Young adults find careers, dreams and relationships on hold one year after COVID-19 pandemic
Manan Shah’s day begins when he logs into his computer at 1 a.m., the screen glow illuminating his face as he takes online classes until the sun rises.
Shah lives in Surat, a town about 300 kilometers north of Mumbai, India. Classing at home in a different time zone while his family sleeps is not how he expected to spend the third year of the business degree he is completing at the University of British Columbia.
Around the same time last year, he was living in Vancouver. He was preparing for summer school and a co-op program to enter the workforce.
“Thanks to COVID, I had to go home and all my plans failed miserably,” he said.
“But it’s OK. [I] I have learned a lot from the whole COVID period … I have no regrets. “
Shah is one of the many young adults who spoke to CBC News about spending their days taking online classes in the bedrooms of their childhood home, missing out on parties, relationships and job opportunities.
It is not the first young generation to experience a protracted crisis. The sacrifices of young people during the world wars are a particularly devastating example.
And in this current crisis, older generations are at much greater risk of serious and possibly fatal complications from COVID-19.
Many people have lost their jobs or seen their careers cut short. Many families are financially stretched to the limit.
It is in this context that many young people face their own struggles and losses: the delayed careers, the relationships that never had a chance to flourish, and the opportunities that might never materialize in a world that no longer works in certain ways that have helped generations come and go.
They have been deeply affected by the way the pandemic has restructured parts of society and damaged parts of the global economy.
In British Columbia, as in other parts of the country, post-secondary institutions have embraced e-learning, provincial health restrictions have limited social ties, and many entry-level or part-time jobs that once existed for young people are gone. Young adults in British Columbia should not be vaccinated until late summer or fall.
The pandemic has led many adolescents and young adults to feel disconnected, desperate, and to seek help with mental health issues in greater numbers.
These are the stories of three young adults whose lives have changed.
Manan Shah, 21
Shah is happy to spend more time with his family but struggles to find a balance between school and social life while maintaining his physical and mental health.
He had planned to return to Canada this month, but the federal government’s new mandatory hotel quarantine – and the potential cost of $ 2,000 associated with it – is an additional financial burden he fears he cannot afford. .
“International students are really struggling,” he said.
“It’s not just me. I know so many people, so many friends who are back home and their sanity is being affected by this whole sleep schedule.”
Tegwyn Hughes, 22
Last spring, Tegwyn Hughes graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
She expected to move to British Columbia in the fall to begin a midwifery program at UBC to pursue a career path she had dreamed of for years. Instead, she returned home with her parents to Ottawa.
“I really felt like a boat at sea,” she said.
She contacted friends at Queen’s Student Newspaper and they decided to launch their own online publication called The Pigeon, dedicated to long-form reporting on issues that affect Canadians.
Now she lives in Duncan, British Columbia, and wishes to pursue a career as a journalist. Hughes is not discouraged by layoffs in the journalism industry. She sees the value in pursuing something she loves and intends to continue to grow her post.
“Since almost all careers seem in danger right now, you might as well join a risky career,” said Hughes.
She believes the skills she learns as a journalist will even make her a better midwife one day, if she chooses to go back to school.
“In the past 20 years, so many things have happened that are considered historic or catastrophic events that my generation might be used to going through terrible things.
“It certainly made us resilient.”
Bridget Inocencio, 22
Simon Fraser University graduate Bridget Inocencio has always dreamed of being a lawyer, but considered delaying her first year of law at the University of Alberta this fall.
She was told that she could only do this under “special circumstances”.
“I didn’t have one. It was just the pandemic for me, ”she said.
She moved to Edmonton, hoping there would be face-to-face opportunities for classes and networking. With tightening restrictions in Alberta this winter, she returned to Surrey, British Columbia, to live with her parents.
She worries about missing out on opportunities to connect with classmates and potential employers. She doesn’t know what her job prospects will be when life returns to normal.
“Seniors tend to think that everything will be fine,” she says.
“I don’t think that’s the case all the time. Burnout is real in law school, and doing it in a pandemic with no way to relieve stress by going out with friends or classmates isn’t is not something that I think they understand. “
‘It’s not forever’
Families can support young adults in recognizing the stress they face and the opportunities they have lost due to the pandemic, says Johnny Lo, mental health therapist and licensed clinical counselor.
“The fears and anxiety they experience are valid. Life is not the same as we know it before, and all the previous opportunities for them to network and meet people, they are all different now,” said Lo, who is also the founder of Youthwise Counseling in Richmond, B.C.
Young adults are showing a tremendous capacity for resilience and creativity to cope, but the pandemic can make problems worse for those who are already struggling, he said.
Going the extra mile to securely connect with friends and family and have empathy can help, he said.
“Remember, there is hope it is not forever,” Lo said.
“Find the things that continue to give us joy every day.”