After an exciting exchange semester in Europe, I knew that I wasn’t quite ready to go back to my regular student routine of taking the 95 B-line every day and loading myself on half-sweet caramel macchiatos from Starbucks. That’s why, in early May while still abroad, I started applying for co-op positions outside of Vancouver. I’m not going to lie, it was hard to create the time to write cover letters while travelling, and finding a quiet spot in a hostel to conduct a phone or video interview is near impossible. However, my diligence paid off as, while I was walking along La Croisette in Cannes at the end of June, I got the offer email from RBC in Toronto for a position as a Business Analyst on their Strategic Initiatives and Change Management team. My European adventure was near its end but my next one was about to begin!
While Europe is farther away from home, everything from housing to orientation and events were organized or facilitated by my host institution. Moving to Toronto was an entirely different experience as I was responsible for my own arrangements. Although I was staying in the same country, this made it even more intimidating than moving halfway across the world to Europe as I was truly embarking on a new solo adventure with minimal help. That’s why I would like to share my top four tips on moving to a new city for co-op or work after graduation to help prepare anyone else who is thinking of making the move!
1. Plan Well Ahead
With an easy 15-minute commute to SFU, I never needed to find housing on my own. I was bombarded with all the different locations and neighbourhoods available in Toronto. I started looking late and ultimately ended up hiring a realtor to help me find my condo. While the realtor was great, I was confined to signing a one-year lease. This could have been avoided had I started looking for a place ahead of time to sublet. Now I will have to find someone to take over my lease once my co-op term is done. It’s also important to plan for unexpected expenses such as utilities and home insurance which I hadn’t first considered when I accepted the job posting.
2. Reach Out to Old Friends
Connecting with old high school friends who moved out east for post-secondary and students I had met on exchange helped ground me in the new city. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who you haven’t spoken to in a year or more because creating and building up a support system is crucial and can help you when you least expect it. For example, I connected with an old high school friend who invited me to Thanksgiving where I met a group of young professionals also starting out in the city. Being able to speak to a group going through similar experiences helped me feel less alone and enabled me to better adapt to living in Toronto. The same friend who introduced me to this group also helped me out when my phone was stolen! She came with me to meet up and help communicate with the people who had eventually found my phone. Having people you can count on in a new place definitely comes in handy and makes you feel much more confident.
3. Engage With Your Co-Workers and Workplace
You’re going to be spending the majority of your time at your workplace and with your coworkers. It’s important to reach out and not be shy in engaging with others. Attend as many events as possible and talk about topics outside of work. I’ve met so many other co-op students by putting myself out there and love to grab lunch with my team and hear about their weekend plans. I think being excited about the people you work with is just as important as being passionate about the work you do. Each and every day at work was made more interesting due to the amazing people that I’ve had the fortunate opportunity of meeting as a result of doing my most to engage with those around me. As a result, I looked forward to coming to work each and every day knowing that I would be surrounded by like-minded and compelling people.
4. Take Time to Settle in but Don’t Miss Out on the Opportunity to Be a Tourist!
It’s easy when working to let the weeks pass by but remember that you’re in a new city! Each weekend can be treated as an adventure with something new to explore. Watch a concert, go see attractions, explore neighbourhoods or even take a quick trip to a different city. There are so many interesting activities and events to take advantage of, especially if you’re only in town for four to eight months. Instead of moving for work, I had the mindset that I was moving to experience. Familiarizing myself with the city has helped me realize that, although Toronto definitely has many opportunities, I ultimately prefer the west coast and would like to find a full-time position back home in Vancouver. I wouldn’t have known this had I not pushed myself to take on my co-op job and making the effort to explore the city and its surrounding areas.
Moving away, especially if it’s the first time, can be an intimidating experience. I definitely felt overwhelmed at first, but by taking it step by step, I was able to successfully relocate and make the most of my time in Toronto. I hope these tips are helpful for anyone else making the move.