what to say. The first year on from the end of exams has been successful by my own criteria, but how would that weight up in the eyes of keen, job hungry students. What pearls of wisdom could I offer them?

I decided to instead give a flavour of what I’d learned in a year.


At the end I cheated a little, and borrowed a phrase that I think sums up what this past year has taught me. I’m not sure who said it, but I first heard it from those folks at Esc the City.

Life is too short to do work that doesn’t matter to you.