College Work-Life Balance

by Aja Frost

5:20 a.m.: I hop out of bed, grab the thermos of coffee I prepared the night before, and lace up my running shoes. Then I’m on my way to the gym. It’s dark and chilly, and no one’s up except me, the breakfast cooks in the campus dining hall, and the occasional drunk person stumbling home. I keep 911 dialed on my phone in case of rapists.

7:30 a.m.: After I get back from working out, I shower, and get dressed. Breakfast is eaten at my desk while working on an article.

This quarter I started writing for USA TODAY College, so I’ll usually browse through Google News looking for interesting college-related news. When I find something worth covering, I’ll send a detailed pitch to my editors. They approve the story idea and the race begins to find sources, hunt down their contact info, call or email them, arrange an interview, talk to them, and write and edit.

9–11 a.m.: Class. I’m taking some interesting courses right now — Astronomy, African-American Literature, English Literature from 1485 to 1660, and the American Constitution. But I struggle to connect what we cover in lecture to my future career. Sometimes I wish I was interning in an office instead of discussing Spenser’s use of allegory in Faerie Queene. It seems like the former would be more useful.

11–11:20 a.m.: As I walk back to my on-campus apartment, I listen to a podcast. These 20 minutes are practically my only down-time, and I treasure it. Fifty years from now, when I randomly hear a recording of Ira Glass’s dulcet tones, I’ll be inexplicably soothed and I won’t know why.

11:20–12 p.m.: Lunch, while I work on an article.

12–1 p.m.: Interview people, then transcribing. I hate transcribing so much; it takes 20 minutes to transcribe a 10-minute interview, and I often end up using just two or three quotes.

1–2 p.m.: Now I finally start on my assigned reading. The administration says to do well you should spend 25–35 hours a week studying. If I had to guess, I spend 21. But I have a 3.9, so I’m good.

Also, even the engineers I know don’t spend 25 hours a week studying. Maybe the university is shooting for the moon so they’ll land among the stars?

2–4 p.m.: Class. My professor punctuates every statement with “y’know.” What started out as a humorous verbal tic has started to drive me nuts. No, I don’t know! I want to scream. That’s why I’m in your class! The two hours pass by painfully slowly, and almost every other minute I fight the urge to check my phone.

4–6 p.m.: I spend a couple hours answering emails, editing articles, and planning events for the on-campus magazine where I’m editor-in-chief. Our staff is over 70 people; if I think too much about everything I have to do for the magazine, I freak out, so usually I just put my head down and try to power through what I can.

6–7 p.m.: Dinner … while writing, of course. I write 15 articles on average during the week, each around 800 words. If I don’t write at least 10, I’ll probably have trouble paying my bills. It’s a good thing I love to write.

7–7:20 p.m.: My roommate/best friend comes home, and we chat in the living room about our days.

7:20–9:20 p.m.: More studying and homework. I realize I forgot to call my mom, but I’m exhausted. I make some coffee for tomorrow morning, brush my teeth, and crawl into bed.

9:20–9:30 p.m.: There’s just enough time for two chapters of the novel I’m reading before I start to doze off.

This column is part of a multi-part series.

Aja Frost is a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo who loves writing … and dessert. Follow her on Twitter @ajavuu.

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