Credits: Justin Hee @ jh.pixels

School – not quite sure I can clearly remember what that is anymore. Now at the glorious age of 24, I have a whopping total of 16 years spent studying and roughly 2 years of work experience, give and take. And while I will forever miss the torturous years I spent in law school, I enjoy working quite a bit!

Most of my school life is a blur, to be honest. Primary school mostly consisted of me being a very timid but ambitious child. I was so afraid of failing that when I got 4As and 1B for my final exam before secondary school, I ended up crying on my living room floor for the rest of the day. In my little 12-year-old mind, I thought I was going to end up as a failure. Hah, overly dramatic as usual.

As for secondary school, I hated most of it. Sure, I had friends and did relatively alright in terms of my studies but I don’t think I have any fond memory from that time in my life that really stood out. My weekends were mostly spent in church, and being the first child, my parents were a bit more protective so I hardly went out anywhere.

Which now brings us to college and university – my favourite parts. Although I’m not in contact with all my friends from that period, the ones that I am still in contact with are important key people in my life. University was the turning point for me though. The two years I spent in Sheffield grew me as a person and pushed me out of my comfort zone like never before. And it really built my confidence and independence – I am capable of keeping my home clean and relatively neat.

Anyway, I digress. Currently, I am in my second year of work. My first job was quite an experience – learning about fashion, sharpening my skills as a writer and cultivating a habit of being consistent in my work. After about a year in FABSPY and INK, I left the company and moved on to corporate copywriting in YTL Corporation.

Experience is important, and I have to say that it has been quite a journey moving from one stage in life to another. Rather than ramble on aimlessly, I decided to share with all of you a list of things that are different about school and work – for me at least.

Depending on how you decide to organise your schedules, you get a lot more free time at work than you do at school. Of course, this is relative, because you do have more contact hours for work than you do for school. For example, in university, I would spend an average of 4 hours a day going for classes and seminars, which leaves me with a lot of spare time but this is also time that I would have to use for studying and other extracurricular activities. Unless you choose to not study, then I suppose you have a lot of time on your hands. With work, however, you are free to use it as you like once you leave the office. Unless you have to clean your toilet, you basically can use that time doing what you enjoy.

Working gives me the flexibility to use my time however I like. Usually, I spend my downtime writing, planning shoots or hanging out with my family and friends. Sometimes though, I prefer to just be by myself and unwind with my Korean variety shows. If you must know, my Monday nights are usually for Running Man. This is non-negotiable unless completely necessary.

This is actually a sub-point to the point above. You will have homework and you will have to sit for exams as long as you are in school. Even if it’s not an actual exam paper, you will have things like a thesis or other written work that will need to be submitted. No such thing exists in the working world. Need I really say more? Save of course, for the presentations that you have to prepare for work. In that case, you have homework but it’s not an exam you’ll be scared of – more like your livelihood lest you lose your bread and butter.

While you are still in school, your livelihood is dependent on the allowance that you get from your parents unless you have a part-time job to sustain yourself. As someone who has been working and receiving a paycheque every month, I can tell you that it feels good to see your bank account go up because now you can save money that is yours and spend money that is also yours. But everything in moderation, okay. Don’t just use 100% of your salary on stuff. This is Asian me, not shopaholic me, speaking to you.

You learn so much more when you work than you do in school. While I agree that head knowledge is so important, I think soft skills benefit us more in the long run. Think about it, what’s the point of knowing Section 77(1) of The Companies Act 2006 word for word if you don’t know how to use an inkjet printer – you get my drift bro? Not to brag, but my math has also significantly deteriorated since my last math paper in college. Never been good at maths anyway, and what is the point of calculators being invented if we don’t use them?

Jokes aside, I have learned so much more in the last two years of work than I have during my entire time in school. My writing has improved twofold and my confidence to speak in public has also multiplied. I hardly ever have jittery moments like what happened during mooting sessions in law school. And there’s so much to learn still!

Depending on how much time you allocate every night to watching YouTube on your phone (guilty, as charged) then you won’t be doing much sleeping regardless of whether you’re a student or a working. But there is one thing that both groups of people can appreciate, and that is sleeping in on weekends! If you’re a morning person and don’t sleep in then here’s a clap for you. You win in life while the rest of us just rot in our beds past 10am. Thanks a lot for setting such a high standard by being overachievers (lol).

On hindsight in making that last statement, I do wake up early for my fashion shoots. The other way to get me up early is to tempt me with food but as much as I love food, sometimes the call of my pillow is much stronger than the scent of freshly grilled bacon.

Your main responsibility as a student is to study and not waste the precious resource that your parents have invested in for your education. In other words, you should try as hard as possible to not fail your university degree. If you are Asian, you especially have no choice (HAHAHA).

Working gives you a whole new set of responsibilities, even if you don’t want them. You will have bills and other commitments to pay for. You will have to budget your monthly expenses and make sure your bank account balance doesn’t hit zero one week after your paycheque comes in. If you own a car like I do, you have to make sure the tires don’t go flat and the sticker on your dashboard is a constant reminder that you need to service the engine. Hey, hey, you’re an adult!

While I loved being a student, I have to say I prefer work life – for now, at least. Ask me again in a few years. Maybe I’ll change my mind!