A juggle between studies and on-campus jobs

Commentary by Chow Yong Neng, PhD.

My son, Leland Chow wrote this piece for Han Chiang News in October 2015. I am republishing this here as most of my readers would not have had the chance to read this. Although he does not have to suffer the anxiety I had when I was at Queen’s University of Belfast (counting pennies & wondering if I had enough ££ to pay my tuition fees), I always reminded Leland that our budget was limited and he has a younger sister whose higher education cost would be much higher than his (she being 4 years younger). Hence Leland had to budget well & make the best of his time at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL). If he wanted extra funds for trips or gadgets, he would have to earn it himself. UNL’s Global Laureate Scholarship which covered 60% tuition fees for Leland made possible for our tiny budget (made 40% smaller due to the devaluation of the Malaysian Ringgit since 2014) to stretch just enough to cover over two years of studies for Leland.

Well Leland has completed his studies in December 2016 and he had made several trips to different parts of the USA during his time at UNL, all paid for from funds he made working on campus. His is a classic example of how students pursuing tertiary studies can make the best use of their time and not bankrupting their parents!

Leland returned to Malaysia in late July 2017, after trying for months looking for a job in the USA without success. Currently he is back in the USA for two weeks to attend TwitchCon 2017 at Long Beach, California (a convention for broadcasters on the Twitch platform). This trip was made possible by the funds raised by Leland’s community of Twitch fans and friends who pooled together over US$1,500 for him.

Leland’s first journey to the West was in August 2014, I had written an article about how much work and preparation one has to do if one is planning to go to study in the USA.


By Leland Chow

Malaysian Ringgit has been very volatile for the past few months, causing the currency rate between the Ringgit and the US Dollars to hover around RM4.40 (until recently, where it dropped to around RM4.20). Hence, when it was time for my parents to send the money for my tuition fees, they had to face the burden of the weakening Ringgit and sent less allowance, telling me to be thrifty although most of my money is usually spent on food. Fortunately, I have not faced a huge financial burden in terms of allowance as I do have on-campus jobs here.

I currently work as a tutor and a campus tour guide in the university. As an international student in the US, I can only work up till a maximum of 20 hours per week when classes are in session, and 40 hours per week during holidays, including summer. However, as both of my jobs do not require that many hours to work, I could easily fit the both of them in my schedule without any worries. Therefore, I work as a tour guide during the day and a tutor by night.

As a campus tour guide, I give tours to prospective students and parents around the campus, where I have to walk all around campus, show them important buildings, and the essential purposes and usages of the buildings. I am generally not an active person; hence, the tour guide position suits me best as I get to do some leg exercises early in the morning! Besides, I have to also walk backwards as a campus tour guide, which seems very unusual at first, but can be easily mastered after a few tries.

On the other hand, as a tutor, I give advice and provide help to students in a learning community. My main focus is the lower level Math classes, but I also tutor Finance, Economics, and Communication Studies. In order to tutor a subject, I have to obtain an A in the subject, and also maintain a 3.5 GPA. This is different from other tutoring positions on campus, as the tutors here (at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, UNL) only tutor students in the William H. Thompson Learning Community, which is a learning community for students in the Susan T. Buffett Scholarship (set up by the wife of the investment guru, Warren Buffett who happens to be an alumnus of UNL).

During the past summer, I worked full-time on campus as a conference assistant for the university. As most residence halls were closed during the summer for students, conferences that take place also required accommodation for its guests. Because of this, the residence halls were converted into conference halls for guests to stay throughout the summer. I worked at the front desk which mainly involved checking guests in and out, answered questions, ensured their safety by conducting rounds around the conference halls, and most importantly, made sure that guests were satisfied with their stay at the university.

All of these positions require me to possess different skills and qualities, and I believe I have learned a lot taking on these various jobs. Some people might wonder if I am able to balance my academics and work at the same time. I can confidently say that I can.

For instance during last summer, I worked a full-time position and took 2 classes at the same time. I managed to obtain As for both subjects. This shows that with good time management skills, we can succeed both in academics and in work. My on-campus jobs also work around my class schedule and club meetings, so it is easy to study, work and play without sacrificing a lot for any of them.

Finding an on-campus job is definitely not difficult. It just requires some effort and time put into the search. I highly suggest talking to friends or professors, or even looking up at the campus career services website. These methods have helped me in finding on-campus positions, and I believe many people, especially my fellow Malaysians here, would agree with me on this.


Cover photo from http://conferenceservices.unl.edu/conference-assistant-staff (the author was situated on the 2nd roll, the 4th person from the right)

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