University is an open door: the opportunity to learn, make friends, gain job-related skills and travel are all within arms’ reach. Co-op can be a great step in the right direction for many students looking to try out a career in their field of study. On the other hand, it can also be a great way to get paid and travel – two important entries on the university student’s bucket list. With so many opportunities in different fields, cities and countries, how do you possibly decide whether or not to complete a co-op term close to home, or to go abroad, and test-drive a new career in a new locale?
In my first year I was faced with that decision: go away and try to make a name for myself in a place where I knew nobody and nothing, or find a job close to home? I knew I always wanted to travel, but the decision to finally pack up my things and hit the road was intimidating – I mean, I was only 19! I made the bold decision to uproot my life and move across the country, and it was a decision I never regretted. I met new people, loved my job, and experienced living on my own for the first time.
Not convinced? Nervous about the application process? Feel like visiting Spain, France, or Korea, but something’s holding you back?
Read on for tips on how to make an educated decision when it comes to going abroad for Co-op, or visit the Communication Co-op site for more information about where Communication Co-op students wind up working!
1. Are you worried that you will miss your friends and family too much to leave them for a semester? Or, worried that they won’t support your career move?
Relax! These people are in your life because they generally enjoy your company and like being around you. Talk to them about your options, and have them voice their opinions before you begin applying to jobs away from home. That way, when the opportunity arises for you to accept a job offer, your decision won’t be a surprise. At the end of the day, the people that mean most to you will probably understand that you have to do what is going to give you the best advantage – even if that means missing you for a little while.
2. Alternately, are your own boundaries holding you back? It can be nerve wracking to think about packing up and moving somewhere you’ve never been, especially in a professional situation.
Consider why you want to go abroad in the first place: experiencing new things, making connections, and building a new life for yourself even for four months can have a profound impact on your confidence and your perspective. It’s a relatively low-risk way to travel, as you’re guaranteed a way to make friends, and finance your whole experience.
3. Are you concerned about measuring up in a new job and a new locale?
Remember, your Co-op coordinators are there to help you with every step. They’ve spent time building connections with employers and understand the expectations you have moving into a new role. Use your Co-op coordinators as a resource, and remember that there are students who have gone through exactly what you will be going through. Take the opportunity to read work reports from students who previously held the role, or scroll through the Communique or OLC blog in order to find other student perspectives.
4. Are you nervous about fending for yourself?
It can be hard to make the move from living at home, to moving across the country or around the world and fending for yourself. What’s awesome about moving away for a Co-op position is that you’ll be making money to support yourself – possibly more money than if you stayed at home and worked a part-time job. For me, as a student concerned about saving money for additional travel after my work term, I made sure before I took a leap of faith to lay out a budget for myself, and make sure that with my Co-op salary I would be able to both live and save for a rainy day. If budgets are new to you, get familiar with Excel and start plotting out your weekly expenses – it can really make a difference when you’re supporting yourself.
Hopefully these tips have given you some insight into how to make a life-altering decision. So, who’s ready to take the plunge?