In my first year at U of T, I lived in residence at Victoria College. Being so close to fast food places on Yonge, the dazzling shops on Bloor street west and star-studded restaurants in Yorkville my wallet was emptier than the cafeteria on meatloaf day by the end of September.
My family urged me to focus on my studies, instead of juggling too much in the first few months of university. Of course, I didn’t listen to them. I decided that in order to bask in the authentic Toronto lifestyle, I needed to pass my resume out to just about every establishment within a 500-metre radius of my dorm room.
Having never really worked in the restaurant business, somehow I landed a hostess position at Sassafraz, one of Yorkville’s most frequented French-inspired bistros. The job was fast-paced and exciting. I learned a tremendous amount about customer service, food and beverages, as well as restaurant operations.
I orchestrated my schedule so that I didn’t have shifts on weekends, but that meant working 4pm-10pm four nights a week. I would complete assignments and readings during my breaks throughout the day, and catch-up on heavier work over the weekend.
That was busy, but doable, until I decided once again not to take my parents’ advice. As if classes, social life and extra-curriculars, wern’t enough, I thought I needed another job. A week later I was hired to teach young professionals in China English pronunciation and grammar over an application called WeChat.
In theory this seemed like a stellar opportunity, but when I had no WIFI in my residence and was required to post lessons at 9pm every night (sometimes even when I was still working at the restaurant), the position wasn’t so ideal. I loved the teaching aspect and the connections I built with students, but I didn’t feel like I was able to give them my full attention. Some nights I found myself out with friends, running to the bathroom to record voice message corrections for my class’s work.
With a cellphone data bill through the roof, my mind was running in circles, trying to separate school material, like the fall of the Berlin Wall from the Oktoberfest menu at the restaurant. At one point when I was seating a Sassafraz customer I uttered the phrase I would say to my Chinese students “Do you understand me? Do you need further clarification?” I knew I needed to slow down. I started taking fewer shifts and focusing more on schoolwork as April exam season approached.
If you’re on the fence about the decision to work, I would definitely recommend looking into opportunities that interest you on and off-campus . First year was a whirlwind, but I wouldn’t go back and change anything! I made new connections and learned a lot outside the classroom. I’m proud to say that I took my first strides into the workforce and began making small differences in peoples’ lives—that’s what made it all worth it.
Thanks for reading and don’t hesitate to share your job tips in the comments! –R