On-campus job – From outsider to insider

Lucky as I am, I got my first on-campus job with the university’s dining service. I make sandwiches, salad, fruit, and yogurt in Raney Commons, an on-campus undergrad dormitory cafeteria.

At first, I thought this was easy work to produce “easy” food.  I didn’t need to talk much. I just needed to do well and do what I am supposed to do. The fact, however, is totally different from what I have imagined. Although the food products are relatively simple, the process to produce them is rather complicated/requires a lot of coordination, especially for yogurt and some special salads. At first I did not know the thousands of names of dressing, meat, cheese, vegetables, etc. I was always lost during the production process because sometimes I could not understand what the student managers said and what the names referred to. I did not know the work rules, either.  Kind of frustrating, definitely!

The people I work together with are nice and patient. They always tell me how to do things in order and in an efficient way. And they explain to me more than one time if there is something I cannot understand. Gradually, I’ve become more familiar with the steps to do our kitchen work. At morning, we make the salad for that day’s order and sandwiches for that day’s second and third shifts. Then we do things listed on the prepare list. We prepare the meat sets and lettuce and tomato sets for all kinds of sandwiches, prepare eggs for egg salad, cook pita, bake bread, slice cucumbers, onions and celery, cut up fruit and prepare the yogurt parfaits, etc. After doing this, we produce turkey, chicken cordon blue, Italian, veggie club and egg salad sandwiches for the following day’s first order. Knowing this flow, it is easier for me to find something to do. And I learn new names every day. Now I even can remember sage, mayonnaise, orange dressing, provolone cheese, basil tomato bread and many other names and can match these things with their names. It is so exciting that you become more and more familiar with what you do every day.

Although I have some other challenges in my work, such as using all kinds of knives safely and holding a very heavy tray by myself, I will try my best to find ways to solve them. Now I have much stronger muscles than when I began work. I can hold a heavy tray myself without any help from others. This is a good thing to work independently. I am proud of improving my working abilities. The manager of our kitchen is really nice that she talks with me to help me adapt to working environment more smoothly and decrease my worries. She makes me feel that I am not an outsider anymore, but a valued employee of the department.

Beginning anything new is hard, but it will become better and better after a process of working hard.