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Working students and the college experience

College years are supposed to be a time of self discovery, learning and hard work, as well as fun.

Campus parties, 3 a.m. cram sessions, sharing a dorm room and late-night snacking are all part of the shared college experience most students seek.

However, for students who commute to campus, or others who balance full-time jobs as well as extracurriculars, parts of the college experience can be lost.

“College has become my job now. There is no social aspect whatsoever,” Belmont student Maryanne Dyer said. “It’s go to class, go home, do my homework. Lather, rinse, repeat.”

Dyer quit her full-time job at a childcare center last semester in order to focus more energy on achieving a degree.

“I’d work from 7:15 to 4:15 and then go to night class from 5:30 to 9:30,” she said. “It made for some seriously long days.”

As a working student, Dyer felt she was missing out on certain aspects of Belmont’s campus life.

“I’ve never been to a basketball game at Belmont. I’ve never seen any concerts because I’ve always taken night classes,” she said. “I’d never even been in the Curb Center until last week when I finally walked through after parking in the garage behind it.”

For some students, maintaining a social life on campus while keeping a job or commuting is a matter of finding balance, as well as knowing one’s own capabilities.

“I’ve definitely been able to find balance because I got plugged in first on campus before I started my jobs,” said Keayana Robinson, a Belmont junior and leader of the Black Student Association on campus.

“I’ve gone through semesters where I’ve had three and four jobs, some of them campus jobs, some of them off-campus jobs, so it’s something that you have to be very strategic about,” Robinson said. “You make sure you know your schedule, know the kind of person that you are and how you get things done.”

For Robinson who currently works two jobs and runs a student organization, time management plays an important role in maintaining a healthy social life.

“School can be really crazy and I find that it’s very important to always find time for what you love to do, and it seems like everything else kind of falls into place,” she said.

For other students like Manny Rios, a part-time student at Belmont in the adult degree program, the real challenge lies in finding extra time at all.

“I would’ve liked to have been able to join some school organizations, fraternities, etc., but with working full-time, I don’t have the time to commit,” Rios said.

Rios, who expects to graduate in December, currently works a full-time and part-time job and commutes from East Nashville.

“To be honest, I’ve always been a little envious of those students who can commit more time to school and less time to working,” he said.

Despite busy schedules and balancing jobs with extracurriculars, Robinson finds that getting adequate sleep is an important factor in having a more enjoyable college experience.

“I get sleep-enough, enough to be alive and healthy, until the weekend comes and I just kind of pass out and then do my work, and then I’m back at it again,” she said. “It’s all a part of the life, that’s what we sign up for.”

For Robinson and Dyer, the time spent on a college campus is an experience in itself to be treasured, no matter how short-lived.

“Make no mistake about it, I’m thankful for my time at Belmont and have made wonderful friends I hope to have for years to come, but I’m definitely envious of what I’ve missed while being a working student,” said Dyer, who expects to graduate in December.

-Rachel Foley

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