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Welfare advice: Transitions

The University Counselling Service has produced a series of articles and podcasts to support students during the coronavirus pandemic. In this blog, we examine the range of feelings that transitions can bring, especially throughout these unpredictable times. 

The end of a university degree is an important transition from one stage of life to another.  Transitions are usually marked by rites of passage, and across the globe, communities acknowledge significant changes in the lives of their members in recognised ways.  Rites of passage are often undertaken during key life stages, with the intention of tracing a thread of continuity from what has gone before, to the transition to something new, through to the incorporation of change. 

In our university community, we are accustomed to our own rites of passage, such as Finals and Graduation ceremonies, that help us celebrate change and achievement.  For those about to graduate, this is an anticipated change.  As students leave, having accomplished their current academic endeavours, we have always believed in the importance of holding rites that mark students’ move into a new role in society as university graduates.

However, the pandemic and accompanying lockdown have meant a different summer term than was envisaged and for some it may mean that the change to the anticipated ending may feel like a loss that is greater than simply leaving Oxford.  Examinations have had to be reformulated, graduations and the accompanying celebrations have been deferred to a later, as yet unknown date.  Not being able to mark the departure from our academic environment with the joy it deserves, or together and in person, can constitute a real, potentially painful disappointment.  However, as with so many things at the moment, we are presented with a particular opportunity to think about this special time and how we might now wish to mark and celebrate it.  

During a period of transition there is much to learn and feel excited about, but also much to leave behind.  This transition can involve feelings of joy and enthusiasm, but perhaps also loss and sadness as we are now separated from people and places that have helped shape us in key ways.  Leaving Oxford, adjusting to new routines, locations and roles, means stepping into a different world, for which university experiences have helped us prepare.  There will be challenges and successes that test and reward, alongside responsibilities and pressures, as well as new freedoms, hopes and ambitions.  All of these will be underpinned by the experience of our time in Oxford, and the people our university education has helped us become.  Although we cannot be physically together to mark this special and important period in our lives, we all remain part of each others’ experience.

All ceremonies are unique and meaningful to their participants, but we are free to choose what is significant to us at this time, even if it is different from what might have gone before.  This time marks an important life change, and it might feel right to wait until lockdown eases enough to reconnect in person or it may be that something more immediate feels better.  How are you going to mark this?  Transitions can be shared with others close to us, or far away, and in ways which acknowledge and celebrate that something is being left behind, whilst the journey to something new is also begun.

For a range of additional supportive resources, go to the Counselling Service webpages, or visit the coronavirus student advice page for more general information about the impact of coronavirus.