"What 'alba' do you do?" is an often-heard phrase among Korean youth. The term "alba" is a shortened-version of the word "arbeit" which means work in German. In Korea, however, the word is used to denote a part-time job. Numerous university students in Korea perform various "alba"s from teaching English at academies to playing the role of extras for drama series and passing out advertisement leaflets. Students engage themselves in various ?lba not only to earn pocket money, but also to expand their knowledge and get a head start on experiencing the ?eal world after college.
The Voice asked three students from Dongguk University, Kim Hyung-jong (Liberal Arts, 3), Kim Sung-ho (Engineering, 3), and Seo Yong-geun (Engineering, 2), to participate in a panel discussion to talk about their diverse part-time job experiences as university students in Korea. Their elaborations on the types of work, the purposes behind them, and the routes a student must take to get a job offer some insight into the part-time job culture among university students in Korea.
Q: What kind of part-time jobs have you taken as a student?
Kim H: I've taken a variety of part-time jobs. I've worked in the administration office at the Korean National Open University answering phone calls and doing office jobs. I've also worked as a waiter at Spaghettia and have tutored high school students by forming a group tutoring company with my friends. I once worked as a model in the Metro newspaper advertising the "Love Actually" DVD.
Kim S: I've worked at a bookbindery, passed out leaflets and newspapers. I?e worked night shifts at a convenience store because I have to go to school during the day.
Seo: I did my "alba" at a barbecue chicken and pork restaurant serving as a waiter as well as helping out with moving the charcoal and doing kitchen work.
Q: How did you find out about the job?
Kim H: Most of the time I find my part-time jobs through the Internet from Alba (http://www.alba.co.kr) or through acquaintances.
Kim S: My friends usually give me the information about part-time jobs through people they know.
Seo: I found jobs by looking through leaflets posted outside restaurants.
Q: Why did you take a part-time job as a university student?
Kim H: I wanted to "leap outside of the well" and see a bigger world. Also, I wanted to meet many people from different backgrounds. Making extra money for personal expenses so as not to depend on my parents was one of my reasons as well. However, the money I earned wasn't much.
Seo: I wanted to face the "real world" and simply do things that I wasn't able to do during high school. However, money earned by part-time jobs isn? that much so it didn? help me too much with my financial situation.
Q: What lessons did you learn from taking a part-time job?
Kim H: I could really feel the chill of the recession and realized that people were not spending as much as before.
Kim S: I learned that treating customers like "kings," as every shop's motto states it does, isn't really easy after all. There was a man at the convenience store who yelled at me because the price of cigarettes had increased. This irritated me but I still had to keep quiet and treat him respectfully.
Seo: Earning money isn't simple. Also, I became conscious of the fact that sexual discrimination existed in society by working at restaurants. Where I worked, men had to perform labor-intensive jobs cleaning and moving charcoals, whereas women only served tables. All in all, it was a meaningful experience for me to widen my horizons during my college days.
|▲ Exchange students talk about ?lba in the US, New Zealand, and Germany.|
The Voice also interviewed three exchange students: Steve from the United States, Catherine from New Zealand, and Axel from Germany to ask about what types of part-time jobs students in their countries do and compare those to the situation in Korea.
Q: What part-time jobs do students in your country take?
Steve: In the United States, many students work as bartenders and waitresses because they are high-paying jobs in which one can earn up to $250 for ten hours labor a night. Although, the work may be arduous, they are popular among college students because they are high-paying. The funny thing is that the most generous tippers are usually students. Personally, I took a job at a car dealership where I got the chance to drive all sorts of cars all over the United States to check the engines and so on. I loved the job!
Axel: In Germany, numerous students work on the assembly lines of factories because students can earn substantially more there than when serving at a restaurant. I once worked at a factory making sound absorbers. Universities also offer many office jobs.
Catherine: In New Zealand, students usually take part-time jobs at the supermarket or retail stores. The city councils also offer campaign jobs. Fruit-picking is also big in New Zealand. Students simply go pick apples and kiwis from trees and enjoy themselves in the green pasture. I myself have ushered at concert halls helping people find their seats.
Q: Why do students take part-time jobs?
Steve: Students in the United States take part-time jobs because they have to find money to pay their apartment rents and pay back student loans. It's quite different here in Korea where students simply take part-time jobs for extra pocket money and new experiences because they are not financially independent and still get support from their parents.
Axel: In Germany, students take part-time jobs for the pursuit of luxuries like travel expenses, and so on. Students are also supported by their parents and states pay tuition fees for students who can't pay. I guess it's a little bit different everywhere.