Experiences of graduating during a pandemic

Experiences of graduating during a pandemic

No one expected it, but the pandemic has lasted so long that now we’re seeing a second year of disrupted graduations. We asked Amber Sunner, our Commissioning Editor who just graduated, and Abigale Leyton, Junior Digital Content Writer who graduated last year, to tell us about their experience of graduating in a pandemic.

Amber’s experience:

I finished my degree last week, but it wasn’t the satisfying end to a three year marathon that I had quite expected. Instead I walked out of my class and went straight home and put Netflix on – a routine I fell into at the start of the pandemic. Whenever something good happens – I put something I love on the television. Completing a degree in the middle of a pandemic was never something I had even imagined I would do. To even contemplate a pandemic was something that I never did either. 

The teaching was strange and participating over cracking wifi even stranger. The whole ‘online learning’ deal was something that many students across the country had to adapt to, and more importantly, learn from. Learning methods are very personal and in-person teaching was the main approach in the UK. However, the pandemic has forced us to rethink how we deliver and share information with the next generation.

I am no longer rejoicing in the four walls of a club with music blaring into every corner. Instead, because of the pandemic, I settled for makeshift celebrations at home. It was a much calmer affair but one that I have enjoyed unabashedly. Lockdown is however lifting now and I am no longer confined to my home. With two vaccine doses done, I am celebrating outside of my room (safely of course). Going on trips with friends and making plans again as society finally begins to reintegrate. Pandemic or not, I am very proud of how I have grown over the past three years. My confidence has soared and I have learnt heaps from my degree and the experience I have had at university.

Aside from the degree. I am graduating with lifelong friends and lifelong memories. My graduation ceremony has been postponed to next year, which in the grand scheme of recent events is not too long to wait. In the meantime, I am degree free, all that’s left is completing my NCTJ.

Abigale’s experience:

Graduating in the summer of 2020 during a global pandemic was probably the most challenging time of my life. I really enjoyed university, with a great social circle, and I thoroughly enjoyed my modules and participating in seminars. However, alike many other third year students- nothing could have prepared me for the final year of my degree. With disruptions impacting my course pre-Covid-19 with months of strikes, and absences of lecturers and seminar leaders – I had struggled greatly, and when March 2020 hit everything felt as if it had turned upside down. 

I studied Drama and English Language and Linguistics which was a course that was highly sociable and involved collaborating and working amongst lots of diverse and exciting people in group projects. The juxtaposition of my busy five-day week, completing workshops, seminars, projects, and then going out in the evenings with friends, to the remote classes, difficulties and absences of group members in projects, struggles of working independently online and then all of my housemates leaving the student accommodation left me feeling isolated. Coupled with feeling anxious about completing my work not only to a high standard but submitting it to the same deadline arranged pre-Covid-19 – it was a challenge to say the least.

After a difficult few months, I had completed my degree. I may not have achieved the top marks that I had wanted, but I put everything into perspective, and I am proud regardless. I then entered the daunting real-world and had submitted hundreds of job applications with a response rate equating to around 5%. I truly felt worthless, and it was extremely difficult to remain positive and motivated with such rejection. Although, a Prospects study demonstrated that I was not alone, with 78% of graduates in 2020 having the same worries and difficulties finding work in their designated industry. In conjunction with 57% of graduates highlighting how their mental health had also declined due to an overwhelming number of challenges and lack of opportunities after completing their degree. 

I have learnt a lot about myself in the past year and have felt an overwhelming amount of emotion writing about my graduation experience. Although, I am now in a much better place mentally, with an amazing opportunity to write and to help individuals overcome the financial and social barrier of entering the media industry. My graduation will now be in 2022, and although it will be strange having a ceremony two years after completing my degree – I am really looking forward to celebrating achievements with friends after such a challenging year.