Facing Exhaustion as a Working Student

Being a working student can be an overwhelming lifestyle to say the least. 

If you’re not at work, then you’re at school. If you’re not at school, then you’re catching up on the readings and assignments you’re behind on because you were at work. Your school days off are spent waking up early and spending the whole day standing since your availability is from open to close that day. 

You're slightly envious of the students that are tired and hungover in your 8:00 a.m. lecture because instead, you were one of the well-rested students spending your night serving those soon-to-be hungover students at the bar. You can’t complain though because your paychecks fund the classes that you're too tired to absorb, the apartment you barely get to relax in and the groceries you can't seem to find the time to actually cook.

To all my working students out there: I see you, I hear you and I am tired for you. After spending my first year at Ryerson working up to 30 hours a week, exhaustion was my constant state of mind. I wonder now how my heart was able to handle the amount of caffeine I was taking to stay awake to finish my assignments after work. I began to actually appreciate the days when I had class because that meant I was able to have real social interactions with people that I wasn’t paid to fake-laugh with. I wasn’t even that excited for my paychecks anymore because I didn’t have time to spend much of it, besides the times I was paying my rent. 

Of course, there were the good days when the customers weren’t so bad and my managers were in a good mood that made work bearable. But then going home and pulling my second all-nighter that week to make my deadlines reminded me that my main priority should be school (even though the weight of making my rent and paying my bills for the month was killing me, but that's a topic for another day). 

While I thought working a maximum of 30 hours a week was driving me to exhaustion, second-year psychology student, Simmi Gundu, currently has two jobs and works a total of 40 hours a week. The full-time student and worker said she works so much, simply to afford living on her own. 

“I’ve been working since I was 15 anyways so I wasn’t planning on stopping when I went to university, but obviously living on your own, there are more expenses so two jobs were necessary,” she said. 

Despite the exhaustion of working full-time hours, Gundu finds empowerment in working while in school. 

“I didn’t want to have to rely on my parents for things that I could get myself,” she said. “I feel like when you’re on your own and you pay for stuff yourself, you don’t answer to anyone but yourself and when you’re working so hard, it feels like you shouldn’t have to.”

Although it’s hard to manage being a working student, second-year journalism student Claudia Latino devised her own system to keep up with both. 

“I think for me, I manage school and work by always having a planner with me,” she said. “It helps me manage my time and organize what I have to do for the week so I don’t lose track of important dates.”

As a result, Latino feels as though working has not interfered with her ability to perform well in school. 

“I guess I just manage my time in a way where I am able to get all of my assignments done as well as keeping up with readings,” she said. “What I’m saying is that I don’t keep things until the last minute.”

Gundu, on the other hand, admitted it’s difficult for her to manage working so much and keeping up with her school work. Gundu said prompting herself to concentrate on her future helps her to manage school and work. 

“I try to remind myself to stay focused in school and not get too caught up in just making money,” she said. “Even though making a lot of money now would satisfy me, I know later on, I want to complete school and my goal was always to do something besides retail and food,” she said.

After my overwhelming experience working so much in my first year, I decided to cut back my hours to give my brain a breather. While it’s been a bit difficult managing my finances working less hours, I’ve definitely found myself being able to enjoy my time as a student and join groups, such as Her Campus Ryerson, that’ll help me gain experience for my future career.

Despite her tiring schedule, Gundu suggests to working students to never forget the reason why they’re working. 

“Never let yourself lose the vision of your goals, which for me is completing school,” she said. “You should not be putting quick money first before your education, and as hard as it is, go to lecture tired and try to soak in what they’re saying, even if you’re exhausted and the reason you’re exhausted is because you’re trying to afford to be there,” advised Gundu.