Balancing School and Work

Students Speak Out

By Abbey Kingsbury

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The view from behind the counter at Saul’s Deli in Berkeley. Photo Credit: Abbey Kingsbury

I told myself I would never work in the service industry. Recently, however, I was dining at a local establishment and one of the managers brought me a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie and a job application. I found myself filling it out, handing it in and beginning work there a week later.

Fast forward three months and I’ve put in my two weeks notice because I found that it started to conflict with school too much. As a student at Berkeley City College, I had witnessed a few classmates who stopped showing up to class because they were busy with work, specifically those who work in the service industry.

Kristin Swift, full time student at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and part-time hostess, explained in an interview with The BCC Voice how the nature of a busy restaurant can negatively affect students. “I think the pressure on management makes them overlook the needs of students,” she said, “but there is also a real pressure on students to cover last minute shifts at the request of a manager, even when they know we have class. Saying no affects our relationship with our managers and causes tension.”

Although, this does not necessarily have to be the case. Emmet Smith, who goes to school part time at the College of Marin and works, also part time, did not express much concern in terms of scheduling and time management. “Work doesn’t really interfere with school,” Smith explained, “I mean, I plan for it. I knew how much I was going to be working. They haven’t thrown any surprises.” However, he did say that if he did not have to work, he would take more classes and hasten his transferring process to a four-year college.

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Emmet Smith during his regular evening shift. Photo Credit: Abbey Kingsbury

When asked why they chose to work, both Smith and Swift explained that it was to pay for tuition and living expenses, and not necessarily because they are interested in that particular field. In fact, Swift even cited her job as a barrier between herself and her preferred field. “I would take out more loans,” said Kristin, “but I don’t want to be in too much debt when I graduate.” She went on to explain that if she were to have time for a more lucrative major, she would think about investing a little more in her future.

“If I had time for biochemistry, which was my initial major, I would do it. But the course load was too heavy to do work as well so I changed my major to wine and viticulture, which is less demanding, but also less of a return on your investment, so to speak.”

“I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing anything at work,” said Smith, “but it’s a good experience.”

However, a college job does not always have to be an unfulfilling way to make rent. Although it is difficult to balance a full class schedule and twenty hours of work, BCC student Ambassador Derek Wallace described his job as a “good stress.” “Finding time for homework is the hardest,” said Wallace, “I feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew — but on the flip side, there’s a lot of good.” He explained that, even though he sees his future at University of California, Berkeley and works towards that goal, he is also striving to do all that he can for his fellow BCC students, a community that he feels very much a part of. As someone who can act as a medium between students and bureaucracy, he is able to “look out for the people who need to be looked after.”

“My work is my school,” said Wallace.

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