Skip to main content
Arts + Social Sciences › Urban Studies

New Westminster's Pattulo Bridge at night.
Komal Brar on Unsplash.
I value the idea of placemaking as a core guideline to planning public spaces.

As an Urban Studies Master's student, I value the idea of placemaking as a core guideline to planning public spaces. Placemaking is mainly about connecting people and places and supporting communities to thrive in their spaces. It also means acknowledging the diversity of values and needs in a community and providing public service that cares for that. 

That was what I found during my Co-op work term with the Transportation department of the City of New Westminster. 

Having no previous experience with transportation planning, I was positively surprised to see how the human element is a priority in the work of planners and engineers. City staff puts noticeable effort in connecting people to places so that communities are served in the best possible way, considering the budget limitations of a small city.

Urban planning in a small municipality: it’s personal.

During four months working for a small municipality in Metro Vancouver, I have learnt that a small structure for providing public service doesn’t mean having to settle for less. On the contrary, I have witnessed teams working with dedication and creativity to overcome big and small challenges. 

From pursuing provincial and federal grants to answering phone calls from the public to explain minor traffic disruptions, it was all about human connection. 

The Co-op work term in a small municipality helped me to not lose sight of those connections; in a cohesive team, everyone is aware of the big planning picture as well of the challenges of managing community expectations towards what the City should provide. 

It became very clear that I cannot plan big without caring for the small details that affect people’s daily lives. It also reminded me that urban planning is not about numbers and stats. It’s about people working for people.

The Co-op experience for newcomers: building bridges.

Speaking of human connections, those can really be a challenge for international students and immigrants, especially when it comes to career development. We are about to take our first step in our professional lives or, in some cases, to start over in new careers, but most of our social ties are far away. 

How do we bridge that gap? The Co-op program is an opportunity to be seen as a potential asset for employers before our degrees are completed.  Many organizations are familiar with Co-op and the quality work and practical skill sets that students contribute. I felt that to be true about SFU’s Urban Studies Program and I’m sure it is also true for many other programs. Even if hiring managers cannot relate to our background in other countries, they can certainly recognize a pattern in the good work that has been done by previous Co-op students.

As for the work itself, the position of a Co-op student allows us to really embrace the position of curious learners. As a first career step, it is okay that we don’t have all the answers. What is expected from us is that we bring our academic attitude towards work to ask questions and seek creative answers. That is a chance to make your own mark. I hope many take it as well!   

Bruna Maciel is a Master's Student at SFU’s Urban Studies Program. She worked within social housing as a lawyer for ten years before immigrating from Brazil and is starting a new career path in urban planning.
visibility  298
Nov 23, 2021

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

A yellow road sign with an arrows going left and right on the side of the road
Finding My Way With Co-op

Your path to discovering your career won’t look like someone else’s. This is an important lesson that I've learned during my Co-op journey that has motivated me to explore all the possibilities of what a future career could entail. Keep reading to learn about how I've continued my Co-op journey and more about how I've continued to learn about myself during this experience. 

A photo of the author
My Co-op Experience at SAP

My co-op terms have given me the ability to explore potential career choices and build invaluable work experience as well as helped me to craft my own career path. Read on to discover my co-op journey and why I highly recommend pursuing co-op with SAP. 

View of BC Cancer Research Center from W 10th Avenue looking North
Branching Out and Standing Out at the BC Cancer Agency

Working in a huge building can be intimidating and make you feel very small, especially as a temporary Co-op student. Check out what Josh did to make sure everyone in the BC Cancer Research Center knew who he was!