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Scarred by 2020, Gen Z looks to a COVID-free future
Lives that had been focussed on school, university, sports or even going to K-pop concerts vanished overnight for members of Gen Z as the global pandemic struck.

While a lot was heard about older people at risk from COVID-19, this younger generation - born between the late 1990s and the early 2010s - also saw their worlds turned upside down in 2020.

Reuters profiled 10 young people around the world to learn how their lives had been affected by the coronavirus.
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/GEN-Z
RTX8I66E
December 24, 2020
Elisa Dossena, 23, a student, poses for a photo on a street in Crema, Italy, December 15, 2020. While...
CREMA, Italy
The Wider Image: Scarred by 2020, Gen Z looks to a COVID-free future
Elisa Dossena, 23, a student, poses for a photo on a street in Crema, Italy, December 15, 2020. While Dossena was studying in Milan, COVID-19 began ravaging her family and relatives in the town of Crema about 50 km (30 miles) away in Italy's first "red zone" in the northern Lombardy region. She returned home to help. Both her 59-year-old aunt and her 90-year-old grandmother succumbed to other illnesses and died after the virus weakened them. Her father had severe breathing difficulties, although it was never determined if COVID-19 was the cause. "I had to take care of the house, I had to manage everything for everyone because my mother was busy looking after my father, busy with my grandma, helping my cousin when her parents were ill. So I felt a lot of pressure, a lot of responsibility," she said. "It was a very negative period for me. But it also made me grow a lot," said Dossena. After a three-month lockdown in June, restrictions were lifted and Dossena could see her friends again. "People don't trust shaking hands, hugging or meeting new people," she said. "When I entered a closed space. I could feel the palpitations, the anxiety ... surely something changed." She is now studying remotely for a masters degree in management and hoping for just a bit of normality in 2021. "I hope people can leave their homes freely. I hope it will be possible to go for a coffee with friends at the bar. I hope it will be possible to return to school desks, places of work and university," she said. "I don't ask a lot but I hope for this." REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo SEARCH "GEN-Z COVID-19" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/GEN-Z
RTX8I31J
December 24, 2020
Jackline Bosibori, 17, a secondary school student, poses for a photograph within Lindi village of Kibera...
Nairobi, Kenya
The Wider Image: Scarred by 2020, Gen Z looks to a COVID-free future
Jackline Bosibori, 17, a secondary school student, poses for a photograph within Lindi village of Kibera slums, in Nairobi, Kenya, December 16, 2020. For Bosibori, who gave birth in November, school closures defined 2020. Many Kenyan advocacy groups fear adolescent pregnancies increased as girls were forced to stay home while parents still went to work. "If I was in school, I could have not been pregnant," she said. For Bosibori, school closures have made her dream of becoming a lawyer seem far away. "I feel I have not progressed in any way this year," laments Bosibori. "If I was in school, I could have improved in my goals." The situation makes her anxious, she said from the one-room home where she lives with six other family members. Kenyan schools have been shut since March. Bosibori wants to return when they reopen in January, but she worries about the fees. "My mom lost her job ... at this time, we don't have rent," she said. "I am stressed." "2020 was a bad year to me and it was a good year to me," Bosibori said. "It was a bad year to me because I got pregnant unexpectedly." "But it was a good year to me because I delivered my baby and she is OK." REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi SEARCH "GEN-Z COVID-19" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/GEN-Z
RTX8I31E
December 24, 2020
Lee Ga-hyeon, 17, a high school student and a fan of the K-pop boyband BTS, poses for a photograph on...
Cheonan, South Korea
The Wider Image: Scarred by 2020, Gen Z looks to a COVID-free future
Lee Ga-hyeon, 17, a high school student and a fan of the K-pop boyband BTS, poses for a photograph on a street in Cheonan, South Korea, December 16, 2020. Lee has a big wish for 2021 - to finally escape her bedroom in a city about 100 km (60 miles) from Seoul and see her pop idols BTS in person at a live event. "BTS is like a vitamin for me, but the coronavirus took it from me which made me really angry," said Lee. The pandemic forced BTS to cancel a world tour in 2020 that would have taken the seven-member band through Asia, Europe and the United States, and its New Year's Eve concert will be online. For Lee, there were no more trips to Seoul to see concerts and hang out with friends, and instead life has gone largely online, where South Korea's hyper-connectivity helped her host a YouTube channel showcasing BTS events from the past three years. It was a year that reminded her how special it was to have friends even though they remained apart. But it left her hoping that the new year will allow her to pursue her dream of studying mass communications and law at university. "Last year I spent a lot of time chatting with friends face-to-face on break time and lunch time, but I couldn't do it at all this year," said Lee. "I finally realized how precious that time was." REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji SEARCH "GEN-Z COVID-19" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/GEN-Z
RTX8I305
December 24, 2020
Valeria Murguia, 21, a university student, poses for a photograph in a field near her home in McFarland,...
MCFARLAND, UNITED STATES
The Wider Image: Scarred by 2020, Gen Z looks to a COVID-free future
Valeria Murguia, 21, a university student, poses for a photograph in a field near her home in McFarland, California, U.S., December 17, 2020. Murguia was finishing her junior year at California State University, Fresno, studying communications and working part time at the campus health centre when the pandemic hit. All of a sudden, classes went online and her modest income from crafting social media messages to help students stay healthy evaporated. Living in Fresno, a fast-growing city where housing costs were rising, became too expensive, so within a few weeks Murguia found herself back home with her parents in the small farming town of McFarland. At home, Murguia concentrated on schoolwork, and on skills she would need after graduation: she learned how to build websites, improved her graphic design proficiency and studied event planning. She also worked with her parents, both immigrants from Mexico, picking grapes in California's Central Valley vineyards. "It made people more serious," she said of the pandemic, "not so loosey-goosey ... It's going to for sure leave a mark on our generation." Murguia will graduate in May into a tight job market. Even so, Murguia is optimistic about her post-pandemic future. "I'm really staying positive, because if I start looking at the negative things, I just start playing games in my head," she said. "And I don't want to end in that space." REUTERS/Brandon Bell SEARCH "GEN-Z COVID-19" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/GEN-Z
RTX8I31K
December 24, 2020
Xiong Feng, 22, a dancer, poses for a photograph on a street in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, December...
Wuhan, China
The Wider Image: Scarred by 2020, Gen Z looks to a COVID-free future
Xiong Feng, 22, a dancer, poses for a photograph on a street in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, December 14, 2020. Xiong teaches Wuhan's only class in Voguing, a highly stylized dance form popularised in U.S. gay and transgender communities in the late 1980s. Wuhan's surprise 76-day lockdown, which cut the city off from the rest of China overnight on Jan. 23, began long before other countries began to feel the pain of the pandemic. Xiong, like many other Gen Z people in Wuhan, saw his life, education and business thrown into turmoil. The pandemic meant he was unable to graduate alongside his classmates, and lockdown meant he lost the opportunity to form tight friendships at a formative time in his life. "I think I've lost some friends. The relationship faded away because we didn't get in touch with each other during the epidemic," he said. Looking forward, Xiong hopes he can still be a trailblazer in the city's growing LGBT dance scene in 2021. His Voguing class has attracted more students since the lockdown was lifted, as people emphasise lifestyle and leisure. "I hope I can establish the first (ballroom event for Vogue dancing) in Wuhan in my spare time. Because I see cities in China like Shanghai and Chengdu have developed a very good ballroom culture, and I believe Wuhan can do it too." REUTERS/Aly Song SEARCH "GEN-Z COVID-19" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/GEN-Z
RTX8I31D
December 24, 2020
Nomvula Mbatha, 23, South Africa's number one women sabre fencer, poses for a photograph outside her...
Soweto, South Africa
The Wider Image: Scarred by 2020, Gen Z looks to a COVID-free future
Nomvula Mbatha, 23, South Africa's number one women sabre fencer, poses for a photograph outside her home in Soweto, South Africa, March 14, 2020. When Mbatha finished top in a national women's sabre competition in 2019, she seemed set for the Olympics via the African Championships in Egypt, scheduled for April 2020. Then COVID-19 hit. All competition was suspended and a strict lockdown at the end of March seriously curbed training for the her and her team. "The pandemic has been disastrous for us," said Mbatha. "We basically didn't get to accomplish anything. This year was cancelled in our lives." Even when competition resumed, Mbatha, ranked number one with 17 gold medals, faced enormous difficulties raising funding to attend the international events that would secure her a berth at the Tokyo Olympics, postponed to 2021. A member of the Soweto Fencing Club, she is just one of the country's next generation of star athletes struggling to raise cash to compete in an economy hit by low growth and high unemployment, especially for young people. As officials look to programmes that can stimulate employment, Mbatha's focus is on the next African Championships. Once again, though, the pandemic looms. A recent spike in infections has prompted new restrictions. "What if we go back to lockdown?" she said. "I don't have a resolution for 2021 ... I don't have anything because I am scared." REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko SEARCH "GEN-Z COVID-19" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/GEN-Z
RTX8I31G
December 24, 2020
Solene Tissot, 19, a university student who studies at the Sciences Po, poses for a photograph on a street...
Paris, France
The Wider Image: Scarred by 2020, Gen Z looks to a COVID-free future
Solene Tissot, 19, a university student who studies at the Sciences Po, poses for a photograph on a street in Paris, France, December 11, 2020. Tissot, who moved to Paris two years ago to study at the Sciences-Po university, is now seeing a psychologist. She has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder, conditions she says were triggered by the loneliness brought on by COVID-19 lockdowns. Tissot no longer attends lectures in person because her university has cancelled them. Movement restrictions often make it unlawful for her to visit friends at home. She has not seen her grandparents in a year. Her course requires her to do an internship. But with many firms operating remotely, she is struggling to find somewhere to take her. Next year, she was due to do a study year in Lebanon - where her boyfriend lives - but it's unclear if travel restrictions will allow it. Once she graduates, finding work will be harder because of COVID-19. Tissot though, is looking to the future. She is learning Arabic, in preparation for the trip to Lebanon she hopes will go ahead. "What I hope for is also that we can go back to a life that is a bit more normal, and that means being able to see friends without it being illegal to go to their place," she said. "It's true that 2020 didn't leave much room for good cheer, and I would like to have that again." REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes SEARCH "GEN-Z COVID-19" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/GEN-Z
RTX8I31L
December 24, 2020
Abdullah El-Berry, 22, a trainee sports journalist, poses for a photograph on a street in Cairo, Egypt,...
Cairo, Egypt
The Wider Image: Scarred by 2020, Gen Z looks to a COVID-free future
Abdullah El-Berry, 22, a trainee sports journalist, poses for a photograph on a street in Cairo, Egypt, December 20, 2020. Berry entered 2020 thinking life would be tough. A severe knee injury needed daily physiotherapy and seriously affected his three-hour commute to Cairo from his home in the Delta city of Shebine al-Qanatir. After the pandemic hit, he could not continue physiotherapy as Egypt's hospitals were overrun with patients. He could not present his graduation project or attend his long-awaited graduation ceremony. The suspension of sports made it near impossible to do his job. And his daily commute was thrown in disarray by night curfews. Now, he believes 2021 will be even tougher. Paid very little as a trainee at a state-owned newspaper, the young graduate worries he will struggle to find a proper job. "We already suffer to find a job," he said. "Now, many people lost their jobs due to coronavirus and the economic crisis. It will definitely impact us all." Berry believes social distancing and wearing masks will continue to control lives in 2021, and make young people of his generation less likely to travel and explore new opportunities. His wishlist for 2021 includes advancing his career and resuming work on a YouTube channel he abandoned due to his studies and coronavirus. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany SEARCH "GEN-Z COVID-19" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/GEN-Z
RTX8I31M
December 24, 2020
Galina Akselrod-Golikova, 23, poses for a photograph by the gates to the courtyard of her apartment block...
Moscow, Russia
The Wider Image: Scarred by 2020, Gen Z looks to a COVID-free future
Galina Akselrod-Golikova, 23, poses for a photograph by the gates to the courtyard of her apartment block in Moscow, Russia, December 14, 2020. In early 2020, Akselrod-Golikova was preparing to travel from Moscow to Italy for a marketing and PR job at the Venice biennale's Russian pavilion. She couldn't wait to start. The dream never happened: the whole event was postponed, the job disappeared and, instead of travelling abroad, she ended up isolated from her friends and family in an apartment in Moscow as a tough lockdown suddenly began in April. The shock upset her deeply. She fretted so much that she developed stress-induced health issues. In time though, she said she was relieved to have a chance to refocus her life and have time to think. She said she slowed down for the first time and put her energy into decorating the apartment where she lives with her boyfriend with stylish ornaments, antique furniture and flower arrangements. "This year was the first time I started to devote so much time to my home, to buying some little things, and to stay there and to think about my space and to express myself through it," she said. She has not rushed to get a new job, and with time to reflect she has realised that she wants to enrol for a masters degree in food studies in Rome next year. Despite the upheaval, Akselrod-Golikova believes that the pandemic has brought many positive things into her life, though she acknowledges it was easier for younger people to adjust quickly. "I've started to appreciate my time as a resource and to devote it to my family, to my friends and to spend more time with them, including getting to know my parents and friends in new ways," she said. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov SEARCH "GEN-Z COVID-19" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/GEN-Z
RTX8I31F
December 24, 2020
Joao Vitor Cavalcante, 19, a mechanics student and a keen cyclist, poses for a photograph at the building...
Sao Paulo, Brazil
The Wider Image: Scarred by 2020, Gen Z looks to a COVID-free future
Joao Vitor Cavalcante, 19, a mechanics student and a keen cyclist, poses for a photograph at the building where he lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil, December 19, 2020. Cavalcante had trained hard throughout 2019 for his budding career as a professional cyclist. He thought 2020 would be his best year so far. But the pandemic upended that dream, prompting him to take a job at a car repair shop and give up his plans for a career in cycling. "Cycling is not easy, it is cruel, although I enjoyed that cruelty," Cavalcante said. "Now I don't want to live off of that anymore. Instead I want to live to do it." Cavalcante is one of millions of Brazilian Gen Zs who have had to drastically adjust their aspirations due to the pandemic's effect on the economy. Cavalcante's parents were forced to shut down the family clothing store during the first few months of the pandemic and his sponsor left him when cycling competitions were cancelled. His uncle, aware of the economic constraints, asked him to work at his car repair shop. "He was my salvation," Cavalcante said. "Either I took that job or I would be working for nothing. Last year, I sort of had a future (in cycling), but that time has passed." Cavalcante now works eight hours a day repairing cars, although he says he dislikes washing dirty auto parts. But it is a job that helped support his family during a rough time. He wants to compete again in 2021, but only as an amateur. "For 2021, I hope that things return to normal and that people can see their friends and family again and that they value their affection," he said. REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli SEARCH "GEN-Z COVID-19" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
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