The ‘coronavirus generation’ – how the lives of young people have been knocked off track
PUBLISHED: 05:30 29 June 2020
Life has been put on hold during the coronavirus pandemic and there are fears young people will face greater challenges finding work. Here, Suffolk teenagers share their thoughts on the impact the virus will have on them and their futures.
‘My industry as I know it will change forever’ – Chloe, 19
Chloe Sheehan is training at The Musical Theatre Academy (MTA) in London and has spent months dancing in her dining room.
She said the pandemic has “turned her world upside down” and thinks her industry will never be the same again.
“One day I was closing a show with my college and saying goodbye to my friends at the end of term. Then before we knew it we were trapped in our homes, leaving our London flats alone and lockers full,” explained Chloe.
“I have spent the last few months training at home, dancing in my dining room, singing in my garage and acting with my peers over ‘Zoom’ rooms. It has not only made me realise how lucky I am to train where I do but also how, whenever I’m back, I will not waste a day in the studio.”
Chloe has moved home to Suffolk during the lockdown and said it has been quite a shock after years of living away.
She said: “Staying motivated has been a struggle to say the least. It’s sink or swim for us students of the ‘pandemic terms’. Luckily we are all staying afloat. Just about.”
She said she has missed collaborating with her peers and the “energy of a room” and has found it difficult not being at the drama school which she worked so hard to get into.
She auditioned there two years in a row and worked so hard to get where she is today. She said she would pinch herself because she had finally made it, but now everything has changed and she fears so will her industry.
Chloe said she has been struggling with how coronavirus has impacted her social interactions, but has been thankful for the mental health support from her college.
She said: “Exercise and study has been my saviour these past few months, helping me stay motivated and healthy.”
‘My chances of getting into university may be smaller’ – Tayah, 18
Tayah Butler celebrated her 18th birthday at her home in Rendlesham during lockdown, but it wasn’t exactly the murder mystery theme party she had planned or expected.
Instead she celebrated at home with her family and said it wasn’t what she had hoped for but it was “perfect in it’s own way”.
Tayah, who suffers with anxiety disorder and depression, is a college restart and is studying level 3 health and social care at Suffolk One.
She said: “Covid-19 has had a massive impact on my mental health, my family life and my learning. The first few weeks were okay as I’m quite introverted and found it easy to occupy my time. I enjoy knitting, painting and anything artsy so many days were filled with that and I was very motivated and on top of my work.
“After two weeks I began to have small panic attacks and lost motivation completely. It hasn’t been much easier since.”
Tayah said she has found it difficult to concentrate with her dad on conference calls and her family around, adding that she is now falling behind with her work.
“I have no clue if my work will be graded and worth the effort I am trying to put in or not, and I’ve been told my chance of getting into university may be smaller as a lot of students are moving their applications to next year.”
Tayah said that despite Covid-19 having negative impacts on her future, there will be some positives to take from the situation.
She said she thinks global warming will decrease and less people will rely on transport. She also hopes that because we are having to rely on health care services they will finally get the pay rises and recognition they deserve.
She added: “I think the impacts will last forever and it will shape society.
“I’m hoping as we have had to help those who are vulnerable, the kindness can be passed on through generations and we can come together to support each other, pandemic or not.”
‘I am paying for a room I’m not even living in’ – Annabel, 19
Annabel Munday, 19, is a second year student at the University of Warwick but has been living at home with her parents in Ipswich as a result of the lockdown.
She is in the middle of changing courses from biology, to sociology and criminology, and feels as though she is “in limbo”.
“I am due to start a new course in September, but now this might be online,” explained Annabel, who has since taken up a job on an asparagus farm so she can pay the rent for her university house in Warwick.
“I was a rugby coach and then I had a cafe job lined up in April, but both of those I have been unable to do because of the virus,” she added.
Annabel said she has found it difficult being at home – especially being away from her girlfriend – and also not being able to take part in rugby and hockey.
She said: “I am now working on the asparagus farm to be able to pay the rent for a house I am not even living in.
“The job is good as it gets me out of the house and it is physically demanding, but I am not socialising which has been hard.”
Annabel said she is facing a lot of uncertainty, she doesn’t know whether her course in September will be online or in person, she doesn’t have a house sorted for next year and she said it has been stressful trying to conjure up her rent.
She said she gets upset and frustrated by those who break the rules and although she is “optimistic” about her future, she is concerned that many people her age are being made redundant.
She said she “felt lost for a bit” but is confident her generation “will get back on track”.
‘I am teaching myself three A Levels from home’ – Evie, 17
When lockdown was introduced, Evie Relph from Felixstowe said she would lie awake at night worrying about her future and her family.
She said the coronavirus pandemic has been a struggle to many people and she thinks everyone has had something to overcome.
She said: “The biggest struggle I have faced and I am currently facing, is teaching myself three A levels From home.
“I am a Year 12 student getting ready to take my exams but it’s difficult preparing when I don’t even know if I will sit them or whether I will get given a predicted grade.
“The idea of this disheartens me as I want to experience sitting my exams and opening the results day envelope but coronavirus could take that all away from me.”
Evie also spent three weeks ill in bed with symptoms of coronavirus and said her experience changed her attitude when it comes to school work.
“Being extremely sick opened my eyes that I can only do my best,” she said.
“Although exams are nerve racking the idea of not sitting them is quite sad as it makes me feel that all my hard work is for nothing. Revising and taking mock exams is a key way of learning but what would be the point if I don’t sit my exams?”
Evie said she suffers from anxiety so at the beginning of lockdown was “petrified”, but things are getting better as she has been channelling her concerns through a hobby.
She explained: “I have always been a keen artist so lockdown has been ideal to have some spare time to focus on painting. I’ve found this has helped me cope completely.
“Some days I do have a bad day and find it hard to bring myself to paint but I’ve been grateful enough to be in lockdown with my mum and key worker dad who try hard everyday to make sure I’m coping even on days when they might not be.”
‘Our mental health has taken a turn for the worst' – Jacob, 17
Jacob Miller is 17 years old and lives in Thorndon, near Diss.
Before the pandemic he was studying music, science and business A Levels at Hartismere Sixth Form in Eye and is going to the University of Suffolk (UoS) to study paramedic science in February next year.
He firmly accepted an unconditional offer and said looking back on it now it was the best thing he could have done.
He said: “I have a place at UoS no matter how my A Level grades turn out. This is great because I know a lot of my friends, myself included, are concerned about what grades we are going to receive, considering we did not complete our final Year 13 exams.
“I think a lot of us had the mentality of ‘mock exams don’t matter a huge amount. They are just practice for the real thing in summer’. Now however, mock exams are going to make up a proportion of our final grade.”
He said despite mental health becoming more and more recognised, still not enough is being done to fully understand and recognise how people Jacob’s age feel.
“Far too much pressure is put on people my age, whether that be peer pressure, to do well in exams (from school, teachers, parents and even other students), pressure to conform to society’s norms and just overall pressure to fit in with everyone else and to be liked,” he explained.
“It all takes a toll and I don’t think people realise how much it affects us, all in different ways.”
He said that during the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, he feels that the mental health of young people has taken a “turn for the worse”.
He added: “There comes a point where not seeing anyone - friends and family - really takes a toll. Although we have such amazing technology so we can see our friends online, it’s not the same, and we all miss each other so much.
“As much as this part of the lockdown has been hard enough, I feel that when the lockdown gradually eases, this will be a struggle too.
“We have all become so used to being on our own, so it may be difficult seeing people again after such a long time. So many aspects of the lockdown have been mentally difficult and I’m sure there will be far more to come too.”
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