Skip to main content

Thuy Anh Vu

SFU Co-op Student
Beedie School of Business

empty
TRIUMF particle accelerator
Having to learn and adjust to such a different field really contributed to my adaptation skills; dealing with people who think so differently (not to mention, in a professional setting) greatly improved my communication skills; and being the only person who did the work I did, I eventually found the right people to connect with despite it being a setback initially.
Thuy standing by the edge of the observation area looking into the factory.

You see a job posting, you read the description, you become interested. You apply for the job, you get interviewed, then you get hired. You start the job, you pay attention to your work environment, then it does not take long before you realize…that you do not understand a single thing about your organization’s core field of work. You now feel lost, overwhelmed, and conflicted. And that is how I began my first co-op term, working as a Conference Management Assistant at Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics (TRIUMF).

That’s right, my position barely has anything to do with what TRIUMF does: physics. My job is to help organize and execute the International Particle Accelerator Conference, a conference for physicists and scientists from around the world to come together, learn and discuss...well, physics. It requires the implementation of various tasks such as coordinating meetings, procurement of goods and services, website/database maintenance and much more.

However, I am not here to provide a job description. I am here to give you a glimpse of what it feels like to be a lost Penny in a world of physicians and engineers (Big Bang Theory reference); what it feels like to work in a national physics lab while knowing absolutely nothing about physics.

Thuy is holding their keycard in front of the entrance to the labratory.

Although the work I do does not directly deal with physics, it still proves to be a frequent obstacle. To really do my job well as a Conference Management Assistant, it is best to have a good understanding of what the conference is all about, who is coming with what purpose, and what their expectations are in academic terms. Not having the relevant knowledge felt like driving with a GPS, but with a thick fog obstructing my vision. It was a steep learning curve and took me a while before I could adjust to it.

Moreover, as Canada's premier physics laboratory, TRIUMF maintains strict regulations for entry. However, gaining access to the labs is just a small concern. The real challenge, for someone in my position, is gaining comprehension with the people who work 24/7 in the labs. It isn’t just a stereotype: since science and business are completely different fields, we indeed have quite different ways of expressing ourselves and processing information from each other, thus making communication a whole lot harder than it already is.

A bundle of notes and schedules and papers spread throughout the table.

And lastly, as the only student who was hired for co-op work in the commercialization aspect of TRIUMF, it became quite evident that I did not get along with all other co-op students, who did their co-op in the labs. I felt out of place, and lonely. It felt like everyone else had support, while I was all on my own.

However, in every dark situation, there is a light. Having to learn and adjust to such a different field really contributed to my adaptation skills; dealing with people who think so differently (not to mention, in a professional setting) greatly improved my communication skills; and being the only person who did the work I did, I eventually found the right people to connect with despite it being a setback initially. No matter what we do, we are never alone. And no matter how difficult things become, there are always options to improve and/or gain benefits out of the situation.

For those who have completed your co-op term, congratulations! You have become a whole lot more experienced- not only in your field but also in life. For those who plan to join the co-op program, I wish you the best of luck in finding a desirable placement. And even if it is not, you could always flip the switch and learn to make the most out of it!

About the Author

Thuy Anh Vu

SFU Co-op Student
Beedie School of Business
Sure, you could call me a Business Student, a Dance Instructor, or an Event Planner. Those titles define what I do, but they do not define who I am. Instead, I believe that I am is a persistent worker, a challenge taker, and a never-ending learner. Connect with me, join my pathless journey through life; and remember, not all those who wander are lost.

Posts by Author

A picture of a woman talking a selfie in front of a mountain range
Blog
Starting a Fitness Journey

Everyone's fitness journey is different! Read about SFU Recreation's Audrey Heath journey with fitness! 

Portrait of Matthew
Blog
Building Open-Source Software: NVIDIA Software Intern Experience

Ever wonder what it’s like to work at NVIDIA as a Software Intern? That’s exactly what I did during 2021. I’ll be breaking down my entire experience at NVIDIA from start to finish; alongside the various open-source projects I had a chance to work on while at NVIDIA.

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.

 

You Might Like These... Co-op Reflections

Man and woman sitting and listening at the Wosc Centre
Paving the Way for Community Engagement

Engaging with our communities provides opportunities to connect, grow, and give back. Jasleen shares how her co-op with the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue lived up to SFU's reputation as Canada's most engaged university. 

the author standing next to Canadian Western Bank logo
Moving From Retail to Corporate: Life as an Operational Specialist at Canadian Western Trust

For three years I worked part-time at TD Canada Trust as a customer service representative and eventually a personal banking associate.

image of PWC building
SFU Co-op Secures International Roles for BBA Duo

Two Beedie undergraduate students, Luming Zhao and Xiwen Zheng, successfully secured full-time roles at the prestigious PwC Shanghai office after completing their co-op work terms there. Read to learn more about their experience, how they did it, and how you can too! This article was previously published in SFU News on June 8, 2015.