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Graduation anxiety: Stepping outside the student-life comfort zone during a pandemic

woman drinking win

Drinking a Spanish wine called “Removing sadness” at home.

The alarm went off this morning at 08:30, just like yesterday and the day before.

Lately, every day feels like an exact copy of the previous one. After several months in a constant state of negativity, I decided to fully embrace the long cold days working from home I have ahead of me, and ordered two pairs of sweatpants from H&M. My original reason for visiting the online store was to find a white dress for graduation, but after seeing how the global situation is developing, I decided to give up and get white sweatpants instead.

The light in the darkness. (Photo by Luisa Gonzalez Boa)

The choice of words giving up sounds as strange as saying out loud that my graduation day is approaching. First, because it is not fair to call it giving up when it is for reasons beyond my control. Second, because my graduation day will consist of defending my thesis during a Zoom call, waiting for a – hopefully – good grade and then closing the app and continuing to work on whatever assignment I have to complete for my traineeship supervisor that day in December.

Since I began studying at the university back in 2015, I have been struggling with graduation anxiety. I see graduating as the time to become a real adult and join the scary world of job hunting and looking for a place to settle down. No more spontaneous reallocations to a different country in a matter of weeks or blanking exams waiting for second opportunities. However, with the job market crashing and the COVID-19 pandemic… now I am starting to actually fear graduation.

I know I am not the only one whose days go by with nothing new. My highlights of the past months are those moments when my online order arrives, even if it’s just the grocery shopping. Last week, I met my fellow trainees for e-beers, and sadly, I will never get the chance to meet some of them in person because of the restrictions. And every day I face a writer’s block, the word document named “Finally maybe my thesis” is probably mocking me at this point.

Embracing long walks in my neighborhood. (Photo by Luisa Gonzalez Boa)

I know that these past months have not been easy for anyone (maybe for Jeff Bezos). When restrictions began to ease after the first wave, I was somewhat hopeful that the situation would improve, but the second wave was imminent, and the worse it gets, the less motivated I become to work on my thesis, let alone begin job hunting.

I love planning, and up till now, life was somehow planned: high school, university, graduate school, internship. But now, with the pandemic, it is just very hard to plan anything. Nevertheless, as I wrote in the first paragraph, after months of constant negativity, I have decided to start looking at the small things that keep me going.

For example, the alarm will go off tomorrow at 7 instead of 8.30. I have a corona test scheduled for 08:00, an online session scheduled with my psychologist and a coffee date with a classmate.

This makes tomorrow slightly different from today. Moreover, thanks to technology, I got to meet my fellow trainees in my pajamas without feeling shame or the pressure of making a good first impression, and I certainly don’t miss those uncomfortable office outfits at all. With all the money I saved up by not going out, I was able to finally afford a new tech gadget I had my eye on.

I learnt to bake brownies and cook lasagna. And, most importantly, in the future, I will be able to tell my kids that I graduated university during a global pandemic – though I will probably leave out the details that all I had to do was stay home in my jammies, drinking unhealthy amounts of coffee and binge-watching Friends during my study breaks, but who cares, we survived a pandemic.

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Making my study place hyggeligt – with my homemade brownie. (Photo by Luisa Gonzalez Boa)
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Short coffee dates at home. (Photo by Luisa Gonzalez Boa)
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Working from my amazing local hangout, Café Griffens. (Photo by Luisa Gonzalez Boa)

P.S.: Remember that it is okay not to be okay, especially in a pandemic when feeling lonely has been exacerbated. 2020 has been a lot to take in and we are allowed to feel down. It is also okay to reach out for help and take some time for yourself to heal and grow. We are all doing the best we can.

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