In the middle of one of my very first nights at GW, I was stricken with panic.
In the way that I’m sure happens to everyone at some point, I was suddenly overwhelmed by a combination of homesickness and a deep fear that I wouldn’t make any friends here. I saw myself moving through the next four years completely alone and I was terrified.
I whipped out a Post-It and wrote a note to myself: “There are plenty of opportunities to make friends.” Then I made bullet points: Freshman Day of Service. Student organizations. Around the dorm. In classes.
It’s embarrassing to admit now, but I carried that Post-It around in my wallet for the first few weeks of classes. It was my way of calming myself down, and it worked, for the most part.
As it turns out, I actually wound up making most of my friendships at places that never appeared on that list in the first place: my on-campus jobs.
My first week on campus, I became a student staff member at Eckles Library, and midway through my sophomore year, was hired as a Hatchet copy editor.
So for incoming freshmen anxious about finding friends, I offer this advice: Don’t panic. Get a job.
I’ve had better luck making lasting friendships with co-workers than anyone else. Not only do we have a great deal in common, but we bond by working toward the same goal, under the banner of an institution that we hold dear.
The job itself can be anything. On-campus gigs (say, at a University department) offer an easy commute and a familiar work environment. I’m coming up on my fourth year of working at Eckles, and I’ll tell anyone who will listen that it’s the best job on campus. And while an off-campus job might mean a bit of a hike, the hours are often more flexible and there are perks like upward mobility and – best of all – employee discounts.
Don’t worry about the time commitment: Studies have shown that students who work part-time jobs actually perform better in school. They’re less prone to procrastination when they only have limited, designated hours to study. Their grades tend to look better as long as they don’t work more than 12 to 15 hours a week, but that’s about as much as a part-time, on-campus job entails anyway.
There are a myriad other reasons why having a job in college is important. Mostly, you learn skills that will be valuable whenever you get a full-time job, including time management, budgeting and the basics of how to get along with a boss and co-workers. You’ll thank yourself for building up your work experience when graduation comes.
And I’m not gonna lie – the money doesn’t hurt, either.
Still, I never expected that my jobs would give me a community of friends.
My Eckles friends and I are bound not only by our wacky behind-the-desk stories, but because we all share an unabiding love for that little library on the hill. And I fell head over heels for my Hatchet friends after a few short weeks of being on staff because we’re all deeply passionate about this paper.
I’ve always said that the only mistake I made in joining The Hatchet was that I didn’t do it sooner. Since I landed my job here a year ago, I’ve felt more at home at this University than ever before. If I had included finding a job on that anxiety-fueled Post-It freshman year, I might have found my place here even sooner.
Robin Jones Kerr, a senior majoring in journalism, is The Hatchet’s opinions editor.