Skip to main content
It is the autho'rs image with a smile.

Katie Laughlin

SFU Co-op Student

empty
A group of people in a conference
Co-op taught me that I needed to show employers what was unique about me, and why they should hire me over all the others.

I decided to take part in Foreign Affairs Canada's Young Professionals International Program (YPI) which is funded through Canada's Youth Employment Strategy (YES) Career Focus Program. Foreign Affairs funds different organizations across Canada that hire interns like me and send us to work with one of their sister organizations in a foreign country.

I applied for a position with COL the Commonwealth of Learning here in Vancouver, which placed me in Barbados with the University of the West Indies Distance Education Centre (UWIDEC). COL and UWIDEC were co-hosting the Fourth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open and Distance Learning to be held in Jamaica in October 2006 (UWIDEC decided to host the conference in Jamaica due to larger venues and lower costs). Having graduated in Communication with three Co-op terms experience in public relations and event planning, I jumped at the chance to help coordinate this biennial event.

I arrived in sunny (and extremely hot) Barbados on July 3, 2006, and was immediately put to work as the Planning Assistant to the Chairman of the conference. Not only did I experience a new living environment but a completely new working environment, which included finding ways to pass the time when the power would go out in our building every week due to hurricane winds and rain.

My main roles as a planning assistant were handling registration, payment, hotel accommodation, flights, sponsorship, marketing, technical and security issues, as well as the organization of conference papers for over 520 delegates from over 64 countries. The most rewarding aspect of my experience was communicating with delegates from around the world via email and phone and then finally getting a chance to meet each one in Jamaica where they came together to share their ideas and projects on how distance education is contributing to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Additionally, I had the opportunity to travel back and forth between Barbados and Jamaica three times for the conference! Ya mon!

Katie posing with her new group of friends

The conference was a huge success; never before had I witnessed such kindness and gratitude from people who without opportunities like this conference, would never have had the chance to travel and network.

When I reflect upon the experience and the time and effort it took to land the job, as well as complete the internship successfully, I know that I would not have had the confidence to have done it if I had not been involved in the Co-op program at SFU. Co-op taught me that I needed to show employers what was unique about me, and why they should hire me over all the others. My co-op experiences also demonstrated to me what my strengths and passions were so that when I began my career, I had a more clear vision of what my dream job would be and what I would need to achieve my goals.

In between work and travel, I did manage to lie on the beach a few times (ok, more than a few times), and experience the vibrant and lively culture of Barbados. The most challenging part of the culture shock was getting used to the slower pace of the Caribbean and its people, which is much different from our busy, hectic lives here in Vancouver. In the end, my experience not only allowed me to gain more skills and knowledge for my professional career but forced me to relax, enjoy life!

Beyond the Blog

About the Author

It is the autho'rs image with a smile.

Katie Laughlin

SFU Co-op Student
Click HERE for more information and photos of Katie’s internship.

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections, Professional Development, Career Exploration, Seeking, Work Term Extension

author, courtney, smiling
A Second Term in Government: More of the Same?

Having completed my first work term for Health Canada as a Communications Officer Intern, I was eager to try something new, and the government was not where I believed that was going to happen. That is until I was offered a position at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada...

picture of glichelle pondering a though
Surviving Workplace Politics

Ever been peeved with workplace politics? Have you ever been a victim of office politics? One student shares her experiences from the workplace with tips on how to survive.

 

person with their head in a book
Responsibility and Success

One of the most memorable parts of my time in co-op was the collection of accidents, errors, mistakes, and mix-ups that happened in the course of working in the laboratory.

 

A group of people in a conference
library_books
Blog
Working Internationally: How I got to spend 6 months in the Caribbean...and got paid!
Co-op Reflections, International, Professional Development, Career Exploration, Networking, Communication

Like most grads, I wanted to see the world after I finished my degree. But with student loan debt and not a lot of savings, I knew that I would have to work and travel in order to fulfil my dream of seeing the world!

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections

Tina with 2010 olympic mascots; Sumi, Miga, then Quatchi
Reaching for Gold: Co-op Leads Tina Morabi to Career with VANOC

It is a Co-op student's dream to land a job right after graduation because of their work experience. Better yet, to land that job because you worked for them as a Co-op student. That was the case for Tina Morabi; her co-op job with VANOC landed her a full time position upon graduation.

picture of mount fuji in the distance
Co-op in Japan: Traversing Cultures

After finishing two co-op semesters in Canada, Health Sciences student Samantha Lui wanted to take things farther and ventured off to Japan for eight months as a Research Assistant with the Kao Corporation. Find out how she successfully transitioned into a new environment whilst exploring every part of this exciting country.     

Man in black jacket stands in front of a harbour with boats
The Adventures of a Rookie Accountant

Click this post to read about my co-op experience at an accounting firm.