How to Navigate Working in Your Hometown When You’re in College

I live an hour and a half from home, so cutting ties has never been an option. This was great for me freshman year, and to be honest, at the beginning of every year, while everyone else was nursing their homesickness, I could just go home at the bat of an eyelash. Also, I was able to keep my same job through college. I am an ice skating coach in the small place of Dover, New Hampshire, where I teach Learn to Skate group lessons, and private lessons. It’s been a blessing to be able to do what I love at such a young age, and to be able to continue that same path even when I have “gone away”. 

However, there is such a thing as being too close. You start to come home so often that people forget you’re even in school to begin with, and even you forget you’re paying an exorbitant amount of money to live in a dorm. Sophomore year I spent more weekends (including Fridays) at home than in Boston, and I missed so much, such as time with friends, parties and just getting to know my city. I couldn’t even get on the T and go somewhere other than one place over and over again last year—that’s how bad it was.

This year, I resolved to set some limits for myself and for others, because as much as I have a responsibility to my career at home, I have a responsibility and right to the growth of my future career here in Boston. 

Tip 1: Be honest with yourself

My biggest issue is that I told myself I could do it all. People had no reason to believe otherwise because I always showed up and I told everyone I was fine. If I had recognized earlier and not kept taking on even more responsibility, I would have been able to keep a better balance between these two parts of my life.

Tip 2: Communicate with your boss/coworkers

No one will know about conflicts unless you discuss them beforehand, especially since you're not always around to see people face to face and mention things in passing. Take the time and courage to tell those you work with if you can’t make a shift or need to take time off. Just because you can rush home and work all through the night doesn’t mean you should. Know that they are lucky to have you for all of the work you are able to do. 

Tip 3: Know your priorities

Think: Is this job a pathway to your future career or is it just a way to make some extra cash on the side?

Based on how you answer that question, decide what is your priority: your life in college or your job at home. For me, my priority was my education, so I cut back on what I was doing at home. 

Tip 4: Be firm

Know your limits and don’t step back on them. It prevents people from taking you seriously. If you say you are coming home every other weekend, that’s it, unless there is an emergency. Stick to your guns, because once you start compromising, it’s a slippery slope. I made a chart of which weekends I am coming home and which ones I am staying at school, and I plan to stick to it. Being firm with yourself is also important.

Tip 5: It’s never too late to make changes 

Your decisions now do not have to be the decisions you make next month. You could have an epiphany in a few weeks and decide you don’t want to work at home at all and that’s okay. Or, you could decide to take on even more work. It all depends on what’s best for you, which will change depending on your course load and mental health. It took me years to find the right balance and the right ways to spend my time.

Here’s to a productive 2020 as a college student and ice skating coach, but overall as a functioning human!