Serving food, pouring drinks and greeting customers are not the only responsibilities student workers in the service industry have — they are balancing work and school at the same time, all while learning life lessons along the way.
“It is more than just working in a restaurant for me; it’s more like building my character,” said Carly Owens, a third-year public health student and prep cook at The Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli.
After a phone call with her mom about how bored she was with her day-to-day life and how she had too much free time on her hands, Owens walked into Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli to pick up her lunch and came across a “now hiring” sign. She talked with the manager, who gave her an employee T-shirt and asked if she could start tomorrow.
Owens has been living the student worker experience ever since.
“It gives me that structure that I feel like a lot of people are missing because of what‘s happening right now,” Owens said.
All of Owens' classes are online, and she said having a work schedule takes up a lot of the free time she once had that almost caused her to be lazy.
She said working in a restaurant has exposed her to all kinds of personalities and people she would never have met if she was just a college student on campus surrounded by other students.
“You never know what you’re going to get,” said Ansley Younginer, a fourth-year criminal justice student and bartender at Travinia Italian Kitchen.
Younginer works at an upscale restaurant where she said she never knows what type of customer she is going to serve. Learning how to have conversations and deal with the different types of people she meets has been an important quality to adapt to and learn from.
Younginer said there will be customers in every restaurant that come in and “treat you like dirt.” This is why she believes everyone should work in the service industry for some time to understand what every bartender and server goes through, she said.
Taking time for herself is really important to Younginer, she said, since being a full-time student and having a job is a lot of work.
"Being able to just relax and breathe is just the most helpful thing that you can do for yourself,” Younginer said.
Payton Barcus, a third-year marketing and managing student and a hostess at Kaminsky's Dessert Cafe, said she thinks it’s important to take time away from school and work in order to focus on the things you enjoy most.
Barcus said when she’s not doing homework or busing tables at Kaminsky's, she enjoys working out. She also said putting school first and not pushing herself to her limit is important.
“I could be working a lot more than I am, but I know that if I were, I would be a lot more stressed out, and it just wouldn’t be good for me or my mental health,” Barcus said.
As a hostess during a pandemic, Barcus deals with ensuring tables are sanitized and reminding customers to wear their masks while entering the building.
“Adults will kind of roll their eyes and be bothered because they don’t really see a point in wearing it to walk like three feet,” Barcus said.
Aside from being a student worker, Barcus juggles being a member of Kappa Delta and having an internship with the American Marketing Institute. She said balancing school and work can be tricky, but since her online classes are during the day and she works in the evening, she manages to get all her work done.
No student worker experience is the same, but there is one thing in common: Students are all balancing multiple aspects of their life at one time and making it work the best they can.
“Having a job as a student does require sacrifice,” Owens said. “[But] a lot of businesses are willing to reason with you if you’re a student because a lot of people know the demands of that.”
It's more than just a job, they say. It's an experience.