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What It’s Like to Graduate During A Pandemic: An Interview With Lara Bleker

graduation, pandemic, university

The past semesters have been different for all of us. Barely seeing university has been hard for most of us, but what does this feel like when those semesters are your final ones at the UvA? When you’re graduating this summer, having spent half of your bachelor’s degree during a pandemic.

This article will be an interview with Lara Bleker, a communication science student who is currently graduating after finishing half of her bachelor’s degree online. How does she feel about graduating in these peculiar times?

Which parts of your study have you spent online over the past years?

Most of my electives, writing my thesis and my entire internship.

Have you considered postponing graduating because of the pandemic?

We’re still not sure when all of this is going to end. I didn’t know what else to do, and waiting for this storm to be over didn’t seem like a real option.

Not really. None of us knew what was happening to the world last year. We didn’t know how long working and studying from home was going to last and what kind of an impact it would have on our lives. We’re still not sure when all of this is going to end. I didn’t know what else to do, and waiting for this storm to be over didn’t seem like a real option. Whatever I did, it would still all be from home. Working towards the end of my studies was something I could lean on and see as a clear goal in the near future.

What have you missed most in this year leading up to your graduation because of the pandemic?

Pretty much all of my electives didn’t involve seminars. Though I did miss the small interactions before, during and after lectures, watching those from home wasn’t really a problem. The same goes for writing my bachelor thesis. We did have online meetings every once in a while to ask questions, but this part of the Communication Science program is quite individualistic.

When my internship started, that changed. I’ve worked at Omroep MAX (a Dutch television broadcaster) for five months, and I have been at the office once. The rules were strict to not come to Media Park if you didn’t need to be there, which is understandable, but you do miss a lot. Even though there were online meetings and I did feel like part of the team, it could also be pretty lonely at times. Interactions at the coffee machine are fundamental to get a proper understanding of what it’s like to work somewhere. Though I did learn a lot, and it was a special time, I do believe it could have been so much more, and that’s truly painful.

Were there any benefits about finishing up during a pandemic?

Something I didn’t miss was travelling towards and from Amsterdam. I could easily “lose” three hours a day with this, and I didn’t always feel like it was worth it, for example, if it was just for a two hour lecture. At the same time getting on the train was a moment for me to unwind, before getting back to work, whether university-related or side jobs.

A real benefit during my internship has been that I didn’t have to travel back and forth to campus late at night for the courses you follow during that semester. Though having to sit at my desk, staring at a screen for three more hours, after a long day of work, wasn’t great, I do believe it was better than having to leave the office early and be home way later (and starting early in the morning the next day). 

How are you celebrating this big achievement within the covid rules?

No real plans for now. Of course, it’s a special moment in my life, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like that at all. I think we’ve all seen the memes of “When you finish your degree at 5 pm on a random Thursday afternoon.” – and that’s truly what it is. Most of my friends aren’t done yet with their studies and there will not be a ‘normal’ graduation ceremony for now because of the restrictions. The thing that comes closest to a celebration is just trying to have a great summer with friends, family and way less screen time. 

What are your plans for the following years?

I honestly don’t really know. This upcoming summer, I will keep writing articles for one of the programs of Omroep MAX, but that’s all of the “career plans” I have for now. I’ve decided that I don’t want to do a masters (right away). Partly because of the pandemic (and the fact that it takes a lot more motivation and dedication to keep going), but mainly because I don’t feel like any program is the right fit for me at this point in time. In the upcoming months, years or however long it will be, I will try to find things I truly enjoy and maybe find ways to make a career out of it. I don’t know what the future will bring for myself and the world, but I do hope we’ll all get through these weird times and never take things that always seemed “normal” for granted anymore.

 

Cover: pixaby 

Edited by: Gokce Bayramiclilar

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Ninke Boshuizen
Ninke is a 21-year-old Communication Science student living in Amsterdam. She has a big interest in culture, media and politics. As a writer for Medium Magazine she hopes to share some of her thoughts and enthousiasm about these topics with her readers.

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