Being an international student in Leeds, working part time alongside my pursuit of a Master’s degree made me feel like I was a superhero with two identities; one as a student learning and working on assessments, and the other working at the front of house at a restaurant serving Malaysian cuisine. Being a Malaysian student away from home, this was the best job I could ask for! Although it can be stressful at times when the tables are packed with customers during peak hours, the decision to enrich my university life with a part time job is one which I will never regret.

Starter: how it all began

I first had the idea of looking for a part time job way back in my first term and was keen on working in cafes or restaurants as I had the experience of working at cafes before back in Malaysia. I first started looking for jobs online via Leeds Beckett’s MyHub portal on job vacancies and websites like StudentJob for part time vacancies. There are multiple options for part time jobs for students, especially in a bustling city like Leeds.

I also decided to look for jobs the old school way and walked into restaurants/cafes enquiring for openings. To my surprise, there was a Malaysian restaurant in Headingley which was near campus and where I stayed. I walked in and gave the owner my CV. I began working in April the following year and got tasked with serving tables, handling the till and phone bookings, and cleaning the dishes and tables. The workload can get very intense during peak hours and it can get stressful on certain days, but the experience that I have gained from this is immensely rich.

Main: the takeaways from this experience

Initially the goal of having a part time job was to get additional allowance for day-to-day living and travel expenses while in the UK, but slowly another purpose came into existence, I started to gain transferable skills that I could use in my studies and future career. Seeing that I was already busy with coursework, having a part time job was sort of a challenge to me, learning how to juggle between different responsibilities. This was a useful skill to learn because in life there will always be a need to balance between multiple commitments. With my part time job, I am forced to manage my time well by scheduling time for classes, coursework, exercise, and work. From here, I learned to manage my time wisely. Despite the 20-hour work limit per week as outlined on the international student visa, it was a blessing in disguise because it makes sure that I don’t go overboard with the working hours which could disrupt my learning experience in university.

Working as a waitress, having proper customer service is important. By working at the Malaysian restaurant, I am also able to work on my communication and relational skills by communicating not only with the staff team, but also engaging in conversation with customers. The “human” aspect of this job will help me by actively listening to others and building rapport with people, which is beneficial for someone like me who aspires to work in a service-based industry as a sport and exercise psychology practitioner in the near future.

This job has also taught me the importance of being confident. As a Malaysian working at a Malaysian restaurant, I also act as an ambassador for Malaysian food when customers ask about the items on the menu. For example, there were multiple instances where I had to explain what sambal (aka Malaysian chili paste) is to locals who are trying Malaysian food for the first time. By being confident in the menu items, as well as taking orders, reservations, and payment, I learned that being confident in the knowledge that I have and communicating themto others is a skill that will benefit me in my future career.

Malaysian meal

One of the bosses made Lontong Sayer Lodeh (compressed rice cake with vegetables cooked in coconut milk) for the staff team as part of Eid in May.

Dessert: ending on a sweet note

As my time here in the UK as a student is coming to an end, so too will my job at the restaurant. In a nutshell, the experience that I have gained as a part time worker while undertaking my postgraduate degree has provided me with many transferable skills that I believe will be useful in my future. If you are considering working part time while studying, I impart to you some words of advice; know the responsibilities of the job to ensure that you can cope with the workload on top of the workload from your university course. Remember, do not put too much on your plate!


Hello, apa khabar (how are you?) My name is Ning and I am a postgraduate student from Malaysia who is currently undertaking a MSc in Psychology of Sport and Exercise. Running, cooking, and reading are my go to self-care activities. I really enjoy collecting cooking recipes and sharing the meals I cook with people.

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