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The job that gave me persmission to consider a fifth year at university
as reply to What's in a job?
2021-01-12 17:19:12

Because of student loans and assistance from my parents I never kept a steady job in four years of college. Ironically there nothing to show for this as the final semester of senior year approached. You would think that without any side jobs I would've had all this time and energy to devote to my studies. But the reality was that I was about to graduate with no prospects on what to do after.

There was an intermittent job that I'd had at this time which I liked a lot. I was a Buddy to incoming international grad students. Uprooting your life to come to this place called Michigan State University for ~five years was daunting. No matter how dedicated you are to your studies, it's a long bet to think that intellectual curiosity and future job prospects can drive you through five years in a new place without permanent, negative consequences. The only way through that fire is to make that new place a new home. 

The Buddy Program was MSU's attempt to ease this transition. An undergrad was paired with an international grad student. We'd meet once a week over six weeks (I think it was six). We'd also have group meetings during this time where we'd share what worked and what didn't. At the end of the program we'd have a potluck party.

Each week had an assigned topic we were supposed to discuss designed by the program. It was interesting to see which buddies stuck to these topics and which didn't. With my buddies I mostly found these topics to be quite boring and so we mostly just got the topic out of the way in the first five minutes so that we could just talk about other things the rest of the time. With two of my buddies I actually ended up hanging out more than what the buddy program assigned. With one of them I became friends. 

I'm sure I wasn't the only one that this happened to. But what I loved about this job was that the point of it was connection and support. I wanted to do that and so I had thought to myself how remarkably similar being a Resident Assistant in the dorms was to the buddy program. Both positions were about being there for incoming students and helping them find a place for themselves in this jungle of novelty. 

The RA position would cover my room and board. This would allow spring to not be my final university semester. It would buy me a year of runtime. I'd figure out what to do with my life during that fifth year.

Of course, I never ended up becoming an RA. But I did take that fifth year. On an even better deal.




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