We continue to face many challenges at this very difficult time. Even students who are trying to finish school during this COVID-19 pandemic and start the next chapter of their lives, well, so many are in fear. Others are apprehensive and others are feeling overwhelmed.
Today, we’re going to talk to Brian all the way from Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. He’s here to talk about the challenges of graduating during the pandemic and starting again that next chapter in his adult life. So, join us in our conversation and let’s look for the solution together.
Brother Donald: Hello, Brother Brian, and welcome to the program. It’s good to see you. Now, you and I, we’ve met each other before and we know about each other, but we don’t really know each other in the sense of knowing each other well. So, for the sake of myself and also our viewers please tell us, who are you? Who is Brother Brian Ramirez?
Brian Ramirez: Hi, Brother Donald, thank you. I am a, just-recently-turned, 26-year old here in Vancouver, Canada. But originally, I’m from Los Angeles, California. So, I actually stayed in Harbor City and also Compton when I grew up. And I decided to move here when I got into school. I’m currently taking psychology. So that’s in the Bachelor of Arts. And, hopefully, I’ll be able to finish very soon.
Brother Donald: Ok, sounds great. Congratulations! And what is your career goal? Are you going to be a psychologist, are you going to work in a medical field? What is your idea right now when it comes to your career?
Brian: So, I’m thinking, Brother Donald, of becoming a psychologist in the long term. But for now, in the foreseeable future, I want to try and get into human resources and also consulting.
Brother Donald: Well, that’s commendable, Brother Brian. And we are going to pray for your success when it comes to your career goals. But tell us, what’s it like to go to school or to pursue an education, especially at this time that we’re still within the grasp of this global pandemic?
Brian: It’s very difficult to go to school right now because everything is online. So, we can’t see each other in person. We can’t do things such as lab assignments or group projects very efficiently.
Brother Donald: You probably missed that camaraderie, the actually being physically in one place with your classmates.
Brian: Oh, yes Brother Donald, I miss it tremendously. It’s quite difficult to see everyone through a screen.
Brother Donald: Yes. And now you’re getting close, I believe, to finishing your studies. Is that correct?
Brian: Yes, Brother Donald, very close. And hopefully graduation will be in sight, but in my last term now.
Brother Donald: During this pandemic period, what made it the most challenging for you?
Brian: It was a lot that I had to go through, especially financially. I did receive a bursary, but it only was up until the year 2020. And, unfortunately, with trying to graduate during COVID-19, it’s very difficult because there’s no financial support for international students. Very, very tough.
Brother Donald: So, how did you compliment your income? What did you have to do?
Brian: I had to make a lot of sacrifices. So that meant not ordering food from Skip the Dishes or anything to have food delivery. It meant cutting my budget a lot. So, that included entertainment and anything that was just completely unnecessary to have on a month-to-month basis. I had to take those things out and just pay for only the essentials.
Brother Donald: Emotionally, for example, you know. How did you feel going through these challenges that you experienced?
Brian: I was very sad. My mom, who is not with us anymore, and it’s been a while since she’s passed away. So, my relationship with my mom was the greatest. She meant everything to me. She was always there. She was a single mother. So, she was taking care of me and my brother growing up, tirelessly every single day without fail. And she taught me everything that I knew.
So, graduation would have meant a lot. It would have meant the entire world for her to see. And I know the many people that know me, know that that was the promise that I made to her while she was still here, that I would graduate from school and I would be able to graduate university. So, that was my number one promise that I made to her. And I made sure that I would fulfill it.
With everything going on, because I was very stressed as well, I didn’t know what to do next or how I was going to make ends meet, let alone be able to still focus on my studies. So, it was very, very stressful. And sometimes I wouldn’t know what to do. But I don’t know, Brother Donald, have you ever experienced anything like that, any struggles in your studies before?
Brother Donald: Well, in truth, when I had to go to the Philippines to study in the ministry, I was there for five years.
Brother Donald: So, I was separated from my family members, my parents, my siblings, my friends. I had to give up my career at that time. No regrets whatsoever. But, yes, a lot of hardships, a lot of difficulties. Do you have any feelings or concerns about post graduation when it comes to the next milestone in your life?
Brian: I do. I don’t know what to expect, or what to think about for my next steps after graduation or my career, so I start to feel discouraged. I don’t know what I’m going to be looking forward to. So, the thing I want to know is what do I do when I’m discouraged or I feel like I don’t know what to plan for or expect next in life.
Brother Donald: Brother Brian, when it comes to the feelings that you have now, a little bit of anxiety, concern, worries, apprehension when it comes to your future. It should not be surprising to you, because when it comes to the life of men, troubles and hardships and those kinds of experiences, they are unavoidable. And in truth, we can read the same here in Job, the chapter is 5, and the verse is 7, and the Bible states this:
Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.
[Job 5:7 New International Version]
Brother Donald: So, we are sure to experience troubles. And usually when a person experiences those troubles or those difficulties, the initial feeling is one of apprehension. The initial feeling is one of worry and or anxiety. And, in truth, even when it came to the servants of God in the past, they also had that initial experience or feeling.
For example, when it came to Job, you remember what happened to Job, is it not? That very severe trial that he encountered? And what [were] his first feelings? Well, we can read the following in Job 3: 24-26:
For sighing has become my daily food; my groans pour out like water. What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.”
[Job 3:24-26 New International Version]
Brother Donald: So, we can really emote when it came to the feelings of Job, is it not? Because, in fact, many people nowadays, they are virtually feeling the same way because of what has happened due to this global pandemic. You know, there’s so much worry and a lack of peace when it comes to what one is encountering.
So, you are not alone when it comes to your situation. Being members of the Church Of Christ and thus being recognized as the people of the Lord, our God, we know that we can place our hope and trust in Him.
And when it comes to making those major decisions, well, we should understand and also believe in the power of prayer. Because the Bible teaches that when it comes to God’s people, God is more than prepared to hear and answer the cries of His servants. And as proof, let’s read Psalms 4:3, 1:
But know that the Lord has [a]set apart for Himself him who is godly; The Lord will hear when I call to Him. Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; [b]Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.
[Psalm 4:3,1 New King James Version]
Brother Donald: So, this is also what you should be doing, Brother Brian, asking the Lord, our God, for His guidance and God in turn, He’s going to steer the course of your life. And, of course, God has the best plans for us, is it not? He wants to grant unto His people success and also victory.
But at the same time, Brother Brian, we should also be flexible when it comes to our career goals. Depending on the economic environment it could be possible that there will be appealing positions made available for you in different fields of interest, not just when it comes to those fields that are related directly to psychology. So, we should be prepared to find out about these different possibilities.
And if one appeals to you and again, through prayers, we feel that God is guiding us there, well, we should seize that opportunity.
I have a question. You said earlier that you are very close to graduation.
Brian: Yes, Brother Donald.
Brother Donald: Yes, when it comes to graduation, during a pandemic period or a pandemic year, there’s got to be some changes from what we would recognize as a normal graduation. So, what will your graduation be like this year, God be willing?
Brian: So, for my graduation, Brother Donald, it’s very different. Of course, a lot of students imagine a very big, in-person celebration. A lot of cheering. All their family is going to be there. Everyone is in their cap and gown. But for myself, it’s not going to be really anything like that. It’s actually going to be a virtual ceremony only, just with the YouTube link.
So, it won’t even be necessarily live, but it will be mostly pre-recorded. And even when it comes to our names being announced, as would be usually in an in-person graduation, it’s just going to be names on the screen.
Brother Donald: Oh, yes.
Brian: So, I’m just going to see my name in very small print going up with thousands of other names that have graduated as well. So, I’m a bit sad that I’ll miss out on that graduation experience and I won’t even be able to get the full dream that I imagined.
But I definitely wish that my mom was able to see me graduate, to be able to have that moment together versus it being, of course, alone.
Brother Donald: Yes, well, we feel your pain Brother Brian. I just want to reassure you that your mom would be so very, very proud of you. I’m sure she was proud of you when she was still with you. She would be very, very proud of what you’ve done and what you continue to do.
And I also share a similarity when it comes to your feelings of losing a mother because my mother passed away a few years ago also. But even though we may experience the loss of a parent, still, we have one who is going to continue to look after us. And who is that? Well, the answer should be automatic. But, let’s read here in Psalms 27:10. And this is stated:
My father and mother may abandon me, but the Lord will take care of me.
[Psalm 27:10 Good News Bible]
Brother Donald: We have the Almighty God who, as the Bible teaches, will take care of us. So, continue to place your hope and trust in God, Brother Brian. And you can prove that through living in accordance with His commandments and remaining active in your service and worship unto Him.
So, yes, graduation won’t be a regular graduation. But what is most important, Brother Brian for you, is you are going to be graduating. You are going to be graduating. So, kudos to you, my Brother, congratulations.
Brian: Thank you, Brother Donald.
Brother Donald: And especially considering all of the challenges that you encountered. So, when it comes to the next milestone or the next stage of your life, Brother Brian, look forward with optimism. Keep that beautiful smile on your face, knowing full well that God is not going to forsake nor reject you.
Did you benefit at all when it comes to our conversation today?
Brian: Oh, yes, Brother Donald. I feel at peace. I know that despite all of the challenges that I might have faced, and that others might have been also facing at the same time as me. And, similarly, there is a way to get through it. And if we continue to trust in our Almighty God, He will always be there. He will be that parent for us. And continue to always take care of us, no matter what we’re going through, no matter what’s happening in the world.
So, I’m very grateful that we have this connection with our Almighty God. And I feel better knowing that I have it, because then I know I can conquer anything that comes my way.
Brother Donald: And, of course, give yourself time to adjust when it comes to this stage of your life. Again, God is going to be guiding you. He’s going to lead you. He will steer the course of your life. Just permit Him to do so.
Brian: Thank you, Brother Donald, for helping me.
Brother Donald: Thank you for joining us in our episode today. I’m Brother Donald Pinnock, and we’ll see you again next time.