MS in Commerce Blog
Student Life

Balancing School and Work by Hamza Belafia (M.S. in Commerce ’21)

Social media intern Hamza Belafia helps promote the McIntire graduate student experience through his role with the Office of Graduate Marketing & Pre-Experience Recruiting. Hear about how he manages part-time work with graduate coursework and learn his tips for success.


Like many students in the UVA community and here at McIntire, I am pursuing a postgraduate degree while working part time. To balance work and school simultaneously is a difficult and daunting challenge for any student; however, the team I work with at the McIntire School of Commerce fosters an environment where I can not only focus on my education, but also have the flexibility and opportunity to serve as a social media intern for the Office of Graduate Marketing & Pre-Experience Recruiting.

While I have held several roles as an Undergraduate Research Assistant at UVA, none of my previous roles prepared me for the remote learning and working environment that we are currently experiencing. Fortunately for me and my M.S. in Accounting colleague who serves as the other social media intern, our part-time roles with the School offer a flexible working environment in which our supervisor understands the rigor of our respective programs and works with us to set expectations. This is partly due to the nature of the role, which is specifically designed for McIntire graduate students.

Outside of roles like mine, graduate students also have the opportunity to serve as Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Student Ambassadors. While being a TA is a more traditional role that graduate students serve at institutions across the country, students who serve as ambassadors for the McIntire programs are able to offer prospective students unique perspectives on their experience and lead virtual events like coffee chats, during which they answer any questions pertaining to the McIntire culture and community, among other topics.

Upon starting my role, I devised a plan that enabled me to balance my work and studies in a way that didn’t overwhelm me both mentally and physically. Here are some of my tips for navigating graduate studies with work:

  • Identify a workplace. Having a designated spot to get your work done helps keep you from distractions and remain productive.
  • Organize your priorities. Organizing and writing down tasks starting with your highest priorities will help you to know what to tackle first.
  • Become a master of your time. Be intentional about how you choose to spend your time. Avoiding procrastination can be hard, but it’s important to limit it whenever you can.
  • Communicate. Be open and communicate with your managers and professors to make sure you are all on the same page. Most of the time, they will want to help you when you are feeling overwhelmed, especially if you are proactive and approach them early.
  • Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you are struggling. You will learn more when you ask for help and admit that you are facing a challenge than if you try to struggle through it on your own.

During my time at McIntire, I have had the opportunity to interact with professionals from all different roles within the School. Through these interactions, I have learned about many different opportunities on Grounds and ways I can get more involved in the McIntire community. Working alongside many of the individuals who helped me through my graduate school admissions process has not only been rewarding, but has encouraged me to play a role in the process for others, which I can do through my social media role.

Employment opportunities for students are varied and plentiful. While having the opportunity to work is important, it is essential that students also prioritize self-care while juggling multiple commitments at a time.

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