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Olympia Tsantila

she/her/hers
SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Criminology | Beedie School of Business › Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Co-operative Education › International Co-op, Co-operative Education › Local Co-op, Semester in Dialogue, Work-Study

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One thing I would advise anyone who wants to apply for an international co-op abroad is to just do it! Even when it sounds big and scary I have to tell you that the scariest thing is not to do it. Trust me, you’ll come back so much richer from the amazing experiences you’ll get.
Experience Details
Semester
Fall
Year
2023
Introduction + Preparation

Every time I am staring at the Eiffel Tower these past four months in Paris, I can’t believe the experience I got to live this Fall semester.

The journey started for me at the beginning of my co-op seeking period back in the Fall 2022, with no previous professional experience in the tech field, but yet with ample eagerness to learn and experience something completely new from the ordinary. I had done my research on Amazon already during the first few weeks before the seeking period of the co-op program as well as the opportunities available for students in the company globally. I was super interested in the Program Manager (PM) position in the EU market. Amazon’s PM interns collaborate and partner with business teams to solve problems that impact customers and implement approaches to identify and propose solutions to business-related problems. As a customer myself, I was intrigued. I quickly took action and started reaching out to people I knew had worked in the company before to get a more inside view of the role, potential interview tips, and opportunities after the internship.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

The offer for the first interview came unexpectedly in November last year, I was over the moon. The interview followed the offer for the four months Customer Experience (CX) Program Manager Internship in Amazon’s offices in Paris, and a Student-Developed International Co-op for the Fall 2023 at SFU.

When I arrived in Paris everything was completely new to me. A new country, new people, a new house, and a completely new life for me. A real step out of my comfort zone that I hadn’t experienced since 2020 when I first moved to Vancouver. However, I quickly put myself out there, I made friends for life, I practiced my French which I love, and underwent projects at work that I had never imagined before, with critical impact to Amazon’s customers; like me and you.

Day to Day

What is exactly a CX Program Manager? As a CX Program Manager, I had the opportunity to work closely with different Amazonians in different countries around Europe although my team’s focus was oriented around France and Belgium. My main role was to lead and manage projects that aim to enhance the customer journey, hence the reduction of customer service contacts. One of the most important moments for me in this role was working on a project, significantly confidential, and earned a very high visibility. My research or the “Deep Dive” -if we want to speak the Amazonian way- was presented in front of the Vice President (VP) of France and other Senior EU Leaders, and took me over two months of preparation and tests.

Reflection & Tips
Reflection

What would be remiss not to say is the support I got from my team, especially my manager who since day one was there to help me adjust to the new environment, support me in projects, and teach me her amazing management skills. What I appreciate a lot about this role and my team, is the opportunity they gave me to be very independent in the decision-making, the project planning, and the communication with different stakeholders. They trusted me and created a safe place for me to grow and learn.

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

Life Outside Work? That’s an even more fun part. What I enjoyed the most outside of work was to discover every little neighborhood of Paris, to observe the people, their habits, and the way they stand in the situations, and compare it with Canada, and other parts of the world I’ve traveled to. For example, growing up in Greece I was so used to a stressful driving experience in the streets that I thought I could survive in any city outside Athens. I was fooling myself because I had never driven in the chaotic rush hour of Paris. Another big difference I noticed between Vancouver and Paris was of course the nature aspect of the city. Don’t get me wrong, Paris has beautiful parks all along the city. However, I missed the unique natural surroundings of the west coast and my everyday contact with the sea. Nonetheless, the amazing croissants, the vibrant neighborhoods, the incredible taste of fashion, and the outstanding architecture of Paris balanced things out within me.

In my day-to-day life in the city, I loved the opportunity I had to practice my French, to speak like a native. I loved the lunches at the office that brought me closer to French culture, and the Tuesday sports class with my manager. The team bonding drinks after work, my constant failure at the “guess the song” game, and the best, most creative All-Hands Meeting I have ever been to.

One thing I would advise anyone who wants to apply for an international co-op abroad is to just do it! Even when it sounds big and scary I have to tell you that the scariest thing is not to do it. Trust me, you’ll come back so much richer from the amazing experiences you’ll get. You’ll come back stronger because you made it! You’ll see the world outside of the comfort of your daily life as a student, a world that has so much to offer- I promise. You’ll come back a different person, with a new perspective, more international, and new skills that will sculpt who you are, and where you stand professionally and personally. You'll come back and your phone will ring, and you'll hear from the other side of the line the voices of the friends you made, and spent months living, and experiencing Parisian life together telling you how much they miss you. You'll always have this 'family' to go back to...

Advice for Future Students

From my experience, the key to an international co-op position is first good research, and second, a well-written resume that will stand out. Not necessarily because of your impressive previous experience, but instead the skills and the diversity you bring to the table. Of course, let’s not forget to connect with people and be curious. Do you know someone who works for your future dream company? Connect with them! Ask questions, ask tips, be curious, and learn their day-to-day agenda, does this agenda align with you and your future goals? Then, plan your next steps!

Good luck, and don’t forget to dream big, and plan bigger :))

Author

Olympia Tsantila

she/her/hers
SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Criminology | Beedie School of Business › Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Co-operative Education › International Co-op, Co-operative Education › Local Co-op, Semester in Dialogue, Work-Study
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Feb 8, 2024