Summer jobs give college students look at the real world

July 19, 2004|EMILY TOADVINE

As a college student, Julia Moran normally wears jeans and T-shirts, but that attire is not appropriate for her summer job in a clothing store.

"I didn't realize my closet was lacking in dress clothes until I had to dress up every day. I feel like I wear the same outfit every day."

Rowen Haigh and Dustin Kelly, also college students working at summer jobs, don't have to worry about dressing to the nines. Haigh's volunteer work with a summer reading camp meant she can keep her nose piercing in and sandals on her feet. Running the pitching machine for the Danville-Boyle County Recreation Department means Kelly can keep his tennis shoes on.

Regardless of their outward appearance, these young people credit their summer jobs with teaching them valuable lessons before they step out into the real world.


For Moran, dealing with sometimes difficult customers in her job as a clerk at Peebles department store, has been eye-opening.

"The ones that aren't the most congenial make for good stories around the dinner table," she says.

Moran, who is studying theater at Kenyon College, says, the job may make good fodder for the future.

"Who knows, maybe I'll put all of this into a play one day?"

Despite the occasional grumpy client, she enjoys waiting on people.

"It's always fun when a customer will interact with you. Not just, 'I want to buy these five shirts,' but joke around with you."

Although Moran does not think she wants to continue to work in retail, she likes it better than her previous summer jobs. Last summer, she entered inventory at P.S. and Co. and did filing for her father, who is a medical doctor. These jobs were too isolated to suit her.

"I need to interact with people. I need a lot of human contact."

After being on her feet all day, Moran says she can sympathize with people in this plight.

"They also say no tennis shoes, which is sad. There are no comfortable dress shoes for women," she says. "That's a problem if you're on your feet on a hard floor."

Bending the rules is a common occurrence for youth and Moran admits she has done so.

"Once or twice I've managed to sneak in a nice pair of dark gray tennis shoes under black dress pants."

Working also puts a crimp in her free time.

"I don't have time to loaf like I once did. There was a time when I had the TV schedule memorized."

To satisfy her acting bug, Moran also decided to delve into community theater while in her hometown. She plays the part of a backup singer for West T. Hill Community Theatre's production of "The Taffetas."

"I don't have a big part, but we are on stage a lot," she says.

With the theater gig requiring nightly practice, she has to be careful in agreeing to a schedule for her summer job, but she says her boss has been very understanding. The hard part is coming up with enough energy for earning money and acting.

"It makes for a long day when I work 10 to 5 and then have play practice 6:30 to 8:30 or 9."

Her fatigue has made her rather lax about her household tasks of emptying the kitty litter and other chores.

"It's taken me a month and a half to unpack from school and it should have taken me a weekend."

Of course, payday is the motivation for summer work. Moran says she is committed to saving her money.

"I'm going abroad in the fall so I'm hoarding money. It's hard when I'm working in a store with a shoe department with accessories and cute tops," says Moran, who will spend a semester in France.

Moran knows she can't bank all of her money. She is expected to pay for meals out with her friends and gas for her car. These realities make her have mixed feelings about becoming independent.

"It's starting to hit me that I'm growing up and I don't like it. I want my parents to pay for my meals and clothes and put a roof over my head."

Haigh already had dose of independence

Haigh had a large dose of independence as she already has spent a semester studying in France and worked last summer at a repertory theater in Creede, Colo.

A French and theater major, she worked in the theater's box office. She also had a second job as a waitress.

"The experience of dealing with people has been invaluable," she says. "It's really hard and I have a great deal of respect for people who can do it well."

Studying in France meant that Haigh, who attends Reed College in Oregon, arrived home after most of the summer jobs were taken. She applied at restaurants and agencies that employ temporary workers. She was turned down for all of them, but did not give up on the temporary employment.

"I call them every day just for fun," she says.

The reading camp was a wonderful experience, she says.

"I was worried about being around kids because it's been awhile, but it's been fantastic."

Haigh and a high school student were the youngest volunteers and Haigh says she felt like she could relate to the children.

"I know the cartoons they watch and the slang they use."

The volunteer work also appealed because she has a strong commitment to literacy.

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