Balancing College Life: The Benefits of Working as a Barista

Ah, the end of finals week. For many, this time brings relaxation and a time to destress and visit with family. Yet, as we look to the new year, the changing of the semesters—and the decade—brings opportunities for new growth and change. Some may be reconsidering majors, making summer or post-graduation plans, or looking to switch or begin a new part-time job. 

Enter working as a barista. Recently, I talked with Sarah Sovereen, a student in the College of Architecture, who spends some of her days and some of her breaks from school by working as a barista at Publik. 

Publik is a local coffee chain that has locations around the University of Utah, the 9th&9th area, and in the Avenues. For Sovereen, “The best part of my job is that I get to connect with so many people around Salt Lake and [Publik Avenues] is its own little community.” As a hub of community interaction, coffee shops can provide a great place to study, relax, or hang out with friends. 

As a student, Sovereen has to balance her school and work life. At the moment, she manages a major in Multi-Disciplinary Design in addition to an internship, working as a TA, and working as a barista. “Time management is key, I’m still not that good at it, but it is required with the amount of stuff I have to get done each day,” Sovereen said. Time management seems to be a skill all students eventually learn along the way and keeping busy while having a job you love seems like a great way to develop this talent. 

For her go-to order, Sovereen’s favorite drink is “just a regular drip coffee,” but if she’s feeling special, she loves a London fog or a vanilla latte. In addition to time management, Sovereen has also gained insight into both the worlds of coffee connoisseurs and customer service. As one of her favorite drinks, Sovereen especially recommends Publik’s London fog “with bitters and vanilla, of course.” But, if you’re unfamiliar with the coffee world, Sovereen says, “Don’t try and act like you know a lot about coffee. If you’re unsure, just ask!” Most baristas are more than happy to help you figure out what you like—as long as there isn’t a line behind you! 

A coffee shop is an incredibly public-facing platform, so this job is also an entry point into customer service. Sovereen said, “Regardless of the job, working in customer service can be challenging anywhere. Sometimes customers have a set idea in their mind and if you can’t accomplish that they can become very upset. The general rule of thumb is to always try and accommodate, but sometimes that can’t always happen.” But besides the small complication of occasionally difficult customers, Sovereen has an incredible passion for her job and loves spreading the coffee-shop community with her peers. 

Even though it may be intimidating to attempt balancing several commitments and involvements, by staying busy, Sovereen has gained time management skills, insider information about the coffee world, and experience with customer service. As a student, working as a barista has provided Sovereen with a connection to the local Salt Lake community, and she has also gained great workplace experiences during her career at the University of Utah. For any students looking to gain work experience, a part-time job as a barista is a great option!

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