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Arts + Social Sciences › Sociology
SFU Co-op Student

Parliment HIll (Ottawa)

Did you know that you’re supposed to rinse rice before cooking it? That living with a roommate isn’t always going to be like it is on the hit TV series ‘FRIENDS’? Or that sometimes, taking your time isn’t always the best approach? If you answered yes to any of these statements, you will be able to relate to my story. This three-part writing series will take you through the waves of emotions I felt as I navigated the waters of a new city, new roommate, and a new job!

Take the Risk

“Why don’t you like that design element Hannah?”

“Honestly, because it looks like a bunch of kabobs!”

Everyone in the meeting threw their heads back and burst out in laughter.

One of my co-workers looked at me, smiling, he said,

“I’m laughing, but you’re right, it does!”

Chuckling, he turned to my supervisor and asked,

“Where’d you get this girl from?”

In September 2018, I began my first ever co-op term in Ottawa Ontario, working for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) as a Junior Research Analyst. I had the pleasure of working with the engagement team hired to research and analyze data to increase awareness of International Experience Canada (IEC).

If you’re a Canadian citizen aged 18-35, IEC offers you the opportunity to work and travel abroad in over 30 countries and territories. The agreements made with these countries and territories are reciprocal, making it easier for youth from these countries and territories to work and travel in Canada.

Usually I take a couple months to warm up to people to get a sense of what they’re like. I tend to come off a bit shy at times and I hold back on saying my opinions. However, before I moved to Ottawa, I had decided that I wasn’t going to waste time being shy and holding back.

Most co-op terms are only 4 months long; which is not a lot of time to create relationships with people if you spend the first half of it being shy. I learned that the best way to open up and be comfortable around others, was to be myself. A major takeaway from my time with IRCC was that in order for my voice to be heard, I have to speak up.

My ideas and opinions were valued at Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada because they were truthful and I made friends with my co-workers because I took the initiative to be outgoing from the beginning. I don’t think I would have created the same relationships with my co-workers if I hadn’t made the effort to be more outgoing.

Take advantage of all the opportunities you receive, push yourself outside your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Home Away from Home

As I stood outside the front of the house, bags in hand, my roommate walked across the front yard to greet me. That’s when it hit me. I was going to be living with a complete stranger for 4 months. I hadn’t really let it sink in that we were both strangers, because up until that point I had it in my head that we were going to become the best of friends.

I’m going to blame that on the fact I was binge watching “Friends” at the time. Imagine a blue-ish grey, stucco, three story house. Now divide each floor into its own apartment and that’s what I was living in for the 4 months while in Ottawa.

I found the apartment on Kijiji. Having previously figured out that 30% of my paycheck should go towards rent, I narrowed my searches to accommodate. I have to admit, that narrowed my search quite a bit – Ottawa isn’t the most affordable city to live in.

Before I decided to choose the girl who’s now my current roommate, I arranged a Skype call with her a couple times. I was hoping that I could get more of a feel for whether or not we would be compatible this way. I’m glad I did because it made her feel a little less like a stranger when we finally met in person. Unfortunately, we didn’t end up being as compatible as I thought.

If there is one piece of advice that I wish I’d known before I moved out, it would be this: avoid being roommates with the person you’re paying rent to. It adds a whole other, awkward, dimension to your relationship.

Let’s just say I’m definitely not coming away from this with a new best friend; but that’s okay. My living situation has taught me many things; how to stand up for myself, how to pick my battles and that, perhaps, the next time I move out I should find a place on my own.

Learning to Swim

Have you ever heard people say that a good way to teach a kid to swim is by just tossing them in the water and letting them figure it out? Well, my experience sort of felt like this. A bit panicked, standing in my new empty beige bedroom, 3,492km from home. Suddenly, I became very aware of how much I didn’t know.

Living with my parents for the past 20 years I am fortunate for the things they have done for me on a daily basis. I knew how to cook, but I rarely had to at home, I never had to take out the garbage, and I had almost zero experience with grocery shopping. Moving to Ottawa on my own, I had to learn all of those things pretty quickly. Trust me, it was a lot of trial and error.

Moving across the country isn’t cheap, especially when you’re a student. To help me stay on budget I used an app called Mint which let me create a monthly budget and showed me how much I was spending. After doing a bit of research, I learned that about 10-15% of your monthly paycheck is supposed to go towards groceries. Making a budget definitely helped me keep track of rent, groceries, eating out etc. I would highly recommend trying it.

My mom is a grocery guru (I think it’s kind of a mom thing). She somehow knows which store has the cheapest limes and where to get the best deals on cereal without having to look it up. Unfortunately, I have yet to develop this knowledge. You could tell me that the regular price for a box of cereal is $10 and I’d believe you. In addition to occasionally calling my mom and asking things like “is $1.99 for a pound of apples a good price?” I used an app that would send me flyers for the stores nearby. That helped with comparing prices.

Quickly, I realized that I was going to have to do multiple small trips to the store rather than one big one per week. Not having a car meant that I could only buy as many things as I was willing to carry home with me. Meal planning helped me figure out when I would go to the grocery store and what I would get when I was there.

Although I felt like I kind of got tossed into adulthood while in Ottawa, I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn all of this at such a young age; rather than later on in life. I learned to be self-sufficient and how to work in a professional environment. I’m happy to say that I didn’t drown, and instead learned how to swim.

SFU Co-op Student
visibility  197
Feb 22, 2019

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