By Marga Salvador on December 12, 2015
For most college students their main goal while still in school is simple: finish. Some fit a few parties and one too many all-nighters in there, but for Trisha O’Bannon, there was a lot more on her mind than her thesis or the next big party.
A comparative literature student at UP Diliman, Trisha’s university life was already brimming as a member of several student organizations and a drummer for the UP Pep Squad. When her parents inherited a farm from her grandfather in Antipolo, they saw an opportunity and decided to put up a business around selling mulberry products. But like any new business, this was going to make the family’s income shaky for a few months.
Trisha, having just turned 18, decided to do something about it. With the rush of independence that comes with new adulthood, she applied for a job at IBM-Daksh, a call center in UP Technohub. A month later, she had officially become a working student.
From one to the next
Working in tech support, customers would call in and complain about products acting up. Add that to her already full schedule: she would attend classes during the day, go to Pep Squad practice from 6-11pm then work the graveyard shift at IBM from 11pm-8am. The next day she’d do it all over again. Where did she find the time to sleep? Instead of taking her lunch break, she’d forego food and catch up on some sleep. Trisha says that she power-napped her way through the eleven months she was with IBM-Daksh.
It only makes sense that while she was there, Trisha was eyeing a promotion for a training position. When there was an opening, she applied only to be rejected. You need to have been working here for at least a year, they told her, to which Trisha’s eight months with the company fell short. With all the red tape, Trisha had had enough and handed in her resignation.
As fate would have it, Trisha’s next job was only a few buildings away at Manulife’s BPO arm. She landed a part-time job as a copywriter and started right away. Unfortunately, IBM-Daksh was having some problems with attrition at the time so they asked if she could stay on for another month. She obliged and for two months, she was juggling her full university life and two jobs. Trisha’s daily life now looked like this: go to school, fulfill the 4 (sometimes more) hours at Manulife, go back to IBM-Daksh and take a nap in the sleeping room then start her graveyard shift.
After finally being able to leave IBM, things seemed to have stabilized with Manulife for a year or so. When graduation was approaching, she decided to leave Manulife after a year and a half and focus on her studies. With 18 senior units (the full load in UP) and no more steady income, her parents, whose business had also stabilized, came to the rescue and supported her through school for a few months.
It seems like once she had her independence, Trisha couldn’t go back. Towards the end of that semester, a friend connected her with BBDO Guerrero, one of the country’s top advertising agencies and the brains behind the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” slogan and landed an internship with the advertising giant.
After just a month at BBDO Guerrero, she was absorbed into the company as a full-time copywriter and graduation took a backseat. Of the three jobs Trisha’s worked, advertising is the most up her alley. It allows her to express her creativity, work with many different mediums, and expand her network. However, like most good things in life, it doesn't seem to last. Already working with BBDO for six months, it looks like she wasn't going to get regularized anytime soon, so she opted to focus on finishing the last stretch of her senior year.
Living the adult life
Having been working and supporting herself since third year college, Trisha has done a lot of growing up in a short amount of time. A few weeks after getting her first job, she moved out of her parents’ house. When her family's income stabled, she considered moving back, but with work and school and the long commute to Antipolo, it made more sense to stay closer to the city. “I like having the freedom of being able to make my own plans on the spot,” she says.
As she finishes school, her parents can support her but it would still impact their income. Trisha recalls that when they supported her over the 6 month period last year, they were not struggling financially. The bills were paid on time and they were eating well but they couldn’t afford the little luxuries anymore and “I want them to be able to have those little luxuries.”
Through it all, Trisha managed to keep her social life intact and found a way to earn a little extra cash through her interests. She writes and performs spoken word poetry and does freelance figure modeling for art classes and photoshoots. She also managed to lose 50 pounds in the process. Trisha has artfully mastered the balancing act that is the life of a working student.
Ups, downs, and in betweens
When asked what the best part about being a working student, Trisha made no hesitation. “Money, haha, as a working student, you’re young and and have the energy and the drive to do things but if you’re just a student, you don’t have the money to do those things. As a working student, you still feel like a kid a little bit. You wanna enjoy yourself and now you have the means to do it. It also teaches you responsibility which is nice to have before you graduate. There’s a lot more risk if you wait until after.”
On the other side of things, she says the worst thing is not having enough time and not knowing how or what to prioritize. “It’s like you have 50 things to do and they each demand all of your time..I guess now I have the experience to juggle it all.”
Trisha makes it sound easy but she hasn’t gotten to where she is without some trouble along the way. Back in IBM-Daksh, the lack of sleep would get so real that she would be running on two, sometimes less, hours of sleep. Because she was tired, she would doze off during calls, put the caller on hold and take a nap. Before she knew it, 30 minutes had passed and the calls were still on hold. No doubt she got reprimanded for that.
Of course, along with the downs were some proud moments too. While she was still an intern for BBDO Guerrero, she got the chance to work with Yellow Cab and some of her work actually went into print. Walking near a mall some time later, she passed by a branch and saw her work come to life. On top of that, Trisha and her team were the brains behind Mountain Dew’s skate event and competition, The Dew Tour, which took place last month. From the program to the posters, they were the one who made the event a reality.
Today, Trisha is so close to graduating and when asked about her post-university plans, she said she'll give it some time. “Actually, I don’t know. Most people are like, ‘get a job,’ that kind of stuff but I already have all of that, I achieved those things already. So for me, I’ll be happy with a degree.”
If you could give one piece of advice to working students or students aspiring to work, what would it be?
“Do prioritize yourself. It’s so cliche but your health is all you have. Chos. I got sick a lot when I was working two jobs, had training, and I got depressed because I never had enough sleep. No amount of money can ever bring that back. Prioritize yourself if you’re dying [from all the work]. There are other ways to earn money.There are other jobs that won’t kill you… If you're a working student, you don’t always have to do what you love because this is like a stepping stone to the rest of your life.”