The Diary of a Burnt-Out Working Student

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For many students like me, working alongside your studies is inevitable. According to the Office of National Statistics: ‘Over half (58%) of survey respondents said their loans did not cover their living costs, and one in four (25%) said their loans only just covered their living costs’. Not only is the cost of living at an all-time high, but students are not funded well enough to support their studies. For English students, their loans are calculated based on what their parents take home. This is a particularly flawed system as household income does not always equal financial support. This results in many students needing to get a job, which creates problems for students whose universities forbid them from having a job, such as Cambridge. Those who cannot have a job are singled out. It is especially frustrating as Welsh and Scottish students are offered far more from their Governments and Universities in loans, scholarships and grants. In my experience, Welsh students get over double what some English students are entitled to 

The first disadvantage is having to stay at university during breaks or holidays. If I total the amount of time I spend at home in an academic year, I highly doubt it would be any longer than a month (much to my mum’s disapproval). During Christmas, I am obligated to stay in Aberystwyth, alone, to secure my job for when we return in late January. You may argue that it is petulant of me to complain about the influx of overtime I am offered, but in my defence, university is very lonely when all your friends are at home being fed by their parents and warmed by actual central heating. 

Another problem is summer rent. To afford to study, I must work throughout summer too. This means paying rent all year round. To afford to live I must pay more to keep my job. This also relates to my earlier point: I cannot go home for summer. I know that some jobs offer flexible contracts enabling students to go home or transfer to a workplace closer by during non-term times. The problem with this is that they often pay less, meaning I would have to work far more hours to get enough rent money, let alone pay for the weekly shop. Being a sober student, you would think that I would have money to spare compared to my drinking counterparts. Nonetheless, I still find myself surfing the reduced sections in Tesco. 

The obvious downside to being a working student is the increased workload. Somewhat fortunately, I start work at 5AM, meaning I do not really lose out on daytime hours. I am awfully tired, but I still have most of the day to study and go to lectures. Yet I find myself restricted socially by my job. I have more responsibilities and an alarm to wake up to. Therefore, I cannot fulfil the student stereotype of going out to the pub at every opportunity. You may be thinking that I am arrogant to raise this point, as working and having increased responsibilities is a crucial part of adult life. You may be right. Nevertheless, I feel that I am missing out due to the government’s inability to fund my education as well as they fund the studies of my Celtic peers.  

I suppose there are some benefits. I am lucky enough to have my car with me at university, which is a great luxury in a hilly Welsh town. I can afford to get some branded food and I often treat myself to a hot chocolate on campus. Additionally, by the end of my studies I will have accumulated three years of mediocre work experience for my CV. But at what cost? I am working alongside a full-time degree, constantly having something to do and barely going to visit my family. I came to university with plenty of savings and a scholarship. I budget my money weekly meaning I do not frequently overspend. It is incredibly overwhelming to constantly work, study, sleep, repeat. With the crippling weight of this responsibility, and the inevitable debt at the end of all this hard work, it is no wonder there is a nationwide student mental health crisis. Perhaps one day we will not be financially punished for wishing to better our academic qualifications. 

Photo by Ruth-Briggs Waites