Jack Keane, ‘24, works as a part-time software engineer for Nuuly, a clothing rental and thrift platform. Keane balances classes and work with anywhere from six to 12 hours of work a week. (Courtesy photo)

Students discuss the reality of balancing school and work


Between taking courses, sustaining mental and physical health and maintaining a social life, college students often juggle many responsibilities.

On top of this, some students also pursue internships or part-time jobs.  

Jack Keane, ‘24, works as a part-time software engineer for Nuuly, a clothing rental and thrift platform. 

Nuuly is a part of URBN, a collective of global consumer brands such as Urban Outfitters, Free People and Anthropologie.

Keane said he credits his fraternity’s alumni network for his success in finding an internship and throughout the interview and application process. 

Keane said he interned for Nuuly over the summer, spending 10 weeks working from home.

“I loved the comfort and accessibility of working remotely and the incredible mentorship I was receiving,” Keane said.

During the semester, Keane said he works anywhere from six to 12 hours a week, as a member of Nuuly’s Backend Service Code Team. 

While balancing classes with an internship may pose lots of challenges for students, Keane said the team of senior engineers and product managers he works with are understanding of his curricular responsibilities. 

“They are very understanding of the sudden difficulties that taking university classes poses,” Keane said.

Keane said for many students, internships are considered “gateways” into their future careers, which faces them with a large amount of pressure. 

Lauren Dougherty, ‘23, a political science and English double major, is interning for Congresswoman Susan Wild in the district office this semester. 

Although the internship is unpaid, Dougherty said she receives academic credit.

Dougherty said her day-to-day responsibilities include answering constituent phone calls, assisting with constituent casework, retrieving mail and other office tasks. 

During her spring semester abroad, Dougherty said she worked as an intern for a political office, which led her to pursue her current congressional internship in Bethlehem. 

Dougherty said she works two full 9-to-5 days each week, in addition to her other classes. She said although she has less downtime, the hours are manageable. 

At a career-oriented school like Lehigh, Dougherty said she thinks there is a lot of pressure to find internships, but it differs throughout each college. 

“It often seems we are surrounded by business and engineering majors who have internships that set them up for a job after college,” Dougherty said. “This is not the case for social science and humanities majors.”

Dougherty said this puts pressure on students in the College of Arts and Sciences to find internships to stop them from feeling like they are falling behind. 

Nicole Strzepek, ‘23, is interning for City Center, a real estate development company based in Allentown.

Strzepek said she is currently working on enhancing the connectivity between two separate districts in Allentown — focusing on the economic development and revitalization of the downtown area. 

“Finding the right work-life balance has definitely been a challenge,” Strzepek said. “Prioritizing mental health and taking breaks when needed has helped.”

Strzepek said her internship adds structure and responsibility to her life, but has led to a mental strain, making it harder to put that mental effort towards school assignments. 

Strzepek said she thinks the pressure to find an internship is an “emotional contagion” that spreads to students.

Some Lehigh students opt for work study positions at Lehigh, instead of a paid internship.

Alicia Eskridge, ‘23, works at Fairchild-Martindale Library as an undergraduate assistant, working behind the help desk and in the interlibrary loan office. 

Some of Eskridge’s responsibilities include locating books, pointing students in the right direction and retrieving and scanning books to be shipped to other university libraries.

Eskridge said she has been working this position since her freshman year. 

Now a senior, Eskridge lives off campus and fully supports herself by working eight hours a week. 

She said she had unpaid internships throughout high school, but she is at a point in her life where she is “not working for free.” 

“I applaud those that can balance work and school,” Eskridge said. “But I also value not overworking yourself.” 

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