Working Through College

Posted by Kaz

In an ideal world, every student will be fully funded with scholarships and help from home to allow them to focus all of their energies on academics and the college experience.

In an ideal world, students who do work while in college are able to arrange their classes perfectly around their work schedule throughout the year.

In an ideal world, work would never take time away from academics.

Working through college has been a reality for me throughout my education. When I first came to UAF, I did not have enough money to attend classes and live in Fairbanks without a little extra help. As soon as I got settled into UAF, I went to and began applying for employment on campus. I applied for some pretty odd ball positions that had no relevance to my goals. I received a few calls but nothing ever worked out.

In October, as financial anxiety was settling in for the winter, I received a call from the Geophysical Institute to come in for an interview. I was a Business Administrative major at the time. I couldn't actually remember applying for a job at a science institute. Why would I apply to a science institute?!

I put my interview outfit on the next day and tried to refresh myself on what I had applied for, what the Geophysical Institute did and how I can help them be better. I sat down with two very nice ladies and talked about my past experiences. They asked me to provide an example of my editing skills. After I finished, they promised to call me whether I got the position or not. The next day, I was hired to be a student worker for the Geophysical Institute's Education Outreach Program.

My first task was to figure out how to fix a malfunctioning disc printer. I spent 6 hours googling, reading manuals and hitting my head against the printer to find out that the hardware was installed incorrectly. Two days in, I was pulled into the hall with my supervisor and another lady I had not met yet. I was sure that I was about to be fired. I would be fired and dropped from school because I wouldn't be able to pay my bill. I was doomed.

Instead, they told me that they would like me to work for this other supervisor because her student worker was going to be leaving soon. So I switched from Education Outreach to Public Relations. I've been there since October, 2009.

In the four years that I have worked for the Geophysical Institute's Public Relations Office, I have learned many things. I learned from my colleagues and friends that it's okay to do what you love, so I changed my major to Elementary Education. I learned a great deal about the aurora since much of my job was answering questions about it. I also learned a lot about UAF and the history of the Geophysical Institute since I gave tours to tourists. I learned all of those valuable office skills that employers expect for entry level positions. I learned how to plan and facilitate an event. I also learned how not to make a parade float. Still working on the correct way to make a parade float.

I'm profoundly lucky to have the supervisor that I have. She actively finds tasks that will shape my work experiences to my chosen major. She actually takes my opinion seriously. She definitely worries more about my academic success than I do. She's also the most protective supervisor I've ever had in that she prevents people not in my chain of command from delegating to me and she actively seeks raises for me so that I can support myself.

Sometimes I think about my first month at UAF and how much money scared me. I think about how scared I was when I got transferred to the Public Relations Office. I think about how scared I get when I am assigned a new task that I think I cannot do. Then I realize that, for four years, I have been successful.

From my experience, here is some advice on how to work through school successfully.

  1. Always communicate with your supervisor.
  2. At least at the start of semester, put your classes and work schedule into a calendar format.
  3. In your calendar, set aside homework blocks. You don't have to go but know that they exist.
  4. In your calendar, plan out social time. For example, I have a date with my best friend on Monday nights to catch up on our favorite shows. 
  5. If you have to study for a class, have homework to finish or an exam to freak out about, call your boss and take the day off.
  6. Don't just be an office decoration and get the most out of your office experience.
If you ever have a question about on campus jobs you can feel free to talk to me. I also suggest contacting the Office of Career Services

1 comment

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