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For a typical Penn student, the weekend means free time. Some students choose to go to Rittenhouse square or Clark Park to study. Others see it as an opportunity to drink. A lot of students also use their weekends to take advantage of the great dining options Philadelphia has to offer.

Myself? I’m on the other side of the food experience — I work in one of those restaurants.

On the weekends I work as a host at Amis, an Italian restaurant in Center City. The job isn’t really that difficult — I’ve been working in the restaurant industry since freshman year of high school. I make enough money there to pay the bills and then I have enough left over to hit the bars every once in awhile.

Though I love having a part-time job, I recognize that some concerns Penn students might have in taking one are legitimate. I don’t have as much time to study as I probably need. And while a lot of my peers get to go see Strictly Funk and the Excelano Project on the weekends, I have to work.

But the benefits of holding down a part-time job far outweigh the costs.

The first and most obvious perk is the money. I know that every Friday my paycheck will be deposited and I’ll be ready to go. I never have to worry too much about my checking account being overdrawn, and I always have the cash to do the things I want to do.

On that note, the second perk is definitely the independence. There’s a nice feeling that goes along with earning your own money and paying your own bills. My cell phone is in my name. I pay my own rent (granted, Student Financial Services definitely helps out). It’s gratifying to not have to call my parents to ask for a few extra dollars every time I need money.

And then there’s the food. A little known fact — when you work for a top-tier restaurant and you go out to eat there, they take care of you. On top of that, every day when I go into work the kitchen makes a meal for the staff. It’s a great way to bond with coworkers, and we never get hungry during our shifts because of it.

But perhaps most importantly is the new circle of friends you make when you work off-campus. I know a group of people now that I never would have met had I failed to venture outside of school in search of employment. They’re great people from all walks of life — some who have made a career out of working in the restaurant industry, and others, like me, who just need a little extra cash to help pay for school.

Breaking out of the legendary Penn bubble has definitely provided me with another dimension of the college experience that I otherwise would not have had. As disappointing as it is, the stereotype of the Penn student who rarely ventures outside of University City is true. As a result, few students truly experience what it’s like to live in a vibrant city like Philadelphia. Having a part-time job is a great way to explore life in the city outside of Penn.

I realize that not every student who needs a job is lucky enough to find one as great as I have. These aren’t the best economic times, and jobs are definitely scarce. That being said, if you are provided with the opportunity to work part-time during your Penn years, I highly recommend taking advantage. The sense of independence alone is worth it.

And besides, if you’re planning to jump into politics at any point, using that whole “I worked my way through college” line definitely won’t hurt you.

Dennie Zastrow is a College senior from Wilson, N.Y. He is the former chairman of the Lambda Alliance. His e-mail address is A Dennie For Your Thoughts appears on Thursdays.

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