For many Wesleyan students, it is easy to go through four years only knowing Middletown as home to Brooks Pharmacy and Typhoon—but for the students who work in town, it is much more than the place you must trek to when you run out of toothpaste.

“I never know what to expect when going into work, and for me that makes my job more interesting,” said Eliza Worthley ’09, who waitresses at Nikita’s Bar and Bistro on Main Street.

Worthely has worked at Nikita’s for almost a year, and before that she waitressed at another local restaurant. She initially began her search for off-campus jobs in an effort to make more cash than she could earn from work-study jobs on campus. Since then, however, her jobs in Middletown have come to mean more to her than just the money.

“I really enjoy working in town,” Worthley said. “Maybe it’s because of the money, maybe the frequent escape from campus, or just the fact that I enjoy working in an atmosphere that feels realistic and allows me to get to know and learn from people who aren’t encapsulated by the Wesleyan bubble.”

Worthely has found that the Wesleyan bubble works both ways, as the Middletown residents she encounters are often curious about the school. They frequently ask her questions about the University and her experiences.

“For Middletown [residents], having Wesleyan in town seems to be a pretty prominent feature,” Worthley said. “However, it seems that many students don’t perceive Middletown as a significant element of the University.”

Worthley is happy that her off-campus jobs have led to a greater connection between her and the University’s surrounding community.

“I really believe that many students could benefit from having the experience of getting to know the area on a more personal level,” Worthley said.

Another advantage of working in town is the opportunity to find quirky jobs that are not available on campus. David Saranow ’08 has a job that certainly does not exist at the University—he works at a liquor store. He started off as a stock-boy at Forest City Wine and Liquors in Middletown during his freshman year, and has since been promoted to cashier.

“Naturally, this made the job much more interesting, as I got to interact with both locals and Wesleyan students,” Saranow said.

Having a fellow student working at the nearby liquor store might seem to have its perks for underage students seeking alcohol; however, Saranow jokes that, as a college student himself, he happens to be a great judge of age.

“One funny thing about working there is seeing underage Wesleyan students enter the store,” he said. “I’ve yet to be fooled.”

Like Worthley, Saranow has enjoyed being involved in the Middletown community.

“Working at Forest City has given me a ton of Middletown pride,” Saranow said. “I love this place. There is a sense of community that comes from working at a place for so long, seeing the same individuals day in and day out.”

Restaurants and liquor stores aren’t the only way students can connect with the community. Emily Schmidt ’10 works at The Community Health Center, a nonprofit program to help uninsured and underinsured town residents get proper medical care.

“It provides a really wide range of services for fees depending on the financial situation of the patient,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt helps manage the website of a branch of the Center, as well as helping to organize projects. In searching for an off-campus job, Schmidt felt she would be able to gain useful skills for later in life, while at the same time connecting to the Middletown community as a whole. Like Worthley, she too talks about escaping—at least for parts of the day—from the Wesleyan bubble.

“For me this is nice because I feel less disconnected [from Middletown], less in the Wesleyan ‘bubble’ now that I have some separation [from] where I take classes,” Schmidt said.

The Community Health Center also sponsors Vinnie’s Jump and Jive, where Janani Lee ’09 works.

“Vinnie’s Jump and Jive bills itself as a community dance hall that encourages healthy living and community through dance,” Lee said.

For Lee, who transferred to the University in her sophomore year and was living on Washington Street, Middletown seemed like a natural place to go, and she liked the concept behind the dance center in general.

Earlier this week, Lee set up phone interviews with other students interested in starting jobs involved with the Community Health Center, and was delighted to see how many students were eager to apply.

“I think it’s important to work in a real world setting like that,” Lee said. “It makes you aware that there is a whole community outside Wesleyan in Middletown and there are people working proactively to improve it.”

Comments are closed