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How to survive working in your university’s dining halls

Keep smiling like this dude. Source: Petr Sevcovic on Unsplash

Unless you’re one of the rich international student sporting luxury cars and Chanel handbags, chances are you could do with a job while studying in university.

Every job has its own set of nightmares and on-campus ones are, unfortunately, not exempt from this.

Especially if your on-campus job happens to take place in your university’s dining halls.

The good news is a job is always better than no job and your seniors have survived to live to tell the tale. Here’s their advice on how to tough it up as a dining services personnel on campus:

1. Remind yourself “It’s just food” 

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Serving food means you’re going to put yourself amongst the hangry population. They will be snappy and at times, shout at your for not serving them fast enough. Remind yourself that at the end of the day, this is just food. The students, however hangry they are, will get their food in due time.

2. People will not be nice. Do not let this consume you.

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Lesson one: The people you’re serving won’t say “hello” and “thank you”. Respect and decent manners will be scarce, same goes with eye contact. These nastiness increase if their favourite ice cream flavour has run out, or even if there’s too much sauce on their sandwich. Don’t take this personally – give them the benefit of the doubt and rise above them. Nod, smile and move on instead of letting it consume you.

3. Keep calm and conquer stress

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Appliances will break down, supervisors will scold you and there will be days when you have to clean up vomit. Like any job, a shift in a dining hall is not a fairytale. Stress is part of the job – the sooner you learn how to accept and adapt, the sooner you will find the job much easier. Plus point – you get to sharpen those problem-solving skills as well.

3. Your colleagues are your allies

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Who else to better understand your frustration than those in the same boat as you? Your colleagues will get you through the tough time with hangry students, show you the ropes if you’re a rookie and when you’re sick,  trade and cover shifts for you. With enough trials and tribulations working together in the minefield that is the dining hall, you could earn a life-long friend or two from work.

4. It’s not CV material but great to cultivate life skills

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Trust us on this. Nothing teaches you crucial life skills like humility, problem-solving and critical thinking than serving students during peak lunch hours. Not only does it exhaust you physically, it will suck your brain juices dry trying to multi-task between the filling the drink machines, cleaning tables and wiping the counters. Your career counselor may tell you not to list your dining service work among your academic qualifications on your CV, but your future self will pat you on the back as something you can be proud of.

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