Employment: A necessary evil

But that doesn't mean it can't be unique

Having a job during school may be a necessary evil to pay off student debt, but it can still be interesting.

Having a job during school may be a necessary evil to pay off student debt, but it can still be interesting.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t be unique

As I’m heading into my fourth year as an undergraduate student, I’ve learned many things. Most importantly, that I’m terrible at personal finance.

Normally, I balance my summers perfectly between two part-time jobs and an active social life in the sun. But when last May came and I sat down to budget, I found that would not be possible. Instead, for the past three months, I’ve worked three part-time jobs and worked as an unpaid intern. I had to pay tuition somehow, so the part-time jobs balanced off the internship I desperately wanted to boost my resume. I did this gladly since I’m currently trying to graduate university debt free — and it’s working. So far.

It hasn’t been easy. Tuition costs in British Columbia are somewhat in the middle compared to the rest of the country, according to Statistics Canada, and I’ve noticed small increases each year. While B.C. tuition is not as high as Ontario’s average of $6,640 per year for a full-time student, it is still not the shockingly low average of approximate $2,500 in Newfoundland and Labrador or Quebec. Instead, tuition in BC is nestled in the $4,862 range.

Cost of living is also an additional burden. Student Aid BC and the University of Victoria predict that off-campus housing will cost approximately $8,960. This doesn’t include textbooks, school supplies, food and the endless amounts of caffeine students need to pull those all-nighters.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise there are students like myself working multiple jobs not only through the summer, but also during the school year. Many also rely on their parents and student loans. But when it comes to paying tuition, some students are more adventurous in their moneymaking and saving ways than others.

Meet Alina Cerminara, 24, a recent graduate from UVic with a bachelor of arts in theatre and creative writing who funded her education in two unique ways: becoming temporarily nomadic in the summer months and working the Calgary Stampede.

Cerminara worked at the Stampede for Lammle’s Western Wear and Tack for nine years, including this past summer. When she first started at the age of 15, she was a sales associate, but after returning every year, she worked her way to a supervisor position. After nine years, Cerminara says she doesn’t always want to go back, but the money is good. So good, in fact, that in six weeks of work during and after the Stampede, she estimates she made $6,800. Not bad for selling cowboy hats.

But work at the Calgary Stampede isn’t necessarily easy, she says. “It’s this tough situation where you want to stand up for what you believe in terms of the rodeo or the sheltered history of the exploitation with ethnic minorities, but you can’t do that if you’re making that much money.”

It can also be trying physically. In the six weeks, Cerminara worked every single day, usually between 13-15 hours.

Cerminara also saved money by renting out her suite, which normally costs $600 per month. While at Stampede, she used to stay on a friend’s couch.

“I always couch surfed in May for a few weeks, but then you feel bad because you’re mooching off your friends. You always feel like you have to pay them back but it’s never enough.”

This year, she borrowed her parents’ Ford Windstar and slept while parked on quiet neighbourhood streets or in friends’ driveways. She was scared at first, but learned to love it.

“It’s cheap. I don’t drink and drive. I worked out constantly because it’s the only chance I had to shower. Plus, you’re never bored because who wants to live in a van all day?”

Cerminara’s only downside to sleeping in a van? You constantly eat out and don’t save money on food. “I don’t have a kitchen, but other than that, I’m all for it.”

Arno Marchand, 23, studies Industrial Design at Carleton University, but worked multiple jobs over the summer to keep up with an unpaid design internship with Fugitive Glue in Toronto.

When not working in a restaurant — or even at his parents’ business when he was visiting them in Victoria at the end of his summer break — Marchand and his girlfriend picked up free furniture and bicycles off sidewalks and re-sell items on websites like Craigslist, UsedVictoria, or Kijiji.

Often, Marchand would make a $25-$50 profit, depending on the item. He was once lucky enough to stumble upon an authentic Herman Miller chair that was put out for free. He ended up making $180 off it.

“My last name is Marchand … so, I guess somewhere in my family’s line we were merchants and I’m honing in on that,” he jokes.

Marchand has no regrets about working as many jobs as he has during the summer. “You need the life experience for your future careers, even if those part-time jobs don’t relate to your ultimate goals,” he says. Marchand adds that he has learned a lot working landscaping jobs in Ottawa and Toronto and he relates that knowledge to his studies at Carleton and his internship. M

Best lines to use when calling home for money

“I flushed my wallet down the toilet. “

“My roommate broke my microwave and I need to replace it.”

“The weed is really good out here.”

“I’m just… really hungry. All the time.”

“I’m buying you a great Christmas present… I just need a little help paying it off.”

“I’d love to come visit you, but I can’t afford the trip home.”

“I love you. You’re the best parents ever. The responsibility of living on your own is huge and I appreciate everything you did in raising me… got an extra $40?”

And the foolproof way to convince your parents to loan you some cash: Make any story you casually tell from your daily life incredibly pathetic. The conversation will naturally progress to finances afterwards.