Covid forces them to rethink future
So much for those best-laid plans
Monique Gilpin (22) bachelor in media studies
Monique was going to Berlin. She’s almost finished with her bachelor and her original intention was to move there for further studies or work. ‘But the idea of getting stuck in another lockdown somewhere new, where I have no friends, made me change my mind.’
No Berlin, then. But what is she to do now? Monique is from Melbourne, Australia, and so she has to consider more than one thing when planning her next step. First of all, she would need a visa to remain in the Netherlands. ‘I want to stay in Europe and doing a master’s degree is the most comfortable option right now.’
She’s considering studying marketing or advertising, but she hasn’t applied for a programme yet. ‘Because I’ve spent a year and half of my bachelor studying online already, the idea of sitting in my room for another year haunts me. Just thinking about it is depressing.’
Working could be another possibility. She was offered an internship in a real estate company in Rotterdam, but she’d have to wait a few months to be able to renew her working visa, which you can only apply for once every two years. And besides, it’s not really what she wants. ‘I don’t feel like jumping into a business straight away. I’d like to chill for a bit, but this whole situation feels like I’m compelled to make a decision.’
Magda Zajączkowska (22) bachelor in artificial intelligence
Magda from Poland wanted to go travelling as soon as she graduated. ‘That was my plan from the beginning. But now it doesn’t really seem possible, so I’m trying to examine all the opportunities, with their pros and cons.’
She made a list as an overview of all the possibilities and defined three main outcomes: ‘do a master’s degree’, ‘take a year off’ and ‘work’. For each of them, there are attractive options. She could study in Sweden or Denmark, travel to Costa Rica and live in a monkey sanctuary or get a certificate to teach English.
‘I found the monkey sanctuary on Workaway. You work in exchange for food and accommodation. It’s one of the few places which accepts workers during corona times’, she says. ‘And monkeys are nice and funny.’
Below each option, she’s noted the positive and negative aspects. ‘Some attract me more than others, but there’s only one possibility I’m not really considering: going back to Poland.’
Despite the allure of the monkeys, doing a master is the most comfortable and reasonable choice, although she’s not sure she can face another ‘shitty year like this’ studying completely online.
Magda has already applied for some programmes, mainly in the fields of sustainable technology and IT and cognition, but she keeps all her options open. ‘It is just frustrating not being able to control anything. Things may abruptly change from one day to another.’
James Skinkis (28) master in ecology and evolution
James, too, had a clear plan for his future. He wanted to work as a research assistant for a couple of years before starting his PhD. But then came the pandemic and now it’s just ‘not ideal’, he says.
He wished he had more working experience and clearer ideas on when to apply for his PhD. ‘Honestly, I could still work as a research assistant, but it won’t be the same. Besides the work itself and academic life, I was looking forward to the full experience: travelling, meeting new people and so on.’
James has therefore started applying to PhDs in the field of ecology. ‘I looked at some positions in Sweden, Germany, Canada and also in the Netherlands. But I’d like to move away, four years in Groningen has been enough.’
Because he’s from the United Kingdom, he also has to take Brexit into consideration. ‘It’s certainly a factor to think about, but to me it’s more a mental than a practical thing.’
He believes it would be easier to look for PhD positions while he’s abroad already, so he hesitates to go back to the UK. ‘If I were to send my application with my British address on it, I would look like one of the many Brits who want to escape. My life is already outside of the UK.’
Alexandros Grampas (21) bachelor in economics and business economics
Alexandros has already decided on his future, or rather, his country has decided for him: he’s starting military service in his home country Greece in September.
Military service is still obligatory in Greece. You can only be exempted for health reasons or for educational purposes. Alexandros did have plans to do a master’s degree after he finished his bachelor this year. ‘But I prefer doing my military service now, so it won’t interrupt my career after my master,’ he says.
And yes, corona and the pandemic played a big role in that decision. ‘If next year is going to be online, I’d rather wait and properly enjoy my final years at uni.’ Still, Alexandros isn’t really looking forward to his military experience. ‘Honestly, it’s bugging me that I’m wasting one year of my life.’
Another downside: Greece recently extended military service from nine to twelve months, due to tensions between Greece and Turkey. ‘I can decide to do my service close to the Turkish border, though. That might be more dangerous, but it will only be nine months then.’
Ymke van der Velde (22) master in pharmacy
Ymke’s planned trip to Spain has to wait for the moment. The Dutch native had to make a decision about whether to go or not during the pandemic and now she’s stuck with the consequences. ‘My plan was to improve my knowledge of the language and have an experience beyond the academic one.’
The coronavirus turned the tables, and so she started her master in pharmacy last year instead. Ymke knows she won’t be able to travel as carefree in the future. ‘I feel like once I graduate, serious working life begins. So I always thought that after I’d finished my bachelor, it would have been the perfect time to be more adventurous and open to new experiences,’ she says.
Nevertheless, she hasn’t entirely given up her dream. ‘I still have two years of study ahead of me, but maybe if the situation gets better, I can put my studies on hold for a bit and head to Spain for a time.’