Work-life balance is an interesting concept for a university student. What is work? Some part-time jobs constantly call you on your days off or forget that when you tell them you finish college at 4 pm on a Thursday, you still need time to travel from college to the job. But work isn’t just a job for college students. Work is college. It is a full-time job filled with lectures and tutorials where you can rack up those attendance marks, essays, MCQs, long nights in the library, and terrible group projects; need I go on?

Then there is life. Life is also college, in a way. It’s socialising with friends. It’s eating your lunch surrounded by evil seagulls at the lake. It’s going to the gym or society events. But life exists outside the realm of college, too. Life is about your hobbies. It’s spending time with loved ones, travelling, resting, and all the little moments. It’s no wonder that the idea of work-life balance can be so challenging for us college students when the lines between work and life in college often blur. Here’s what a few UCD students had to say about their work-life balance:

The Commuter

I often find myself in the repetitive cycle of class: on the bus to work, on the bus to class and on the bus back to work. It seems my entire existence revolves around those two, broken up by a loathsome bus ride; work and college. And it’s futile to complain because this work allows me to pay for college, and college will help me not work this job for the rest of my life. So, it’s a win-win situation. Yet, I feel at a constant loss.

I look up from my assignment, and weeks have passed. It’s my friend’s birthday coming up, which means sacrificing my dignity and feigning a cough on the phone with my manager or the cost of my grade for the essay due that night. My dignity it is.

woman sitting inside bus
Photo by VH S on

When one has such a busy schedule, each moment feels precious. But I miss each moment when it was not. Sometimes, I want to doom-scroll into oblivion on my 2-hour commute to college.

But this is not an intelligent decision, as I’ll be paying later tonight when I’m cramming to finish my assignment at 11:59 pm, having just clocked out of my shift at 11:02 pm. It’s not all bad, just tedious and exhausting. One can only hope this struggle will be worth it and pay off one day. Isn’t that what everyone is doing? Indulging in the rat race of a dying system to make yourself a person.

By Maria Harten

The Juggler:

To put it plainly, college is a balancing act. It was a subjective act, perhaps. To the academic weapon, this may entail carefully balancing deadlines and tears, and the essay is guaranteed to land you that A+.

On the other end of this, we have the all too familiar balancing of procrastination, ChatGPT and figuring out whether you can hand in that dreaded essay at exactly 11:59 pm. Essentially, the only balancing act seen here is whether you can vacate the Clubhouse with your balance intact, procrastination be damned. For myself, navigating college with both a part-time job and a social life has been a lot to juggle, and like any amateur juggler, it all came tumbling down at first!

In mastering the art of the balancing act, it’s important not to beat yourself up if all does not go to plan because, realistically, it won’t at first! Finding your own pace and rhythm is essential in ironing out a disciplined approach to managing these newfound responsibilities; ultimately, failure is part of this learning curve. I initially found assignments daunting and strove for a state of perfection in all of them, an arguably unrealistic task.

man in black t shirt and blue denim jeans jumping
Photo by Los Muertos Crew on

This meant that I was dedicating far more time to my assignments at the expense of my social life. While I was already working part-time on the weekends, I found that the rest of my free time seemed to revolve around work on these assignments, leaving me with fickle room for a social life at first. However, to quote our favourite country music queen, Dolly Parton, “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life”. I had to learn to balance not only my time but also my expectations; perfection is not an attainable goal, and to “make a life”, I had to make peace with this idea.

In a more practical sense, I have found scheduling to be a simple but effective tool for managing my limited time during the week. Whether through a digital app, such as Google Calendar, or the tried and tested method of a simple whiteboard, simply sectioning off portions of your day to specific tasks and committing to these tasks is an effective method of managing your time and holding yourself accountable! It’s essential to maintain these boundaries, whether it be your shift schedule, your study timetable or setting aside time for social activities. Mastering the balancing act is an uphill battle, but it’s all the more rewarding in the long run!

By James Farrell

What’s sleep?

BEEP! BEEP! My alarm flashes bold, green lettering like a warning, almost. I’ll have to make a rush for that half-seven bus to campus and an equally rapid rush home. That’s what makes Fridays such a carousel of fun. In addition to three lectures and two tutorials, playing one after the other like an unskippable ad is my closing shift in the local restaurant.

Like many of us who began college before grant eligibility was reformed to accommodate a wider income, I applied for jobs out of necessity to pay for things like transport and fees. Tears and prayers were poured into every new cover letter and every interview. Now I cry those same tears looking at my Google Calendar. Lecture 1:00-1:50. Tutorial 2:00-2:50. Work 4:00-12:00. The race to remember just about everything highlighted with skyscraper-like blocks in depressing corporate colours. Weekends that were, once upon a time, dedicated to bingeing the newest shows have become an extension of the working week. It’s okay – I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

woman leaning on table
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

In all seriousness, if you have a schedule similar to mine, it’s incredibly important that you find time to rest. Whether that’s a nap on a two-hour commute or regular breaks between studying, make sure it’s a principal part of your lifestyle!

Another tip I’ll give students with a lot on their plate during the academic year is to meet and chat with friends whenever possible. Peers and companions – especially your college ones – will be an empathetic lifeline throughout. Make it routine to stay in contact, even if it’s just a quick motivational chat before that big exam. Go out for coffee cups and treats. Those are the moments that will keep you sane during eight-hour shifts or even longer study sessions. Let’s hope summer just around the corner motivates us all to make the final push in our work/school lives this semester!

By Madeleine Houssou