Since I’ve moved back in, most of my conversations have started with some variation of the same question: “How was your summer?” Usually, someone will tell me about their summer research position, or a co-op at a company, or the summer classes they took.
This isn’t surprising; with Case Western Reserve University’s reputation, opportunities for resume-building co-ops, impressive internships, and numerous other lucrative positions are in no short supply, especially to STEM students. While these opportunities can certainly benefit anyone who has taken advantage of them, I believe that a more traditional summer job in an area like retail or food service can be just as educational.
This summer, I worked one of those jobs. After starting the search too late to find an internship, I decided to go home and work the same pizza delivery job I had in high school. After gaining a bit of perspective on life outside of home in my first year of college, it was surprising how much I was able to learn from the experience. I was the only college student there, and I was surrounded by people from all types of backgrounds living what could be called “real adult” lives. They pay rent, shop for themselves, and even raise kids of their own.
Conversations at work often turned to the obstacles that people fully leading their own lives navigate. One of my coworkers, for example, was the only one of his roommates with a full-time job, so any unexpected expenses in the apartment often fell to him to cover. His stories gave me a lot of insight into how to have good living arrangements after moving out of campus housing.
I’ve often heard people say that the American school system needs some sort of “adulthood 101” class where students learn to do things like manage money and live with roommates. I feel that work taught me some of the things I would expect to learn in a class like this. Frequent topics included getting along with a roommate, financial planning, and balancing work and life. After experiencing a more independent lifestyle for a year, topics like this meant a lot more to me than they did in high school. While I didn’t work with anyone from a field I want to be in after graduation, or find a potential career for after college, I think that working with a diverse group of people in their mid-20s helped me get a look at the side of life after college that people tend to talk less about.
Next summer, I plan to move on to an internship or co-op instead of pizza delivery. However, I am confident that the lessons I learned about living on my own from my first job will serve me well in whatever I end up doing next summer and beyond. I will always be glad that I chose to do this job this summer.