Graduating under the circumstances

Students by no means have had it the worse during this pandemic. We have been so lucky to carry on and finish our degrees online and have some sense of stability, compared to the millions of employees who are currently experiencing so much uncertainty. However, it doesn’t make it any easier that those of us graduating have done so without any ceremonies or a summer of celebrations to follow. Just like that with a click of a button it all came to a bittersweet end.

All the hard work I have put in this last year made me all the more determined to hand something in I was proud of and not let Coronavirus stand in my way.

Receiving the news that universities were closing a week before the official lockdown began, created an abundance of decisions to be made. Will I work better here? Will I be putting my family at risk if I move back home? What will happen to our exams? How will I be able to afford rent if I can’t work? And for some international students, the ability for them to go back home was not an option. The list seemed endless at the time. Unfortunately for me, as a firm believer in separating your personal life and your work life, the idea of the library being shut was my worst nightmare. Going from never working in my bedroom to frantically ordering a desk from Argos to squeeze into the corner of my room to create some sense of a working environment took some adjusting. As did living with my family again and having a small chunk of my independence taken away. But these problems that I had to overcome, which were minor in the grand scheme of things, certainly made completing a 15,000-word dissertation all the more satisfying. All the hard work I have put in this last year made me all the more determined to hand something in which I was proud of and not let Coronavirus stand in my way.

At the University of Bath, over 4,000 students signed a petition requesting the University to implement safety net measures for our final assessments and overall final grade. While students were extremely grateful for this ‘no-detriment’ policy that meant as long as we pass, our average would be no lower than it already is, it did unintentionally create a lack of motivation. Some students seemed to prefer the idea of merely passing rather than attempting to increase their average, and so put little effort in. But at the same time, with the closure of shops and restaurants, and no social interaction allowed, there was little else to do but finish our assignments and online exams.

Witnessing students lose their graduate jobs because companies cannot afford to take them on has made people question the purpose of a university.

Leaving university with at least £27,000 of debt, with some students owing double that, the prospects in these uncertain times feel overwhelming — and not because there are endless opportunities out there. Witnessing students lose their graduate jobs because companies cannot afford to take them on has made people question the purpose of a university. What is the point in taking on debt and not getting a job at the end of it? Especially because we knew when we left school that there were other ways to get into the workplace, but we chose the university route. With the government reluctant to give a partial reimbursement of this year’s tuition fees, despite the disruptions of both strikes and COVID-19, it only fuelled more anger among students.

However, despite the uncertainty, confusion and anger Coronavirus has created, graduating during this pandemic has made me grateful for much more than I imagine I would have been without it. Like most people, it has made me treasure the friends I have made at university. While we spend holidays and summers apart every year, the fact that it was the law that you couldn’t see them even if you wanted to, certainly confirmed how lucky I am to have spent 3 years with them, with the ability to pop and see them whenever I wanted.

Missing the last 3 months of education (probably in my lifetime) and a summer of partying before most of us attempt to enter the ‘real world’, validated that I should make the most of every opportunity thrown my way. It has put into perspective that you don’t know what’s around the corner so shouldn’t be afraid to take a leap of faith — because those experiences can be taken away at any second. An overwhelming sense of pride has come from these unprecedented times because none of us let this pandemic stop us from achieving the grades we deserved. The love and support I have witnessed on social media when people have completed their assignments, dissertations and degrees has been comforting to see. The notion that we got through this together is immense.

Ultimately, the mere fact that we can say we finished our degrees in a global pandemic locked down in our houses is an achievement in itself. And despite this unexpected ending, I wouldn’t change the experience university has given me for the world.

By Alice Lasseter

Image: by Harald Groven via Flickr

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