Having a job as a Bristol student is nearly impossible to balance with the pace of university
Thinking of getting a job? If you have the privilege not to, don’t
Living in Bristol is not easy on the bank account. Whether it’s spending £12 on a decent ticket for a night out, trying to find a student house that isn’t extortionate, or even keeping up with the cost of a meal deal, juggling every expense is impossible. A job seems to be the easy solution, but balancing university and work comes with its problems.
The BBC found that 55 per cent of students are in paid employment, and 76 per cent of students reported the cost of living had negatively impacted their mental health. Whilst university is meant to be an experience full of studying, making friends, and enjoying yourself, for the less advantaged it actually means money worries that result in scrambling for a job and having to incorporate it into university life.
Whilst the high prices of Bristol are a struggle for all, those who come from a less well-off family are forced into employment compared to their wealthy peers. Although students of all socioeconomic backgrounds choose to get a job, juggling work and university is an issue primarily for those who need a job to live at university.
I spent the second half of first-year desperately scrolling through Indeed, emailing every restaurant and shop I knew of, and going through job agencies in a desperate search, only to be humbled by a rejection from Greggs. All the vacancies seemed to be located in the mysterious, faraway land of Cribbs Causeway.
However, I persisted and finally landed a job about a month ago at a small café in Westbury. Whilst this seemed a dream come true, I was quickly forced to face the realities of balancing a job with university work and my social life. Thankfully, my uni contact hours are minimal, leaving me two days a week free. I work on one of my days off, as well as a Saturday, earning wages for around nine hours a week without too much interruption in my university life. Despite no longer being able to end my Friday nights at 3am, swapping them for the ugly hours of Saturday morning, I can balance the two relatively easily.
This is not for the faint-hearted, however. After returning from work smelling of bacon and coffee, all I want to do is have a hot shower and crawl back into bed. The reality is that I have to force myself to study, struggling through the exhaustion I inevitably feel. Whilst two university-free days seem ideal for a job, it’s easy to forget they are also ideal days to catch up, study and sort your life out. All of this I have to fit around my job.
After speaking to law student Emma Chamberlain (not the celebrity), I quickly realised that for most people, it’s extremely difficult to balance a job with university work.
Emma is in her second year studying law. She described her course as intense and recalled working at Waitrose all day, being exhausted from finishing at midnight, and having to then wake up for a 9am the next day.
She said: “I was getting really behind on work and also balancing a social life and extracurricular stuff.” Emma quit her job at Waitrose because it simply wasn’t possible for her to balance an intense course with a demanding job.
For those who have university every day, often the best solution is to find a job that includes evening shifts like working at restaurants, pubs or even a nightclub. In theory, this seems perfect- it allows you to go to university, do your work during the day, see your friends, and still balance employment. However, as Emma discovered the hard way, what most students don’t consider is the exhaustion that a job brings.
Learning new skills such as bartending or being a barista, getting shouted at by your boss for doing something wrong, and standing on your feet for 10 hours, all for minimum wage, brings a different level of tiredness that is nearly impossible to balance with the pace of university.
The more fortunate are able to dedicate their time to what university is meant to be about – studying. Yet those who have to spend most of their free time earning money in order to stay at university are disadvantaged by this. It seems ironic that university students have to spend less time studying because they have to get a job to study.
In a perfect world, no student would have to find a job. Whilst some choose to do it for experience and enjoyment, most are forced into it by necessity.
So the question is, is it all worth it? For many students, this is irrelevant as the expenses of university ensure it’s a necessity. The students who are advantaged enough to not require a job can rest easy knowing their grades are safe, as well as their social lives.
Yet, for those who have no other option, getting a job means managing a delicate balancing act no matter how difficult. If I didn’t need a job to survive, I most certainly would not take one.