Finishing education from a distance | Advice for young people

Finishing education from a distance

Whether it’s finishing primary, secondary or college, Covid-19 has made education a very different experience this year.

Back in March, students likely didn’t think too much about saying goodbye to friends and classmates. Many of us thought that the chance to reminisce over good times, laugh over end of year pranks, or simply to hug goodbye, was guaranteedWithout warning, these opportunities were taken away, and can’t be easily replaced.  

It might feel like your time in school was paused, forcing you to close the chapter on whatever page you were on. For some students, because of stress, conflict with friends or disagreements with teachers, that page might not have been the best one to end on. Without the abrupt stop, students could have ended it their own way, maybe on a more positive note.  

Acknowledging the loss

Students are entitled to feel a sense of loss about missing out on what everyone else took for granted. All too often, there can be a pressure not to dwell on a sad or disappointing timeIt might feel like school’s over, so the focus should be on the next step now. However, without acknowledging and accepting emotions as they come, it can be hard to move past them.  

Sharing how you feel with someone who’s going through something similar can help. It can take courage to be honest about the sadness you might be feeling, but it’s worthwhile when you realise that you’re not the only one feeling this way.  

Sometimes planning for a chat makes it easier to share things we might not bring up in a group of mates. Speak to a friend that you know is a good listener and choose a time that you won’t be interrupted.

Students are entitled to feel a sense of loss about missing out on what everyone else took for granted.

Saying goodbye

There are ways to create a goodbye on your own terms. A little creativity can go a long way! Writing a letter or message, to close friends or even to a favourite teacher, is a nice way of recording the good times you had together. Organising a virtual farewell party over zoom can be a fun way to share memories and celebrate with friends.  Or you may prefer to wait until a time when you can all meet up again to draw a line under things. 

Celebrate your achievements

Even if you can’t say good bye in the way you might have liked, don’t lose sight of what you have achieved during your time at school or college. For some this might include creating great memories, or academic achievements, for others this might just be surviving and getting through to the other side. Look back over the years of your education, rather than just focusing on the last few months.

Be kind

It might be the case that for now, accepting the disappointment you feel is all you can do. Try to be mindful to treat yourself kindly over this time. Do things that lift your mood and help you to focus on the present, rather than the past.  

The only thing we know for certain is that this time will pass. Students will have the opportunity to start new things and create new endings. It’s safe to say no one will forget how they finished up school or college during Covid-19.  

The only thing we know for certain is that this time will pass.

Aisling 18, Meath:

12 March was my final day at secondary school, spent cramming for my German oral exam. When my teachers told me to take home as many books as possible, I almost broke the zipper of my gym bag with the amount of hardbacks in it. I didn’t expect that I wouldn’t be returning there again.

When I found out that I would be receiving predicted grades instead of taking Leaving Cert exams I thought I would be relieved. This was not the case with so many questions and so few answers about my grading. I kept thinking did I work hard enough. Clearing out my school stuff was very strange. I was reminded of my teachers, who I couldn’t thank yet, and my friends.

One of the first things I did to put my mind at ease was to make a backup plan. I finalised my CAO choices and applied for a PLC. Most of my time is now spent volunteering and watching Bake Off.

I’m excited to start college in Autumn and hope to move to a new city. I’m looking forward to finally see my classmates at the debs and being able to celebrate finishing school properly.

Emilia 19, Meath:

College for me ended so suddenly, almost like it was very anticlimactic. I had been anticipating the end of the year ever since the start of our second semester as me and my class were excited we had made it so far to finish our first year of college together, however, the reality of it didn’t feel like an achievement we all accomplished, it was more like a small sigh of relief alone in my bedroom.

What upset me the most was the inability to thank all the teachers in person and not having a proper gathering with my classmates to celebrate our big achievement. However, since finishing college I have found things to keep me busy, things that I may not have had time to do during the year as well as using the various online chat platforms to stay in touch with my friends.

In a way I feel that during this time, despite the distance, I have become even closer with the people in my life because we are all going through this together. Now that I have come out of this cloud of confusion and stress, I am looking forward to going back and appreciating the things I took for granted.