Finding a way to make it work

A day in the life of a full time college student, working a full time job


Elisabeth Morgan, Writer

WORCESTER, MA — If someone told me a year ago that I’d be working full time during an ongoing global pandemic as a full-time college student, I probably wouldn’t have believed them, and for good reason. That’s crazy.

Not more than a month ago, while I was looking for work and concerned about the future of the economy, I was offered a full-time job handling COVID-related procedures for a college in Worcester. Ironically, I’m at home, taking my classes this semester online per the orders of the University of Massachusetts Amherst,  but I still show up to a college campus in Worcester to do my job every day.

This college has also transitioned to online learning in the wake of the pandemic, but much like UMass, there are still essential parts to their campus that must continue to function in the safest way possible. This is where I come in.

My alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. and I arrive on campus at 6:20 a.m. From there, I proceed into my office to set up for the day. My job really consists of four elements: taking temperatures of everyone that comes into work, making sure they have filled out their COVID-19 form which states that they’re not having any symptoms and have not come into contact with anyone who has, giving them a bracelet that confirms that they’ve seen me and occasionally filling out paperwork. I’m alone for most of the day which can be extremely lonely, but quarantine seemed to prepare me for this.

Before I had a floor to ceiling plexiglass station, I would arrive at work and wear a hazmat suit, a face shield, and gloves. I still wear gloves, but the plexiglass allows me to wear my normal clothes now.

I’m only really swamped with work for about an hour a day. Once the morning rush is gone, I sporadically see people throughout the afternoon. That leaves room for the biggest perk of this job: I’m able to do my online classes for UMass while I’m there.

Of course, I’m entirely grateful to have a job, and a full time one at that, during such uncertain times. However, I’d be lying if I said that balancing the two is easy. It was quite a struggle at first, considering they didn’t have WiFi set up for me when classes first started and I had to use my personal hotspot on my phone in order to use my laptop. Now, I have a Verizon Jetpack which acts as its own personal hotspot, and for the most part the WiFi is okay. Sometimes I can’t tell if Moodle is crashing again, or if my internet is failing me. Either way, I’ve made it work.

Having four online classes has proven to be much more difficult than I originally thought it may be. In an in-class setting, I’ve luckily never been one to struggle much with paying attention. Now, I find myself 15 minutes into an online lecture completely zoning out. What I’ve failed to figure out is if my attention problem is stemming from school or being at work. However, challenging times call for new routines and finding new ways to do the ordinary tasks we did before.

Additionally, and like many other college students I assume, I’ve been struggling with staring at my screen for long amounts of time throughout the day. Like most things, there are solutions to this as well, such as buying myself a pair of those blue light blocking glasses. Whether they work or not is a mystery to me, but they seem to help and maybe the placebo effect is all that matters anyway.

Getting organized also seems to be an impossible task this semester. Even with a pretty planner and color-coded assignments, at the end of the day, I’m still left feeling like I have no idea what’s going on.

But that’s 2020 for you—I’m constantly kept on the edge of my seat like everyone else around me. My motto for the rest of this year is, “just find a way to make it work,” because life hasn’t stopped and neither can I. Finding the positives in the small everyday moments is what keeps me going, like having a class with my favorite professor or chilly autumn mornings that have snuck up on me already.

I hope you all are staying safe and enjoying classes, however strange they may be now.

Email Elisabeth Morgan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @lizziewmorgan

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