Madison Hazen working feverishly to find a job on July 21 | Photo by Madison Hazen

Graduating Into Uncharted Waters

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HSU graduates attempt to navigate a world turned upside-down by COVID-19

In May, Humboldt State University graduated hundreds of students, as it does every year. Unlike past years, graduates didn’t get to shake hands with their respective dean and receive a diploma on-stage in front of their friends and family. Instead, the class of 2020 was graduated over a mass-Zoom call.

Claire Matulis graduated last May with a degree in psychology. She recalls the graduation experience as passable but regrets not witnessing it firsthand.

“It was interesting to have the Zoom graduation,” Matulis said. “I still had my family on, we had a Zoom going on watching the slideshow and there was a part of me that kind of wished I had the in-person graduation.”

For former HSU film major, Will Schorn, this was only the beginning of a long and winding road to finding a job. Schorn had an internship with the HSU football team as a videographer but got axed when the program was cut. He’s since gotten back on the market, looking for similar positions.

“With COVID impacting so many sports, especially if you’re not playing at the top level – if it’s not professional sports – it’s been really difficult to find a job filming sports right now,” Schorn said.

“It’s difficult for people to feel like they’re building community now because, like, I’m sitting here in my room by myself talking to a screen and even though I know I’m communicating to a person, there’s a different feeling to communicating this way than it would be sitting face-to-face.”

Madison Hazen

Other students have had less trouble finding work, even if it is remote work. Madison Hazen is one recent graduate who fits that bill. An anthropology and religious studies double-major, Hazen was able to land a job in English-language learning support and reading intervention support for elementary school students, through the AmeriCorps company. While Hazen feels very fortunate to have found a job at all, she’s not too fond of working in a virtual setting.

“At the school I’m at, I’m going to have like forty-plus coworkers, who are people I’m not going to see face-to-face at all,” Hazen said. “I think it’s difficult to feel kind of like you’re fully becoming integrated into that work environment.”

Although Hazen remains optimistic for the future of former students but admits that she misses interacting with other people in a physical space.

“I definitely took it for granted as a student and having the physical community taken away or being removed from the physical community really helped me appreciate it,” Hazen said. “It’s difficult for people to feel like they’re building community now because, like, I’m sitting here in my room by myself talking to a screen and even though I know I’m communicating to a person, there’s a different feeling to communicating this way than it would be sitting face-to-face.”

Like Hazen, Matulis was able to find a job in her field. Working as a child and family specialist for a non-profit called Evolve Youth Services, Matulis acts both as a mentor and a therapist for adopted kids. Unlike the others, Matulis is remaining in Humboldt for the time being.

“I love Humboldt and I’m actually really grateful that I’m here in the time of the pandemic,” Matulis said. “My family is in much more populated areas in L.A. and Riverside and Ventura. Here out on the trail, I don’t have to worry about there being as many people and I feel like everybody is very conscious of wearing their masks and keeping their distance, so I feel grateful to be here.”

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