Words and artwork by Claudia Congrave

The 1st of June marked the end of the three years I spent studying at Cardiff University.

Despite announcing to my Sixth Form tutor that I didn’t want to go to uni, and despite my contemplation of dropping out during the first term, I‘ve somehow ended up with a degree (hopefully…results pending…). Although it’s been a rocky journey, the time I’ve spent at uni has truly been a learning curve in more ways than one. 

Starting uni, I knew the next few years would be full of stress and hard work, but I always assumed that the ending would taste so much sweeter once I got there.

As January 2020 rolled around, everything began to finally build-up to the end. Fellow students were applying to graduate jobs and updating their LinkedIn pages with their anticipated ventures. Our next biggest worry was making it to those last 9 am seminars or getting enough tickets for graduation, but we didn’t mind because it meant that the end was in sight. 

Next thing we know, come February, most universities decided upon strike action and cut our final time by two whole months. It was inconvenient, but nothing we didn’t understand or thought we couldn’t handle. 

”We still have until July”, we thought.

Then, all of a sudden, COVID-19 swept the carpet straight from under our feet. Fast forward a week or so from the first news outbreak and, in the blink of an eye, lectures had been cancelled, libraries were closed and all our friends had evacuated. Our time at university was abruptly and prematurely brought to an end.

This pandemic has undoubtedly turned the whole world upside down. Some people have suffered in ways that are completely unimaginable to the rest of us, yet we are all impacted by this nightmare in some way or another. However, for my fellow graduates, I feel a sadness at the fact that we didn’t get the ending we have worked for, the ending we dreamed of.

Let’s face it, we all look at those black gown pictures that sit so proudly on the mantlepiece in the houses of those we know, waiting for the day that we can display our own. Although we may get our day, be it via virtual graduation or even a postponed ceremony in a year or so, I think I speak for most of us when I say it just won’t quite be the same. 

Likewise, it is not only the graduation that will be missed but also those opportunities that are no longer possible. Be it the grad job that’s no longer available due to reduced funding and economic uncertainty, the summer of travelling that’s been cancelled due to restricted travel or the courses of further education that will be reserved for online teaching. Whatever it may be, we are feeling the impact in our own way.

Working around a pandemic in these final weeks has been demotivating and anti-climactic, to say the least. In total honesty, writing essays about topics I’ve not even discussed in a classroom and learning everything from a PowerPoint presentation hasn’t exactly left me with the greatest enthusiasm towards closing this chapter of my life. 

As I’m sure is the case with most graduates this year, if I knew how this year would have unfolded, I would have cherished certain moments that little bit longer. I’d have enjoyed that last, anxiety-ridden seminar, the one I managed to get my ass out of bed for, against all odds. I’d have savoured that last iced coffee from Starbucks while I procrastinated the day away with my friend. I’d even go all out and say that I may have even unplugged my earphones and enjoyed the sweet sweet sound of “Happy Days” as I walked along Cardiff Queen Street one last time (Cardiff students will know).

Aside from the losses, here we are at the end of this thing they call the ‘university experience’. When so much of the world stopped, we carried on.  For that, we should be so proud. Our generation has the ability to do amazing things and we should wield that power in the right way, a way that causes change.

I would like to wish every graduate the world of luck in their next steps and future careers. I can’t wait to eventually graduate with you all, whenever that may be, as the Class of Covid-19. 

Check out Claudia’s blog for more of her written work and artwork, and follow her on Instagram!