Juggling Between Menial Labour and University Life

By Svenja Krautwald

University life is often portrayed as one of the happiest times in the lives of young adults. By concentrating on leisure activities, games and parties, students often lose focus on education. But I don’t. I often wish I had time to lose focus and forget my studies. Instead, a tightly packed schedule is waiting for me. On work days, my alarm goes off at 4:30 in the morning. There is no time for turning around, snuggling back into the warm sheets. Instead, I face the coldness of the bathroom tiles and jump straight into the shower. It is a daily fight to not spend too much time in the comforting warmth of the water. After painting a bit of life onto my face I leave the house – without breakfast. Usually, I settle for water because working with the same types of bread, sweets and sandwiches every day has gradually decreased my breakfast habits. Also, the awareness that I should be attending a course at university rather than working does not help to increase my appetite.

            Gillian White’s article “The Struggle of Work – School Balance” for The Atlantic points at this and further issues: While it is perfectly fine for privileged students to “intermittently study”, there is a considerable number of individuals who are not only dealing with “pressing schedules of not just classes and activities, but real jobs”. Basically, White re – defines the view of university life. It is not just a world of fun and games where students slither from one party to the next, but rather a harsh reality where social life can be drastically limited. I do not have one, that is for sure. When you have to leave at five am and come back at seven pm you do not want to throw yourself out in this world to party. Sleep becomes more valued, I can tell you that. The struggle of having a real job puts a strain on many students, including myself. We are forced to work in order to pay for our tuition; otherwise we could not take the opportunity to study. Aside from that, some employers will not adapt shifts to the university schedules even though they could. Their indifference leads to problems in attending the courses. This is a paradox I am experiencing right now: students work to finance their education but are not able to make it to class because of their jobs. 

            Nevertheless, many people perceive having a part – time job as a good thing because nowadays work experience is needed in almost every type of business. It is crucial to “[develop] important professional and social skills that make it easier to land a job after graduation”. Essentially, students need to acquire these skills because their future employers are not looking for people straight out of college. In this case, work experience collected parallel to college benefits the students in question. But even though they gain the required skill set which is praised as an incredible advantage, “full time work may not completely cover the cost of tuition and living expenses”. I regard this as a major problem. What does it matter if students will at one point in their lives be able to function in their future work environment when they at this point cannot even pay their rent? 

Though I have to admit that my job improved my punctuality, this experience is not something I need right now. I neither plan to work as an assistant in a bakery later on nor do I fancy the behaviour of some customers who question my intelligence on a day to day basis just because I work as a sales assistant. I only work because I have no other choice, not because daddy got me an internship at a respected company. What makes the matter even worse is that a few students have to drop out of university because they spent too much time away working. This should not be happening. In my mind, it seems like people who come from the lower middle class are purposefully put at a disadvantage because they do not have the same chances as the privileged part of society. My brother for example also has to work alongside university, whereas his flatmate does not. The flatmate recently applied for his first “job” (which really is only an internship with all the benefits). It was very surprising to him that he had to write an application. He seemed to have imagined that they had only one golden candidate in mind – him. I think he also got a little upset when he saw the work hours. Here you can perfectly see the difference menial labour makes: they started studying simultaneously, but my brother has not finished his bachelor yet because of work. His flatmate, who did not have to work a single day in his life, graduated recently. I believe we are ready to agree that the privileged few are able to wholly concentrate on their studies and do not have to worry about money. But that should not force students who do not have more money waiting in their bank accounts out of university. Everyone gifted with potential and intelligence should be given the chance to further develop their abilities.

Works Cited:

White, Gillian B. “The Struggle of Work-School Balance.” https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/10/work-school-balance-college/412855/