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Health Sciences
SFU Co-op Student

The right shoe storefront
Over the next three and a half months, I found that although the position did consist of a lot of retail work, especially in selling Birkenstocks, I was able to learn so much more than I expected about the aspects of the different fields associated with my degree

Walking into my first day of work for my co-op term at The Right Shoe, all I expected was just another retail job. But upon arriving at work, I quickly realized how much more informative and applicable to my degree the experience would be. What I thought would be just another retail experience turned out to be one of the most interesting, informative and relevant experiences of my life.

Going into my first co-op experience, I was very unsure of what to expect. Although I had completed two years of my kinesiology major, I felt concerned over whether I was ready to apply my knowledge in a real setting while dealing with real people’s injuries. I had acquired the position of Biomedical Footwear Assessor at The Right Shoe. I was unsure of exactly what this meant but had I been led to believe that it mainly consisted of working retail and selling shoes. Because of my three years of retail experience, this made me feel more confident in my ability to do this job although it did not inspire as much excitement.

Natalie and her supervisors

When I arrived at work on my first day, I was embraced warmly by the very friendly staff, which helped calm my nerves. Everyone was eager to help me learn everything I needed to know, and it quickly became evident that I had a lot to learn. After going over the basic points of how to work the point of sale system, I was brought over to the running shoes. We proceeded to go over the basic points and technologies of each shoe. There were shoes for correcting over-pronation, shoes with traditional drops and minimal drops, and shoes with different levels of cushioning. The amount of new information was overwhelming and began to stress me out very quickly. Apparently this was clear because I was promptly assured that it takes some time to pick up all the details about the shoes. For the next couple of days I shadowed other employees to see how it was done before I was thrown into the action all by myself.

Over the next three and a half months, I found that although the position did consist of a lot of retail work, especially in selling Birkenstocks, I was able to learn so much more than I expected about the aspects of the different fields associated with my degree. I can now understand the different aspects of many common, chronic foot injuries and fit a shoe to that person. I can also fit someone for an over the counter insole. I am able to identify problems in a person’s gait by watching them walk and performing other tests. I have even improved my knowledge of lower limb anatomy. All of these components of my experience have increased my confidence in my knowledge and my ability to apply it. Now I feel like I can actually help someone in pain.

Overall, my co-op term has really opened my eyes to what is out there after completing my university degree. I was given the opportunity to shadow one of the podiatrists next door which showed my how valuable my new knowledge of the foot can be. I can also see now how important footwear is to the health of your whole body and how many injuries can stem from the foot. This whole experience has been so amazing. I never thought that I could learn so much and help so many people from a retail job.

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