As bills don’t pay themselves an income is required, some obtain it by working for a wage, others by starting up their own business and some are so talented that they can make an income out of their hobby. In the Weekly column ‘My Way to Make Money’ we interview a student or a university employee about their job or business and ask them questions about how they experience their work. This week we interview Aaron Vinnik who is employed by the university as a teaching assistant in the history department. Before graduating his masters at the Maastricht University in European Studies with a Cum Laude, he obtained his bachelor degree in History & Political Science at Culver-Stockton College in Missouri. In his spare time he likes to travel and experience new cultures. Aaron has a preference for outdoor sports and is in love with his new race bike which takes him to the beautiful surroundings of Maastricht.
As a teaching assistant in the History department, I am employed to dedicate my time teaching meaning I have no time for research. Normally, I teach one course at the same time. I teach at FaSos, however, Arts & Culture takes only 20% of my time while 80% of my time I end up teaching European Studies students.
A regular day at work looks like…
On days when I teach, which is 2 to 3 times a week, I usually have around 2 to 3 classes a day. Most of the time the students have lectures in the morning followed by the first tutorial at 11am until 1pm, the second class is from 1.30pm until 3.30pm with the last tutorial at 4pm and ends at 6pm. Although it’s the same teaching you do, each class is different and that gives the class new dynamics. If students are well prepared, you can give them more space for discussions while some groups need more guidance. On days where I do not teach, I’m either doing some readings to prepare for classes later in the week, or I am making/grading exams or revising bachelor papers.
I like my job because
It’s dynamic, I’m not teaching the same thing for a long period of time. Over the year, I teach a number of courses, so if you teach something that’s not your cup of tea you’re not stuck to it for the rest of the year. Working with students and helping them understand the material is a fulfilling job. As a teaching assistant, I have more experience with academic materials and therefore I can help them better than if they do it on their own. Another point why I like my job is the working environment in FaSos. The tutors get along with each other and the senior staff is really supportive of us, something you don’t see everywhere I think.
The thing that makes the job hard is
Students who are not paying attention. It’s amazing because sometimes even after multiple attempts via email or announcement in class they still don’t absorb the information. You try to be helpful to students but often they disregard it and can even backfire on you. This is most especially first year students in their first 6 months. They are struggle because they’re not used to the PBL system and/or university. Another factor in making the job sometimes difficult is the third class at the end of the day. This can be tough because you want to give every group the best you have. You want to be as alert as you were in the in the first group. I notice that also some students are struggling with this, from 4-6pm they’re not the most motivated and alert which is understandable because it’s also their end of the day. The challenge as a tutor is to give each class the same benefit from the experience, regardless of the time, participants or material.
I got this job by
applying for it. In my masters I was a research assistant for the head of the history department. He made me aware of the position and advised me to apply because he thought it would suit my abilities. After the interview, I was offered the position which was 2 years ago. I started my job in the summer of 2012.
The main reason for choosing this job is
that I knew I would enjoy teaching because I have done it before so it wasn’t far outside of my comfort zone. It was the first job offered to me after university and nothing else was playing, therefore it made sense to start working for the university. Another reason is that Maastricht as a city appeals to me. It’s a good place to live especially as a student. As a student you’re surrounded by students who you can socialise with. Working is a bit different because people have more obligations and responsibilities. As I’m interested in doing a PhD, being able to do a job where I can develop skills that will become useful when I want to apply for a PhD is perfect. In my job I get feedback from experienced and skilled people from the university.
The time I spent in doing my job is..
Irregular. We have a certain amount of teaching hours. In some periods we’ll be working more than others. The reading and teaching within a course is pretty consistent but the time it costs changes from course to course. Also the amount of work depends on the specific task I have to do. For example, assisting and grading papers takes more time, with all the meetings necessary, than grading exams. However, in the end all tutors have a maximum amount of hours.
I didn’t expect the job to be..
As interesting as it is. Everyone jokes that the Germans have invaded Maastricht. However, you’ll be astonished by the diversity you have in class. You’ll have Brits, Dutch, Germans, Belgians, Spanish, Italians and so on. This diversity makes it interesting especially because in European studies you try to teach about Europe and its diversity, seeing a mixture in your own class on where you teach about makes it a far more dynamic experience.
My goal for the next years
is to start and finish a PhD in security studies or a related field. Hopefully, I’ll be working in that field. It can be for the government, an industry or a think-tank. I want to apply my knowledge from my PhD in a related field outside of academia for a while before returning to teach.
I love my job because
Over the years my teaching schedule change, and this pushes your own boundaries. Teaching something new demands refocus year in year out. I get satisfaction from teaching, helping students finding their way in the academic world. Maastricht is a nice place to live, although in a couple of years I want to live in a bigger city. However, Maastricht is close enough to a number of big cities which allows me to travel and explore the areas around me. This provides me with new knowledge for myself and to pass along to my students.