The coronavirus pandemic has changed the lives of millions of students, but university students have had an extra challenge. Finding a job in this new era in which businesses have closed down and new hirings are rare is a challenge even if graduates are able to finish their school through online education.
Graduates anticipate that employers may not prefer those having earned degrees through online education rather than attending class in physical classrooms. The online education during the lockdown did not allow the latest crop of graduates to accrue field experience or establish networks necessary to harness employment opportunities.
Aslı Görkem, 23, a recent law graduate, shares the concern that the lack of socialization may not allow her professional career to grow. "Establishing a network is one of the key elements of success in some professions, which is the case with me. I cannot achieve that through online means, as face-to-face interaction is everything for a lawyer," she said.
Görkem said the choice to select either her health or her future employment as her top priority is giving her nightmares. "I have found myself in a vicious cycle where I cannot meet people, build a decent network and develop a reputation, which is the most important thing for a fresh graduate like myself," she said.
Among all sectors, tourism was hit the hardest throughout the world during the pandemic due to flight bans and travel restrictions. Born in the southern city of Antalya in Turkey – often dubbed as the country's tourism capital – Serhat Adak, 23, had set his goal at a very early age to become a guide for tourists. When Adak succeeded in finishing his education to realize his dream, the restrictions dried up tourist traffic.
"Even seasoned guides had a hard time finding jobs this year because of the outbreak. I was only able to find some occasional opportunities. Finding a job in this sector is now more difficult than ever," he said.
In 2020, Turkey hosted just 15.9 million foreign tourists, much fewer than in 2019 when it welcomed 51.7 million foreign visitors, according to the statistics released by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. "I cannot imagine a worse time to be a (tourism) graduate at a time when there is a much smaller number of tourists," he said.
The young graduates hope that vaccination efforts worldwide will succeed in overcoming the pandemic and return everything to normal.
Turkey launched online courses for all grades shortly after the outbreak in a bid to curb the spread of the virus. This week, the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) asked the opinion of the Health Ministry about the future of in-person education, and the coming days might lead to a shift in Turkey's educational approach amid the outbreak.