All work and no college: finding the balance when working part time

College fees seem to go solely in one direction: up. Even the grant system can only help the average student so much by merely paying a percentage of the fees. Where does the rest come from? Perhaps your parents can afford to pay them, or you were smart and started saving early and have the money sitting in your Credit Union account. For the rest, a part time job seems to be the only way to make ends meet, not just for college fees, but for basic needs such as food, and in some cases, accommodation. It almost seems like the norm that students struggle financially.

It is not just the stress of having no money that inflicts a majority of Irish third level students, but having a part time job can also be quite stressful. Now you have to find a balance between two almost equally stressful situations. It’s a catch-22: you can’t afford not to work and you can’t afford not to attend classes. Fees are so high that it can almost feel like you’re throwing away money not attending your evening classes for the sake of making your 5.00pm work shift. Kind of ironic, isn’t it?

Fortunately, a lot of employers will do their best to arrange your shifts around your college schedule, but is that really enough? You can’t ask more of your employer, but working evenings and weekends can take its toll. Suddenly you have no time to do your assignments outside of college hours and you can’t remember when you had a day that was free of work and college. A good idea is to book your work holiday entitlements when you have a week off college also, for example, the reading weeks. You can get assignments done and still have time for yourself.

Finding the balance

It all depends on how much money a week you can live on. Some may find that they have to take on extra hours just to pay off loans or rent. Others find they can work just two days a week and still have money left over. Everyone needs a balance, but it’s not the same balance.

Working weekends only may not seem ideal because you’re guaranteed no weekends off for the duration of the terms. However, the upside of not working the weekdays means you have rest periods as well as time to do your assignments, because face it, if you had weekends off you wouldn’t waste them doing assignments anyway. Another plus is that most college courses provide at least one day during the week in which there are no classes. Think of the possibilities!

On the other hand, if you would prefer not to spend your weekend working long shifts, then working evenings can be manageable. Ensure that your employer knows when you can and cannot work. Also take into account the time it takes you to travel from college to work. If, for example, it takes you two hours in heavy traffic to get there in the evenings, chances are you won’t make it for your 6.00pm shift after finishing college at 5.00pm. However, if you finish at 4.00pm, you will more than likely make it; just don’t pressure yourself if you feel it is too much.

College and work can be stressful in their own ways, but they are manageable as long as they don’t clash with each other. No one can tell you what way to arrange your timetable, the only advice is to arrange it so that you’re comfortable and that you are no longer dealing with unnecessary stress.


Selective Eating Disorder: Fussy Eating or Something More?

Your friend invites you over for dinner, or perhaps your other half finally wants you to meet their parents at a fancy Chinese restaurant. No big deal, right? Wrong! You desperately Google the restaurant you’re going to, or try to work out what your friend will serve for dinner, and hope that it’s something you like, or at least something you can stomach. You fear hating everything and leaving your dinner untouched. Won’t your hosts be offended? They will assume you don’t like their cooking, or that they wasted money on you in the restaurant. Why did you agree to dinner in the first place?

You may immediately be perceived as a fussy eater, you are basically choosing not to eat. However, take an individual who cannot bring themselves to eat certain types of food even though they are starving. Can that really be classed as just fussy eating also?

Selective Eating Disorder (SED) is a term coined to describe individuals with an avoidance of certain foods based on their colour, smell and/or texture. It is also referred to as picky eating or food neophobia (Strochlic, 2012). When you hear the term eating disorder, your first thoughts might be Anorexia or Bulimia, both of which are triggered by an individual’s self-image and food choices are influenced by calorie content (Reel, 2013).

SED is an under-researched phenomenon that has led to wrongful assumptions by health professionals. One such assumption is that it only occurs in children. This could be due to the fact that children are more than likely to be treated because they are dependent on their parent/guardian who would be monitoring their child’s eating habits. An adult, on the other hand, may never seek help for their limited diet.

Fussy eating can start in childhood, which, if not treated properly, can lead to future dietary and health problems in adulthood. According to Sarah Keogh, a Nutritionist for the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, ‘There’s a very short window for [children] to get used to different flavours and textures. I think it’s between 6 months and 16 months that if children aren’t exposed to enough textures and flavours they start to refuse them.’

In some cases entire food groups can be avoided, e.g. vegetables. Leaving out a food group means the body is not getting its necessary intake of particular nutrients. Also, the food preferences of someone with SED may not necessarily be healthy. According to Reel (2013), adult selective eaters identified French fries and bacon as their chosen meals.

The lack of research not only leaves the prevalence of the disorder unknown, but it makes treating it a challenge. Felix Economakis, a chartered psychologist and clinical hypnotist from London, has treated approximately 300 people for SED in his clinic. He says he has experienced it in two forms: a phobic form and a sensory processing disorder (SPD). The phobic form, the more common of the two, occurs like most phobias: from a traumatic experience in childhood that creates avoidance of a certain food, e.g. choking on a particular food, or associating a food with an underlying stomach bug.

‘Once in my 20s I drank too much red wine and threw up a few times. I couldn’t even look at red wine for over a year. Now imagine being very little and having intolerance or [an] allergy to dairy or certain proteins, wheat, gluten or whatever, and getting repeated cramps when eating such foods. It’s no wonder the system will go into over-drive and refuse all potentially painful new foods.’


Such a phobia, he insists, can be treated in a one- to two-hour treatment session in his clinic using a mixture of therapies based on systemic therapy, Gestalt therapy, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and hypnosis.

SPD, on the other hand, is rare, and results from a sensory processing problem. Felix has encountered difficulty trying to treat ‘pure’ SPD in one session. ‘However, it should also be pointed out that I haven’t had the chance to see if I can change SPD over several sessions using hypnosis to change the focus of attention, stimulation or sensitivity.’

It is very possible for individuals to think they have SPD, when it is actually SED. ‘Many people I have successfully treated who made remarks about texture or smell at the start of the session assumed they had the SPD version,’ Felix continues, insisting that an individual’s perception is influenced by fear. ‘Once the underlying fear was removed, their perception was ‘uncontaminated’ by fear and they could assess food more objectively and problems with texture and taste simply cleared up.’

To make matters even more complicated, the disorder is constantly misdiagnosed by health professionals who have never heard of it. ‘SED often gets overlooked and misdiagnosed by doctors and therapists, as they confuse one with the other. Sometimes they diagnose SED/OCD/autism when it is extreme fussy eating and other times they diagnose fussy eating/OCD/autism when it is SED.’

Untreated SED can lead to physical and emotional problems, both in the long- and short-term. Physical long-term problems of selective eaters may include low energy, lethargy, irritable mood swings, poorer concentration, more frequent colds/coughs, sleeping issues, overweight/underweight, etc. However, emotional problems can also cause great distress; these include exclusion, sadness, guilt, self-esteem issues, self-consciousness, shame, problems keeping relationships, etc.

It clear that more research is needed on this disorder, something Felix agrees with based on the feedback he has received: ‘Most UK and US doctors and health professionals are clueless and recommend unhelpful approaches such as starving. They do not realise the difference between SED and fussy eating.’

In Ireland, it is a challenge to find a nutritionist or a dietician who has treated SED. Sarah Keogh admits that she has never treated an individual who has been officially diagnosed with this disorder, but has treated individuals who were classed (usually by the individuals themselves) as fussy eaters. ‘You would occasionally have an adult come in to be helped with their fussy eating and it’s almost always the feel of the food, whether it’s the texture, that it’s crunchy, or it’s difficult.’

As of May 2013, SED has been recognised by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), however, it is now called Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). A diagnosis of this disorder is made if an individual does not show signs of ‘traditional’ eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, but experiences significant disturbances with eating and food (, 2013). Whether or not this acknowledgement by the manual will create better awareness of SED, among the public and/or health professionals, remains to be seen.

Innie the Introverted Store Assistant: Stay in School

Working on the self service tills can be very stressful. You’re given eight separate tills to supervise and it’s impossible to spot shoplifters on a busy day. To make my life easier, I carry the plastic bags on my arm so I can give it to customers without them needing to search for them.
It’s worth noting that in Ireland, it’s 22c for a standard plastic bag, which goes to the Government, not the store.
Its lunchtime on a Tuesday and it’s starting to get busy. A young girl of about 15 or 16 approaches me, obviously from the community school across the road, judging by her uniform.
‘Where do you get them bags?’ she asks, indicating the wad of plastic bags on my arm.
I’m confused. Perhaps she didn’t see the bags in my hand, but…
‘These bags?’ I reply, holding up the plastic bags.
‘Uh…from me?’
‘Oh right. Can I have one?’

How to survive college as an introvert

You make an excuse as to why you can’t join your classmates for a trip to the pub after a long day of classes. You prefer to spend your lunchtime in a quiet classroom or the library rather than a noisy, crowded canteen. Basically you just want to come to college, do what you have to do, and go home again. Congratulations, you’re introverted!

College can seem like a scary place to introverts, who need a lot more personal space than others. Stepping into Freshers Week you suddenly find yourself surrounded by students and organisations trying to pull you in. There is nowhere to hide, you are to brave the masses and hope you come out the other side in one piece. But don’t worry, it gets easier.

The biggest challenge of an introvert, I find, is how little extraverts understand you. They thrive on social situations and yet here you are, sitting alone, not doing much of anything. You sit in silence and it’s clear your mind is somewhere else. How can this be? You will find extraverts will try to change you. They will insist on you joining them to every social event the college has to offer, and saying no becomes more difficult as time goes by. In the end, having said no so many times, you will find yourself never being asked again. They have learned their lesson; you’re not going leave your shell any time soon.

It may seem to the majority that you want to be a loner, and maybe you do. However, it’s not always the case. You still want friends. A close-knit group of friends, not over two hundred strangers on Facebook latched to your account. You find yourself being the only one in the computer lab during lunch minding everyone’s bags while they go to the canteen. The biggest failure to yourself is wishing you were extraverted. There is nothing wrong with being introverted. It’s just the way you are.

After four years studying an undergraduate degree and currently studying a year in postgraduate, I still find myself avoiding social events. Some genuinely cannot be helped because I work part time. However, I find if you really want to make the effort and leave college with at least one forever friend, which I do, go to a social event but just stay for a couple of hours. You don’t need to make up excuses, more than likely you will have college the following morning, or you will have been up since 7.00am or 8.00am and are beyond exhausted. If you really don’t want to be the first to leave, or to be the only one, arrange to leave with another person because more than likely others will also want to leave early for whatever reason.

The best advice I can give you for making friends, though I don’t consider myself an expert, is to avoid saying no too often. As I mentioned before, people will eventually stop asking you to go out if you repeatedly turn them down. More than likely you would rather meet up with just a few people you get along with, so why not arrange something? Go to the cinema, grab a bite to eat, go for a drink, etc. Don’t leave everything to the other person. Taking control of the situation will make the social side of college a lot more comfortable and you will leave with friends who understand you and accept you for the way you are.