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Kayla Gourlay

SFU Arts Co-op Student, English Major
Arts + Social Sciences
Simon Fraser University
Communications Assistant

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Four students in red t-shirts manning an info table
Winterfest
I can honestly say this has been one of my most cherished university experiences.

I started my first co-op with high expectations (and nerves) – I was finally going back in-person at SFU, but this time for my first co-op. I was more nervous than I expected, there were so many questions and I had no idea what to expect. Would it be quiet in the office? Would I be the only co-op student? What exactly would I be doing? Thankfully, my nerves dissipated so quickly in this position, and I can honestly say this has been one of my most cherished university experiences.

Will I Fit In?

One of my first thoughts when I started this co-op was Am I going to feel out of place as the only student in an office full of people? I was feeling really nervous about this, but I was surprised with the information that there were four other SFU co-op students working with Communications & Marketing. One of the best parts of University life for me is meeting new people and making new friends, so I was immediately excited by this, and I couldn’t wait to meet them. 

Kayla standing with four other students
Communications & Marketing Co-ops: Ayo, Erica, Dru, Kayla (me), Kobie.

Kobie, Ayo, Erica, Dru and I started going on our lunch breaks together, exploring different spots on campus to eat and hang out, and from there the ice really started to break. Later into the semester, we also were given the opportunity to work closely on a project together, which was what ultimately brought us together as friends. We started spending every possible lunch break together, and it felt like there were endless bursts of laughter and silly conversations. We all have such different personalities that mesh so well together and make for the best lunch breaks. From there we planned photoshoots, secret Santas, and nights out together.

It’s nice to have people in your position who you can bounce questions off of and be able to relate to, but I was fortunate to genuinely feel like I made a friend in these four wonderful people – Kobie, Ayo, Erica, and Dru – as well, friends I know I will keep in close contact with in the years to come. I also had some overlap with the co-op student previously in my role at the beginning of this position, and she was extremely supportive and helpful in transitioning me into this role, which was so vital to me doing well and enjoying this position.

Casual shot of Kayla and three other students outside
Lunch break laughs

Even though I was lucky enough to work with other students, I quickly learned that there was nothing for me to worry about in the first place. My supervisor and my coworkers were all such supportive people who made me feel comfortable asking questions. It became clear to me that this was an environment where people wanted each other to flourish and enjoy their work, and that co-ops were people who could be trusted and whose ideas were valuable. I also loved that it was a place where coworkers could connect and have fun with each other, whether that be through holiday parties, Friday afternoon movie chats, or sharing photos of our pets. 

Desk Job? Not Quite

I’m definitely the type of person who struggles with sitting at a desk in front of a screen all day long. Luckily, in this position every day in the office was different, and I had the opportunity to help with a wide variety of projects, which involved going to different locations and switching up my work routine. I helped with photoshoots for SFU staff and promoted the proposed Burnaby gondola, which I had so much fun with. 

With the gondola work in particular, I – along with my fellow co-op students – got to help out with SFU’s Winterfest, travel to Production Way-University Station, and spend afternoons in the Student Union Building. I chatted with students and the SFU community about their thoughts on the proposed project, and also got to learn a lot about the project myself as a student of SFU. I helped make videos and discussed what did and didn’t work in the campaign, and I felt like my and the other students’ ideas were really taken into consideration. I also had the chance to meet SFU’s President, Joy Johnson, which was a really cool experience for me. 

Five students holding a banner that says "Give students a lift" in front of the library at the SFU Burnaby campus
Gondola Campaign at the SUB
Opening my Eyes to New Career Paths

With the variety of different avenues for me to take as an English major, I struggled to know what kind of jobs might be out there for me. I took a position in the Communications department to try out something new, and learned that I actually really enjoy this, specifically working at a university. I’ve always had an interest in working at the library as well, so now one thing that really appeals to me is potentially working at the SFU Library!

My minor, Print and Digital Publishing, is also in SFU’s Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology, but I hadn’t really gotten as in tune with that side of my degree until this co-op. I was happy to learn that a lot of what I had done in my Publishing classes was extremely useful and relevant in this position. In my PUB 101 and 201 classes, I created a blog and accompanying social media accounts. The main focus of the class was learning how to present your brand professionally and maintain your brand’s identity in your content. I was able to apply a lot of what I had learned in class to my tasks in this position and learn that this wasn’t just something I enjoyed in my classes, but as a career path I’m looking forward to exploring further!

About the Author

Image of author

Kayla Gourlay

SFU Arts Co-op Student, English Major
Arts + Social Sciences
Simon Fraser University
Communications Assistant
Kayla is a 3rd year English major student, who is also working towards a minor in Print and Digital Publishing. This was the first of her two co-op work terms with SFU Communications and Marketing.

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