Question Of The Day

The Class of 2021 Talks About Being in a Senior Year They Never Imagined

“Mentally, I'm not even in a state to think straight. But I don't want to compromise on my career because of the pandemic and its risks.”
October 13, 2020, 12:00pm
students graduating in pademic class of 2021

A lot has been said about the class of 2020. From being “a complete bootcamp of mental health and anxiety” to the entire world sympathising with them for inheriting “extraordinarily rotten luck”, I feel for my seniors stepping out into a world being doubly battered by a recession and a pandemic.

But as someone who will graduate next year, I—and many people from my batch—have this unsettling feeling that things, in fact, might be far worse for us. 

We will not only step out into the recession which is not going away anytime soon but are also dealing with a messed-up final year spent in front of screens. For those with limited access to technology (which is a huge chunk of India), this year will be even more difficult. While most of my seniors had managed to get internships or jobs before the pandemic hit, I doubt many from my batch are going to be as lucky—which means our CVs will look quite shitty overall. 

Add to that the fact that many students from the class of 2020 are taking gap years, making the competition to get a job or into a Master’s programme the year after only that much tougher. While our last year holiday and party plans now seem like a distant dream, I’m still mourning the loss of adult life like I’d imagined it.

I asked around to know what my peers were feeling.

Saurabh Nagpal, Literature student, Delhi

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VICE: Hey, Saurabh. How have you been coping with the pandemic, given the online classes and the pressure of being in your final year of college?
Saurabh Nagpal: I feel my coping methods have changed and evolved as the pandemic has continued. Initially, I found my escape in movies and TV shows, but I really missed sports. Football is like a safe space for me. While I understood the need to stop everything, it still was tough to not have something to look forward to. So, once the sports started globally, I felt that some meaning was reinstated in my life.

I wasn't particularly fond of my school life, but I adored my college life. The people I've found are more than lovely. I'm also grateful for a couple of my professors and miss their classes in person. While I understand these problems are very privileged ones to have, that's my lived reality and I don't think I can do much about these feelings.

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Did any of your plans get affected due to COVID?
Earlier this year, I made a big decision, personally. I've played professional cricket for more than a decade, but around January, I decided to not pursue it as a career. However, I still had plans to play for my club and college for as long as possible. Those plans came to an abrupt end and I wasn't really ready for that realisation. 

The field I decided to explore instead of professional cricket was that of sports journalism. While I have been able to publish some articles for a few websites by working from home, the possibility of having an in-house, newsroom experience—which I feel is vital—has completely gone away because of the pandemic. In May 2021, l'll be a graduate, but the lack of having any substantial work experience is a thing that makes me anxious.

Aaditya Acharya, law student, Noida

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VICE: Hey Aaditya, how are you dealing with the lockdown and online classes?
Aaditya Acharya: Well, honestly speaking, we never thought that this lockdown would stretch so long. In the beginning, I was happy that we're finally getting a long break before the last year because law is really tough including all the internships, assignments, etc. Life really becomes hectic. But now, only six months are left for our graduation and we're all stuck in our homes, not able to enjoy life that we used to. 

So how are you coping?
I decided to do some different things that I wasn't able to do during my normal college life. I had a keen interest in video editing so I started with that. I learnt cooking from my mother and now I'm able to help her in that, and the one good thing that has happened with us through this is that we're now spending more quality time with our families. 

Our ninth semester classes and exams are being conducted online. Earlier we were excited that everything is going to be online and thought it would be easy but now we're missing our college very much. During our normal college life, we wouldn’t get assignments on a daily basis but during this online semester, we get assignments almost everyday. Earlier when the pandemic was at its peak, internships were being conducted online but now we've to go to the office thrice a week. 

Ghazal Singh, psychology student, Delhi

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VICE: Hey Ghazal. How have you been coping with the pandemic taking away your final year of college?
Ghazal Singh: Realistically, it was scary but a lot of people are seeing this situation as an excuse to start businesses of their own and after a dip, there's now been a sudden stability in the hiring market for counselling (what I aim to pursue). There's uncertainty for sure, but one’s gotta be hopeful. My plans to pursue a Masters could actually be accelerated if looking for jobs isn't as fruitful as was expected.

Online classes seem futile, especially for subjects that have not much to do with theory. Most classes end up being short lectures but they’re followed by a lot of work, which leaves even less time than we had while physically attending college. We had plans to travel to places around Delhi. We also had a list of musical artists whose concerts we wanted to attend and couldn't.

Anisha Reddy, journalism student, Bengaluru

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VICE: How’s it going, Anisha?
Anisha Reddy: Our classes started two months ago and everyday after that has been a struggle. Constantly looking at the screen from nine to five has been physically and mentally tiring. I feel so tired that I don’t find time to do something just for myself. Along with classes, we are piled with assignments that occupy even the little free time we get. It is somehow assumed that online classes are easy, which is not true. Frequent internet disruptions coupled with disturbances at home make it difficult to focus on classes. The constant pressure to keep my camera on for classes makes me anxious as it invades the little sense of privacy we have at home.

It hasn’t been easy to start our final year amidst so much that has been happening in the world. The fact that we don’t have anyone else who can understand what we are going through, except us, doesn’t help. Especially when we are met with statements like: “You are always online, how hard can it be to turn up for online classes?”

Does it worry you that you’ll be graduating into a world going through a bizarre, bizarre time?
As shocking as it sounds, I have no idea what I am going to do next year. Every time I start thinking about it, I don’t know where to start planning because we are living in this atmosphere of uncertainty. Being a final year student, my CV is supposed to look impressive and filled with internships and other experience. But, how am I supposed to find an online internship in a practical field like journalism? Even if I do get an internship, it is absolutely impossible for me to take care of my own mental health and my résumé. Earlier, I had plans to go abroad but it seems unlikely. The job market is in shambles too. For now, I only have enough mental capacity to focus on getting done with this year.

Anisa Tutti, travel and tourism management student, Numaligarh

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VICE: Hey Anisa! How have you been doing through this surreal time?
Anisa Tutti: My online classes started very late in comparison with my friends from other colleges in/outside Assam. Government colleges have students from almost all social backgrounds, and I am one of them. Most of my batchmates are from rural areas, which means they have poor network or no access to a laptop or a phone to join these classes. I don't sit idle at home; most of my batchmates and I help our families with work. When I tested positive for COVID-19, I missed a few classes. I had the fear of missing out, so I started attending them even though I was feeling weak post-recovery. My course needs more field-based experiences. I could come up with only one thing that I liked about my online classes: no rush to complete the course. But, this is only about my major subject. There haven't been any online classes for my general subjects. What am I supposed to do other than entirely study on my own if they plan an online exam?

Keeping the current economic pressure and uncertainty in mind, what do you plan to do once this is over?
Of course I'm worried that I'd be graduating in a few months into a world going through a recession and a pandemic. In this time when it's risky to even step out of our houses, it's really sad to think about my future, especially when I want to explore and get out of my comfort zone i.e. my state. I want to pursue a Masters, but I'm clueless due to this ongoing phase. I wish the education system would have just taken a pause for a little more time as our country's situation is worsening each passing day. Mentally, I'm not even in a state to think straight. I don't want to compromise on my career because of the pandemic and its risks. Even if I choose to do a course/internship/job online, I would still be in my comfort zone and probably wouldn't have the exposure I need or the experiences of being in a totally new place all alone, learning to survive on my own.

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