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International student shares anxiety over post-college life during pandemic

Caroline Giovanie 
Caroline Giovanie 

Journalism and Women and Gender Studies major

Jakarta  /  Wed, August 12, 2020  /  08:35 am
International student shares anxiety over post-college life during pandemic

I have heard of friends who graduated in May having to move back home because there were no job leads in the cities they were hoping to be in by now. (Shutterstock/99Art)

The economy has taken a hit since the coronavirus pandemic started putting the world in lockdown at the end of March, to say the least. Schools and most offices transitioned to operating online and remotely, restaurants started doing takeout only, concerts were cancelled, and society began to adjust as we made sense of what was happening to the world.

College students on their last semester had particular concerns – how will this affect them with getting a job when they graduate in May? In the first quarter of 2020, the IMF reported a 2.97 percent decrease in economic activity, which led to hiring freezes. 

I have heard of drivers being let go, “unofficial jobs” being terminated, and friends who graduated in May having to move back home because there were no job leads in the cities they were hoping to be in by now. Our mental health is affected by factors beyond simply staying indoors. We don’t have the luxury of simply worrying about our health but also our future as we start our professional careers. Internships that were cut short means the loss of a chance of getting a job with the company straight out of graduation, and other companies having hiring freezes means more closed doors.

Asia and the Pacific Policy Society said that the increase of mental health problems from issues related to the pandemic manifest into physical health problems like headaches and fatigue, weakening the immune system that makes the body more susceptible to infection by the coronavirus. This cycle of being of sick and not having the means to treat it traps young people into a bind of uncertainty and fear. 

Read also: Challenges of home learning during a pandemic through the eyes of a student

This has been the case over the past few months, but now society has slowly reopened, and people are getting back to their prepandemic routines. While there are still some companies that are hiring, job insecurity is high with the changing economy and more competition than ever now with more people on a job search. Having recently graduated or being about to graduate in an economic slump like nothing seen in decades is terrifying, especially because the pandemic seems to be far from over. 

As classes continue being fully remote for the upcoming fall semester, I wonder if my last few months in college will be followed by unemployment, as experienced by so many of my peers who graduated earlier. Being an international student in the United States means that I have to apply for optional practical training (OPT) if I want to stay in the country and get a job there. The process requires me to be in the country to be able to apply, which usually takes two to four months. I would have to travel back to the US, get an apartment and continue living there for months, even though all my classes are online, just so I have the chance to be able to look for a job. This might have been more worth it if I had better chances at getting opportunities, but statistics show that my chances of being hired and potentially sponsored for a future work visa are slim. 

The gradual reopening of public life can be expected to increase opportunities for fresh graduates to grab now that the "new normal” is in place, but the pressure of finding a job now that the lockdown is over may even create more anxiety than when everything was shut down. Capitalism has made us believe that we must be as productive as we can, and now that there is no “excuse” for being stuck inside, it’s like finally being thrown into a pack of wolves after you’ve been watching them from afar. 

That being said, I believe that our “most educated but worst paid” generation has shown extreme resilience and persistence with regard to our future, with civil rights and environmental movements that show that we are pursuing a just environment for us and future generations. (kes)
    
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Caroline Giovanie is a 20-year-old Journalism and Women and Gender Studies major who is in her last semester of undergraduate college. Currently in Jakarta, she spends her time quarantining with her dog and family and listening to indie rock albums.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.