This is the eighth post in the “Christa in the UK” series – stories from the year 2009 and 2010 during my time living, studying, working and traveling in a small beach town called Bournemouth in South West England.
As a broke student student with limited funding, I was challenged to work part – time during my time in the UK. My student visa allowed me to work maximum 20 hours per week part – time, so I began searching for a part – time job after I considered myself settled in, approximately soon after my second term started. I figured it was the perfect activity to actually immerse myself in student life. Okay I was being subtle, truth is I desperately needed the job because I spent all my money traveling throughout the UK on my Christmas break … hahaha :p
I wanted to work in fancy department store or at least one of those high-street brands, so those stores were my first destination. I didn’t even get called back. I thought working in cinema sounds cool, again I didn’t hear a thing back. My last resort was the fast food industry. I saw an ad in front of a particular fast food restaurant; let’s just call it “The Burger”. Apparently luck was on my side – I got the job after my first interview! I started the next day for training as “Restaurant Crew Member”. Sounds fancy, right? In reality I had to handle everything from cleaning – cooking – as well as working in the cashier. I worked there for approximately 7 months until I was about to finalise my dissertation and I can tell you it was one hella experience!
Because my uni life was a priority, I did not take 20 hours per week; I think I took around 10 – 12 hours only. I worked mostly on weekends taking long shifts so I could focus on my study on weekdays. There are three types of shifts based on my experience; morning – afternoon – night. Morning shift means I started my work at 7, got 1 hour to prepare before the restaurant opened at 8. I liked morning shift, the restaurant was pretty quiet during that time and I loved the restaurant’s breakfast menu which I could get for free after several hours of work :D. Night shift means I had to close the restaurant which also means cleaning the whole thing. From tables to the toilet, everything must be crystal clean before we left the restaurant. It’s a lot of work, but in return it’s always a longer shift so more £££ for me and sometimes I got to bring home leftover meats (if any) which I can recook at home as a topping for fried rice (SCORE!! :p).
What I like the least was afternoon shift. Especially on weekends, the restaurant got very busy during that time and I always got the cashier position, so I had direct interaction with the customers. Let me tell you this, fast food restaurants have very “unique” customers. No, I’m not talking about the drunken ones. They were considered normal compared to this particular customer that I met on a very particular day.
So this woman came with her son. I greeted her, “Hello welcome to The Burger, how can I help?”. She ordered the most expensive meal and asked to upsize everything. In total she spent around £30 which was considerably a lot to be spent at a fast food restaurant for just 2 people. Not long after, she came back to me, shouting that she wanted to see my manager. She complained to my manager that she found some hair in her burger!! Uh-oh… My manager quickly offered to give her a replacement but she refused. She told him that she just wanted her money back because she lost appetite. She started to make a scene but my manager handled her quickly, she got her money back in no time. After she left, another customer approached my manager and told him that SHE DID THAT ALL THE TIME!!! That customer had a restaurant and she had used that trick to him too, to get her money back. Guess what, when we checked her food leftover, we saw that the hair there was dark and long – more or less like hers, while in fact all of our kitchen staffs that time had short and light hair. Unbelievable! Me and my fellow crew members could only laugh about it.
Talking about my fellow crew members.. I met very interesting people during my time there. There were the annoying locals who thought they were better at everything simply because they worked there longer, had better accent and well, they’re local. There were the immigrants who were trying to make it. Most of them came with a student visa like me but they wanted to immigrate eventually because they wanted a better life. If not working, they were busy studying English in a local language course or taking a short course to enrich themselves. What I found amazing was the fact that some of them actually had decent career in where they came from. There was this one guy from South America who was an Engineer but wanted to study English. There was another girl from Eastern Europe who had worked as an accountant but left her country to find a better job. This post can be too long if I share all their stories but surely they have changed the way I see the world now, I used to hear that this world is big but it was not until I met them I realize that it IS big and the opportunities are endless if we want to leave our comfort zone. I now believe that it’s ok to start over and leave everything, and there will always be opportunities for those who want to work hard :). Well I don’t know where they are now, I do hope they have made it because I saw that they worked hard in the process.
So that’s a glimpse of my part-time work experience. There are ups and downs, I cried but I mostly laugh, and most importantly it helped me survive financially… plus I got to splurge on discounted high-street brands too! 😀
Have you ever worked part-time? What was it like?