Dubai: A new wave of enthusiasm has surged through the student community since a 2016 decree from the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation permitted students aged 15 and above to work part-time while they complete their degrees.

Suddenly international students pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate courses, have found their educational years more sustainable as they are able to get hands-on training. Apart from helping them feel financially empowered and able to meet some of the expenses for a degree, it has also helped them connect socially and integrate with the community, while providing them with discipline and ability to sustain a stringent nine to five routine that they will be required to hold down once they complete their studies.

Students who want to work can attend part-time job and paid internship interviews, which are advertised on university websites and other portals. Once selected, they need to provide the employer with a no-objection certificate from parents as well as the university they are enrolled at, along with a copy of their Emirates ID. The company then applies for a temporary work permit for the candidate from the Ministry of Labour. The gesture has been welcomed by students. It is more than a year since students have learnt to stand on their own two feet and juggle jobs with course work. Gulf News spoke to four students across universities in Dubai to see how this has impacted their lives.

Kate Dhavid Roska

Kate Dhavid Roska, 17, who is studying as a first year undergraduate of mass communications at the Curtin University in Dubai, said: “I have been working on internships since the beginning of 2018. The first internship I got was unpaid but it taught be a lot. Now I work as a research intern at the Dubai Technology Entreprenuership Centre (Dtec) at Dubai Silicon Oasis. They pay me a good sum (approximately Dh3,000) for a month, where I am required to put in five hours of work a day during college time and eight hours during long vacations.”

She added: “This money has made a great difference to me as I am one of four siblings in the family and I am proud to help out my parents with household expenses and also manage my own monthly expenses. I manage to save a small amount and I feel working hard to earn this money has given me an entirely different perspective. and has made me a lot wiser and sensible in my spendings.”

Juggling work and studies has not been much of a problem for Roska who puts in three hours of classwork each day, and five hours of work at Dtec.

“The organisation is extremely understanding giving students flexi work hours. On days that I have homework or project deadlines, I focus on my studies and later put in the extra hours at work to make up for lost time. Working with a group of multinational colleagues, I feel, has been a blessing for my social life. I have Zimbabwean, Indian, British and Sri Lankan colleagues and have come to know so much about these cultures.”

Besides helping her socially, putting in five hours of solid work, where Roska usually creates content and manages social media accounts, has given her a good practical training about office work.

“Five hours is a long stretch for a young student and being at work has taught me a lot,” she said. “I have turned more professional; now I understand that instead of orally conveying my thoughts it is always better to create a record with properly worded emails. I know, for instance, instead of speaking to my boss I need to structure my thoughts and list them professionally in an email. It’s a great learning curve,” she added.

Kareem Kovalenko 1
Kareem Kovalenko Image Credit: Supplied

Kareem Kovalenko, 22, a British citizen of Libyan and Ukrainian descent, is an undergraduate studying International Marketing and Business at Heriott Watt University in Dubai.

“I have been at Heriott Watt for five years. I joined at the age of 18 after enrolling in the university’s foundation course when my parents moved to the UAE,” he said. “I was very keen to begin working as soon as possible because I feel being employed as a student gives one great discipline.

“I am employed as a students’ coordinator at the university and I absolutely love my job. I liase with students from Moscow and other places where Russian is spoken. I love meeting people and this job involves selling and promoting the courses at the university and I enjoy speaking in my mother tongue to these young students telling them all about the UAE and the course.”

Kovalenko, who earns Dh2,000 a month as an international students’ coordinator, feels earning this money has given him great financial independence.

“I am able to pay for my car, my fuel, my insurance and other such living costs. I have begun saving a modest sum already and I feel getting a paid internship at college is an incredible way of understanding how hard my parents have worked to give me this education.”

“My college allows flexible timings and they are very cooperative,” added Kovalenko, who does three to four hours of college before working until evening. “I would advise each and every student to grab any paid internship that comes their way. This experience not only provides one with financial independence to a small extent, it provides one with a sound footing in the job market as many internships do get converted to full-time jobs after students graduate. I, for one, look forward to getting a regular position at my college because I love doing what I am doing right now.”

Saurabh Kishu 1
Saurabh Kishu Image Credit: Supplied

Saurabh Kishu, 25, an Indian national enrolled in the final year of an MBA Marketing course at Amity University Dubai, said: “Most of the students who come from India to enrol at universities here take a bank loan to finance their education and also have to give some collateral security as a loan guarantee. I have taken a loan of Rs1.4 million (approx. Dh60,000) for my tuition fees. A paid internship is required to bridge the gap for other expenses such as cost of living, food and travel,” said Kishu, who used to do a paid internship at an industrial company in Jebel Ali for Dh2,000, but has since moved to a better paying internship with authorised distributors of Apple, and now plans to join Dallas Trading as a marketing executive intern for Dh4,000.

“During placement week I got five internships, but I chose the one in Jebel Ali as it was the furthest from my rented accommodation in International City, and I wanted it to be a challenge.”

Kishu thinks such experiences set students up well for the workplace. “The total fees for an MBA programme is approximately Dh70,000 for four semesters (two years). My jobs have helped me meet my expenses and also understand the UAE market very well.”

Zimbabwean student Sandile Nkala

Finally, Sandile Nkala, 18, a Zimbabwean national from South Africa, who is studying first year Business and Accounting at Curtin University, said: “I moved to the UAE in 2017, enrolling in a foundation course at the university and was very keen from the very beginning to earn my expense money and help my parents. So, in the first year, I joined a modelling agency that paid me Dh1,200 per month, which was barely enough to cover my travel and other expenses. I later joined Dtech from my first year undergrad course and am being paid Dh2,500 to be an intern. I do the paper work, plan events, create schedules, generate content among other things in the five hours that I put in each day.”

Nkala feels the experience has taught her to budget her expenses and be a little more frugal. “I pay my own bills such as rent (Dh1,500), food (Dh300) and fuel (Dh150) and also manage to save Dh200 per month.”

Nkala puts in three hours at her college attending lectures before moving to office to start her work day. I work extra hours during the summer and other holidays, but my workplace people are understanding and allow us a flexi schedule.”

Nkala thinks it is important that every student must work to be more attuned to handling a full-time job in the future. “I have learnt a lot about the email etiquette, the importance of communication and interpersonal relationships. All this will go a long way in preparing me better to hold down a full time job later,” she added.