When students come to Ohio University for the first time, they are immersed in everything that makes the town Athens. A big part of that is the businesses, small and large, that fill the town with jobs taken on by many college students.
As the school year progresses, students find themselves applying to jobs around campus and in town. Whether students' leases start in May and stay at their jobs or their jobs are the reason they seek out that type of lease, working in Athens over the summer is a different experience than working during the school year.
Grace Auble, a junior studying costume design, has worked as a barista at Brenen's Coffee Cafe since August 2021. She said it tends to be a lot busier throughout the school year because there are so many more people in town. On the average work day, Auble said there is a constant rush of OU students, Athens residents, professors, regulars and everyone in between. In the summer, however, it is a different story.
"During the school year, I feel like I don't get to talk to the customers as much and I'm pretty big on asking people how they're doing, talking to people and getting to know them," Auble said. "(During the summer) since we're not as busy, I am able to talk with customers more."
Auble also explained that, in the absence of a school-year level workload, having a summer job helps with staying healthily busy.
Mariah Heflin, a junior studying communications, also works at Brenen's and has since September 2020. Heflin grew up in Athens, which provides an extra advantage in knowing not only the area, but the people.
"It's nice because some of the high school students that were regulars from Athens High School come home from their different colleges and we're able to see them during the summer," Heflin said. "It's always exciting to be able to see those familiar faces and I feel like it makes them feel a little bit more welcomed and encouraged to keep coming back."
Experiencing a different type of summer job is Joey Hilliard, a sophomore studying astrophysics. Hilliard works as a student orientation leader for OU's Bobcat Student Orientation, or BSO. After applying and later getting the position this past fall, he and his fellow BSO leaders had to sign up for a spring semester class to prepare them for the training that has called Hilliard back to campus since May. In training, leaders go over different settings and scenarios as well as resources to refer students and families to.
"I feel like I'm at the point where, even though I've only been at the university for a year, I feel much more informed than the average student," Hilliard said.
Aside from getting to spend extended time in Athens, Hilliard said there is the added bonus of the town's beauty in the summer.
"It almost feels like we're the locals because we're experiencing this environment in its almost natural state," Hilliard said. "It's like the entire campus is asleep right now."
Auble, Heflin and Hilliard all collectively said that their work environments are made great by the connections they form with their coworkers in the odd breaks in between rushes, on-the-job training and hanging out after close. While summers in Athens provide the typical amount of fun that comes from not being in school, they also provide extra opportunities for those bonding moments to happen and for student employees to collect some tips along the way.
"Honestly this is unlike any other work environment I've ever experienced," Hilliard said. "Everyone is so supportive. You can really go to anyone with anything … It's just a really amazing and healthy work environment."