Working While Studying: What It’s Like To Have A Job On Campus

Over winter break, I feel like I hit an inevitable point of growing up. I was sitting at home, preparing to go back to school and applying to internships. Applying to internships made me begin to think about my life in a way I hadn’t thought of before, as this time was different in two ways. First, this was one of the first times I was thinking realistically about what I want my life to look like in the next five or six years. I wasn’t thinking about dream jobs in my dream city in a beautiful flat with all my friends, the way I used to think about the future. I was trying to be realistic, so I was thinking about genuine jobs I may get out of school, where these jobs may be offered, and the tiny, little, hole-in-the-wall apartment that would most likely end up being the place I call home.

The second reason this daydream was different because it wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t being delusional; I was being truthful. And the first thing that really hit me about this realization was how expansive life was about to get. All of a sudden, it seemed like my life literally depended on my ability to begin saving money. This shock to the system was so alarming that it motivated me to immediately apply to several on-campus jobs. Out of all of the libraries and parking facilities and restaurants on campus I applied to, the only place that responded to me was the UCLA Faculty Center, and it is the place I’ve been working 2-3 times per week for the last four months. Let me tell you, this is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The idea of working a job while being a full time student can be unnerving to say the least. Especially with UCLA being on the quarter system, taking 3-4 classes alone can feel like a full time job. Currently, I take three classes, am heavily involved in three clubs, intern at a fashion PR firm two full work days per week and work an on-campus job. This may sound impossible, (I know it did to me at the beginning of the quarter) but I’m here to tell you that it is just the opposite. Working an on-campus job is the easiest way to make money on campus for one main reason: it is the most conducive job for a full time student.

First off, these jobs have the shortest commute (they’re literally on your walking route to class). I work at the Faculty Center, which is at the end of the street that I live on, so I pass the building on my way to and from class. The total time it takes for me to get there from my door to theirs is a three minute walk (yes, I timed myself). This means no hassle with public transportation, no extra money spent on uber and no money wasted on gas or parking.

Another reason why working an on-campus job is the easiest convenience to you is because these jobs work around your class schedule. You choose when you are available to work. and you block out when you aren’t. Working an on-campus job also means that your employers are legally bound to abide by that schedule. This means that you will never work during class times, and they will be especially lenient around midterm and finals season, a luxury that off campus jobs may not give you.

Another great thing about working while pursuing an undergraduate education is because you get to work with other UCLA students, so your coworkers are also your peers. This not only comes in handy when you need someone to cover a shift for you, (because nobody quite understands the obligation of midterms on a quarter system schedule better than fellow bruins) but it's also nice because it’s a whole other way of making friends here on campus.

One of my favorite things that I have come to love about working my job is that I was able to learn a little bit more about the inner workings of our campus. I had no idea that the Faculty Center even existed, even though I passed it on my way to class every day. Now that I work there, I have come to understand the logistics of the organization, how one becomes a member there, the benefits and services awarded to members and which professors belong! I have found a whole other way to form relationships with my professors—I literally served my old astronomy teacher his meal today, and yesterday, my study abroad officer came in for his usual fish and vegetable combo. I have grown to know some of them on a personal level, and there are some whom I have met that I cannot wait to take their classes.

Working on campus has exposed me to a whole other life that I never even thought about. It has given me new opportunities, new friends and new experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life, just like joining any other organization on campus. That’s the thing about working an on-campus job—it's not just a job: it’s another community to be a part of. Even though it may feel tedious and a bit more of an obligation at times, at least you are gaining experience, meeting people and best of all, getting paid. Because if there is one thing that all college students can understand, it’s the value of earning and saving in an increasingly expensive world.