What was it like to graduate in 2020?

DCU graduate Ciara Ramsbottom describes how the pandemic impacted her final months of college


What was it like to graduate in the middle of a pandemic?

It was incredibly anticlimactic, strange and filled with a surprising amount of disappointment. We had no opportunity to say goodbye to classmates and now our chances of having an in-person graduation seems highly unlikely so it’s quite disappointing for four years of hard work to end without any kind of formal celebration. Nevertheless, following a challenging few months and lots of hard work, I am very proud of myself and the degree I will be graduating with. My classmates and I hope to have some kind of celebration when it is safe to do so.

How did the coronavirus impact your last few months of study?

Having to move home because of coronavirus was difficult. I had to adjust to studying in my room as opposed to having a set routine of studying in the library on DCU’s campus. Having to move so abruptly to online learning was also tough as my final year counted as being 100 per cent of my final grade so the pressure was on to adjust and adjust fast. Although it was a challenge, I enjoyed and embraced some aspects of online learning, such as the flexibility it offers. Motivation levels also took a bit of a dip, particularly at the beginning of the lockdown as life seemed to be consumed by the pandemic and the news.

Have many of your fellow students found work?

A couple of my friends have secured training contracts with law firms beginning in 2021 and onwards but others who had graduate programmes secured with business consulting firms have had their start date moved from September 2020 to April 2021 which has understandably caused a lot of stress. The uncertain climate has presented some opportunities however for further postgraduate studies and some of my friends have decided to take advantage of this time to undertake Masters degrees. Overall, there is a general feeling of unease about our work prospects because we do not know how the economy is going to cope over the next few months, so job security and job prospects are a huge cause for concern.

Has the pandemic impacted your plans in terms of work?

I had never intended on moving home having lived and worked in Dublin for my four years of university and now my plan is essentially gone out the window. My plan was to sit FE1 examinations while working parttime in Dublin and then leave the country to work, gain some international experience and travel before I start my training contract. But as it turns out, travelling is off the table for the foreseeable future so it looks like I will be staying in Ireland and will have to try to find work here.

Do you feel positive about your career prospects?

I feel positive about my long-term career prospects as I was fortunate enough to secure a training contract to become a solicitor, before I finished my degree, for September 2022 with A&L Goodbody. However, I have two years to fill between now and then and I am not so confident about my job prospects for these next two years. There are no job opportunities where I am living related to my career path nor are there many retail jobs available so while I feel an underlying financial pressure to find a job soon, the chances of finding work at the moment are not in my favour.

If you could make a recommendation to employers, what would it be?

I think it’s really important that employers be honest as early as they can be about whether graduate programmes will be impacted by coronavirus - for example, if start dates are going to be moved or if the recruitment process will not be opening this year. Now is also an opportunity for employers to embrace virtual internships and traineeships. Students and graduates have gained new skills over the past few months and so can adapt easily to these new digital platforms.

Are there any positives to be drawn from this situation?

Life has definitely slowed down so I would like to think that it has given everyone a chance to pause and evaluate what they want to achieve/get from life. This situation has given me the chance to appreciate how lucky I am to have found a career path which I am truly excited to be on, even with the stumbling blocks that Covid-19 has put in my way!