Skip to main content
image of the author

April Zhang

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Interactive Arts + Technology

a quiet street in Toronto
I would never get a second chance like this to gain so much improvement in self-discipline and to learn how to manage my mental health.

“If I was given a second chance, I would make the same decision.” I was asking myself if I regret it or not when I started writing this. Initially, it seemed really brave to move to Toronto for a co-op and work in a tax app team during the tax season. It’s both the coldest in Toronto and the busiest season at Intuit, TurboTax team. Then, an unexpected global pandemic occurred requiring me and all my co-workers to work remotely from home for 7 weeks. I didn’t anticipate the additional barriers I would be encountering and the incredible learnings I would take from this move.

Working as a user experience designer at Intuit was my very first experience working in a worldwide known company. It’s hard to describe how much I have learned from this position and how much I appreciate that I decided to take this offer back in 2019. This experience showed me everything I can expect from working in a big tech company. From collaborating closely with other designers, content strategists, product managers, marketers and developers, participating in multiple “Follow-me-home” sessions to better understand customers in their natural environment by observing them using the TurboTax app, to driving a project by myself, there’s no more I can ask for from a co-op position. I remember how anxious I was during the first week at Intuit after attending several meetings with my manager, team members and senior leaders because I realized how much I would need to learn and how far I would need to push myself out of my comfort zone. People are saying only challenges help you grow. I am thankful that I met a team providing me opportunities to overcome challenges and at the same time, offering me enough care and support. I was accepted as a family member of the team and treated as a full-time employee who has ownership of some projects. I felt trusted and supported while working on products that will eventually be touched by real users. 

Quickly moving from a collaborative office environment to working remotely at home for almost 2 months due to the pandemic was completely unexpected. Living and working in a city that I am not familiar with was an exciting adventure, in the beginning, it reminded me of the moments I first came to Canada. I couldn’t wait to explore every store downtown, know new friends and try numerous restaurants. However, working from home in a temporary rented place made it a totally different story. The place I rented does not have a proper place to work, so I needed to work at a dining table, right beside the kitchen. Social distancing is not easy for many to cope with, I found it really challenging in the first several days. Later on, I realized how meaningful this experience was for me. Many people would agree that it’s much harder to concentrate and be productive at home, yet it’s also a good chance to develop those skills. After a couple of days, I needed to force myself to work as focused as at the office. I picked up my iPad which I had only used for streaming movies in the past several months and wrote down an everyday schedule in detail, then tried to follow it strictly. I pushed myself to be more active in weekly design critique meetings and prepared by creating presentations. Fortunately, our brain knows how to adapt ourselves to new situations quickly, after a couple of days I had a regular routine and productive schedule. 

It’s most likely I would never get a second chance like this to gain so much improvement in self-discipline and to learn how to manage my mental health. Currently, I am enjoying my last several weeks in Toronto while wrapping up my work term. I would recommend to anyone who is hesitant to make risky choices in their life to take the chance and challenge themselves. No one knows what is waiting for us ahead, but a new experience is one thing that we can learn and grow from. There's nothing to lose.

About the Author

image of the author

April Zhang

SFU Co-op Student
Communication, Art + Technology › Interactive Arts + Technology
Connect with April on LinkedIn or Instagram. April Zhang is a passionate designer who's curious about the world. She completed her co-op experience working as a User Experience designer for Inuit, a global company. 
Jien Hilario photo
What’s in a Name? Coming to Terms With Labelling Myself as a Person With a Disability

If you were to see Jien on campus, you wouldn’t know that she had a disability. She does not use a wheelchair nor does she have a seeing eye dog. She has an invisible disability. In this article, Jien shares her journey on how she came to terms with labeling herself as a person with a disability. 

Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere
Why Doesn’t Canada Have a Disabilities Act?

It is 2018 and Canada has not yet implemented adequate protection and legislation for people with disabilities. When it comes to equality for all, Canada is falling far behind. In this article, Jien discusses the research and reality of why Canada needs a Disabilities Act.

We Can Do It!
How to Satisfy Your Inner Activist

When people think about social justice, they think of things like protests or hunger strikes, but the options don’t end there. These volunteer organizations can help you satisfy your inner activist.

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

Aayla Umar on service at the CBSA
Enforcing Soft Skills

Meet “Student Border Services Officer (SBSO) Umar”, who shares what her co-op was like at the Canada Border Services Agency.

A group of houses in Poland
Co-op Poland: Evan's International Adventure of Self Exploration

University can be a draining experience. So how to do you recharge yourself without delaying your academic or professional plans? Why not go on an international co-op placement? Check out BPK student Evan Hutcheon's adventure, reflections and experiences he gained working in Poland.

the author standing in front of the company's location near a park
The Co-op Balancing Act

Hazel Cheung discusses the importance of creating work-life balance and an awesome office culture while on co-op with the RCMP.