Graduating amidst the pandemic
As a graduate during the COVID-19 pandemic, an unexpected but significant lesson I have learned is that the only thing certain is uncertainty.
I distinctly remember when the university distributed the email announcing access on-campus would be extremely limited for the foreseeable future. A couple of my classmates and I were sitting around the study area table typing our first draft of our literature review chapter for our dissertation. Typing stopped. We began to speculate about the future naïvely believing it would only last three weeks, a month at most, and we would see each other again. Of course, we were wrong.
When people ask you at the start of university, ‘where do you see yourself at the end of your course?’, you would usually say something like ‘working my dream job with my dream employer’ or something to that effect. I definitely would not have said sitting alone in my room watching a slideshow showing my fellow graduates’ names at my virtual graduation.Georgia Boylan, MSc Corporate Communications and Public Affairs student at RGU
Despite my undergraduate degree coming to a very abrupt halt, my coursemates and I were determined to celebrate. In true 2020 style, we hosted a virtual “Official Unofficial Marketing Awards” with our course to reminisce, commemorate and feel closure for our four-year journey together. Safe to say, a couple of tears were shed. It was one of the many highlights of my time at RGU, albeit sitting in my dining room talking to my screen. I honestly believe I would not have completed my undergraduate degree without my support circle. From my family and friends to the university itself; the support I received was invaluable.
BA (Hons) Management with Marketing course experience
My university experience as an undergraduate student can only be described as the cliché expression – a rollercoaster. Starting in 2016 and graduating in the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many ups and downs. However, from my course acceptance email to my dissertation hand-in, the support I received was second to none from lecturers – especially the quick transition from on-campus to distance learning. They were extremely understanding of any situation or question I had and took the time to support me on anything I needed.
My favourite modules were Business Ideas and Opportunities and Consumer Psychology. The first module allowed me to work in a team to create a business from scratch and understand the elements that guide a successful organisation from idea to implementation. The second allowed me to really dive into the cognitive decision making processes consumers make on a daily basis.Georgia Boylan, MSc Corporate Communications and Public Affairs student at RGU
RGU enabled me to make friends for life from all over the globe, with whom I still keep in touch. I was also able to undertake an academic placement during my third year which gave me an invaluable experience, allowing me to develop my knowledge and gain skills I can take with me into the workplace. Essentially, my undergraduate RGU experience enabled me to realise just how resilient I am, for which I am truly grateful.
Undergraduate to postgraduate journey
The pandemic made the emotional rollercoaster of a university degree come to a screeching stop, leaving us fumbling around in the ghost town that was the job economy. For me, this was the scariest outcome. I ensured my CV was up-to-date and worked on my interview skills (making the most of RGU’s Employability Hub). However, I could not shake my gut feeling that the employability market would be impossible to navigate. As I began the dreaded graduate job-hunting process, I started to wonder what the future held. The beginning of the fourth year saw me determined to enter straight into employment to utilise the knowledge and skills I had gained through my BA (Hons) Management with Marketing, creating a strong foundation for my career. When this path seemed highly unlikely, it was time to reassess.
After careful consideration, I decided not to wait and hope for career opportunities to appear and applied for a postgraduate course; MSc Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at RGU.Georgia Boylan, MSc Corporate Communications and Public Affairs student at RGU
MSc Corporate Communications and Public Affairs experience
I am currently a postgraduate student studying MSc Corporate Communication and Public Affairs and it has been such a great experience so far. Although the majority of studying has been online and distanced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have had such great exposure to considerate lecturers and tutors who have been incredibly supportive throughout my undergraduate to postgraduate journey.
My favourite module so far has been Strategic Digital Communications – we created a digital communications audit for a local chocolatier and really focused on the fundamental elements that are successful to a good digital strategy. I also enjoyed the Public Relations Theory and Practice module, where we were involved with some practical scenarios and practices that will help us when we go into the real world of work. I was also lucky enough to get a placement with a local third-sector cancer charity organisation where I am gaining incredible workplace experience.
For me, the postgraduate course is not only an increase in academic knowledge and understanding but also there are many more ‘real-life’ practical exercises that I can use to take into the workplace once I graduate. From writing press releases to conducting audits, I feel more prepared than before going into the job economy with all of the invaluable skills I have developed and gained.Georgia Boylan, MSc Corporate Communications and Public Affairs student at RGU
Now completing my third semester, I have not looked back. I have expanded my understanding of marketing and developed further transferable skills to bring into the employability market. It has allowed me to become a more desirable candidate for potential employers. I am incredibly thankful to the staff at RGU for their seamless transition to online learning and the support they have and continue to offer. Due to the successful vaccine roll-out in Scotland and the controlled easing of restrictions, I am hopeful I will be able to have second-chance graduation with my loved ones.
Graduating in 2020
Truthfully, I was not always positive about my future during the pandemic. During the local lockdown, it was difficult to process the feeling of having lost the traditional end of degree festivities; such as the thesis hand in the event (had to improvise with some very unrealistic photoshopping), the graduation ball and the final night out before your friends went home. You start to feel gradually angry and jealous of the previous year groups as you inch closer to your supposed to be graduation date. I knew I was not alone; for most graduates, this was inevitable to have these feelings.
However, I had to paint the bigger picture and, importantly, put my situation into perspective. There was, and still is, many people around me in a much worse plight; facing redundancies, closure of industries to name a few of the many negative implications of the pandemic. In reality, it was not the end of the world if I did not get to wear a cap and gown. I have still achieved my degree, gained invaluable work experience and made, what I can only describe in a clichéd manner, friends for life.
Overall, I think it is fair to say that the graduates of 2020 have not had a traditional experience. We have gained life experiences we will never forget. It is an opportunity to prove ourselves to potential employers how versatile we are in continuously changing environments. If I could offer any advice to fellow 2020 graduates, it would be that mindset is fundamental. It is okay to feel forgotten about, angry or even lost. However, always look at your situation from a level-headed outsider’s perspective. Our lives are just beginning; granted a very rocky beginning but a beginning nevertheless. Grab every opportunity you can and believe in your talents. Most importantly, feel proud that we graduated in a time the history books will never forget.