Straddling Work, School and Play: Student Perspectives

Posted by Rebecca on April 7, 2016

A YU Perspective

Let’s start with the obvious: the university-student life is a hectic one. From juggling four to six courses at a time to working one or more part-time job(s) and incorporating some fun (I mean, we’re only human), it can be tough to balance everything. Despite these multiple challenges, we still manage to grab a coffee, slap on a smile and get to class but most likely at a cost to our sleep or sense of well-being.

If you’re hoping to juggle everything in a more productive way, look no further! I’ve collected tips from York U students with a variety of lifestyles to help inspire a new routine for you, or at least give you some ideas on how to manage better.

The Avid Reader: Rebecca, second year English

The cover of Stephen King's book, "On Writing" and charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre"
Despite what you might think, there are actually many pockets of time we don’t use as efficiently as we could. Case in point: waiting at the doctor’s office, walking to class or standing in line for the bus. To find out what tidbits of time you have, outline your average day write down exactly what you did, at what time and for how long. Take a look at where your time goes and evaluate: Are there things I like to do, and that would relax me, that I don’t find time enough for? Could I have created an essay outline on my lunch break and taken a nap at home instead of staying up late to finish it? You might be surprised at how much time you’ve been neglecting!

For example, I love to read, but I don’t always have the time to sit down to do it. My solution? I carry a book everywhere! Now, when I’m on a break at work or get to class a little early, I can get 10 minutes to myself and enjoy the new adventure on which my character is embarking (in this case, it’s going to her therapist’s office to discuss her stealing problem).


The Athlete: Shauney, fourth year  Kinesiology and Health Science

A group of York's female basketball players
Shauney (left) with her teammates!


I find that procrastination is your biggest enemy. The second you have time to do stuff (assignments, readings, etc.), you need to do it. If you have an hour between classes, don’t watch Netflix, sit down and do the homework. Or else before you know it, two weeks from now you will have three assignments and an exam coming up, and you’ll begin to panic. So I find it’s best to do things as soon as they’re assigned, or the second you know you have time for them. For example, Monday nights I have practice [Shauney is on the Women’s Basketball team] from 8pm to 10pm, so I go to bed because I know it’s not really possible to do anything. On Wednesday nights, I have practice from 6pm to 8pm, so I know I can study right after. I have set my cutoff to 10pm, so between the hours of 8pm to 10 pm, I’ll do homework.


Boys Just Wanna Have Fun: Sam, fourth year  Communication Studies

Boy playing a guitar.

Balancing is simply the act of finding that perfect distribution of attention; just enough of each different element so that nothing falls out of place. It’s also about finding out which of those elements are actually worth balancing. For example, contrary to the actions of my painfully reserved first-year self, I learned that developing and maintaining a consistent social life helped me not only gain entry to all sorts of new experiences, ideas and relationships but also aided me in maintaining my sanity during periods of high academic stress. As a result, I’ve made sure to keep my social life a sizable priority over the past couple of years. I think this is the most important aspect of balance: taking the time to understand what it is that’s worth balancing.


Little boy and his mom sitting on a flight of stairs
Sienna with her little boy, Owyn.


The Parent: Sienna Stock, second  year Health Studies

I have a four-year-old son, Owyn, and I work in the Bennett Centre, running an online portal for transfer students to answer questions about their transfer credit statements. I manage my time as best as I can: I’m on campus five days a week, regardless of whether I have class or not. If I don’t have class, then I’m working. I scheduled all of my classes within the window that my son has day care, with enough travel time so I can make it home and pick him up. I have to prioritize by studying on my lunch breaks or staying up late. But because I have to wake up earlier, either to take care of my son or to come to work, I have to use the time when my son’s in bed effectively. I can’t leave anything to the last minute. If I know I have a couple hours, I’ll work on an essay, and a week might pass by till I pick it up again. I have to do things far in advance, since with having a child, things come up on a daily basis that I’m not aware about. It’s hard to plan. [Having a child] does make things a little more hectic, but I find it gives you the drive you need to get things done. In order to use my limited time effectively, I also need a quiet, focused space on campus. I’m the executive of Student Parents as part of the YUMSO board, and they have a lounge only for mature students. It’s got comfy chairs and, for the most part, it’s quiet. Quiet spaces are the key for working parents!

The Globe-Trotter: Amber Fatima, fourth year Health Studies and Psychology

Girl standing near cement wall, with the CN Tower in the distance.


When I made the initial move to Canada, the act of balancing school, work, and a social life was no easy feat, especially because I felt as if I had to “rebuild” all these aspects of my life once again from scratch. For the majority of international students, academics take precedence over all other facets of life because that is the purpose of our move. This flawed mentality leads us to essentially live two different lives; one life is here in Canada where the sole purpose is to excel at school, and the other (social life) is back home where our friends and family may be [Amber grew up in the Philippines]. I would constantly have my thoughts lingering half way across the world and think of my stay here as a temporary part of my life that was just necessary for me to further my education.

It personally took me about a year to realize that the only way I can cope with being so far away from home is to start making Canada my home. I started joining clubs, looking forward to events here rather than focusing on thought of flying back home, reducing the several hours long Skype sessions with friends and family to just 1-2 hours every other day, and (as cheesy as it sounds) truly embracing the present situation that I am in at the moment.

I think one of the most important things international students can do to lessen their stress and anxiety of making such a big move is to think of themselves having two homes rather than one and living life in each place as if that is where they truly belong.

What are your tips for creating balance in your student life? Tweet us at @yorkustudents or comment below!


Rebecca M. is a third-year English major. She no longer blogs regularly for the YU Blog but may post on occasion as a guest-blogger.

See other posts by Rebecca