A juggling act: Working while in college

Commentary by Lenzie Purcell
Times-News correspondent

Metro Creative Graphics

   College: a place to party, spend money, relax and learn. After a year of doing exactly this I found myself broke, tired and out of focus. The newness of university is overwhelming and finding your niche is time consuming. But soon after you stop asking, “can you point me to the library?” the shine fades, bills begin to fill your mailbox and a once-packed mini-fridge becomes a shallow empty abyss. This is when reality sets in.
The summer after freshman year, I worked at a camp for persons with autism. Upon returning to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) for my sophomore year, I began to work as a skill teacher for a nonprofit organization catering to persons with disabilities. I’ve worked with the same person for more than two years now and have gained immense experience pertaining to persons with special needs.
The same time I started working as a skill-teacher, I began to give historical tours for the UNC-Chapel Hill’s Visitors’ Center. When I’m not giving tours, I work in the Visitors’ Center office as a public relations correspondent. I love this job because I am able to utilize both communications and English skills that I learn in class.
After the opening of Sweet Frog, a frozen yogurt shop, on Franklin Street (Chapel Hill’s downtown) I decided to feed my sugar addiction. I started working at Sweet Frog the same month I started as a tour guide and skill teacher. In less than a month, I found myself having zero jobs to working more than 40 hours a week.
Juggling school and work is time-consuming, difficult and exhausting, but the benefits far outweigh the downfalls. I have become a master of scheduling and time management. By prioritizing tasks and organizing my calendar at the beginning of each week, I’m able to accomplish much more in an hour between classes or work than I could just two years ago in an entire day.
The experience that working while in college provides is valuable in more ways than one. I have begun to apply for jobs after graduation. Each application asks for experience and while my friends panic trying to figure out which club or class could fit the bill, I am able to pull from my multiple jobs as experience and an example of my capability to manage time as a student and an employee. Work has taught me to value money, time and responsibility. I have also used networking through each job more times than I can count. The opportunities I have gained from connections, I cherish.
Working while in college has defined my experience and although I sometimes miss weekends, I would miss paychecks even more.

Lenzie Purcell is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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