COLLEGE LIFE is a challenge for many students. Studying hard to receive good grades in class is a given. But many more suffer from the burden of expensive tuition fees. University students take various measures in order to afford another semester in the school. Some receive support from their parents, others receive scholarships, and still others earn their own tuition. Working as a student may sound like a worthwhile endeavor, and even romantic in certain aspects. But the question whether working to earn one’s own tuition fee, which is time and energy consuming, is worth the effort is debatable.
Life at work
Seo Jun-Ho (Soph., Dept. of Political Science & Int. Studies) wakes up at 7:00 a.m. every day. Seo’s day starts out with a solid breakfast, giving him the strength needed to go through hours of lectures at school. Once his class finishes at around 3:00 p.m., he makes his way to *Gwanghwamun*, where he teaches math and English to a high school freshman. The tutoring session finishes at 6:00 p.m., which gives Seo enough time to grab a Gimbab before he heads to a nearby public middle school, where he works as an extracurricular maths and English teacher. The two-hour session usually leaves Seo exhausted, but despite his body’s pleas for rest, he goes to a nearby sports complex, and exercises for an hour. Before he jumps into his bed, he takes out his notes and works on his homework, fighting the drowsiness which slowly overwhelms him. At 1:00 a.m., Seo finally finishes his work and goes to sleep. The end of another day.
The alarm blazes as the clock strikes five. For Park Eun-ho (Soph., Dept. of Political Science & Int. Studies), this is a reminder for him to go to work. Despite the fact that it is the holiday season, Park works part-time as an interpreter to make some cash for his next semester’s tuition. After a small breakfast of toast and milk, Park sets off for his interpretation job. As soon as Park arrives, his employers give a short briefing on the client, a Russian buyer. As the group makes its way to the hotel in the middle of Seoul, Park looks over his Russo-Korean dictionary to look over some economic jargon that he might encounter during the meeting. The company meets up with the Russian buyer, and soon they are on the highway going down to Wando Island, a remote island located in Jeollanam-do. Park is kept busy translating between the manager and the buyer throughout the five hour drive to the factory, during the tour of the factory, and the five hour drive back. When the van arrives at the hotel the Russian buyer is lodging, it is already 10 p.m. With that, the day has ended for Park, who is soon on his way to his grandmother’s home in *Yangjae*. “Five more days…” Park thought as he collapsed on his bed.
At 6:20 a.m. Sim Sung-young (Soph., Dept. of Theology) hastily jumps out of her bed. It is Wednesday, and there is a special chapel for the students of the Dept. of Theology. Sim gets ready and leaves for school, where she works part-time as an accompanist for the special chapel. Sim then goes to her piano and waits for her time to play. Students start to trickle in and soon, the whole chapel is full of theology majors. The pastor comes up to the stage and gives the Morning Prayer. “Dear heavenly father…” Despite Sim’s experience, this is the time when she gets the most nervous. As soon as the pastor finishes the prayer with a solemn “Amen”, Sim starts to tense up on her stool. The pastor then asks the students to turn their Bible to Hymn 29. As soon as the words leave the pastor’s mouth, Sim starts playing the Hymn. Her playing instantaneously fills up the hall with a melodious tune, which is muted down only by the student’s singing. In the matter of minutes, the song ends, and so does her work for the day. Sim then leaves her stool and joins the rest of the students to listen to the sermon. A sigh of relief escapes her mouth as she relaxes into her chair as the pastor starts his sermon.
Is it worth it?
When Yonseians were asked whether working for one’s own tuition was appropriate, 64.34% said no while 35.65% said yes. Seo, Park, and Sim have worked, or are working to pay for part, or all of their tuition fees. They understand what students have to go through to earn their own tuition fee. However, the three interviewees have differing views on the value of working to pay for their tuition fees. The student body also has various reasons as to why they consider working favorable or not.
Sim believes that working allows students to learn about human relations through first-hand experience. “I was able to meet many interesting people while working as an accompanist,” says Sim. She continued to say that it is difficult to meet a variety of people unless one is involved in a work of some sort. Seo also backs Sim’s statement. “I learned to be patient with kids through my tutoring job,” says Seo.
Another advantage of working is that it helps students practice financial management at an earlier age. Seo believes that students can learn about the value of money and responsibility through working. “Earning the money is easy, but learning to refrain from using the money recklessly requires a lot of self-control,” said Seo. This valuable life lesson, he continued, will help students construct a definite plan for their future. “I myself am currently saving a portion of my income so that when I graduate, I will have an advantage over my peers.”
Seo also implies that working encourages students to study harder. “Once students realize the monetary value of each lecture, they will not take them so lightly,” said Seo. Jo Ha-hyun (Prof., Dept. of Econ.) shared Seo’s sentiment and said that students who understand the value of their tuition fee work hard to get all they can from the school. As such, students who work to earn their tuition are often more “engaged in their studies than their colleagues.”
On the other hand, Park was more skeptical. Park points out that it is difficult for students to accumulate money amounting to the entirety of the tuition fee by working part-time. In fact, When Yonseians were asked whether they thought it is realistic for students to earn enough to pay for their tuition, a good majority, 91.69% replied that it is unrealistic. According to a survey by *Albachungook*, a student who is working for a minimum wage would have to work at least 697 hours in order to save up enough money to pay their tuition fee. If students were to work to self-sustain, one would have to work for even mere hours, which would affect their personal and academic life.
The paramount value that academic achievements hold compared to working is another reason why some consider working to be imprudent. Park believes that it is difficult, inefficient, and unadvisable, for students to work while striving for high academic achievements. 64.17% of Yonseians admitted that they have never worked to pay for their tuition. The main reason, with 26.35% of the respondents, is that academic achievements are considered more important than working. Along the same line, when Yonseians were asked why they thought it was unadvisable for them to work for their tuition, 55.78% said that it is because working can be a hindrance to studying. Jo said that working can be physically and mentally exhausting and became a disruption to studying. He said that students should invest in studying, as it will payoff in the future in the forms of scholarships and better job opportunities.
The loss of a memorable university life is another reason for concern. University life allows students to build memories in which one can look back with reminiscence. However, some students like Maeng Jun-hee, (Jr., UIC, Dept. of International Studies) was not able to make much memories. Maeng, who works hours to pay for her tuition fee, regrets not having the chance to take joy in the campus life. “Sometimes I wish I could participate in school activities like clubs and student societies, and interact with people,” says Maeng. “But my school life is something I have to sacrifice in order to work.”
Studying pays off
There are various reasons as to why students work for their tuition. Some do it for their own personal achievements while others do so in order to stay financially independent from their parents. However, most are forced to work because of their family’s financial situation.
“Money is refundable. Time is not,” Jo believes that the main responsibility of students is learning. He believes that they should not waste their time on part-time jobs and instead, use the time to study. “It is disappointing to see students sleeping or behaving inattentively during class due to lack of sleep from the work they do” said Jo. “It is a student’s obligation, their responsibility to study – but they are failing to do just that.”
Jo instead urges the students to look for scholarship opportunities. There are many ways students can qualify for a scholarship, but the most direct and simplest way is through attaining high grades. Students, who achieve a certain GPA, become eligible to apply for a scholarship. Many Yonseians, amounting to 47.25% of Yonseians, are already receiving scholarships. 52.70% of these students are receiving their scholarship from government run scholarship programs, while 30.26% are receiving scholarships from the school. Only 13.02% of the students receives scholarship from outside organizations. Jo said that there are many organizations and companies that provide scholarship programs to any students who meet the standard. “It is up to the students to look for these opportunities.”
Another recommendation Jo made is that students take student loans if they are ineligible for scholarships. “Student loan should not be considered as a debt, but an investment,” said Jo. The time the students “buy” with the student loan can be “invested” into studying. In time, the studying will pay off by helping the student get a high-paying job, making the debt from the student loan seem almost obsolete.
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University is a place for new meetings and adventure. College festivals, club activities, hanging out with classmates, and partying are privileges that only college students can enjoy. Thus giving up these opportunities for work is something one might regret in the future. Likewise, it might be mentally stressful for those who have to worry about paying their student loan in the future. Therefore, before students consider whether they should work or not, they should first consider their own personal situation, and then decide whether to work, go for a student loan, or look for a scholarship opportunity.