Taking on a part-time job whilst studying is nothing new.
We all do it for different reasons. In my case, I had nearly maxed out my Santander overdraft, was too ashamed to beg my parents for more money (yet again), and had some extra time to kill over the summer holidays. I got the job pretty much right away after a quick 5 minute interview; I guess they must have been pretty desperate, as my work experience was merely limited to 2 months at a run down Cornish village pub, not to mention I can be super shy at times so when my boss claimed “we hire based on personality” I really didn’t know what he was talking about.
It was fun at first, adjusting to a new environment, meeting new people… but things quickly started to get hard once uni restarted – coming home after university for a quick bite and then straight off to work, finding the balance between school work, your job and your social life; I must admit, the latter is rather suffering as a result in my case.
I’ve begun to get into a habit of making plans only to cancel on them because I happen to have a shift that day, or because I have to finish off the assignment I’ve been putting off as all I’ve been doing is working. Contact with friends from home is virtually non-existent as I can no longer just take a weekend off to go half-way across the country for visits. To make this even worse, when I do find the time, constant exhaustion from balancing all these pressures means it’s no use even trying to make plans as you know you won’t be enjoying yourself anyway. No one outright says it to your face but you’re just not the same person to be around anymore.
It’s a lot harder when your boss is not willing to be flexible due to the fact that you’re a student. I can still distinctly remember a particular time when my work rota told me I would finish at 4pm but it was getting close to 5.30pm. I was still at work and had university event at 6.30pm. My boss was showing no signs of wanting to let me go early so when I desperately enquired if I could go home because I had a university event (bearing in mind it was not particularly busy at the pub) I was surprised at the torrent of anger that followed. One line particularly stuck with me- “you’re meant to plan your whole day around your work day, if you have a day shift you should know not to make any plans for the rest of the evening.” I think I most definitely learnt my lesson following that.
Having said all of this about the struggles of balancing work and university, I must admit, it’s not all a drag. There’s all the new and cool people you make friends with, and the not so cool ones who you always keep in mind when checking your work rota so that you can mentally prepare yourself for that shift you have together. The chefs at my workplace are the biggest laughs, we’re all different ages, from different countries and different walks of life; but that’s what makes our friendships so amazing.
When you go to uni you get into that rut of only socialising with people from your own age group and from a similar background; having a job on the side allows you to branch out your social circles which is invaluable.
Having a job offers an escape from university life too. There are times when you need nothing more than a distraction from the deadlines, the extra readings and generally from all the stress that is uni life. Work gives you a different place to focus your time and energy, it can give you a much-needed sense of space when the going gets tough.
So yes, my university experience has been made significantly more difficult by taking on a part time job but at the same time it has given me significant amounts of fun and a wider knowledge that the textbooks alone cannot provide.
Banner image: Jen Mann