This Is How University Ends, Not With A Bang, But A Whimper
As lockdown loosens, graduates are left picking up the pieces. They were robbed of closure, denied celebration, and now must scramble to secure jobs in an uncertain and to use that ubiquitous word, ‘unprecedented’ climate. Relationships have been tested, and many may not have passed muster; love in lockdown certainly isn’t the stuff of Rom Coms. What are usually the sacred last few months of the university bubble, where friends are a street away and optimism fills the air, were taken from this year’s graduates overnight. A dissertation hand-in probably involved a zoom call and a pub quiz, seemingly the only form of socialisation anyone is capable of at the moment; this is how uni ends, not with a bang, but a whimper. Graduation and the uncertain transition from full time education to full time work is a recipe for poor mental health. With the addition of a global pandemic and the myriad challenges it presents, this has only been exacerbated; a premature end to final year has forced young adults to process the momentous milestone alone, leaving many to return home for months when they may have planned to go straight into work.
Whereas the months ensuing exams are usually a time of celebration, where friends come together and reminisce about the past, indulge in the present, and most importantly, process the looming world beyond, now many are left to rely on cheap imitations of this whilst sat in their
childhood bedrooms with a glass of bubbly.
Furthermore, In life we assume we will have those scrapbook moments, and measure our progression according to social milestones; the first day of secondary school, the 18th birthday, the freshers week and equal in expectation to a wedding, the graduation photo. It is the culmination of 3 years of academic work, and symbolic of an end to a lifetime in education. In the grand scheme of things, mourning one lost Summer and the graduation ceremony may seem trivial considering the circumstances, but the depression that stems from this loss is wholly understandable and should be acknowledged and addressed tactfully.
The Class Of 2020 has one less photo for the scrapbook*, and a bad taste in their mouth about their final year which should have been jubilant. The already turbulent vicissitude from the bubble of higher education into the big unknown leaves many feeling adrift; a mere number in a sea of candidates fighting for unpaid internships and lucrative roles. This competition has just got fiercer, and many may have to drop their selectiveness temporarily by taking stop-gap roles to ensure income. If they intended on using hospitality jobs to keep them afloat whilst internship hunting, the current crisis has demolished such plans. These issues are further agitated by the financial burdens parents may be facing also.
In short, an already tumultuous transition has married with the novel pandemic to make a perfect storm for student mental health. The current lockdown has left this year’s graduates to tackle the quarter life crisis head on, and in the absence of physical support networks to palliate.
In conclusion, graduates are just one more group who have a hole in their personal timeline, alongside the A- level students forced to accept half the experience of university- at full price- or defer their first years leaving them in limbo.
Though it may seem insensitive to moan about these necessary inconveniences to students during a pandemic, It is important that we acknowledge the toll this virus has had on minds as well as bodies, and to help alleviate the whirlwind of uncertainty that graduates this year have been dealt. As someone who struggled with the transition in peacetime so to speak, I can only imagine how difficult the process is for those fighting a war on two fronts; Virus related anxiety and the weight of securing an internship. Beyond looking out for our friends and family who are going through this process right now, and keeping in touch with our university bubble, I offer this advice; one thing that unites us all is that this virus has indiscriminately stifled all our plans and taken a 3 month payment of our time.
Going forward, let’s come together in this shared loss and appreciate that tomorrow is never promised, and enjoy every moment all the more for it.
*At Reading University at least, graduation has been rescheduled for August