Question Of The Day

We Asked the Class of 2020 What It’s Like to Graduate Into a Pandemic and Recession

“In two months, I was supposed to leave college. Now I don’t even know if in two months, I’ll be leaving my house.”
April 24, 2020, 12:53pm
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From left: Anoushka, Vaibhav and Anushka

There they were—young, wild and finally about to be set free. While it’s that time of the year when usually a whole bunch of wide-eyed, overly enthusiastic young people would graduate and join the workforce, 2020 had plans of its own. And so, there they are now—stuck indoors with no graduation ceremonies to toss their caps, no holidays to celebrate the sweet taste of freedom, no farewells to bid a final goodbye to the one-time college sweetheart, and worse still, no jobs to apply for. With the pandemic having thrown an already struggling economy into one we have no idea how we will recover from, it’s a bleak time to be adulting in. We asked some graduating students how they are holding up, and their hopes for the future.

Anoushka, 21, journalism student

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VICE: Hey Anoushka, how have you been coping with the pandemic and the lockdown taking away what you might’ve been looking forward to?
Anoushka: As you enter the third year, it is actually a wave of sadness and happiness both—happiness because you’re finally an adult and will be going out into the actual world and, at the same time, sadness because you’ll be leaving college. So, in January, when my final semester began, all the ‘lasts’ started to hit me. When we went off for our mid-semester break, we all were expecting that we’d be back for farewells and fests. And then I remember on March 12—it was my birthday—I saw the notice that colleges are going to be closed. I then had this feeling of uncertainty—you know the one where you feel all your dreams and hopes being shattered?

Must’ve been tough. What keeps you going?
Writing has really helped in coping. I’m trying to keep myself busy; there’s this mental stress of sitting at home and being super unproductive, which is becoming a problem for me. A lot of lasts are missing—last class, last lunch in the cafeteria, last time hugging my friends—but I’m trying not to focus on that. When you are in a situation like this, you just have to accept things as they come.

Karan, 21, engineering student

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VICE: Hey Karan, how have you been faring in the quarantine, given the pandemic and the economic pressures?
Karan: Not good. In the last month of our course, they pulled the plug and now we are left not knowing what to do. I was supposed to start in June at a company I had got placed in, but obviously now, I am not sure. I haven’t received my offer letter yet and there’s no clarity on jobs—what kind of jobs are there and whether we’re even going to get any if we are going to get any. I am confused and anxious about how I would be dealing with the situation if I don’t manage to get a job. I am preparing myself for the worst and practising for interviews but hoping for the best too. There are online courses so I’m focusing on that as well as reading books on psychology to prepare myself mentally.

Do you have plans on what to do once this is over?
I’ll be doing pretty much the same I was doing before: reading, playing the guitar, etc. Except now, there would be an increased sense of respect for the little things I took for granted.

Mohaseb, 24, law student

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VICE: Hi Mohaseb, how are you holding up?
Mohaseb: When this first started, I just did an insane amount of video calls; my eyes did not leave the laptop screen for a good two weeks. Our graduation was supposed to happen just four days after everything got canned and so, everyone had to go back (home). Our farewell party and graduation got called off so we all were quite emotional since this was our last month together as batchmates. It’s almost like dating someone for five years and them just disappearing, leaving you desperately needing closure. Now, it’s gotten much better since I’ve just come to terms with it—we cope with playing online games like Ludo. Once this gets over, I might start applying for jobs but with everything that is happening, even the recruitment procedures have come to a halt. There are a few work-from-home opportunities coming up but they’re barely anything in terms of pay and work.

What plans has coronavirus ruined for you?
The biggest one was a Goa plan that was actually on the verge of happening! This month was the last month of a five-year-long course, so it was just going to be us finally having fun. After everything goes back to normal, I am just going to be drinking and partying for a few weeks and only after that will I start getting back on my feet.

What keeps you going at such a time?
Weirdly enough, it's the routine. I did not have much of a routine before as a college student, but now I’ve sort of developed one. A lot of my time is spent doing chores around the house and working out—there’s only so much you can binge on shows or talk on the phone. Honestly, it’s all things I usually hated during my normal life that keeps me going right now.

Pranav, 22, sports management student

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VICE: How’s it going, Pranav? How are you doing in the lockdown?
Pranav: So, my family lives in Delhi while I study in Mumbai. This was my last year and I was really looking forward to the farewell—we all were—as we were supposed to go out and party. These were also supposed to be my last months in Mumbai, so I also had to bid farewell to the city earlier than I thought I would. So, yeah that sucks. Moreover, because of the situation, my internship also got cancelled, and now there’s not much I have to do, so I’ve been bummed out about that.

How are you coping with the situation?
Earlier I thought it wouldn’t affect me this much, but now that it has been extended, I’ve started doing an online course and playing the keyboard. I used to do that when I was in middle school, so that’s helping me pass my time. I’ve also surprisingly started cooking, so that’s nice.

Anushka, 20, English literature student

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VICE: So, what are your thoughts on everything that is going down in the world?
Anushka: Honestly, it’s sad. In the beginning, I sat and wondered why it had to be us and our batch out of literally everyone else. But then, being in a lockdown for such a long time puts a lot of things in perspective—a lot of things I took for granted, I don’t anymore. A lot of students like me who don’t live at home, had to work out their living situations as they had to practically leave their residences in the city, even though their lease wasn’t up yet, and go back to their family. Interestingly, for a lot of us students who live away from home, this lockdown has given us a chance to spend time with our families, which we weren’t used to doing while we were busy with our studies. So, a lot of us had a very novel experience because once you lose the habit of living with the family—with ten people in the house instead of just you—it becomes a different experience. For some of us, that has been great, but a lot of us also regret it.

How do you plan to spend your time in the post-corona world?
I plan to party a lot, obviously, but I’m also missing real good food. I also have to take classes for university entrances which I was supposed to do earlier but couldn’t because of the whole lockdown situation. The already tough competition is going to be tougher. So, I am prepping for tests and interviews while trying to keep the fun alive.

Vaibhav, 21, photographer

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VICE: Hey, how’ve you been holding up in the lockdown?
Vaibhav: As far as college is concerned, I’m doing okay, since I wasn’t regularly attending college earlier and now too, it hardly makes a difference. But it did ruin some plans. If this pandemic wasn’t here, I’d be shooting—making films and taking photographs. And if everything would’ve been normal, I’d also be studying for my exams, hoping to get out of college. I haven’t really thought about how I’d spend my time after this is over. Initially, I thought I’d party and go out but now all of that seems like such a distant reality.

Does it worry you that you’re graduating into a world going through a pandemic and an economic slowdown?
It is super concerning and alarming. I’ve been keeping up with the news and it doesn’t look good. Honestly, I don’t even know when I’ll be able to finally graduate. The whole scene with online exams just seems shitty and hard to implement. I’m feeling impatient about this. Within two months, I was supposed to be out of college but right now, I don’t even know if within two months, I’ll be out of my house. My art keeps me going, though. I’m trying to be productive, but at the same time, not forcing myself to be productive. Since this is something that has happened to us, the world, for the first time, no one knows what is supposed to be done, and that is helpful because it feels like we’re all in it together.

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