Becoming a Teaching Assistant: When and why?

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University life is one of the most stressful phases in one’s life. As a young adult, you have to deal with new responsibilities and dynamics. Most students look for extra income to support themselves. 

However, managing full-time studies and a job, albeit part-time, can be hard. And then there is the teaching assistant job. It is easier to manage as you can allot time between classes without adding separate slots. 

You save money and energy working at the university, which would otherwise be spent commuting. However, many students don't go for it despite having the required CGPA and ability. 

This is due to their preconceived notion and misconceptions regarding the position. However, learning from those who are already in the business about how to become an undergraduate teaching assistant and when and why you should go for the job is the best course you can follow.

The work of a teaching assistant is helping faculty review study materials and course outlines, grading papers, helping students with their classwork and lab activities, invigilating exam rooms, making slides and inputting grades. The work may change with different faculties and universities. 

As a TA, you gain knowledge from working and researching the materials for the job. Apart from the knowledge aspect, you can develop and learn new skills. 

Sharika Tasnim completed her BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Asian University for Women and worked as a TA in her undergraduate years at the same institution. She believes the experience of the job helped her become a better communicator and researcher. 

"It helped me with time management and creating a perfect balance of work, study and leisure time," she said.

As a university student, an extra income is healthy. You need money to manage your expenses, and asking your parents at this stage of life doesn't feel good. 

This extra income not only gives you some extra cash but also helps you learn how to manage the money. You get into savings, which will only prepare you for the future. 

"It doesn't matter if you are working at the university; a teaching assistant is a real job. You get out of your bubble and experience the real world. You realise how demanding and big the world is, which helps you mould yourself for the better," Sharika remarked.

Networking is an essential part of one's career. Working as a teaching assistant will help you connect with the faculty. This, in turn, will help you in future jobs or postgraduation. 

When Sharika applied for her master’s, she received glowing recommendation letters from her professors. She attributed a big part of the letter to her work as the professor’s TA. 

This helped her secure a position at the MA in Conflict, Security and Development at the University of Sussex.

However, like every other job, there are bad days. As a TA, you will deal with relentless students who will hound you for hours for that extra mark or class sheet. 

Sharika adds, "There will be days when you must be the professor's right hand. It can be exhausting and draining some days as you have to manage your own academic pressure. Time management is the key to all problems." 

According to Sharika, "Dividing the tasks into different shifts throughout the weekdays can help. I used to keep 2-3 hours a day for this job, which has always helped me in the long run."

Being a teaching assistant is an experience that helps students choose any career path. 

If you fulfil the requirements for the job, you should go for it, perhaps start with a course you love. If the hours or work don't work out, you can opt out. 

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