Kayli Balin ’20 had started job hunting in February. Now, in the face of a global pandemic and a looming recession, it is the last thing on her mind — and yet, it remains a constant source of stress.
“What are our futures looking like? When will things go back to normal?” asked Balin. “I know so many students whose summer internships have already been pulled, so the new hope is to hopefully land something by fall.”
Balin’s concerns are a common theme among Wellesley seniors, many of whom worry that they will be unable to find jobs and internships in the next few months due to the permanent effects of an economic downturn, shuttering of businesses and stay-at-home orders.
“It’s been a scramble — I noticed the number of potential jobs that I can apply to has gone down drastically across different online platforms,” said another senior, who wished to remain anonymous. “I’ve also lost out on on-campus opportunities — I have to email or Zoom my mentors rather than see them in person, which can be hard logistically. It’s also stressful because I’m currently in a state with a shelter-in-place order — which we don’t know when it will be open and businesses will open again so I don’t know when I’ll be able to even start work!”
Some students worry that when they eventually enter the job market, they may be taking vital jobs from people who may need them more, such as older workers, who have been disproportionately affected by this crisis.
“It’s a weird time in the economy … knowing your place as a young person but also needing to become independent. What is the priority?” said Balin. “As people are scrambling to adjust to a new life at home, with a host, or other arrangement, the idea of looking at jobs isn’t the number one priority right now. It’s those who have careers and families to support that will be given priority most likely to get back on their feet, and I understand that.”
Dafni Diamanti ’20 originally planned to get a job in hospitality in June to fund her now-postponed internship at the Guggenheim in Venice. Due to the closure of Wellesley’s campus on March 17, she has now moved in with her parents in Greece.
“I try to find rational-ish arguments to stay sane and positive,” said Diamanti. “In the grand scheme of things, we are going through a global pandemic so everything is up in the air. The uncertainty sucks, but it’s all we have right now.”
According to the Wellesley Career Education website, Career Education staff will be available to students and staff remotely. Career Education events will still be held online as previously scheduled, with all events to be posted on Handshake and emailed to students in a weekly digest through their wellesley.edu emails.
“We are here for you,” Career Education staff told students in a video posted on Youtube on March 25. “We know how uncomfortable you are not knowing the impact this will have on your life, including your internship and job search. We [will] learn together how industries are adapting in this changing landscape.”
For the Class of 2020, nothing has been set in stone. On April 1, the College officially canceled the traditional Commencement slated to be held on-campus on May 31. According to an email written by College president Paula Johnson, a virtual Commencement ceremony will be held instead and degrees will be conferred to seniors digitally. A follow-up gathering has been tentatively declared to be held on campus next year when the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to pass. It is uncertain if the gathering will be mandatory and how seniors who have financial difficulties or may be working will be expected to travel back to the College.
“I’m honestly not sure to what degree my post-grad plans are going to be altered,” said Ciara Cheli ’20. “With the information changing on a nearly daily basis, it’s hard to plan ahead more than a few weeks at a time right now.”
Carm Lai ’20 credits their time at Wellesley for having prepared them to react to and make the best of unorthodox situations.
“I definitely feel like my Wellesley experience has shaped me to adapt to rapid changes and to tough things out until they’re over,” said Lai. “Even though the current situation is bad, it’s not an emotional turmoil that I’ve never faced before.”
For many seniors like Lai, the hardest part of leaving campus was not the uncertainty of the future, but leaving behind four years of memories so abruptly.
“What I felt most affected by was not being able to properly say goodbye to many things on campus, since I won’t be coming back for a long time,” said Lai.