Radio story: College students grapple with uncertainty about their future in the middle of a pandemic

College students grapple with uncertainty about their future in the middle of a pandemic

HOST INTRO: With the coronavirus pandemic set to cause another recession that’s potentially worse than 2008, the people who are poised to inherit this uncertain economy are college students and recent college graduates. As many young people are currently trying to finish the year in the midst of disrupted school schedules and lost jobs, they want others to know that they are also struggling. Younger adults who have just started entering the workforce are seeing their jobs — and possibly their futures — disappear. For more on this story, here is Diana Shishkina.

AMBI1: Soft slamming of books, flipping of pages.

AMBI2: Natural bedroom room tone

TRACK: Amanda Elliot, a senior at Hunter College has been studying for months for the  MCAT, or Medical College Admissions Test. While loss of graduation and job security is one aspect of students’ worries, there is another major one that some seniors are facing: applying for postsecondary education, including grad school, law school, and medical school. Elliot spoke to me about her struggles as a college senior reacting to the coronavirus and also attempting to apply to medical school this summer.

AMANDA: For me, dealing with the repercussions of the coronavirus is really stressful and anxiety-inducing because once CUNY had closed, everything suddenly became uncertain. You know, how would we finish our assignments, complete our final papers, projects, presentations, how do we graduate on time.

TRACK: As she’s dealing with trying to pass her final college classes, Elliot has also tried her best to fulfill her role as a campus leader and mentor and check in on the students she was working with before the pandemic. Trying to balance all of her commitments from home has sometimes proved to be a challenge.

AMANDA: You know,  young people really are doing a lot, it’s not just about maintaining themselves, but you’re also maintaining a network — family networks, social networks, school networks, work networks. And people really underestimate the importance of young people in doing that.

TRACK: Elliot’s biggest worry, however, has been getting ready to apply to medical school later this spring. Before the pandemic started spreading, each week of Elliot’s life was planned out on a timeline, including all of her numerous academic and professional commitments. The coronavirus quickly disrupted her routine.

AMANDA: For me, it kinda really threw me, and I had to suddenly adjust all of the things I had planned. Once social distancing was enacted, and stay-at-home orders were given, everything that was pre-scheduled was canceled. And for me, that meant that my MCAT was canceled.

TRACK: The MCAT is a standardized test that is required for admission to almost all medical schools in the United States. Elliot explained how she did not receive any clear communication about how the virus would affect the exam until she found out her exam date got canceled in a mass email. The email forced her and others like her to reschedule her test day, even though testing slots usually fill up months in advance.

AMANDA: So basically, they were saying, you know, good luck finding a spot and kinda just sending us off to do that on our own. It’s not like it’s just one person trying to reschedule, it’s several people vying for the same spots, so it’s just a matter of refreshing the page and searching for it. So that came with its own anxieties. For me, it’s very stressful because a lot of the studying and preparation you do is very dependent on how much time there’s left until you take it.

TRACK: With some postsecondary schools supposedly opening their applications as early as this May to apply for the Fall 2021 school year — which is when Elliot wants to start medical school — many applicants are stressed because they don’t feel like they could fill all of the requirements needed for some of the more rigorous schools.

AMANDA: The reason I’m even, you know, worrying about this is because, in order to apply this cycle, a lot of the deadlines are upcoming and I need to have the MCAT scores to present. I just felt like there hasn’t been much accountability for that, for the effect that this could have on this cycle’s applicants.

TRACK: A lack of communication and accountability is a common sentiment echoed by many students. As colleges and employers attempt to grapple with a situation they have never really faced before, students are feeling pressure to go about their lives like they used to before the pandemic, while also occasionally being berated by their parents and teachers for not taking things seriously or not doing more to help out just because they’re spending more time at home.

AMANDA: I feel that as a CUNY student,  I haven’t really had the same opportunity to think about how can I be part of the solution, how can I contribute, how can I help with everything that’s going on because I frankly really haven’t had the time. And it’s upsetting that we’re expected to go back to business as usual.

TRACK: Jessica Barakat, a 2019 graduate of Baruch College, is feeling the same pressure and frustration that Elliot expressed, even though she’s not currently applying for grad school.

JESSICA: The coronavirus pandemic shut down my job. I’m a production assistant on a live TV show and we’re officially off the air until things calm down, so there’s nothing I can do, even from home. I’m not working at all at this point.

TRACK: Barakat’s dream is to eventually become a producer on a TV show, but the only way to really break into the business is to get real-life experience. She was hoping to do just that with her internship at the Liquid Lunch news show, but with the production paused until further notice, Barakat is unsure whether to hope that she can resume her job soon or to start looking for other options.

JESSICA: Naturally, I’m as frustrated as everyone else is, because we’re self-quarantining and I’m scared because my mother and I both have health issues to an extent. So if one of us was to get the virus, it wouldn’t bode well.

TRACK: Barakat, like Elliot, also empathized with students who are not being taken seriously by their employers and educators while being at home, because she believes that many of these students are navigating through a very uncertain time right now and are also taking on more commitments.

JESSICA: I think younger people have it really bad right now, especially seniors that are graduating. A lot of these students are trying to balance multiple fully-online classes with internships and jobs. I don’t even know how students in more hands-on classes are managing, like medical students. I can’t imagine what they’re going through.

TRACK: Barakat is still annoyed, however, that some people are still not taking this pandemic seriously. She believes that some of her privileged peers and “spring breakers” in general think that they are above the coronavirus, even as their neighbors and loved ones get sick.

JESSICA: I know some people who aren’t really abiding by the recommendations of the government and health professionals. The people that are frustrating me the most, however, are the spring breakers and other groups of younger people who are basically acting like we are not facing a very easily spreading virus right now. CBS recorded some partygoers in Miami, and the students basically said, “If I get it, I get it.” It’s disgusting! They literally just care about their right to party and don’t realize what a major health crisis we’re collective battling.

TRACK: Even though Barakat is annoyed at some young people who aren’t taking their health and the health of others seriously, she is still proud of how New Yorkers have come together and supported each other, and how resilient the city has been through its worst moments.

JESSICA: I feel a great sense of community with everyone else who’s going through this, because, quite literally, we’re all in it together. We have no choice but to band together and fight this disaster, while social distancing of course.

TRACK: Currently, it doesn’t seem like students stand to gain anything for learning in the midst of a pandemic. Colleges such as New York University and Stanford University have refused to lower or refund their hefty tuition fees, even though students cannot currently access facilities that they’re paying for. Other colleges are refusing to refund room and board fees, despite students having to leave campus because of COVID-19 concerns. Finally, most college students were left out of the government’s most recent stimulus package bill, even though many of them are also tax-paying workers whose income was affected in some way. For Baruch College, this is Diana Shishkina in New York City.

Video Pitch: Work from home workspaces

With the COVID-19 pandemic likely lasting into the summer, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that social distancing measures will be in place until at least May 15. This means that both students and most workers will continue to work from home until further notice. Now that we had some time to settle into our new routines, I want to get a glimpse into how people transformed their homes into workspaces. I’m interested in getting hopefully 5-6 people to give me a brief tour of their desks, their home offices, or even their couch if that’s the place where they do all of their work from. In addition, I would want to get people’s opinions about the challenges they’ve faced while working from home, especially students who have both their classes and their jobs online now (like me!) and how they adapted to those challenges. I expect that my interviewees would have to film their workspaces themselves, but I will work hard to make transitions from one person to another seamless, as well as incorporate my own experiences into the video if I can.

New radio pitch and photojournalism link

I want to focus my second radio pitch on how the coronavirus impacted many college students’ futures. Spring is usually the time when many students, especially those who are graduating, are trying to figure out their futures and plan for the next few years. I keep hearing stories from my friends, however, who are frustrated or worried because tests such as the MCAT for medical school has been postponed, the CPA exam for accountants is up in the air, and certain internships or full-time jobs have been revoked because so many businesses are currently closed or operating at a limited capacity. I want to speak with two or three students who are currently going through this, or who are potentially feeling financial burden because of their current situation, and how their futures might be impacted for months or years to come.

Also, if anyone didn’t see my final photojournalism essay, here is the link: https://nycdiana.exposure.co/cuny-community-rallies-back?source=share-nycdiana

Radio Pitch Idea

The plastic bag ban — pros and cons. Many people applaud the ban that took place on March 1, banning stores from using plastic bags, and adding a 5 cent tax on paper bags. It is one step closer to a greener, sustainable New York. However, small business owners and working-class New Yorkers are still concerned about how quickly the ban got implemented. A post I recently read in a Bay Ridge Facebook group revealed that small businesses might have to pay more than 3 times the amount for paper bags that they paid for plastic bags, which is harder for a smaller brick-and-mortar store to cover, and some businesses are even considering charging more for paper bags. Other New Yorkers, who walk or commute to work (rather than drive), are used to spontaneously popping into a local grocery store after work to grab a few things, and it’s harder for them to adjust when they might not always have a reusable bag on hand. I think it’s worth interviewing both people who are 100% for the ban, and those who might like the idea, but dislike the law’s execution.

Photojournalism Essay — CUNY Rally

Earlier today, a rally was held on the 23rd Street plaza that called for the New York State government and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to fund CUNY and stop the yearly tuition hikes. I was able to attend this rally in full with my camera and voice recorder, and I think it is an excellent subject for this first assignment.

The photos I took (over 200, but I will choose the best 20) showed the passion of protesters — which included students, faculty members, assemblymembers, and alums of various CUNYs — and I was able to get some quotes from both speakers and the general public. This is a very important topic in the news right now, as both CUNY and SUNY schools are calling upon their elected officials to provide either free public college or an affordable education to those who need it the most. This is especially current because of the most recent tuition hike that was passed by the CUNY Board of Trustees, and not enough people are fully aware about what is going on in their school. This is also a personal issue that affects each student who goes to Baruch, so I think doing a story on it is essential.