Kylteri 02/23
Aalto business students Aappo (right), Amanda (middle), and Duc (left) share their vibrant journey of juggling studies and work, inspiring a blend of ambition and practicality in the student–professional life.

Striking a Balance: Students Navigating the Work-Study Labyrinth

At Aalto University, a unique breed of student thrives, mastering the art of balancing academic rigors with professional commitments. This narrative delves into the lives of Aappo, Amanda, and Duc, who exemplify the synergy between work and education. Their stories transcend time management and financial strategies, offering a glimpse into the drive that propels ambitious individuals forward. Through their experiences, we aim to debunk myths, impart wisdom, and illuminate the intricate dance of earning a wage and a degree, providing insights for those navigating or contemplating this multifaceted journey.

Aappo Häkkinen is a first-year Master’s Business Analytics student at Aalto University School of Business, with a three-year Bachelor's in Business Analytics at LUT University. Professionally, he is honing his skills as an analyst at an IT company, where he applies his academic knowledge to real-world data challenges.

Amanda Luoma is also a first-year Master’s Business Analytics student working as a research assistant at Copenhagen Economics, a role that complements her academic pursuits. She holds a part-time contract that allows her the flexibility to balance her workload with her studies, engaging in various project-based tasks within the realm of economic consulting.

Duc Nguyen, having initially pursued a bachelor’s degree at Aalto University’s Mikkeli campus, has several years of professional experience in marketing under his belt. He has returned to academia to pursue a master’s degree in Business Analytics, a decision fueled by his ambition to ascend the career ladder and acquire skills pertinent to the evolving job market.

Balancing Acts: Motivation and Monetary Mindsets

For Aappo, Duc, and Amanda, the drive to juggle academics and professional life is deeply intertwined with personal growth and practicality. Aappo finds his motivation in the symbiotic relationship between work and study, stating, “I can do the most exciting courses here and take everything I study here and apply it at work.” This synergy not only enriches his learning experience but also provides a structured routine, making his academic pursuits “more accessible.” Duc's motivation is future-focused, with a ten-year vision to “become a business leader who can make a meaningful impact in society through business.” Amanda sought work experience to understand the practical application of her studies, a step towards finding “the most interesting work there is.”

When it comes to money, their attitudes are pragmatic yet varied. Aappo views his earnings as a means to afford more flexibility during his master’s studies, preferring personal investment over financial: “Being a bit more flexible with the money... Maybe not investments in this age as it’s not the main focus.” Amanda, who describes herself as not “a luxurious type of person,” values work-life balance over economic gain. Duc sees money as a tool, not an end goal, reflecting: “When you start earning, you appreciate it even more. Money is important but it is a tool to achieve the goal.”

Their quotes reflect a common thread: pursuing work and study is less about financial gain and more about the enrichment and opportunities it provides, shaping a well-rounded approach to their careers and personal development.

Defining Success and Mastering Productivity

Success for Aappo, Amanda, and Duc is not measured by traditional metrics but by the balance and fulfillment they find in their dual pursuits. Aappo articulates his definition of success as maintaining vitality across all facets of life: “Success means... not getting burnt out. It feels like you have energy in both of those things—and also energy left to go to the gym or have a social life.” Duc aligns success with his long-term vision, emphasizing the importance of “a balance in work and study and doing as good as possible.”

In achieving this equilibrium, they each share personal productivity strategies. Aappo believes in aligning work with passion, which negates the need for hacks: “The only hack is to do something that you are really interested in.” Amanda relies on structured planning, employing the “calendar and the Pomodoro technique” to manage her time effectively. Duc advocates for “time blocking” and the use of tools like Google Calendar to plan meticulously, ensuring he can meet both academic and professional commitments.

Their insights reveal a shared belief: success is less about accolades and more about the sustainable management of their commitments, ensuring they remain energized and engaged. Their productivity hacks are less about shortcuts and more about intentional planning and aligning their work with their intrinsic interests.

Navigating Dual Commitments: Advice and Misconceptions

For students aspiring to juggle academics and employment, Aappo, Amanda, and Duc offer sage advice from their experiences. Aappo urges honesty and introspection: “Be honest with yourselves. Find your reason for working and start to think about where to go about and move forward.” Amanda suggests a pragmatic approach, warning that one might have to “choose fewer courses, accept worse grades, or have little time for other activities.” Duc emphasizes self-awareness and purpose: “Understand who you are and why you are doing what you are doing.”

They also dispel common misconceptions about the work-study balance. Aappo challenges that working reduces study hours, asserting that “your active study hours take exactly the same amount of time.” Amanda addresses the stereotype of the affluent student-worker, laughing and noting: “People think we have a lot of money, but we don’t.” She mentions her approach to managing finances, which is structured yet modest: “Nowadays I’m spending a little more money, but when I started by myself, I told myself that even though you have money, you can’t go shopping every day.” This quote suggests that Amanda values financial responsibility over indulgence. She also talks about her savings strategy, which includes having multiple bank accounts for different purposes—one for daily expenses, one for fun activities like trips and dinners, and one for long-term investments. This system allows her to enjoy the fruits of her labor without compromising her financial stability or future goals. Duc confronts the myth of inevitable burnout, stating: ”If you know how to set your priorities clearly, you can still get the best of both worlds.”

Their collective wisdom underscores the importance of clarity in one’s goals and the reality that managing work and study is a nuanced endeavor, not defined by the extremes of wealth or exhaustion but by strategic choices and personal growth.

Embracing the Challenge: A Balanced Equation

In the intricate dance of managing studies and work, Aappo, Amanda, and Duc exemplify a dynamic equilibrium where discipline and clarity of purpose are paramount. Their narratives are not just individual success stories but a collective testament to the resilience and adaptability of the student-worker.

They debunk myths with lived realities, offering a roadmap that is less about avoiding hardship and more about embracing it as a catalyst for personal and professional growth. Their experiences, punctuated by candid advice and heartfelt reflections, serve as a beacon for those embarking on similar journeys. This exploration into their lives reveals a profound truth: balancing work and academics is not just a means to an end but a transformative experience that shapes one’s understanding of success, value, and the essence of fulfillment.