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Beedie School of Business
SFU Co-op Student

portrait showing Nicole smiling
The experience can also give you an indication of whether you would like to live and/or work in a big city down the road.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work in downtown Vancouver?  Many of my fellow students and friends seem to revere the idea; they think a job downtown sounds exciting, and somewhat prestigious. When I was applying to various co-op positions, I have to admit that I held the same mindset. I wanted to work downtown and experience the city firsthand. Hence, when I was offered a co-op position with the Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) Regional Office on West Georgia Street, I was elated. Not only had I managed to secure a position with a great employer, but I would be working downtown!

a street view of highrises in downtown Vancouver
Georgia Street Downtown Vancouver

Prior to working at the CRA, I had been to downtown Vancouver less than 15 times in my entire life. My experience working with the CRA, and working downtown, would prove to be eye-opening. Being employed downtown is not all glamour, but it is still pretty awesome. I have therefore assembled a brief list of the perks and challenges that I have experienced while working downtown, which will hopefully help you decide if you might like to pursue a future co-op position in downtown Vancouver. 

an image of the beach in downtown Vancouver area
English Bay

By far, my favorite part of working downtown was the opportunity to explore. Every lunch break, I would explore a new part of the city; somedays I would head to Robson Square to listen to live music, and other days I would race to Sunset Beach to enjoy my lunch in the sunshine. Every day I would go somewhere new. In essence, I was being a tourist in the city where I worked. As someone unfamiliar with Vancouver, this was a great experience.

Another perk to working downtown is definitely the food. I personally cannot speak to this point, as I would typically bring my lunch from home. However, upon speaking to my co-workers and fellow co-op students, I learned that the lunch options in downtown are endless. From gluten-free fast-food to hybrid ramen, the possibilities for good food are unlimited.

The last perk I will share is the opportunity for entertainment once the workday ends. As you are already downtown, there are numerous things you can do or see that you otherwise may have had to save for the weekend. Some of my favorite things that I chose to do included walking along the Sea Wall and going to see Les Misérables at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Other possible adventures could involve going to the Aquarium, Granville Island, or English Bay.

a low angle of a church in downtown Vancouver against the sunny background
Church by Burrard

While working downtown may seem like a lot of fun, it does have a couple of drawbacks. Depending on where you live, the commute can be extremely long.  Every morning, I would leave my house at 6:45am to reach the office by 8:00 am via transit. While the length of your commute may seem manageable at first, over time it can wear you down. If you take transit, the sky trains and buses are packed during rush hour, and if there is a problem with one of the trains (which I have heard happens at least once per month) it can take you hours to get home. Therefore, if you are considering working downtown, you will have to ask yourself if the commute is worth it.

Another minor challenge that can arise, especially if you take transit to work, is dressing for the weather. In the midst of summer when the weather is hot, you may melt on the sky train commuting to work, and then freeze upon entering a cold air-conditioned office. Dressing in layers is very important, even if it means having to pack a lot of extra clothes (or an umbrella) onto the sky train or bus. A tip that I learned later on in my work term was to leave a sweater or blanket at work; this lightened my load trekking to and from downtown.

a snapshot of the ocean and highrises by the seawall in downtown Vancouver
Sea Wall
In Conclusion

Working in downtown Vancouver no doubt has its perks and challenges, and there are many which I have not listed here. However, it is in my opinion that if you can spend at least one work term downtown, it is definitely worth it. The opportunity to explore a beautiful and interesting place that you are unfamiliar with, is worth a long commute for a couple of months. The experience can also give you an indication of whether you would like to live and/or work in a big city down the road. If you have the opportunity, take it!

SFU Co-op Student
Connect with Nicole on LinkedIn. Nicole Bourne is a BBA Candidate attending the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University.  She has had a variety of different work experiences and enjoys sharing her tips and stories with others.  In her spare time, Nicole enjoys hiking and paddleboarding, as well as music, theatre, and visual arts.
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Dec 3, 2018

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