The coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything most living people have experienced before. Jobs have been lost, social isolation has become the norm, and communication has become virtual. But what does that mean for the class of 2020?

Graduating in the middle of a pandemic presents its challenges. Universities around the world have closed their doors, extended deadlines, begun online classes, and changed their grading criteria.

Many future plans have been derailed, as is the case with one student at Auckland University of Technology. ‘Due to government level 4 lockdown, all universities are closed’, explains Alisa Guenther, a Physiotherapy student. ‘My plan was to stay in New Zealand as a registered physiotherapist, but because of the lockdown I am unable to get the hours required to register’. There is an annual registration date, meaning she may have to wait longer than expected before applying.

Living Overseas

For students studying abroad, deciding whether to stay or travel home has been a nerve-racking decision. Selim Adiguzel, an international student studying digital enterprise management at the University of Toronto, is weighing his options on where to reside after graduation. ‘The plan was to go home and have one last summer in China before going back to Canada in September to start the job hunting process’, he tells me. Now, he says his job hunt will start while he’s in China due to the ‘hiring freeze and upcoming recession’.

Another student, Andrea Solis, has a different approach. She is a Mexican student at the London School of Economics. ‘The virus has prevented me from leaving the UK for fear of the consequences of not being able to return’. She also worries about the way this pandemic will affect her job prospects and fears the consequent recession that will follow.

Finding a Job

Indeed, the job hunt these students now face is a tough one. With people filing for unemployment at an alarming rate, hiring inexperienced, freshly graduated students may not be at the top of anyone’s’ hiring list. Elisabeth Dubus, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, had planned to move to the UK after graduation. ‘I wanted to move to London for work but nobody is hiring’. Dubus is from Belgium and will be residing there instead. Due to the virus, her graduation has been postponed and she will no longer be attending it.

Going Home

Other students have decided to set their careers aside in favour of taking care of family matters. Callum Robinson is a British student expecting to graduate with a degree in geology from the University of Kingston. ‘I will most likely be caring for my family and ensuring they have everything they need and are safe throughout the pandemic’, he explains. ‘If this lasts a long while, I will try to find work so I can support my family while isolating myself in a separate building in my home’. 

Time to Reflect

Some are trying to see the positivity in all this. ‘This virus has brought me uncertainty and stress’, says Zaina Hmoud. Zaina is a Jordanian student awaiting more information from the IE University of Madrid with regards to her graduation from communications and digital media. However, she remains optimistic about her situation. ‘This has made me reconsider and re-prioritize my options’. She is developing skills and building her resume to better her chances once the quarantine in Spain is lifted. 

Of course, there are still students who have managed to stick with their original plans. For Miguel Guse, an electrical engineering student from the Technical University of Munich, this pandemic has not changed much. ‘My plan is to continue at my university for a master’s degree after graduating. My plans are not yet affected’. Due to the virus, many universities are choosing to extend the deadline of applications. This is good news for all students who are choosing to continue their studies after graduation.

The bottom line is that there is no answer to what students can expect. This situation is unlike anything they have previously experienced. The good news is that they aren’t alone; the world is filled with people facing uncertainty in their future.

One way or another, they will be graduating and receiving diplomas to represent all the hard work they have put into their degrees. That is something this quarantine can’t take away from them.