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Being 20 in 2020 is No Easy Task

The reality of aging into a post-covid world

We’ll probably still be shaking off 2020’s aftermath well into the coming years, but we still can’t wait for it to come to a close. The pandemic forced the world into completely new modes of living. For young 20-somethings, that made things especially tough. 

As the world was forced into lockdown, uncertainty settled in. Studies came to a sudden halt, and young graduates’ future looked bleak. 

At best, many institutions resorted online learning, which came with a new set of challenges. The move proved to be exceptionally complicated for art and design majors, who no longer had access to materials and technical equipment typically provided by their schools. As for recent graduates, securing a first job became an even more daunting task due to a decaying job market 

For those studying abroad or away from family, the experience came with added challenges. From struggles of paying rent to dealing with loneliness and homesickness, the mental health of many young people has worsened. This adds up to the already high rates of depression and anxiety in the Arab world as proven by a study published in 2017. In fact, the psychological effect of the crisis seemed to weigh heavily on gen zers who’s youth turned into a period of void and confusion.

Even when safety restrictions started to loosen up, the Arab world was dealt new, devastating cards. From the tragic blast that shook Beirut in August and parts of Lebanon falling into famine, to drops in oil prices and potential rise of unemployment percentages, an economic recession began to lure in on the region. 

Admittedly, the climate proved chaotic for anyone in their early twenties and has called many to rethink their plans for the future. The recent figures published by the annual Arab Youth Survey reporting that 42 percent of young Arabs have considered emigrating outside of the region, become anything but surprising. 

For many, though, moving is not an option. So, what’s it like to 20 in 2020 today? We caught up with five students and recent graduates to find out their thoughts and hopes on what the future holds.

Dima, 22
The pandemic affected me physically and emotionally. I couldn’t see my family and I couldn’t plan my next professional move, due to the deteriorating job market. It’s scary to think we might have to live with the consequences of COVID-19, not allowing our generation to live at the same standards as our parents. I hope that the economic situation in the Middle East will get better and to have more opportunities for settling down in our own countries rather than abroad. The pandemic has certainly forced us to get out of our comfort zones, and I think this will push for new doors to open and more innovation.”

Omar, 21
“I decided to take a break to focus my energy inward and work on self-development, especially mentally. With the whole world slowing down it felt like there wasn’t much to miss out on anyway. Mental health definitely became a priority for me and seeing that the future is pretty much unpredictable I’m not keen on taking long-term decisions right now. I’m definitely considering different career paths and not limiting myself as opposed to what I had in plan before the pandemic. Of course, the financial side will play an important role in this as we are facing uncertain times.”

Zayneb, 22
“The pandemic got in the way of us having a normal academic year, and made graduation less enjoyable as we had to compromise a lot of things. The worst thing for me now is having to spend most of my time at home when I am actually very eager to start new things after graduating. And the anxiety that comes with looking for a good first job that I like while also having to consider the financial side of it more than ever. I hope this won’t be an obstacle in the face of my personal desires and passions for what I do.”

Nada, 22
“One thing I was very excited about before the pandemic was the internships and work experience after graduation but now it’s very difficult to find any options. Even if there are opportunities for online working it’s not the same and you don’t get the IRL work environment experience. What I really hope for is to find more job options to settle in my country in these unstable times.”

Khalid, 23
“Post-graduation for me was very boring due to the pandemic restrictions, we couldn’t celebrate and enjoy it like we had in mind. The hunt for my first job made me anxious because of the uncertainty for availability of offline jobs, as I don’t like working from home because I can’t keep myself motivated. But I guess we don’t have much choice. I really hope that a vaccine can be found soon so we don’t have to go through lockdowns again. The worst thing I can imagine is to see 2020 repeat itself and have us all stuck in the same nightmare again.”

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