COVID-19: What’s it like to graduate during a pandemic?
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COVID-19: What’s it like to graduate during a pandemic?

COVID-19: What’s it like to graduate during a pandemic?

These are anxious days for student Karolina Frybova from Czech Republic.

Frybova, who is currently pursuing a BA (Hons) Business, Human Resource Management and Public Relations at the University of Worcester, told Study International that being a final year student and finishing her degree during a pandemic has been far from perfect. 

Her biggest worry is getting a job after graduating.

“Many jobs I have applied for have been cancelled or postponed, so I have decided to apply for a postgraduate degree instead and hopefully the situation will get better by next year,” said the 23-year-old via an email interview.

She plans to stay in the UK for a few more years but said she’s open to “all opportunities” in any part of the world.

The class of 2020 will be graduating into a volatile job market, fueling anxiety for many final year students who are uncertain over what their future holds during an economic downturn.

If Frybova remains in the UK, she would be striving for jobs in a country heading towards its sharpest recession on record according to Bank of England predictions. Jobless claims rose by 856,500 to 2.097 million — a 69.1% increase — in April.

Returning home to Czech Republic means returning to a continent in its “deepest economic recession in its history” as The New York Times calls it. Globally, the International Labour Organization (ILO) is predicting that as many as 25 million jobs are under threat by the pandemic.

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Frybova in Gloucester. Source: Karolina Frybova

There are almost half a million international students in the UK; none expected a pandemic to upend their university life. 

Like millions of others before her, Frybova wanted to challenge herself by studying abroad.

Fluent in both English and German, she was torn between studying in Germany and the UK. A visit to the University of Worcester as a high school student, however, sealed the deal.

“I went to the UK while I was still in high school and visited a couple of universities and I fell in love with the University of Worcester. I love the city, the people and the opportunities which this university could offer me,” she said.

Despite that, there’s no escaping the impact of COVID-19. 

Learning has shifted online, on-campus activities are cancelled or postponed and virtual graduations are replacing in-person commencement ceremonies. While these measures are necessary to curb the spread of the virus, it is also derailing the plans of many soon-to-be graduates.

“Being in the last year of my university journey, the thing which I am a little bit sad about is that I will be missing out on the social activities connected to the final year students who are finishing their dissertations, but I am sure many students around the world feel the same,” she said.

Universities are trying their best to accommodate and support students in this unprecedented period. 

For instance, all of Frybova’s classes are now online; students can even choose to postpone their deadlines and exams too.

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Frybova had the opportunity to represent the University of Worcester in recruitment fairs in Europe and also work as a student ambassador. Source: Karolina Frybova

University of Worcester lends a helping hand

With many restaurants and shops closed under Britain’s lockdown, many students now find themselves without part-time jobs.

According to the latest research by job search engine Adzuna.co.uk, part-time jobs in the UK have taken the biggest nosedive in eight years. These vacancies plunged close to 70% in 11 weeks.

The Czech student, however, is lucky. Her job with the university — which she has been holding for the past two years — is still safe; she is currently working from home. 

Other students, especially those working in the hospitality or retail sector, however, were furloughed but still receiving 80% of their pay, according to Frybova. 

It’s a tough job market out there, but her university is chipping in.

It has a weekly job bulletin to help students find part-time opportunities in Worcester, in addition to a Coronavirus Relief Fund which students can apply for financial support.

Although the virus crisis is causing a wave of uncertainty for many, Frybova’s advice to other international students who are graduating soon is to not suffer alone and always seek help. The student services department, for example, is always ready to help.

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