College Students Working Downtown

All Innovate A conversation with college students who work Downtown

With three major universities in the San Diego region, We wanted to get in the heads of college students who work Downtown. What is work life like? What is their vision of the future? And of course, where are their go to lunch spots? From venue managers to audit interns, these college students are the future of San Diego. We caught up with Payton, a second year business major at San Diego State University who also works Downtown. He talked with his fellow students to answer these questions.


School, Work, Life

Balancing school, work, and a social life in college is a struggle in itself. Adding a job to that equation leaves students looking for more hours in the day or more caffeine in their cup. Matt, an intern for the Office of Audit Services, said he picked classes later in the evening so that he would be available to work early in the morning. He said he has to manage a stricter time schedule, but with a competitive job and internship market, taking classes and interning is an advantage that is worth the strict schedule. Personally, I opted to take a few online classes which freed up my schedule. Online classes allow students to work at their own pace, whenever, or even wherever, most convenient. You don’t even have to get out of bed to watch a lecture.

Best Part of Downtown

Downtown has everything at your fingertips or at a reasonable walking distance, and there’s always FRED (Free Ride Everywhere Downtown, check it out)! From nightclubs to Petco Park, shopping at Horton Plaza Mall to working out, and just about any food option in between, Downtown can keep you busy for weeks on end. Spencer is a fourth year finance student at SDSU and works as a venue manager at the El Cortez building. He said his favorite part is the breweries. “Half Door Brewing is my favorite by far. I love the seasonal rotation of beer,” Spencer said. In addition, he enjoys the beer festivals at Petco Park ‒ another great reason to come Downtown and enjoy a Padres game.

Food Spots

Donut Bar is world famous for good reason. Sadly though, donuts can’t sustain a working adult five days a week. So where do college students go on their lunch break? Spencer’s go-to spot is Sole Luna Cafe, because of its proximity to the Cortez Building. “It’s a quick and easy cafe with some great Italian food.” The Taco Stand, located on B street, is another favorite if you’re in the mood for some Mexican food. If you’re looking for a healthy option, I suggest Cafe Gratitude in Little Italy. It offers plant-based foods, juices, and even clean beer. Being a college student doesn’t have to mean instant noodles or delivery pizza every night when you work in Downtown San Diego.

Looking to the Future

When asked what college students look for in a city when deciding where to land after college, convenience and diversity are huge areas of emphasis. College students are looking for places that aren’t hard to get around. Somewhere with easy public transportation. A city that isn’t too big to navigate is another attribute. Sound familiar?

The diversity aspect pertains to what the city offers. It’s not about an overpowering financial district or somewhere crawling with only nightlife and bars. It’s about a city that offers everything. It’s about somewhere to work that has events that bring you back to the city on the weekend-events like farmers markets or yoga classes in the park to get active early on the weekends. San Diego offers all of this and then some, which is why college students see themselves staying in San Diego. Having been born and raised in San Diego could be a bias for students like Matt. However, students like myself from outside of San Diego see themselves staying in San Diego post-graduation.

“I got my job Downtown from a friend, and my connections have grown extensively,” Spencer said. “Many different people work in the Cortez Building who I’ve met, but I meet curious people who walk in the building asking about its history. Those connections lead to opportunities and if I’m lucky, I would love those opportunities to allow me to live and work in San Diego out of college.”

Another college student, Nicole, envies how Downtown San Diego is practically the center of everything compared to the sprawl of the Bay Area. Downtown is in such close proximity to things like the airport but also close to the waterfront and great beaches. “I don’t know why any college student wouldn’t want to stay in San Diego. If the job opportunity is here, then I’m staying,” Nicole said.

I lived with eight students my freshman year of college. Most of them were from California. It’s no surprise why we all ended up in San Diego. We all agreed that San Diego has important aspects of major cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. San Diego, on the other hand, maintains its own identity as a smaller city that isn’t too small to make a difference. With so much to do and something always going on, Downtown will remain the heart of San Diego that will continue to draw college students to Southern California.

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