Many students take on part-time work to earn extra cash for travel to make new friends, improve their language skills, or network their way into a new career. But is it really possible to combine work with study, do well in your course… and still have a life?
What are the secrets to work-study-life balance? Can you really fit it all in?
To be successful, you need to set clear goals and find a balance between work and play. Every person has 168 hours a week. It sounds like a lot, but a full-time degree course may take up 30 to 40 of those hours.
Studies have shown that students who work between 10 and 15 hours per week can manage their full-time study and their work. If you work longer, you may find it more stressful – and your study and results may suffer. So even if your student visa allows you to work 20 hours per week, this may not be ideal.
Finding the right type of work
What is your main goal for working? If it is to earn money, you’ll want to find a job that pays reasonably well, even if it is flexible or part-time. Temp jobs, where you may fill a short-term position full-time during the summer holidays, may be one option. If you already have skills and experience you may be able to freelance – as a research assistant or graphic designer, for example.
If you want something less stressful, an on-campus job (especially an office admin position) may be more suitable. It will save you time commuting, and you may feel safer working on campus.
If you’d rather leave your work to the weekends, and focus on study during the weeks, you might be able to pick up work in a café or bar, or in a retail store, or even work on seasonal events or festivals. This may be less lucrative than an office job, but there are other benefits such as staff discounts. It may also be more sociable, which is great if you want to make new friends or learn more about your new country’s culture.
There are other types of temporary jobs during holiday breaks, such as seasonal fruit picking or farm work. It can be physically hard work, but it is a great way to see a different part of the country.
If your main goal is to network in your industry, meet people and improve your CV, then an internship may provide great experience and hands-on training – but it may not be a paid one.
Six Tips to Fitting it all in
- Plan your time. Use one calendar only, for all your personal, study and work commitments. Make a note of all your due dates and exams.
- Write down how much time you need to spend each week on each activity, and enter all your regular weekly commitments into your calendar – even the really obvious ones.
- Leave some free time. Sometimes things don’t go to plan, and you need to be flexible. Research for an assignment could take longer, the train may be delayed, or you may need to see a doctor.
- Set yourself a homework hour every night. Attend classes; keep on top of the small stuff, so it won’t pile up into big stuff. Got a spare half hour? Do some quick revision – don’t go on Facebook!
- Wake up half an hour earlier. Sounds so simple. But that gives you an extra 3.5 hours a week!
- Set yourself small achievable goals every day or every week. And reward yourself with some personal time when you achieve them. Because it’s not all just about work and study – it’s also about you and your life!
Have you now realized you can’t actually fit it all in without sacrificing sleep? Don’t panic. You need to assign a level of urgency and a level of importance to every activity.
For example, an assignment worth 40% and due tomorrow is both urgent and important. But if it is due in 4 weeks, it is not so urgent. Answering an email straight away is urgent, but of lower importance than that assignment. Cleaning the house before studying is neither important nor urgent.
This lets you prioritize. And then you may decide you don’t need to do that task at all!
Prioritizing can be difficult. Accept that you’re doing the best you can, and feel positive about the choices you make.
If you give unimportant things a high priority, you might prevent yourself from achieving your important goals. And the most important reason you are studying abroad is just – to study and succeed.
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