Behind the counter: Student baristas talk about their daily grind

By Anush Hakobyan | March 24, 2019 11:20am

Junior Brady Corcoran has been working at The Commons for two years. 

Media Credit: David Jacobs / The Beacon

For many college students, coffee is an important part of their daily lives. Coffee isn’t just a drink, it’s an experience. Who pretty much creates this overall experience? Baristas. Baristas not only make delicious coffee drinks, but they also greet customers with a smile on their face, know their customers’ names and know favorite drinks by heart. Sometimes, a good conversation with a barista is even better than a cup of coffee. 

From The Commons to the Pilot House to Espresso UP, there’s plenty of places to grab a cup of coffee on campus. Here’s a few student baristas on campus you might recognize: 

Monica Salazar, senior english major, has been working at the Pilot House since her freshman year.

by David Jacobs / The Beacon

Monica Salazar

If the Pilot House is your go-to for coffee, you might recognize senior English major Monica Salazar. She starts her working day at 6:30 a.m. by setting up all 106 chairs in the Pilot House. 

“I only know that because one day I decided to count (the chairs),” Salazar said. “I was just curious, and I wondered how many chairs are in this place that I have to turn over every day.” 

Salazar started working for the Pilot House at the beginning of her freshman year. She started at the cash register, moved to the kitchen and eventually realized that she wanted to make coffee. 

The Pilot House opens at 7:30 a.m. Salazar says that it’s usually the same people who come in every day at that time. She’s gotten to know some of them pretty well.  

“I think my favorite part is when someone that I recognize comes in and I know what they're going to order and I just make it before they even ask for it,” Salazar said. “For me, it's really special because that person feels recognized. Even though it's just like a small gesture of making coffee.”

Salazar mostly serves the same customers every morning, which lets her build relationships she might not otherwise have.

by David Jacobs / The Beacon

Salazar said she loves working as a barista because students at UP are wonderful as customers and the faculty members are all very kind.

“The relationships that I build with those individuals are relationships that I probably wouldn't have the opportunity to make just as a student,” Salazar said. “All of the community of Bon Appetit is just so welcoming. I always call them my family here.”

For Salazar, an advantage of being a barista is meeting new people and becoming a familiar face around campus. She not only loves making coffee for people, but she also loves asking about her customers’ days and listening to their stories. Salazar believes that these small gestures make their days better.  

“It's more than just making coffee at that point for me, it’s about actually getting to know them,” she said. “I am listening to you, I care about what you want, and I'm going to anticipate your needs. I like being able to help people that way. That’s what I can do right now as a student.” 

Salazar said that she'll miss her job when she graduates this May, but she's excited to tell her kids one day about the amazing job she had in college.

“I was thinking how when I’m older and I tell my kids about my college years I will say that I had the best job ever,” Salazar said. “I worked at the coffee bar, got to make coffee for all my friends and all my fellow students, and I got free coffee. I can’t ask for a better job.”

Freshman nursing major Mary Carlenzoli started working at The Commons at the beginning of this year. 

by David Jacobs / The Beacon

Mary Carlenzoli

Before her first year at UP, freshman nursing major Mary Carlenzoli’s mother told her that if she wanted to go out and have fun in college, she needed to find a job. That’s when Carlenzoli started her job search and found an open barista position at The Commons. 

“This job kind of spoke to me," Carlenzoli said. “I thought that would be kind of fun because you get to interact with people, and it's true. We do have so much fun here.”

This is Carlenzoli's first job ever and she said that the working environment at The Commons is what makes her want to keep working there. She especially loves her co-workers, who she's bonded with over the last few months.

“I work with some really awesome people,” she said. “It’s actually my favorite part of the day coming to work.”

When Carlenzoli goes home during breaks, her mom always asks her what is the best part about school. She always answers, “my job.”

Carlenzoli works the cash register at the coffee stand in The Commons. She plans to keep her barista job for the rest of her time at UP.

by David Jacobs / The Beacon

“I laugh every day and Robin, who works in the food, she's always like I can hear you across the entire cafeteria laughing all day and I think that's just such a cool thing,” Carlenzoli said. “I don't realize how much I'm laughing and for somebody to tell you that you're constantly laughing just shows that you are really having a lot of fun.”

Carlenzoli’s favorite drink is a Caramel Macchiato because it satisfies her sweet tooth, but her favorite drink to make is a Frappuccino. 

“I like making Frappuccinos mostly because everybody else hates (making it),” she said. “They won't make Frappuccino until I get here.”  

Being a barista was also a great way for Carlenzoli to go out of her comfort zone and become more comfortable talking to people.

“Before being a barista, I was always really shy and didn’t talk to new people that much,” Carlenzoli said. “I feel like with just being able to interact it’s been a great help. Because being a nursing student you have to interact with people, so I think it’s been the most helpful getting that experience.”

Carolenzolli plans to work as a barista at The Commons for the rest of the time she is at UP. 

“I even asked my boss a couple of weeks ago because I was scared that I have to reapply and might not get the job,” she said. “And she's like nope, all four years you have the job, so I was very excited about that.”

Junior accounting major Brady Corcoran's barista job is just one of three jobs he works at UP.

by David Jacobs / The Beacon

Brady Corcoran

Some students might know junior accounting major Brady Corcoran as a Resident Assistant in Haggerty and Tyson Halls. Others might know him as a Zumba instructor at Beauchamp. But some people may know him as the person who makes their daily cup of coffee at The Commons. 

Even though Corcoran works as a barista, he doesn’t drink coffee. He tries to stay away from caffeine as much as possible. He loves chai lattes because they have a low caffeine level.  

Corcoran started working at The Commons at the beginning of his sophomore year. He started out as a server and then was moved to the register. One day during his second semester of his sophomore year, his boss said that it was time to teach him how to make coffee.

Corcoran started working at The Commons at the beginning of his sophomore year as a server before he was promoted to barista. 

by David Jacobs / The Beacon

Corcoran says that he enjoys working with the students and staff at The Commons. He also loves being a barista because it gives him the opportunity to talk to different people. 

“I think it’s fun getting to see my friends and as well as other familiar faces and having these cool interactions with them,” Corcoran said. “My favorite part of the job would be just learning about different aspects of the company.”

Currently, Corcoran works only one shift as a barista because of his schedule. Even though it's not a lot, he’s happy that he still gets to come to work and see his coworkers and customers. He also enjoys being a barista because it doesn't stress him out.

“It’s nice to have a very stress free job,” Corcoran said. “You come in, you ring people up on the register, you call it a day.”

Kaitlin Flanigan, senior marketing major, has been working at Espresso UP with her friends for two and half years.

by David Jacobs / The Beacon

Kaitlin Flanigan

Senior marketing major Kaitlin Flanigan lives off campus, so her job at Espresso UP is a great opportunity for her to see her friends more often. She started working for Espresso UP at the beginning of her junior year. 

Espresso UP is a student-run event that takes place every Wednesday in St. Mary's Lounge from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., where students can get free espresso drinks, tea and Italian sodas.

Flanigan loves her coworkers and says they are one of the main reasons why she enjoys her job. It’s a way for her to socialize and meet new people.

“My most favorite part I think is probably working with the other baristas,” Flanigan said. “It's just giving me another opportunity to meet people that I like and that I grew to care about. It’s always fun to hang out with them and they make the job easier because the time flies and I'll be just laughing and having fun.”

Flanigan tests the espresso machines before students start to arrive. 

by David Jacobs / The Beacon

Flanigan says that it’s never boring during her shift because she usually has funny encounters with customers. She thinks it makes her job more interesting.

“I think it's so funny because I'll have people come up to me and ask the weirdest questions,” Flanigan said. “One of my personal favorites was when I had somebody ask me for a hot chocolate without the coffee."

Flanigan said that most stressful part of her job is when it gets really busy and there’s lines that go out the front door of St. Mary’s. That’s why the Americano is Flanigan’s favorite drink to make - because it’s easy and it doesn’t keep people waiting too long. Flanigan also loves making lattes because she gets to do latte art and enjoys making different designs like hearts and leaves. 

“I really like making lattes when there's not a rush, so I can actually do latte art,” she said. “We don't normally get to do that when there's a huge long line because it’s all about efficiency, but once it calms down, we can actually take the time.”

Flanigan makes coffee and Italian sodas every Wednesday night at Espresso UP.

by David Jacobs / The Beacon

Flanigan says that one day she wants to move to a city like New York or Los Angeles. She always jokes that she can be a barista while doing another job, so she can pay the bills.

“I think probably the most valuable skill is just the skill of being a barista,” Flanigan said. “It's a job that I'll be able to have at any point in my life if I need to.”

Flanigan is a senior and says she will miss her job when she graduates.

“Last year we had a girl who was a senior and when she left we were really upset because, you know, we spend four hours a week together every single week,” Flanigan said. “We all talk about it now. There is another one of the baristas who is also a senior and we both are like, ‘Wow we are going to miss working here.’ It’s definitely going to be bittersweet leaving.” 

Anush Hakobyan is a reporter at The Beacon. She can be reached at