How to Work, Study, and Volunteer at the Same Time

How to Work, Study, and Volunteer at the Same Time

By: Loren Catotal
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Being a university student is already a major challenge, but some people do more than just study for exams and write assignments. The ability to juggle other activities with school, such as volunteering and working, is a rare asset. It is a challenge for most, but for some, it is simply a way of life. Perhaps, SFU students like Michelle La and Norman Hilario can give you a glimpse of their busy yet productive student lives!


1. What are you currently doing right now aside from being a student? 

Norman: Right now, I am the Director of Marketing for AIESEC SFU and the Director of Media for the Filipino Students Association. Besides that, I work part-time, and I perform as a musician.

Michelle: I am the president of the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) at SFU, and I work as a research assistant for a professor at SFU.

2. How does it feel to work, volunteer and be a student at the same time?

N: It feels quite good actually. You would think that putting more responsibilities would strain a person, but it actually sets them in line and helps them focus!

M: Mostly stressful and sometimes overwhelming, but it can be rewarding with discipline and good time management.

3. What is the best and worst part about it?

N: I think the worst part is when you forget about the tasks you had to do and of course, organizing your schedule. It’s really embarrassing when you realize that you booked an appointment for something else, while another event or appointment was already scheduled. So, time management is very important! However, the best part is when you realize that you've accomplished all those tasks. The feeling of finishing all that work makes you feel incredibly confident in your time management skills.  It also makes passing time very worthwhile!

M: The best part about juggling work, volunteering, and schoolwork is that it helps me feel accomplished by having increased productivity levels. Being really busy has also helped me find purpose in my day, and it has prevented me from spending my time on frivolous things. The worst part is that I have to sacrifice my social life. When my friends want to hang out on the weekends I often have to decline their invitations. Otherwise, if I don’t make those sacrifices I can easily get overwhelmed with my schedule because I set aside my weekends to work.

4. What are some of the things you learned from these experiences? Working, volunteering and studying sure must be tough!

N: I've learned quite a lot! But to put in simpler terms, I've learned that you can do so much more than you believe you can! To be honest, I never knew that I could be a marketing coordinator, handle various media projects, and still perform in concerts as a musician. I haven't even mentioned my part-time job or school! It’s quite crazy, but the experience is worthwhile.

M: I have learned to better manage my time and priorities, and that I am capable of doing all three things at the same time, as long as I am disciplined. Planning is extremely important and being realistic with yourself. For instance, if I know I have a big assignment due next week I will try to work extra hours the week before.

5. What advice would you want to give to aspiring students who also wish to be as busy and productive?

N: The greatest advice I can offer to aspiring multi-taskers out there? You'll only know which path is best for you if you make yourself open to whatever is out there.  What I mean by this is that as a future leader, you must be willing to try everything to see what your strengths and weaknesses really are. From there on, you'll decide what's fit for you. The choice is yours!

M: I advise other students to plan out their week and next week in advance. I use Google Calendar every day and it helps me priorities my duties, and I can have my calendar synchronized to all of my electronic devices. Ensure that you’re passionate about the organization you are volunteering for because you can easily become jaded and unmotivated. If you’re volunteering at an organization you are enthusiastic about, as I am, you will not easily burn out and the volunteer organization may also be a great way for you to socialize.


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Posted on August 25, 2014