EL PASO – Attending college is difficult enough, but imagine going to school full-time and working full-time.
Many of us at the University of Texas at El Paso are living proof that this is very possible, but it is one tough trek.
Affordable tuition makes it accessible to students who cannot afford more expensive universities and its location as a border city gives more people the chance to attend UTEP. The university is diverse in culture and in the ages of its students, since many of them take more time to graduate than expected because they are working full time.
Going on my fifth year of college, I have felt a little ashamed at times that I wasn’t able to finish it in four years. People always told me, “You can do it if you really put your mind to it. Why don’t you just cut your hours at work.” But then as I look around I realize I’m not the only one who is on the same difficult road.
“It is a struggle going to school and working and keeping up with your classes,” said Armando Morales, a UTEP student.
It is so easy for people to observe and say, “Well you don’t have to work; you can just focus on school.” Being Hispanic and living in a Hispanic culture makes it very difficult to get what you want without working for it. Many students come from families who can’t afford many things, which leaves no other choice but to work. Countless students at UTEP are paying their own way through college, so even if they wanted to finish school faster by taking more classes that would set them back, because it means more hours at work.
I started working when I was 16 in a typical first job at a fast food restaurant and it was tough going through high school and working.
Since my freshman year of college I have been a full time student and have been working full and part time. This is my fifth year of school and as I get closer to graduating, I look back and don’t know how I have kept up with my grades and work.
Many students have had the privilege of just focusing on school and not having to work, while others have had to work, take care of a family and attempt to fit school in their crazy schedule.
“I was a senior in college when I got pregnant and had my baby. It was a tough obstacle working full time, taking care of my baby, and going to school full time. It takes a lot to learn how to manage your time,” said Christina Lopez, another UTEP student.
I don’t regret working, because it has taught me a lot about myself. I know my weaknesses, strengths and limits. School has always been number one in my life, and work has always worked around my school schedule so if I needed to work part-time then I would, but not everyone has that privilege of finding a job that will work with your school schedule.
It may have taken me a lot more time to graduate with my bachelor’s degree, but I will graduate and I plan to come back for my master’s because now I know how to manage my time.