What It’s Like to Graduate In the Middle Of a Pandemic
As a part of the graduating class of 2021, all I can say is I’m tired.
Happiness. Relief. Somehow, even an inexplicable sense of achievement. I still remember how I first heard about it. After hours of incessantly switching tabs between Twitter and Facebook for some clarity, the one notification every student in my college had longed to receive finally popped up on my screen-- a WhatsApp message that read, "From the principal: Confirmed. Exams have been postponed. More details to be updated on the website."
Almost immediately, the class thread began flooding with messages of students rejoicing. Within seconds, books had been put away indefinitely and everyone went back to enjoying the supposed mini-vacation we had chanced upon.
I counted my blessings and went to bed that night free of any qualms about my end semester exams, knowing I didn’t have to go to college for at least the next three weeks.
This happened a year ago. Not much has changed since then.
Before we knew it, three weeks quickly transformed into three months, and we were starting our next (and final) academic year online. Even until this point, we were hopeful. So what if we had to study online for a couple of months?
In our own naivety, we were still somehow certain we would go back to campus for our final semester.
As a BMM (Bachelor of Mass Media) student, I didn't have a very rigorous course material, and most of my studies could be done online anyway, so I wasn't particularly worried.
Little did I know that I'd never get to see that classroom again. As cliché as it sounds, all the things I took for granted and complained about were now the things I missed the most. I could endlessly rant about my hour-long tiring commute to anyone who would listen. Now, getting on that 7:15 local to CST for our 8 am class is all I wanted to do.
With every lecture that I logged into on Zoom, I cannot help but reminisce about the 10-minute walk from the station to my college, which frankly, was a great way to start the hectic day with a little bit of calm at first.
Now, going to college is much more convenient and doesn’t involve an hour long commute. Even though a simple click of “Join Meeting” does the job, I’ve come to despise it and can’t help but wish for it all to go back to the old ways.
I never imagined I’d say this, but sitting in class and attending lectures the normal way is something I have come to yearn. Perhaps this is what months of online classes can do to someone. And by no means am I an ideal student, too. I’ve had my fair share of days where I simply logged into class, turned my face the other way and went right back to sleep. Some days I felt lazy, but most days, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was done, and I was tired. I later found out that this thing I was feeling was a phenomenon called ‘’, increasingly common among students and people working from home.
Besides, classes weren’t the only part of college life. Far from it. You’d know that if you came to my college.
I think every college student, over the period of their graduation, develops some sort of attachment or affection for their college. Surely, we might have spent our initial years doing nothing but complain, but towards the end, it all tends to get bittersweet.
Being in our final year is perhaps what makes this situation even worse. Ever since we joined college, we had seen how our seniors made the most of their final year. What we have right now barely seems to touch the mark.
No graduation parties for us, no dramatic throwing caps in the air either, and at this point, receiving our degree through e-mail might just be how these three grand years come to an end.
A lot of my classmates are juggling multiple things at the same time, be it lectures, internships or full-time jobs. We’re always being told to make use of this time and keep on doing as much as we can, and in lieu of this, I’m afraid we’re biting off more than we can chew.
And it's not that we don't understand the importance of a good day's rest. I like to think that ours is a generation that values our mental health as much as our physical health. But we're constantly working, and even when we're not, we're thinking about it or the dozens of college assignments that we could catch up on in this free time. So, on a day that was supposedly a rest day, we might end up unwinding physically, but the anxiety to catch up with everything has etched itself in our minds permanently.
Sometimes when I’m talking about this, I am told how I have it better than most people and how I’m not the worst-affected in this situation; which I agree with. Because of this, I’m constantly trying to feel grateful, and a part of me knows I am. But at the same time, there is still a certain anxiousness that I don't know how to deal with. It is perhaps this sense of obligation to keep feeling grateful while trying to repress our anxiety is what is eating away at most of us.
And how could it not? Most of us are going to be out in the dreaded world of job hunting with no clue where to start from, where we are witnessing already scant job opportunities shrink even further. In such a scenario, how do we expect to get our foot through the door if we don’t have prior experience and accomplishments, even if those come at the cost of our mental health?
It only takes so much to break the confidence of already intimidated college students and I am afraid this pandemic is going to be the final nail in the coffin.
Embarking on a journey as crucial as society deems this to be at such volatile times is stressful to say the least, and it’s not like we are stepping into an economy that was booming with job opportunities in the first place. Things were already dicey for us, we knew this going in, but now it’s a whole new ball game that most of us are not prepared to navigate.
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