With the pandemic that has been going on for more than a year, people’s livelihoods have been intensely impacted across different fronts. As much as economic growth has slowed down, resulting in many people losing their jobs, a large number of students across the country have also been facing difficulties as they have been stuck at home the whole time. Not just college students, even fresh graduates who were about to enter the workforce as well as secondary school students who were facing their final examinations have had their plans disrupted by the Covid-19 outbreak.
When the first Movement Control Order (MCO) was implemented in March 2020, students had to attend online classes while non-essential workers were ordered to work from home. The government closed national borders to limit the flow of people in and out of the country, which also meant that students who were planning to study abroad were held back, and those who were already studying in foreign countries could not return home to their families.
We got in touch with students in different stages who are willing to share their stories about how they were coping with the pandemic. Aaron Patrick, 20, graduated from college with a Diploma in Mass Communication in early 2020 and started working in October that same year. He shared that it was quite frustrating to work while dealing with the new normal. “In terms of work, it was a challenge to adapt to constantly moving back and forth from working at the office to working from home.” Aaron also stated that “it also made me sloppy in terms of my work ethic,”. Luckily, he is now more determined to overcome the frustration that comes with the pandemic and push through to succeed after reevaluating and readjusting to the changes he faced.
Summer Yang, 22, is a fresh graduate who majored in Public Relations. She was supposed to go for her internship in her fourth semester in 2020. She was looking forward to it as it would help to lessen her family's financial burden with a little bit of income but unfortunately, her college switched plans as the daily cases were rapidly rising at that time, so her batch was forced to reject all internship offers and finish their semester with a mandatory Capstone project. “To be honest, I was really sad and disappointed as I would still be stuck with the same environment as my previous semester - which was definitely difficult and limiting when it comes to learning.” Yang also shared that she had difficulties with virtual learning as she had only switched to online classes during her third semester. She also mentioned how it was important to communicate clearly with her groupmates to avoid any misunderstandings and possible escalations. It was also difficult to bring up questions or seek advice from her lecturer as she would sometimes feel awkward during personal consultations. Although Yang faced a lot of problems throughout her last few semesters like communication breakdowns, internet connection issues and procrastination, she has now finished her programme and successfully graduated!
Apart from that, there have been people who started and graduated from their course fully online as well. Rachel Ong, 19, started her Foundation in Media Studies in April 2020 and finished in March 2021. However, she did not get the college experience she wanted as she did not have the chance to be at campus much or meet new friends from different courses. She spent all her time back in Kuantan where she studied online. Nevertheless, Ong did mention that her study progress was not as bad as she thought it would be as she did manage to focus during meetings and classes, but occasionally she would doze off during class. “However, I would've definitely preferred it if I could have gone to campus to physically meet my lecturers and classmates.” Ong added that she did not have to wake up early to get ready to go to campus, and she also got to spend more time with her family. She would have to take care of her own expenses if she was staying and studying in Kuala Lumpur. On a slightly negative note, formal meetings would make Ong worry because she felt insecure about her communication skills. Ong also mentioned that her social skills have worsened because she would choose to socialise less with her friends and spend more time with her family instead .
Besides, Form 5 student Tammy Koh, 17, also shared how her studies were affected by the pandemic. Koh’s grades were impacted because her motivation decreased as the lockdown progressed. She was constantly sitting in front of a computer screen while missing out on important senior year events. “My graduation, last sports day and my chance to experience becoming a leader in my co-curricular activities were taken away from me.” She even was underprepared when she sat for her SPM examinations.
Pursuing an internship is something that college students look forward to, so they can learn new things to prepare them for the real world. However, starting your internship one month before things got worse again is certainly not the happiest moment Quenton Chang, 20, wants to keep in his memories. As someone who is interning in the Domestic Department of Universal Music Malaysia whose job involves creating posters, taking pictures and videos of events and editing video clips for social media content, the pandemic has certainly taken a toll on Chang’s dream of experiencing a proper internship. “Personally, I felt robbed of my internship and the chance to truly widen my network. The pandemic has limited my chances to experience more physical events that I was looking forward to.” A lot of events were cancelled under the spell of the pandemic and he had to bring all of his workload home instead of being assigned to take pictures and videos of artist recordings or deal signings. Doing everything through a screen just could not let him imagine the atmosphere of the event.
The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone, not just students. Of course, everyone still needs to do their part so everyone can return to their normal lives as soon as possible. We hope the youth can wear their masks, social distance and avoid being in large crowds to help break the COVID-19 chain. For my fellow students, keep your head up and don’t give up.
By Loo Yuk Ling