Sophia Imeson discusses the pros and cons of having a part time job whilst at University and how she found herself a job through the Exeter CareerZone….
It’s strange to think that I’ll never go back to my first year days of waking up beside a half gnawed block of Tesco’s own brand cheddar cheese at the leisurely time of 1pm, having missed a morning lecture due to tiredness after a tipsy night spent searching through Arena for my phone – to find it was in my left hand all along.
Nowadays I spring out of bed as soon as my morning alarm pierces through my earplugs (I rely on these foamy friends to block out the sound of other students on a 2am pilgrimage up the street for cheesy chips) and every minute of the day is now as vital to me as that extra hour in bed was in Fresher’s week. If i’m not frantically typing up an English essay or planning a Spanish presentation for the following week, I can be found pouring through potential job applications, preparing a packed lunch, or scurrying to the gym in a desperate attempt to wave goodbye to a wobbly bottom, thanks to one too many mince pies at Christmas. Last, but not least, I try to piece together the few fragments of a social life I have left, by catching up with friends – usually with a cup of tea and a hot water bottle, rather than over double vodka cranberries and 50 Cent on the top floor of Timepiece.
Why so busy? Where has all the fun gone? I’ll tell you where it’s gone – it’s migrated to a far and distant land full of rolling hills and blue lagoons – a land where part-time student jobs don’t exist, because nobody needs them. I’ve spent three years of my four-year English and Spanish course unemployed. I never needed the extra pennies because, if my student loan ran out, I’d borrow from the Bank of Dad. It’s embarrassing, and I’m ashamed to admit it, but towards the end of term it wasn’t unusual for me to be phoning home for cash, without taking into account the fact that my family was struggling to pay their own bills. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with asking for help from your parents, if they are able to lend to you, but for me, the safety net that I took for granted made me lazy and dependent. Quite a few fellow students without part-time jobs were making use of the free time they had by studying hard and being productive. I, on the other hand, was usually propped up on some pillows taking Buzzfeed quizzes.
By the beginning of fourth year, I knew things had to change. I wanted to be productive and self-reliant, to earn my own money whilst doing something fulfilling, yet I was stuck between the idea of pulling pints in a pub and yawning through a Saturday shoe shop job. Until, one Friday afternoon, an email popped up in my inbox from the Exeter Career Zone for a part-time role as a personal assistant for a wheelchair user. As soon as I’d read the job description I sent off my CV. The employer sounded friendly, fun and we both had very similar interests. I was invited for an interview and by the beginning of October I’d been given the job and was working twelve hours a week. Yes, it’s stressful trying to balance work with university studies, especially during final year, and, if I’m honest, I do sometimes struggle to socialise on top of everything else. Nevertheless, being busy makes me happy, the money I earn keeps me from speed-dialling Dad, I’ve become more punctual, persevering and personable and my employer is now also one of my closest friends.
Not every student will find or want a job like mine, and what you do depends on what kind of person you are and how many hours you want to work. If you’re a night owl and want to do something with your free evenings, perhaps pouring drinks behind a bar a couple of times a week is your thing. If you’re a chatterbox, you may enjoy one of the university telephone fundraiser roles. One of my friends serves food and drink in a student pub whilst another spends her weekends behind a customer service desk. Both of them benefit from the financial boost and are able to list a number of skills on their CV’s. There will inevitably be days when you don’t feel like getting out of bed to go and wipe tables or sell coffee, but as soon as you’re surrounded by co-workers and getting stuff done, it’s extremely satisfying.
The key to striking the important balance between education and student employment is planning and organisation. It sounds obvious, but timetabling and to-do lists will help you put time aside to finish that piece of coursework, shower before work, go for a quick run or phone an old friend. Just because I cope with the stress of a busy student lifestyle by living like an OAP – hot water bottle and all, doesn’t mean you have to too. Early nights and weekend baking works for me, just as going on a night out, finished off with a 2am pilgrimage for cheesy chips, works for others. As long as you make sure you sleep enough and get your degree, there’s nothing stopping you from earning a bit of money at the same time, and spending it how you see fit.
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