Oxford, MS – College graduation is a huge milestone in anyone’s life that has attended a university. It is a time of immense celebration for all the hard work these students have put in over the past few years. This milestone symbolizes a time of tremendous change in one’s young life and is an exciting start to a brand-new chapter. Finally, all of the all-nighters in the library, group projects, exams, and homework are over. Now, these young adults are entering the world eager to continue their journey into this next stage. For the class of 2020 though the post-graduation world is looking very different. This not only because there is no more school, but because they are entering the world amid a global pandemic. Most of the graduates that believed they would have one easy clear-cut path to a job in their field after graduation are now floundering. Everyone is trying to figure out what life will look like post pandemic.
I have been lucky enough to be able to talk to a few of these 2020 graduates about what life is now looking like post-graduation. We dove into how they are handling this new beginning amongst this crisis as well as what is to be expected for them. These students come from different backgrounds, but what brings them together is their persistence to follow their dreams amid the global crisis.
(Photo provided by Alexa Steele)
Alexa Steele is a graduate from Tampa, FL who attended Brandeis University in Boston, MA. She was recruited to Brandeis to play soccer for the school and is an extremely gifted student. She has always known that she wanted to become a lawyer since she was a young girl. Law school has always been the plan for her following graduation. Steele always knew law school would be the right choice in continuing her ultimate goal of becoming a successful lawyer. She has now been admitted to a reputable law program at the University of Southern Illinois, but with this epidemic occurring law school is starting to look a bit different.
Coming from a university with a population of under 3,000 students Steele was excited to be entering a law school with a large student body. Her classes were all to be in person and taught in decent sized lecture halls by numerous skilled professors. Steele has now received word that the university, like most others, has switched their academics to be online during the COVID-19 outbreak. The university is unsure what its plans are for the fall, but as of right now it looks like they will be continuing online education. For Steele, this has caused some room for concern since she already has seen how online school affects her studies.
“Converting to online school has changed the dynamic of class participation and being able to ask teachers questions that could otherwise be very helpful. There are often a lot of technical difficulties that my professors are not equipped to handle,” said Brandeis University Graduate, Alexa Steele.
Steele’s concerns grow entering this upcoming semester of law school. The academics for graduate school students are harder and more specific which causes many added stresses. The attention needed from professors is highly valued by these students and it seems that the online classes are not able to provide adequate attention. This is already a hard time for the professors who are teaching the material but even harder for the students who are just seeing this material for the first time.
“I am worried that I will have trouble learning everything I need to know online for the bar exam. We have to pass to become a licensed attorney, ” said Steele. Steel continues stating, “I’m also worried about not having access to the facility and starting to take classes with new teachers who I know nothing about and who know nothing about me. Before this, I would spend almost every day in the library and now I can’t which has hurt me. I hope I don’t have to do another semester from my dining room table at my parent’s house,” said Steele.
Online classes are not the only concern coming from Steele. Graduate school is very expensive even with the scholarships Steele has received. Steele feels that online school, if it should occur this fall, should not be priced the same as the in-person experience.
“I am also worried that they will try to charge us the same amount that they would for normal classes. For example this semester we got a $180 refund for our classes going online, but that seems pretty crazy when we’re paying thousands and thousands to get a hands-on learning experience,” said Steele.
For Steele, this post-graduation era is somewhat of a waiting game. For now, her plan has not changed too drastically. Steele still intends on heading to Carbondale come August and is still on the path to becoming that prominent lawyer she has always dreamed of being.
(Graphic of Alexa Steele by Amanda Hill)
Our second 2020 graduate is Nick Castellano. Castellano is from Minneapolis, MN, and is a spring 2020 graduate from the University of Mississippi. Castellano came to the University of Mississippi to continue his interests in economics within the business school. He was also part of the school’s hockey team which was a huge piece of his career at the University of Mississippi. For Nick, his plans were all set, and he was ready to graduate leaving with a full-time job and internship in Bozeman, Montana. Now as the virus epidemic continues to surge Castellano’s plans for work have been severely impacted.
(Photo provided by Nick Castellano)
“I still plan on moving to Bozeman, MT. I have an opportunity to intern with a commercial real estate firm and to coach hockey at the Junior A level after graduating. I hope to gain experience in the realm of sports and utilize my degree in economics,” said the University of Mississippi graduate, Nick Castellano.
Covid-19 has severely affected the way people interact with one another. One of the main parts of Castellano’s job as a Junior A level hockey coach for the Bozeman Ice Dogs was recruiting young hockey players to the team. The way recruiting works is by the coaches scouting players during the summer on the road. For Castellano, he was originally supposed to immediately report to Bozeman to start traveling around the United States and Canada to recruit. This has all changed now thanks to the virus. These youth athletic leagues have followed in the footsteps of the professionals, such as the NHL, which have all been canceled for the season. Now recruiting for Castellano’s team is being done by watching old highlight videos of these players online.
“The timeframe is still somewhat unknown as to when I can physically be present, let alone the standard or “normal” operations for these businesses. This pandemic has left us with having several conversations, there are expectations for the worst yet hopes for the best. It’s just sort of a waiting game until things are safe for everyone,” said Castellano.
(Graphic of Nick Castellano by Amanda Hill)
Castellano still plans to move out to Bozeman in a few months and is figuring out his career day by day. Like Castellano and Steele most 2020 graduates have concerns for their post-graduation future. Though these concerns are all exceptionally valid, the class of 2020 should still be extremely proud of their successes thus far. One last word to all 2020 graduates, stay focused, stay motivated, and don’t give up, good things are coming for all of you.
Congratulations to the class of 2020!