Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and point of views of current arts students around campus. Get to know our creative and passionate students through their “voices” and get a snapshot of life as an arts undergrad.
The sphere of school and the sphere of work are two very different places. For me, the biggest difference has to do with extended focus. At UAlberta, chances are that you either have spares in your schedule, or at least have fewer classes on certain days—hopefully you’re not going from 9 am-5 pm every day! My education is composed of periods of intense focus (on a small scale, each class is a period of intense focus; on a larger scale, exam/paper seasons constitute a period of intense focus), which are followed by periods of rejuvenation (also, procrastination and laziness).
The biggest adjustment that I had to make when entering my internship was that this particular model of intensity followed by periods of rest isn’t feasible when working an eight-hour day, five days a week. I’m being paid to do a job—not to burn out after a few days.
So, how do you deal with this drastic difference in energy?
I can share my own solution on how to maintain energy over a longer period of time, but I’m sure we all know what one-size-fits-all t-shirts are like, and my solutions are similar: potentially ill-fitting. You’re going to have to shop around to find out what works best for you, but here’s some advice from someone who’s been there and currently is there:
I try to look at the larger picture. What are my projects for the week? For the month? From there, I try to portion them out into manageable chunks. Whereas my university course load involves a lot of sprints, my internship is more of a year-long marathon (after which I will hopefully be headed straight into a summer job—so maybe it’s more of a perpetual marathon). If I focused, I could probably do most of my weekly tasks in a day.
But I know from experience (ie: the memorable twenty page paper written in one night), that after such a stint, I am mentally exhausted. For quite a while. I don’t even want to have to think about doing things, let alone actually doing them. If you’re going to make it to the finish line in a marathon, you need to pace yourself; my internship teaches me to tackle work at a pace that is manageable on a long-term basis.
Sure, you get breaks in your evenings (or mornings/afternoons if you work nights)—but there are other commitments in your life, such as friends, family, significant others, and perhaps even some volunteering and hobbies. And, since these things are important to you, chances are that they will stress you and tax you to some degree at times. So, the question you have to ask yourself is this: How much can you handle? The time investment for work isn’t just a semester. It’s potentially for the rest of your life, so you have to find a way to balance work with the other things that matter to you.
The Arts Work Experience program gives Arts undergraduate students the opportunity to further develop the skills learned in the classroom with a full-time, paid work experience position. Positions start in September, January, or May of each year and can be four, eight, 12 or 16 months long.