COVID-19 has put a halt to everyone’s plans but most potently to current and prospective students around the globe. I had visions of travelling and studying in some far-flung corner of the globe, but the pandemic threw everything I’d expected to be doing out the window. In an unexpected turn of events, I’m now back living with my family full-time after five years of independence. Prior to the pandemic if someone told me I’d be living at home a year from now I would have laughed and thought no chance. The idea of staying at home felt like I was stagnating, but now I realise that life has a funny way of giving you what you didn’t know you needed the most.
Not knowing what to do is okay
When I finished my undergraduate studies in the summer, everyone I spoke to asked me the same question; what are you going to do now? There seemed to be this expectation that as soon as my degree certificate was in my hand, I should be on the perfect career ladder and I was under the same impression. I was confused and disappointed, why wasn’t I instantly on the path to success and where had I gone wrong?
I had dismissed going straight from undergrad to my master’s degree because I didn’t have the slightest clue what I wanted to do with my life, but my plan to travel and work things out later became an impossibility. With the world in such a state and getting asked questions about my future all the time put me into such a panic. I decided to look into grad school right away as I became obsessed with the idea that if I was still in education, then I was progressing and all these questions about my future would go away. It didn’t matter that this was only a temporary solution, it gave me a reason to still live independently and it seemed the easiest and least stressful way of dealing with the inevitable.
This fear led me to do what every student graduating during the pandemic did: to apply for panic masters. I applied to universities I didn’t really want to go to on courses I wasn’t sure I even wanted to study.
Take a minute to think and breathe
With a place at Edinburgh sealed and induction week five days away, I made the decision to reject my place and stay at home. Something just didn’t sit quite right, and it turns out I made the right decision. I realised I would have been struggling to adapt to a new city where all my lectures would be online, social events cancelled and sports teams prohibited. It just wasn’t a feasible point in time where I could go and start a new life and I just needed to accept that, rather than pressuring myself with this deluded idea of progression.
Now, nine months down the line from furiously sending off portfolios and personal statements, I am doing exactly what I was meant to. I’ve learnt to value my family and my surroundings, rather than assimilating progression with leaving behind my old life. I’m learning new skills by doing an art course at my local college and I have this wonderful internship at saenguin. By taking a minute to breathe, I’ve learnt to question why I am doing things and if they’re really for my benefit or if I was just trying to keep up appearances for other people.
Have faith in yourself
It has come back round to application season again and this time I feel ready, not rushed, and I know I’m applying to the right places. I have actually attended open days (albeit virtually) and read extensively about whether that institution is right for me. I have realised I should only be attending grad school if it’s what I want for myself and nobody else’s opinion should matter.
It’s still a really unnerving time to be applying to go anywhere out of your comfort zone, the world is still in chaos and the situation might still be the same when September 2021 arrives. But that’s not something I can control, and it shouldn’t stop me keeping my options open to study when it does. Now is not the time for young graduates to feel like they have to push themselves and be super productive, it’s okay to be in a rut and not in the exact place you expected to be. It also means, however, that you shouldn’t put those dreams to rest, keep striving for those goals and keep positive because things will get better.