Raquel Perez’s alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m., plenty of time to wipe away the cobwebs and allow her bubbly personality to come to the surface before heading to work. A good breakfast is a must, she says, to jumpstart a day in the life of a busy, working Purdue University Calumet student.
At 8 a.m. this particular day, the 22-year-old organizational communication major reports to work on campus in the Office of Student Activities and New Student Orientation, already bustling with activity just weeks before the start of the fall semester. The staff is planning for a big day tomorrow, when one of a series of New Student Orientations will take place. During the event, some 150 soon-to-be Purdue Calumet students will look to Raquel and her co-workers for direction.
Demonstrating a talent for juggling multiple tasks simultaneously, Raquel learns of a snafu that will affect tomorrow’s orientation and begins to brief her supervisor on the matter. Meanwhile, a student pops in and says she needs to obtain an ID card.
“I love my job, it doesn’t even seem like work,” Raquel says, walking back to her desk after looking up the student’s information and taking her ID card picture.
Raquel of Highland lives with her parents rent-free, but pays for her own expenses and education. She says working while going to school is an absolute necessity. Though previously she attended massage therapy and beauty school, Raquel soon decided that wasn’t the path for her and opted for a college degree.
Help and direction from Purdue Calumet’s Counseling Center helped point her toward a career as an event planner, something she’s already doing every day in managing her life.
She also says she is grateful for an opportunity to work on campus, where the culture is geared toward academic success.
“My supervisors know I’m a student first,” says Raquel, who cut her full-time summer hours to about 25 last fall. “No matter what, I’m a student first, and my grades are before anything.”
That’s just fine with her campus job supervisors, too.
Wrapping up her work in the Student Union & Library, room 104B, at 4:30 p.m., Raquel shoots off a couple of quick emails to help make the new semester a smoother ride for incoming freshman, finalizes details for an upcoming movie night and reviews her planning checklist for a pending banquet.
Raquel’s job duties are strikingly parallel to those of the career for which she is preparing-another benefit of a total campus experience that melds work life, course work, hands-on professional experience and networking. After all, managing her day-to-day life in a manner that keeps all the balls she’s juggling in the air, is precisely what being an event planner will demand.
Her campus work shift completed, she walks to her car, her cheerfulness never skipping a beat, as she heads home and to a second job. A licensed cosmetologist, Raquel earns extra money styling hair at her home.
Tossing her bag inside the door, Raquel gives Juan, her boyfriend of seven years, a quick kiss before gathering her beauty supplies and preparing her home beauty salon for that day’s client – one of some 25 regulars who are friends, family members or simply continuing customers who have followed her after she embraced pursuit of a college education. Her mom, dad and brother are there, too, all chatting about their day in classic beauty shop style as Raquel snips away. Stealing precious moments with her family and boyfriend while she fits in a side job is another time management tactic that helps Raquel maintain her relationships and support system amidst a hectic schedule.
After attending to her client, there’s an online, computer programming class that requires her attention.
Distance learning classes, a developing new adaptation to the college experience in recent years, are time-savers, providing valuable schedule flexibility for Raquel, who took two of her four fall classes online. Whatever assignments she does not complete this evening, she’ll defer to the weekend.
In addition to the labor intensive New Student Orientation, an already busy next day becomes even more demanding for Raquel, who leads a late afternoon meeting of the campus student organization, Los Latinos, of which she served as president until mid-academic year. She also plays a leadership role as interim vice president of the Student Government Association.
“Running an organization is much different than I expected,” she says. “It’s definitely a lot of pressure. You have to be organized and make sure events go through (as planned) . . .”
With no hair to style that night, Raquel does a little reading for an upcoming class before calling Juan. Since both have schedules that demand an early start the next day, they watch a favorite show together-via the telephone-before saying goodnight about 10:30 p.m.
Reflecting on her day and the students she has helped, she says organization is critical, adding that prioritization and knowing “when to shift things around” are keys.
Sure, there are things that fall through the cracks, she admits. “There are those days I feel overwhelmed, and at the end of the day I cry; I do. It doesn’t happen very often; it’s just those days when I’m super stressed-like when I have a big test or big paper (coming up) and clients. . . Sometimes I get overwhelmed . . . and I cry. I just lose it.”
Still, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“This is me,” she said. “I have to be this way. If I did not have things to do, if I was not busy, I would lose my mind . . .”
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