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A tear-filled emoji looks at the germs floating around it amidst the COVID-19 epidemic.
Illustration: Pernia Jamshed
All Communities COVID-19 The Hustle Issue

Students on the cancelled opportunities of a pandemic

COVID-19 has indefinitely taken away internships and job placements, adding more stress to the lives of post-secondary students

By Samreen Maqsood

Illustration by Pernia Jamshed


HEN THE World Health Organization (WHO) declared on March 11 that COVID-19 was officially a pandemic, many Ryerson students became concerned about how it will affect their internships and jobs.

Since then, Ryerson has released a number of updates, including president Mohamed Lachemi’s announcement of how Ryerson is dealing with COVID-19 and a campus update released Tuesday on what transitions are going on around the campus. And on March 17, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared COVID-19 a state of emergency with a $300-million relief fund to boost the health care system and ordered restaurants and bars to shut down, making the COVID-19 crisis all the more real. 

Since WHO made the announcement, Ontario universities have taken measures to prevent the spread. This includes suspending in-person classes and moving them online, conducting exams by alternate methods and making residence students move out by March 23. Due to these sudden changes, students are having a hard time adapting. Many are saying they feel burnt out, both emotionally and mentally — particularly, students who had internships lined up and field-related jobs that are now put on hold. 

“While I’ve actually been working less as a result of being home, my burnout comes from the stress and anxiety around COVID-19 and the overall climate of the world,” said Grace Li, a fourth-year creative industries student at Ryerson. 

“You never know what’ll be on the news next and it can be quite overwhelming at times, leaving me more exhausted than usual”

Li had prospective jobs lined up after the winter term. She said it was mainly “contract work” related to sports and tourism but with large gatherings now banned by the city, she has become more aware of the instability within the industries she hopes to work in. 

“You never know what’ll be on the news next and it can be quite overwhelming at times, leaving me more exhausted than usual,” she said.

Like Li, many Ryerson students are unaware of where their future placements and internships stand as of now. Farah Khan, a second-year journalism student at Algonquin College, had a field placement lined up at Global News Toronto. She said because of COVID-19 and the social distancing safety measures being put in place, she has received an email saying they were no longer able to host her. 

Khan said the field placement is a crucial part of the program, and that the delay is causing her anxiety. “I understand the health of the population is the most important focus right now, but not knowing how things will turn out is worrisome.”

Emotional and mental stress as well as leading to believe their efforts were wasted is a shared common feeling amongst students amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

“I actually was supposed to have an interview [Monday], but I showed up and they said they didn’t know if they would be closing so [they said] when they reopened they would hire me,” said Darya Soufian, a first-year journalism student at Ryerson.

Soufian walks dogs and dog-sits for money on the side, but hasn’t been getting business for the past two weeks. “Honestly, I’m tired from trying to get a job and getting cancelled,” she said.

For others, it’s also a matter of financial stability, as their jobs are their main means of support, like Anish Panday, a second-year urban and regional planning student at Ryerson. He said that if his internship with Durham Region were to be cancelled, he’d have no source of income. 

“Considering I do not work during the semester…I need to work during the summer for the money,” said Panday.

Although his internship hasn’t been cancelled or suspended yet, he fears it might, as he works for the Durham Region in their employment survey team where he says face to face interviews are conducted with every single business and farm in the region.

Nicole Buffie, a first-year creative communications student at Red River College in Winnipeg, was placed on a “study week” break so that the instructors can figure out how to deliver their courses remotely.

“I’m supposed to go on a placement in a month and graduate in June, and now no one knows what will happen,” said Buffie.

“I’m supposed to go on a placement in a month and graduate in June, and now no one knows what will happen”

Ryerson released an official announcement on March 13 where Lachemi said that effective [Friday], Ryerson will be shifting in-person classes to online. Ryerson’s official Twitter page said to contact their respective department heads on updates regarding any exams and midterms scheduled.

York University, along with several other universities, announced that all in-person classes will be moved to a virtual platform, with more updates on exam arrangements.    

With internships and placements being terminated, it’s also affecting existing assignments and their weight factors. This results in students having to hustle with twice the amount of effort, as all their concentration is going toward assignments that are now worth a lot more than before.

Saherla Osman, an autism and behavioural science student at George Brown College, whose placement got cancelled, said her seminar class assignment was modified so that the placement is no longer worth as much. 

The placement was worth originally 30 per cent, while another assignment was worth 60 per cent, but after the termination of her placement, they will only be graded on one assignment worth 100 per cent of their grade. 

“I’m feeling burnt out because I am no longer learning from my placement. It’s hard to have your assignment go from 60 to 100 per cent without options or consultations with students.”

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