Photo essay: Student workers through COVID-19 pandemic

Despite taking classes remotely, many students are still showing up for in-person jobs.

We checked in with student employees to see how they are balancing classes, their shifts and the risks of going to work during a pandemic. Some students said they were nervous heading in for work in light of COVID-19, while others said they confronted the fear head on for the sake of paying rent and other expenses.

Learn about their experiences below:

Ben Gillman

Gillman, 19, is a sophomore from Dallas double majoring in political science and statistics with a minor in public policy. He delivers food on his bike in D.C. for the food delivery service Postmates.

“I decided to be a Postmate for several reasons. I would say the first is because the hours are about as flexible as you can get. I can choose to work extra hours one week or fewer hours another week just depending on what my homework schedule looks like. So that’s really nice. Also applying to be a Postmate was extremely easy. It only took probably less than a day. All they really had to do was a background check and good to go, start right away”

Kate Carpenter | Staff Photographer
Jonathan George

George, 22, is a sophomore photojournalism major from Bethesda, Maryland, and works at Coffee Republic in Rockville, Maryland.

“Working in the food industry can be a hassle, especially when you’re a student. It’s very difficult balancing work with school. I’m not that strong of a writer so it takes me longer to do writing assignments, especially when I have an opening shift.”

Hadley Chittum | Staff Photographer
Drew Amstutz

Amstutz, 21, is a junior from Fort Wayne, Indiana. He has worked at Bath and Bodyworks for four years and is now a store supervisor at their Pentagon City mall location.

“The work and school balance this semester has been harder than any other semester, mainly because I’ve had to double the amount of time that I work. I’m used to working as an RA during the school week, and then I would work weekends 20 or 25 hours here at the store. But because of the pandemic and the RA position being stripped away, I have to work full time. So my work life, or my work-school balance, right now is school on two days a week and then work on the other five – so no off days.”

Ari Golub | Staff Photographer
Nia Lartey

Lartey, 21, is a junior from Philadelphia majoring in political communication with a minor in journalism and mass communication. She works as a cashier at Target in Rosslyn, Virginia.

“As somebody who works three jobs and takes classes, I would say that the online platform works better for students who work. But finals season taught me that working a 30-hour week and then doing classwork wasn’t the smartest move. I would do much better if I could recognize my limits, but sometimes your limits don’t match up to your situation. So I just do what I gotta do.”

Candace Chambers| Staff Photographer
Jillian Morgan

Morgan, 21, is a senior from Mahwah, New Jersey, majoring in nutrition science with a minor in public health. She has been a retail team member at Levain Bakery since July.

“It’s interesting because I think this job in particular is unique. A lot of my colleagues are also students or working on various kinds of passion projects of their own, which makes it really fun to be in this environment. And it’s inspiring and motivating in its own way to be around people that are really excited to come to work and have a zest for life. So, honestly, it’s been really great for me. It’s really given me a sense of connection to my community. I’ve met a lot of cool people that do a lot of cool things. It’s been a great overall experience.”

Candace Chambers | Staff Photographer
Mia Elane

Elane, 20, is a junior majoring in international affairs. She works as a cashier at the on-campus restaurant Carvings.

“This semester has definitely been pretty tough. As I thought like ‘Oh, I did 20 hours in high school and I also was a full-time student, and I was also in orgs in high school, I’m sure it’ll be like the same thing,’ and I don’t know, it just really isn’t. I guess living in a pandemic isn’t easy either, but it’s definitely been one of my most exhausting semesters because I do work a lot. And then I do org stuff, and I’m also a full-time student. It gets really exhausting but at the same time, it does feel good to be really productive.”

Arielle Bader | Assistant Photo Editor
Rachel Aragona

Aragona, 21, is a senior from Burlington, New Jersey, majoring in civil engineering. She used to work in the Smith Center selling tickets for athletic events but has recently started working at Secretea, a bubble tea shop on E Street.

“In the beginning, I kind of was a little worried. But then I got vaccinated. But everyone wears a mask. Customers are required to wear a mask, and all my coworkers have to wear masks. So, overall, it’s pretty safe, and it doesn’t get extremely busy. So it’s not like there’s like a bunch of people packed in there. So I feel like it’s a safe environment.”

Donna Armstrong | Senior Staff Photographer
Cassidy Rice

Rice, 20, is a junior from Appleton, Wisconsin, studying public health and Arabic and works at Tatte Bakery & Cafe.

“I needed to pay for housing at GW. But it also provided a social outlet that was still safe, considering that I am living by myself and most of my friends aren’t back on campus. And as someone who enjoys people, this place offers me a place to meet new people and still have a social environment in a pandemic.”

Candace Chambers | Staff Photographer
Thomas Knipe

Knipe, 21, is a junior majoring in business analytics and international business and minoring in Spanish. He is originally from Copenhagen, Denmark, but now lives in the suburbs of Chicago. He is a seasonal sales advisor at H&M in Chicago and D.C.

“I’m feeling good mentally, but I know a lot of people that are not. While I am fine, I’ve got to use my platform to represent the people that are really going through it because if you have to do all this course load stuff, and then on top of it go and work in the pandemic, it’s stressful on top of everything.”

Danielle Towers | Staff Photographer