On July 9th, 2020 I had the opportunity to attend a webinar entitled Economic Impacts of COVID-19 on Youth Employment. This event was hosted by TakingITGlobal and the United Nations Association of Canada. The webinar focused on the potential impacts that COVID-19 will have on youth seeking employment in the near future, as and offered tangible and accessible tips to stand out in a job application.

Dr. Alina Turner, the co-founder and CEO of HelpSeeker, explains that due to COVID-19, there has been an “increase in demand for mental health support but the inability to always meet such demands”. As such, many youth seeking employment, as well as those already holding steady jobs, find it increasingly difficult to obtain the mental health support that is needed. COVID-19 has presented a unique set of challenges and difficulties which has increased the need for mental health resources and support. However, there has simultaneously been a push to move mental health to the backburner as physical health concerns have grown. Dr. Turner explains that such mental health challenges have made it even more difficult for youth to find employment.

Despite the challenges that have formed as a result of the pandemic, youth continue to display resilience and motivation in the face of disruption. While it is not easy to enter the job market with an uncertain economy or a lack of mental health support, many youth continue to demonstrate resilience and strength despite it all. Dr. Turner admits that the job hunt in the time of a pandemic and economic uncertainty is not easy but that youth are innovative and are “finding ways to support adaptation to destruction”. As such, youth continue to advocate for one another and are sharing their resilience with the world.

Image: Prexels

Although there are countless negatives of COVID-19, Kylie Hurst, a manager of You.i TV and an employment branding specialist, shares some of the positive workplace changes that have resulted due to COVID-19. These positive changes include:

– Diversity and inclusion call-out

– Location barriers removed with the increase in remote jobs and education

– Personal barriers removed with the increase in remote jobs and education (childcare, time of day, cost)

– Embracing individuality

These changes are all important and allow for increased access to employment, inclusion, and involvement that may have been lacking prior to COVID-19. With the rise of ZOOM meetings and online classes, education and employment are becoming more accessible to more individuals across the country.

In addition to the positive changes that may help youth in regards to employment, Hurst also shares some tips on how to standout in the job market. These tips include:

– Everything is an online business card, so make your online presence accessible and engaging (Portfolio, LinkedIn, etc.)

– Looking for a job is a full-time job: make a plan, organize, track, and update regularly

– Socialize on social: use social media platforms to connect with individuals who may help you (alumni networks, virtual events, etc.)

–  Build your resume: If you are fortunate and have been given additional free time as a result of COVID-19, use that time wisely to gain new credentials and experiences

Searching for a job can be intimidating and challenging, particularly with the lack of mental health support, the uncertainty of the economy, and for youth just entering the workforce. However, these tips should help to point you in the right direction. Resiliency is critical when searching for employment and embracing your individuality will set you on the right path for your future career.

Since the beginning of the worldwide shutdowns due to the pandemic, there has been talk about a ‘new normal,’ or a persistent wish to return to the old sense of ‘normal’ that everyone had become so comfortable with. Many continue to wish for the reopening of their favourite local café, the dance floor of the nightclubs, or for their university to begin allowing in-person classes once more. And these people are not alone in their wishes, as I too wish for the flexibility and care-free spontaneity of the past. However, this quarantine has allowed for many, including myself, to reflect on what the ‘new normal’ should look like and the changes that need to be made so that we can all move forward, together.

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Movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the acknowledgment of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls have picked up steam during the past few months and changes within government, companies, and society at large have been numerous. Arrests still need to be made, police still need to be held accountable, and systemic racism must still be addressed, but change is happening, albeit long overdue. With the inequalities of our society being brought to light and gaining traction in mainstream media, it is necessary that we no longer strive to return to ‘normal’ but rather a ‘new normal’ that offers equality to everyone.

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With Pride Month just behind us, it is also important to recognize the areas in which individuals in the LGBTQ2+ community continue to be disadvantaged and discriminated against. Whether related to discriminatory policy changes or the high murder rate of black trans women, there is still a long way to go for equal rights and justice. As such, our ‘new normal’ should be one of acceptance, love, and pride and individuals in the LGBTQ2+ community should not be forgotten or ignored.

There are many instances of a need for change and a need for this ‘new normal’. In order to achieve such a hopeful dream of equality, one must reflect inwards. It is about recognizing your privilege and becoming an ally. As a cis, straight, white woman I have had to reflect on my privilege and further educate myself about the inequalities that exist in the world. On top of that, I have also had to acknowledge the systems of oppression that I continue to profit from such as colonialism and racial discrimination.

Recognizing your privilege can be difficult and challenging but it is necessary to create a better, more just world. It is important to keep in mind that your privilege does not mean that you have had an easy life, it just means that there are not factors of your identity that are making your life more difficult. For example, if you are white, your white privilege does not mean that you have not experienced hardships, but rather that the colour of your skin has not contributed to your hardships. I think it is important to keep this in mind, especially when educating yourself on the inequalities of the world.

Overall, there is hope for a ‘new normal’ that is inclusive, accepting, and equal and that ‘new normal’ begins with everyone. It is each person’s responsibility to work for change and to be an activist and an ally. We have the opportunity to create a ‘new normal’ and it is time that we begin to realize these much needed changes. 

With the rise of COVID-19 over the past few months, ‘free time’ has become less of a rare occurrence. Many people have been laid off from their jobs or required to work from home, students have switched to online classes, and social events and gatherings have disappeared. With all of these changes, many people, including myself, have found that they now have more time on their hands to devote to their hobbies and other activities that would usually be pushed to the side. However, with this added amount of ‘free time’ comes a nagging pressure to be productive and to make use of the ‘free time’ that we now have available.

When scouring social media, I often see posts about how quarantine has provided people with the opportunity to write the book they’ve always dreamed of, to take an abundance of spring and summer classes, or to start a business. Even after studying all day, I still hear this voice in my head telling me that I shouldn’t spend the evening relaxing. Instead, I should be putting this time to good use and be productive. While these ideas of ambition and constant productivity can be lovely, they are not required. This is not to say that a person cannot aim to be productive or achieve goals during this time, because I am fully guilty of that. It is just to say that there should not be such high pressure to do so. Using this time in quarantine to better yourself or to achieve any number of things is great, however, you are not a failure if you choose to spend your time relaxing, binge-watching Netflix, or taking a lot of naps.

The truth is there is no right way to spend your time during a global pandemic. COVID-19 has created a lot of uncertainty and can be a source of stress for many people. Mental health is an area that many individuals struggle with and a pandemic, coupled with isolation, can cause people to spiral into a depression. As such, reinforcing the idea that people must be productive or else they have failed or ‘wasted their time’ in quarantine can be dangerous, harmful, and unhelpful, especially to people who are struggling with their mental health. A pandemic is a scary time and people are allowed to use their time as they see fit.

I can definitely understand the appeal for productivity in a time such as this. Many individuals attend school full-time or work a 40 hour/week job, which results in little time for projects, creativity, and goals outside of work or school. However, while many people may not have time for such endeavors in their normal lives, they may also not have time for relaxing and enjoying a time with fewer obligations. There is no shame in using this time to just hang out and exist. Your time does not need to be constantly used for production. Productivity can be great, it can be rewarding, and it can be a great cure for boredom, so long as you keep in mind that you are not a failure for relaxing and focusing on yourself as much as you need. 

Photo Credit: 

trendingtopics <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/146269332@N03/49119584972″>#productivity (Trending Twitter Topics from 25.11.2019)</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/“>(license)</a>

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This past winter semester I was fortunate enough to take an International Studies class that concentrated on the essential elements and important aspects of global citizenship and what exactly it means in today’s society to be considered a global citizen. As I began the course, I had a limited understanding of global citizenship and struggled to understand why this term was approached with such importance as to have an entire class dedicated to it. However, as COVID-19 swept its way across the world, into Canada, and eventually into my province of Saskatchewan, I truly began to understand not only the need for global citizenship during a pandemic, but the undeniable benefits of people taking on an identity as important as global citizen.

Global citizenship has become an increasingly popular term with the rise of globalization, interconnectedness, and digital awareness. Global citizenship is essentially the idea that we all have a responsibility and a role to be aware of and help other people regardless of political or geographical borders. It is the acknowledgement of our shared humanity with one another and the responsibilities that come along with that acknowledgement, such as caring for those across the globe, advocating for their rights, and educating oneself on world issues. As Oxfam explains, “A global citizen is someone who is aware of and understands the wider world – and their place in it. They take an active role in their community, and work with others to make our planet more equal, fair and sustainable”. A role such as this is important at all times but becomes even more necessary in times of global crisis and economic uncertainty.

Despite the select positives of a surge in global connectedness as a result of the global pandemic, such a ‘realization’ of a need for countries to help one another is often born out of privilege, and my experience is no different. At 21 years old, this pandemic is my first real experience of a global catastrophe that has affected my life on a personal level. However, other individuals are not as fortunate as I and experience hardships far worse on a daily basis. While I sit at home comfortably writing this article, with a fridge full of food, clean water in my taps, and the ability to take university classes online, I realize that not everyone has the same opportunities and privileges that I do. There are people, both in Canada and across the globe, that do not have access to the things that I take for granted on a daily basis. This is where global citizenship comes into play. As global citizens, we have the power to create change and it is important that we acknowledge the privileges that we may have to help those that we can. Whether it is donating money, time, or spreading awareness about injustices in our personal life or on social media, it is all important.

Photo by Matthias Zomer from Pexels

Global citizenship has always been necessary but its importance has only grown with the rise of COVID-19. Vulnerable people have become more vulnerable and people are experiencing even greater hardships and stress. It is times such as these, times of common solidarity and togetherness, that the need for global citizenship is amplified and we are reminded of our shared humanity with those around the world, despite borders and time zones. It is with this refreshed understanding of our own role in the world and with a re-imagined identity as a global citizen that we can begin to lift up fellow global citizens. As such, I will be reflecting on my own life and looking at what areas I can improve upon to become a conscious global citizen, and it is my hope that others will do the same, so that we can one day live in a world that is far more just, equal, and sustainable than the world we live in today. Lastly, as a global citizen, it is essential to remember that, no matter how big or small, we are all capable of making a difference in the world. 

Work Cited

Oxfam. “What is Global Citizenship”. Oxfam Education, https://www.oxfam.org.uk/education/who-we-are/what-is-global-citizenship

On April 22, I attended an open civil society webinar event entitled “Countering Negative Narratives on Migration”. At this event Eva Garzόn Hernandez, Migration Lead at Oxfam Intermon, presented her research and insights on the impacts of COVID-19 on migration and migrants. Responses and contributions were also offered by Alexandra Young, Director of International Migration Policy in the International and Intergovernmental Relations Branch of Immigration, Sophie Van Haasen, Coordinator of the GFMD Mayors Mechanism, Véronique Lamontagne of the City of Montréal, and Mόnica Trigos, UN Major Group on Children and Youth Shaping Narratives Thematic Lead. I attended this event as a delegate of the United Nations Association of Canada and I was able to learn not only about the challenging impacts of COVID19 on the narratives of migration, but also how I can begin to dismantle the increase of negative narratives in my own community.

The negative narratives surrounding migration, such as xenophobic and racist ideas and reactions, have increased recently with the rise of COVID-19. As Garzόn Hernandez explains, “Migration is often used as a scapegoat to cover up issues of structural inequality. As long as migration is being blamed, the real problems will never be addressed”. As such, many individuals, including some politicians, will be quick to draw attention to migrants and migration during times of crisis. Since COVID-19 originated in China, many Asian immigrants have been wrongfully blamed for the spreading of the virus. Negative narratives such as this allow structural problems to remain while innocent people are targeted and blamed. Garzόn Hernandez mentions that “negative narratives fuel hate speech” and that is something that everybody must be aware of. Facebook posts, tweets, and negative comments made to others about migration can promote negative narratives surrounding migrants and migration which can lead to hate speech and violence if left unattended and unopposed.

So what exactly has COVID-19 impacted in terms of a migration narrative? According to Garzόn Hernandez, “migrants have been historically blamed for the spreading of diseases” and unfortunately COVID-19 is no different. President Trump has been a key influence of blaming migrants, particularly with his constant use of the term “Chinese virus” which is not only the incorrect title of the virus but it is also irresponsible as it places blame on a country and a group of people which can result in hate speech, xenophobia, and the perpetuating of negative narratives towards migration. Garzόn Hernandez also explains that “as people lose their jobs, they will be scared of anything they perceive as a threat”. As such, migrants become the focus of misplaced anger, frustration, and fear as people worry that their jobs and financial security will be taken from them due to migration. President Trump continues to foster such a belief of blame towards migrants. On April 20th, he tweeted, “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”. This sentiment relays a negative message towards migration and places the blame of COVID-19 on migrants. Such a tactic promotes an “us vs. them” mentality and can be extremely dangerous. A pandemic is the time for unity and collective solidarity – not division and hate. Despite the negative narratives that are being perpetuated by individuals and politicians, Garzόn Hernandez offers suggestions of how to counter these negative narratives within our own communities.

According to Garzόn Hernandez, what can be done to counter negative narratives towards migration? First off, it is necessary to keep in mind that people with extreme values and beliefs around migration will not likely change their stance on the issue. It can be far more effective and worthwhile to appeal to those whose beliefs are somewhat central and not fully developed or thought out. Those who remain unsure about certain aspects of their stance will be more open to hearing what you have to say and you would likely have a better chance at impeding and eliminating the negative narratives that they may hold towards migration. Secondly, it is important to understand your audience and why they might buy into the negative narratives on migration. There are three main fears that people hold pertaining to migration which can lead to resistance, blame, and hatred towards migrants. These three fears are:

1.  Fear of losing one’s physical integrity

2.  Fear of losing one’s living standards

3.  Fear of losing one’s cultural identity

When addressing this issue, whether in your community at large, online, or to a family member or friend, it is important to be empathetic towards their fears and misconceptions. Breaking down the fears they might have and providing them with data or examples can be helpful in stopping the spread of negative narratives. However, as Garzόn Hernandez explains, “evidence is not always enough to change public perception.” Sometimes you must use emotional data to appeal to your audience. So what exactly is emotional data and how can you use it? Emotional data can be the personal story of an immigrant or refugee that will allow the audience to be empathetic to their situation. Sharing stories like this, with clear permission from the storyteller, will likely increase empathy, understanding, and a feeling of connectedness among audience members.

Despite the growing negative narratives on migration, COVID-19 has also increased feelings of community and the idea that we are all in this together. As Garzόn Hernandez explains, we have seen a “surge in collective solidarity” during this pandemic. While things may often feel bleak and overwhelming, collective solidarity, unity, and empathy will ultimately aid in the fight against the negative narratives on migration. 

During my first year of university, I enrolled in a beginner Spanish course at the University of Saskatchewan. I had always wanted to learn Spanish, despite my inability to roll my R’s, but I had never had the time. Throughout the class, I developed my Spanish vocabulary and grammar skills, but as the course drew to a close, I realized that my newfound knowledge would likely be pushed to the side and forgotten. And that is exactly what happened. School, work, and my social life all took precedence over learning the language and eventually I lost the knowledge I had worked so hard to obtain.

However, my “lack of time” to pursue a new language slowly became an invalid excuse when social distancing kick-started in Saskatchewan in mid-March. I found myself looking for something to occupy my mind and my large amounts of free time. Classes were still operating online but I was no longer commuting to school, working my part-time job, volunteering, or hanging out with my friends, and as a result, I was bored. I remember scanning my bookshelf in my room looking for something to read when my eyes stopped on my old Spanish textbook from two years prior. It was at that moment that I decided the best way I could make use of my time during social distancing was to start learning Spanish again.

I wasn’t entirely sure how to begin learning Spanish, especially on my own, so I decided to begin with the only method I could think of: flashcards. I pulled out my stack of unused flashcards, set aside for the finals I no longer had to write, and began writing down basic phrases, colors, and animals. From there I began to test myself on these terms and slowly I would write out more flashcards to add to the pile. This method seemed to work at the beginning and my Spanish vocabulary was increasing. However, I still felt as if I needed to do more to keep myself engaged.

Language Learning Books”. Pixabay

I downloaded Duolingo, a language learning app, and began to incorporate that into my daily routine. I enjoyed listening to Spanish from the app, as well as the practice of speaking, reading, writing, and listening that it provided me. I definitely think Duolingo is a great place to start for beginners looking to build vocabulary and pronunciation skills. There are a lot of languages to choose from, and best of all, it’s free!

I continued using Duolingo and my flashcard method, and after a few weeks of practice, I decided the final thing that needed to be added to my Spanish routine was to actually practice having conversations in Spanish. That is when I decided to reach out to my friend that I met in Peru back in February. I asked if he would be willing to practice speaking Spanish with me and he agreed. We started speaking on the phone several times a week and my Spanish began improving quite quickly. Speaking can be one of the most difficult aspects of learning a language, so I was very fortunate to know someone who could practice speaking with me. Even though I only knew a bit of basic vocabulary, I was still able to use what I knew to practice and I developed more vocabulary and language comprehension skills as time went on. Learning a language can seem intimidating and challenging but it doesn’t have to be. Just start slow and try not to be too hard on yourself. Learning a language takes practice but it is really rewarding, and a great way to spend your time. So, if you’ve always wanted to learn a language, maybe now is the time to give it a try!