There are many who would argue that studying is by itself hard enough; let alone juggling paid work with full-time studies. So, why do students do it? This was one of the questions we posed to many of the (mostly International) students at EMU who are working and studying at the same time. And the reason/s given by Solomon Iwuala, a student from Nigeria, highlighted a common theme in many of the students’ answers: “I choose to work and study to assist my parents to defray the cost of my studying and living here in North Cyprus,” he told this writer. Due to competing needs for limited resources in the hands of many parents, it seems that many parents are finding it hard to give 100% support to their children; especially given the comparatively high cost of living on the island. This results in the desire of many students to find ways to ease the burden on their parents and sponsors.
Working and studying is not a strange phenomenon it has become an acceptable norm that is being practised in various parts of the world; what varies are the reasons different people in different countries give for working and studying – and duration that a full-time student is permitted to work in a week or month. Gone are the days where people work while studying to have extra money to spend or just to gain experience in their chosen field of training… Most students nowadays work to be able to go through school without being stopped because of financial difficulty.
It is not easy to be a working student. One will have to be sure that he or she creates a balance between the two. How is work and studies like in Cyprus? That is what this interview with Solomon Iwuala focused on.
North Cyprus is not an industrialized country which, coupled with the issue of international isolation, makes job opportunities comparatively few. On the other hand, the cost of living is relatively high. This makes it an expensive Island to live and study in spite of the internationally competitive and reasonable tuition fees charged by EMU. The only obtainable jobs students are usually able to get in North Cyprus are either to work inside the University as Student Assistants, or in any of the restaurants, hotels or cafes – usually as a waiter, or very few other places. Some work on construction sides just to be able to meet ends meet.
Solomon Iwuala one of the working students who just graduated with a degree in Communication in the Fall semester shared his reasons and experience with me in an interview.
Why did you choose to work while you studying?
I did so because of a couple of reasons. Firstly, because I wanted to assist my parents to bear the cost of studies and living here in North Cyprus. Secondly, I wanted to live the experience so I can encourage somebody out there and to explain that success requires work, and work the right way. Thirdly, I figured out that it was going to help me be more focused and responsible…doing something even outside studying.
How was the experience, working and studying?
It was a great experience, I must mention that. although it wasn’t easy because I barely had time to study my books or even sleep, I slept for maximum 4hours out of 24 hours whenever the semester was on progress. But I appreciate the fact that it helped me develop myself in addition to becoming fluent in my Turkish language proficiency as an added knowledge and advantage; I can speak, understand and write, and I can communicate and express myself freely with the locals of Turkey and North Cyprus in Turkish. Acquiring the language was and is still a big advantage for me, I could get well-paid jobs as I did because of that. As a result, I earned a good income to support my studies without depending on mum and dad.
What are your feelings about studying and working? If you were to have your way, will you combine or recommend to others combining both?
The feeling was so fulfilling – and helpful; I was able to do what my heart always longed for. I will continue with it even in the master’s program….it is not harmful; rather it is helpful.
Did you experience any unusual problems or other difficulties being a foreigner; things like your low salary, prejudice?
I wouldn’t to address it as unfair, but yes sure, sure, I perceived prejudice. It came in different and often subtle ways I wouldn’t want to talk about here, but one remarkable thing was that I developed ways of coping and dealing with such problems when they arose.. I was so focused on the reason why I decided to take the job, and I was always being paid on time; but I did have a couple of experiences when I was paid late, some employers refused to pay and a few other issues. I wanted to do what I was doing, so I rarely focused on delving into “who wronged who”, no time for such drama.
Was your income sufficient enough to pay off every expense like tuition, rent and bills, food and clothing?
Yes, it was. Like I said I actually learned a lot of things alongside, things like accountability to myself, good management skills, communication etc. I could effectively manage the income to meet every need I had and the credit is to God.
This was Solomon’s largely positive experience. But the story is not the same for Arif, a student of business Administration who had to freeze his semester to work and save in order to be able to get registered subsequent semesters. He and some few students in similar condition alternate; they work one semester and then go to school the next semester to be able to save up enough to carry them through the semester. For those whose semester is not frozen, work starts from 7 pm in the evening and closes at 3 am in the morning with just little over four hours to catch sleep before 8: 30 am lectures. My discussions with most of them it is a difficult situation that they have no choice than to live with it. Some of the difficulties faced by students who work and study range from concerns about low pay (those who work in hotels are paid 30tl per eight-hour shift); lack of medical cover, and working late night shifts. Consequently; they fall ill often or easily due to fatigue – in addition to mental fatigue that leads to low concentration in class if they make it to class, that is. The best time they ever get to study is during exams as they don’t have to go for lectures.
The second categories of the working students are the Student assistants who work in the school either in the library, dormitory, printing house, labs or departments, etc. Dormitory student assistants are not paid cash; their main benefit being that they get is free accommodation in return for their labour input. Student assistants who work in the library and the printing house are paid 3.75TL per hour. And there is no additional benefit that comes with the payment if a student works 60 hours and lives outside school that will be just enough for him or her to pay bills excluding other expenses, let alone saving to pay their tuition.
However, working and studying seem to be a two-sided coin. Part of it benefits is it helps students to become good time managers as they won’t just learn to manage their time well but also themselves and resources which makes them accountable; if only the working conditions could improve and pay could be good enough. One hopes North Cyprus will one day be like other countries not only in terms of with better job opportunities but also with industries where students would work to gain experience in their related disciplines.