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Can we no longer study what we want?

The job market is collapsing, and empathy (and aid) is in short supply

Can we no longer study what we want? The job market is collapsing, and empathy (and aid) is in short supply

At the end of my high school oral exam, the professors asked me about my future academic plans. As an idealistic eighteen-year-old, I proudly replied, "I will go on to study modern literature!" The reactions were not particularly enthusiastic, especially considering they came from teachers at a liceo classico. The truth - now that I work, I can say it - is that it was a rather brave choice, but one I have never regretted. I had the support of my family and no desire to subject myself to years of reluctant study, preparing for subjects I despised, just to pursue a career that would likely make me unhappy. Did I do well? Did I make a mistake? That's not exactly the point.

On TikTok, the Outburst of a Job-Seeking Girl

A few days ago, TikTok user lohannysant posted a video describing how she was handing out resumes on the streets of New York in the cold. "I've never felt so humiliated in my life. I'm holding my resumes, a stack of resumes. So I can go in person to hand them in and ask if they happen to be hiring. I feel a bit embarrassed because I'm applying for minimum-wage jobs, and some aren't even hiring. This is not what I expected. I finished college, have two degrees in communication and acting. I speak three languages. It's awful; I just want to be a TikToker, to be honest with you. But I have to face reality, I need money. I'll keep trying." This outburst unleashed a wave on the web, and with 22 million and 4 thousand views and over 3 million likes, the video went viral, surpassing TikTok's limits and being reposted on Twitter, triggering a domino effect of varied reactions that speak volumes about who we have become and our attitudes toward others' difficulties.

@lohannysant I got tear stains on my resume #nyc #unemployed original sound - Lohanny

Reactions to the Video: Have We Lost All Empathy?

Some criticized the girl, perceiving snobbery and a lack of motivation in her words. Others contested her desire to become a TikToker or to expect more than minimum-wage work just because she had attended college and studied three languages. Does she feel superior to those who haven't studied? The most disillusioned did not hold back: if she knew she would have to work to live, why did she choose to study things so idealistic like communication and acting, which are useless? Why didn't she choose something more practical like engineering or medicine? Some even went beyond, extensively commenting on her makeup, hairstyle, and clothing, considered too casual for a potential job interview. Unfortunately, these reactions, which lack a drop of empathy, mirror the rampant individualism typical of our economic system, which makes us feel in competition and prioritizes financial gain over inclinations and passions.

Can't We Study What We Love Anymore?

Moving away from the TikTok case, setting aside what we think of the girl and expanding the discussion, let's reflect on the issue. Perhaps the problem lies more in the progressive inaccessibility of the job market for young people (with a gender gap). While acknowledging that being able to study is a privilege, it's impossible not to see that the problem exists. In Italy, the internship system (whether paid or unpaid doesn't make much difference, as the figures are still incompatible with the economic independence of recent graduates, especially those living in a city) has made it very difficult for young people to secure a job that provides some guarantee and hope for continuity. Job insecurity and economic instability influence their (our!) choices and happiness, and even though the unemployment rate in Italy is slowly decreasing, youth unemployment remains high compared to European averages (we're at 22% compared to the EU's 13.8%). Studying what we want - and then even finding work in the same field - has become a whim of the capricious and spoiled, and it's not fair. As if that weren't enough, the minimum wage at 9 euros per hour continues to be contested by the government. So, what should we do?

How to Choose a University?

If you find yourself at a crossroads, don't be discouraged by these data. We must be pragmatic in life, and there's no denying that. But we must also, if possible, position ourselves to not despise every moment on this earth, and unfortunately or fortunately, we will spend most of our waking time and adult life in the workplace. If the job market isn't working, and saturation (even in more lucrative areas) is looming, then it's worth fighting to do what we really love. Perhaps the trick lies in understanding what our priorities are. Do we prefer to feel professionally fulfilled in an area we chose to study because we love it, or find a safe job quickly - even if it doesn't excite us - to dedicate our free time to our passions, independently of our survival?