56 cents can mean way more than just a couple of cents.

The Power of Working

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This essay is one of an occasional series written by students who are new to Athens, Ohio.

56 Cents – that is the first money I have earned in the USA. It may not sound like a great achievement, but I had to pull the heavy washer in my apartment to clean behind it. And that is where I found 56 cents in total. It may not sound much, but I got paid for my work.

Lauren Ramoser

I am from Germany and the reason I am living in Athens, Ohio is an internship with WOUB, that University of Leipzig requires me to do. And like many internships in the industry, this one isn’t for pay. Therefore, I was given a research Visa that doesn’t include a work permit other than my internship.

For the first time ever, I can’t work to make extra money, even if I would like to. And that gives me a sort of unofficial feeling, as if I did something wrong to have this right taken from me. It limits my opportunities in deciding how to spend my time and it also cuts my budget. Whenever I need money, Germany is the place to call. That is the terms and conditions I accepted before coming here. But living under them is more than just a box of information.

I know that there are many people in a similar position worldwide, limited by the status of their Visa or other circumstances. But so far, I have never fully understood that this status excludes you from society in a certain way. Other people judge the lifestyle you have which, of course, is often based on how much money you have to spend.

The power of being able to finance yourself with the work you do is highly underestimated. Although I can fully work and express myself with what I do, I never thought it would matter to me that I could not make any money while doing it.

So, it is important to understand, that there is a difference between the act of working and a job. Science is sure, that humans need a task to feel valued by society, but in our days, we equate any task with a paid job.

“We could knit all day, just for fun, if society would value the work we put into this. But a meaningful work means a paid job nowadays”

– Howard Weiss, PhD, Professor of Psychology, GeorgiaTech

The English language makes a difference here that many other languages don’t make anymore. “Job” is the common term to use for a paid position. “Work” can be used the same way, but it also means the simple way of doing something mentally or physically.

Considering this difference, the limitations that come from not making money for a living are frightening in some ways, but they opened my mind towards people who live under these conditions for more than just a year. And I think it is important to keep in mind, that working for a living is a privilege that we have to value – even if the result is not more than 56 cents.