After four (or five…sometimes three) years on a college campus, some people choose to make a career out of working with college students. It is without question a rewarding career, but it has some challenges when you’re only a few years away from the experience yourself. Trust me, it’s harder than it looks. Among those struggles:
1. Spending new student orientation season, move-in, and Family Weekend preparing the perfect response to “What year are you?” ,“What’s your major?”, or “What made you decide to come here?”
2. Finding a graceful way to answer those questions when they come from parents. Accepting a compliment while dying inside is hard, y’all.
3. Follow-Up: Just how does one respond when the #1 thing you hear after explaining your job is “Oh, that sounds fun!”
4. I mean, it’s hard to bring up the tough stuff when your job can include things like balloon arrangements, arguing with magicians or musicians, and going on bulk grocery shopping sprees. But trust me, it’s there.
5. Feeling the need to introduce yourself to new faculty or staff at meetings, lest they assume you’re a student before you can correct the thought. There’s a lot of this:
6. Or better yet…that special moment when you arrive to teach a class, only to hear students whisper, “When’s the professor getting here?
7. Wardrobe decisions make this hard. Yes, sometimes I find myself coveting or admiring a student’s outfit, but I just as often (maybe more often) find myself examining collegiate fashion decisions all like,
8. Realizing that some students are just too young to get your pop culture references will make you feel positively ancient.
9. Hearing some of the slang your students use leads to shame over not being more up-to-date on pop culture references. But ultimately, you can just shrug it off.
10. Except for when you work with older students or grad students, and then it’s more like:
11. Planning your nights out with friends based on where students won’t be, all while working out elaborate plans for if you do happen to run into one another:
12. And if you live on campus? You come to learn a fun dance of how to return to your apartment with all the dignity and grace of someone who has had. a. TIME.
13. (Also, how do you explain on a date that you live in a residence hall? Or, as they’ll probably call it, a “dorm.”)
14. One more on the living situation, four words: LAUNDRY WITH COLLEGE STUDENTS. Whose stuff will end up in your stuff? Should they know how many clothes you have? Who the hell stole my laundry basket? And what’s the right thing to do when you see…this?
15. While we’re on that, actually…not everyone who works at a college, lives there. Try explaining that to someone sometime.
16. Being young in any office invites the risk of becoming default tech support (or the office “social media person”), since others assume you “get computers.”
17. Related: be prepared to “go undercover” for the department as a student if they can’t find one for an event or video. Make sure you have your talking points covered when this happens.
18. Working with students fairly close to our age means they’re comfortable with us; this is great, until they share more than we might want to hear.
19. Sometimes the way they treat us makes me want to yell things to prove that I “get it.”
20. But at the end of the year, no matter how old you are or how your time has been with them, it’s always a little hard to see them graduate.