Staff Writer Jess Hu brings you some tips on how to achieve a proper balance in your life… or something approximating it.
I’m not here to sugarcoat things for you guys, so here’s the truth: you pretty much can’t achieve a perfect balance of everything if you decide to work, study, and live at the same time. Before I get into the mechanics of how it works, here’s a PSA: those kids who seem like they’ve got everything together definitely do NOT have everything together. That girl in your 9 am STEM class who shows up to class with perfect hair, a cute outfit and neat notes probably sacrificed an extra hour of sleep for that.
College is all about choices of what to give up and what to gain, and those choices are completely up to you to make. What I’m really trying to say is, whether you choose to give up looking like a presentable human being for your first class, or to give up one Friday night bar crawl, or to give up on taking a fifth class, that’s all perfectly fine. You should do whatever keeps you sane, and always remember to utilize the sources around you, whether that’s the support of your friends and families or professional counselling.
NOW, let’s get into how to sort of make
everything (most) things work. Speaking from personal experience, while difficult, it is not impossible to have a job and go to school and not fail all your classes at the same time. Last semester, (while I would hesitate to do this again), I held a two full-ish days a week internship and a part-time job that I went to about one or two days a week, while having classes Monday to Friday. While my experience worked for me, it might not be for everyone. Here’s how I made it work:
For starters, I planned my work schedule around my existing class schedule. Obviously, not everyone may have the privilege of doing so, but it never hurts to try. My bosses were super accommodating about it. My part-time job’s boss understood that the internship was more important for my professional and academic growth, and helped me work around my schedule when I got the internship halfway through working for her. Meanwhile, I coordinated with my internship supervisor so I could come in on days where I only had classes in the early mornings (this also means choosing 9AMs over 2PMs when picking classes).
Communicating with your supervisor is very important. If you have a final the next day that takes up 50% of your grade, inform your supervisor at least a week or two ahead and ask if you can miss work for a day. That obviously also means being a pretty decent employee the rest of the time to get in their good graces. Working full days instead of half days was also helpful because a routine similar to a 9-to-5 ensured a relatively early sleep time compared to a more typical college routine. This also means that if you know you’ll be working this semester, plan your classes such that you won’t suffer burnout by being out from 9 am to 5 pm every day. A good amount of foresight is SOO helpful.
Second of all: if you’re one of the many sad college students who have to be content with an unpaid internship, try to get the most bang for your buck when you look for paid gigs to supplement your income. If you’re already spending half your week working, then making twice as much for half the time feels a lot better than to make pretty much nothing for twice the time. In essence, be smart about choosing jobs. I found my jobs through friends’ recommendations and Barnard Works, and these have all paid pretty well. Try to be resourceful in looking for a job that pays decently. Know your rights, etc. etc. (After December 31, 2019, all New York City employees MUST be paid at least $15. Right now, companies with more than 11 employees must pay their employees at least $15.)
Lastly, keep in mind that working and studying at the same time means you’ll definitely have to make a few sacrifices. I learned a lot of things last semester, and the two most important were: make time for office hours and get enough sleep. Those were two sacrifices that I really shouldn’t have made. If I could do anything different the next semester, it’d be to reserve one day a week to try to go to office hours and just relax in general. Other stuff, like watching less Netflix, was fine by me.
A life balance was surprisingly easy to maintain: I simply replaced leisurely activities that required more time with those of higher quality (in my opinion) and required less time. For example, instead of watching Love Island from 10 pm to midnight, I went to try new restaurants with friends during dinnertime. Rather than staying up late to party every weekend, I kept to a relatively sane sleep schedule and took the train down to East Village during the day. That’s not to say I didn’t procrastinate at all, but instead of doing things that made me feel lazy and like I was procrastinating, I tried to procrastinate by doing things that took up less time. One thing you really shouldn’t sacrifice though is food. Irregular working hours may mean forgetting to eat once in a while, but try to grab a smoothie at Diana if you do realize its 10 pm and your last meal was 10 hours ago. (Life hack: apple juice masks the gross taste of kale if you wanna get your greens in!)
For real, I’m alive and still kept my friends and didn’t go completely broke, and that counts for something. If I could do it, you can do it too!
cash money eyes via pexels