If you are or have ever been a student living on a college campus, you know: the scene is always the same.
*BEEP* *BEEP* *BEEP*
The piercing sound of your alarm startles you from a peaceful slumber. You groan, knowing all too well that it’s far too early in the morning to be expected to function properly. Yet here you are. You launch the comforter off in hopes that the shock of the cold will rouse you from your bed. You’re disappointed to discover you’re not more awake, you’re simply just colder.
Walking through your morning routine, you’re like an alien trying to imitate how it believes a human might behave. You’re doing all the motions correctly, but something is off. Ah, caffeine! You remember the cure to your problems is freshly brewed downstairs and just an MSU ID swipe away!
Throwing on your shoes, you make your way into the dining hall. The warmly lit space is pleasantly quiet, and the aroma of fresh waffles fills your nose. You sigh contently as you make your way to the beverage station, grab a mug and fill it to the brim with fuel.
As you turn around, a Culinary Services (CS) student team member approaches with a fresh tray of donuts. She smiles at you as you grab one, and suddenly you feel like you’re capable of taking on the day. As you walk away, you realize how thankful you are for that small act of kindness, and wonder just who that student was.
Ainul Mohamad Nazri, a student supervisor in Brody and Landon Halls prides herself on holding herself and coworkers to a high standard when it comes to customer service and making someone’s day.
“When we, the Brody and Landon staff, are working together to provide the best customer service, that’s my favorite part [of the job],” says Ainul. “Because you can see that everyone is trying their best to look good and to follow instructions. And I can tell that these people not only care about their studies and stuff, but they also care about responsibilities and work. They care about the guests.”
When Ainul first came to Michigan State for her International Student Orientation, she visited Brody Hall. While there, she noticed a table draped in green cloth with materials encouraging students to apply to work for CS. At first she was eager to apply, but she says she originally couldn’t decide if she wanted to work for the dining hall or for Sparty’s. Then, as she went inside to eat, she ran into Chef Jason Strotheide working at one of the venues.
“He looked so cool cooking,” says Ainul. “I think he’s the first person that made the job look fun. He had the white coat on and everything, and I was like, ‘Okay, that’s cool. I want to do that.’”
After Ainul formally applied to work in the dining hall, she began as a general kitchen worker, or a level one. According to Ainul, she never considered applying for promotions until she was approached by her bosses.
“My manager Fatemeh [Medina] approached me and says that there were two chefs recommending me to be a student leader,” says Ainul. “And then she said she wanted to see me apply for a promotion by the end of the summer.”
Even then, Ainul says, she wasn’t totally sold on the idea of applying for a promotion. She knew she worked hard in her venues, but she says she was surprised people had noticed and was very humbled by it. As she was so torn, she decided to go to her coworker for a pep-talk.
“I talked to my friend who was a student supervisor at the time, and she says, ‘Just go for it! Be a student supervisor. You’ve got this,’” says Ainul. “So I said, ‘Okay then. Let’s apply for this thing!’”
Ainul was called in for an interview and was soon promoted to an assistant student supervisor position. Once she finished training in both Brody Square and Heritage Commons at Landon, she was fully promoted to a student supervisor. Ainul says she wasn’t sure if she was ready for this big step, but with the help of her mentors, Chef Jason and Fatemeh, she felt encouraged to continue working toward a higher position.
“Fatemeh pushed me all the way here, actually,” says Ainul. “Because when I first started as assistant student supervisor, I was like, ‘Hmm, I could just stay here until I graduate.’ But she encouraged me to finish my training and become a full student supervisor. I was thankful for that. I am so grateful to work on campus!”
Ainul says she has met multiple friends through her role, which she also says was unexpected.
“I consider all of my coworkers friends,” says Ainul.
Ainul also continued on to tell the story of a friend she has made who happens to be a resident in West Circle.
“There is a girl who is blind who always came to eat in Landon last semester,” says Ainul. “So whenever she’d come, I’d help her get her food. We actually became good friends. I go to her piano recitals, and she comes to my house and we share food – it’s great. I never thought I’d meet a friend like her here, especially while working.”
Ainul also talked about how working in the dining hall adds structure to her day, even when she has a lot going on in life.
“Working while studying is not stressful if you enjoy the job,” says Ainul. “If I’m stressed, when I come to work, it’s all gone. Because when I come to work, I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m meeting with people today, so I need to be cheerful and smile.’ So automatically my stress and problems go away for a moment. And then after I’m done with work, I can think about my stress again. So it’s a short escape for me.”
Ainul says she has had such a positive experience working for dining over the past three years that she would recommend it to any student on campus.
“If you think that you can work, go for it,” says Ainul. “Working on campus is not the same as working off campus. If you’re working on campus and you talk to them [your supervisors] and tell them you have exams and things, they will understand because we’re all students.
But if you’re working off campus, they expect you to be fully committed to them. So working on campus is the best platform for students to gain experience outside of the classroom.”
Ainul says the experience she has gained while working will transfer to many areas of her life beyond her time at Michigan State, and she looks forward to gaining as much experience as she can before she graduates in May.