Pay Days Before GPAs: The Students Who Work Their Way Through AUC

By Tom Weber

Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was entirely reported, written, edited, and fact checked by members of the journalism course. Some material may have been altered by The Herring’s editors to fit its style guidelines.

— The average AUC student attends 12 hours of classes per week, and devotes an additional 20 hours to assignments and readings. During deadline-heavy weeks, increased workload often results in more than 40 hours spent in class and on class-related activities. Basically, being an AUC student is a full-time job. But this doesn’t dissuade many students from pursuing employment alongside their education at AUC, pressure and time constraints be damned. That many willingly choose to take on this balancing act shows that students are still able to gain something from their jobs despite the challenge it represents.

During the summer of 2016, Ocean Koornstra, a second-year Humanities major, found herself having to prioritize between a job that she loved and her studies at AUC. Koornstra had been very actively engaged in Vitamine Blij, an organization that designs creative concepts for festivals and events. As a project leader, she had to oversee a team’s work throughout an entire festival, design a concept for the occasion and was involved in preproduction. “I did that all summer. But then I really did not know how to stop working full time when the semester started again, and it eventually got a bit too much” Koornstra said. She had to withdraw from AUC and lost an entire semester trying to combine her work with her studies.

Koornstra quit her job in December and left the organization. The pleasure she took in executing her position made it impossible for her to prioritize university work over her job. “I just couldn’t do it anymore, it was too much”, said Koornstra, who has resumed her studies at AUC this semester.

Although her former job has had a deep impact on her academic career, Koornstra does not regret her high degree of commitment. “It really provided me with a lot of opportunities to develop myself”, she said. Koornstra now has a more concrete idea of what she wants her professional career to look like. “That’s something I didn’t have before”, she said.

Now Koornstra is focusing on her own company, OOCreative, which she started in April 2016 in order to invoice Vitamine Blij. She regularly gives hula-hoop performances or workshops on festivals and loves her current profession. “I figured out a way to turn this into a job and I think that’s very valuable”, said Koornstra. “I have the possibility to develop my own vision for how I want to present what I am doing, instead of having to keep following someone else’s.”

Like Koornstra, many AUC students experience their job as an interfering factor to their education, but keep pursuing it out of pleasure, or to ensure financial security. In order to finance her studies Cille Kaiser, a third-year Humanities major, works at Biolicious, a small biological supermarket in Ijburg for around 20 hours per week. Even though it might be stressful, Kaiser does advise students to work next to university. “It keeps me more on-point with what I have to do, because I have less time to do it”, she said. Kaiser realizes that her job might have negatively influenced her GPA, but believes that the pressure that she subjects herself to has made her more time efficient.

Sophia Worth, a second-year Science major, works in the kitchen at Maslow for a similar reason: to get a loan from the Dutch government. “For the loan you have to work minimum 14 hours per week, every week, all year”, she said. Worth explained that she struggles to simultaneously satisfy the regulatory requirements for the loan, the expectations of her boss and her colleagues, and AUC’s academic demands. “I often end up working 17 hours a week, or more”, she said. “It doesn’t affect my studies too much, but does mean I’m always busy and have to plan my time well.” According to Worth, despite representing a challenge, her job allows her to receive a loan under great conditions, with which she finances her studies.

For many students the ability to gain useful working experience outweighs the stress that their job occasionally causes. Sarah Stapel, a second-year Social Science major, encourages students to grasp this opportunity for self-development. Stapel works as a bartender at the Generator Hostel in Amsterdam. She believes that many consider themselves too good to work in gastronomy or the retail industry, simply because such jobs do not represent an academic challenge. “This is a real shame, not only because there is nothing wrong with working in the service industry, but also because you gain lots of important skills”, Stapel said. “I would advise other students to get a job because it is a great way to meet different people and to explore a new environment.”

“You are not going to be studying for the rest of your life”, said Koornstra, who offers similar advice. “Studying is about developing yourself, and for that it’s really important to widen one’s scope.” Eventually, if it would not have been for the experiences that she made during her previous job, Koornstra would have never uncovered her interest in managing positions. “I had no idea, and I doubt that it would be something that I would have figured out at AUC”, she said.


Photo of Sophia Worth, by Arsalan Sachal Baloch

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