This article was originally published in the Arts Co-op newsletter in Fall 2014.
This summer I had the opportunity to complete my first Co-op work term with the Mexican Consulate in Vancouver. For four months I worked as an intern in the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, one of the most important programs for the Agricultural Sector in Canada. Mexican workers represent over one-third of all agricultural workers in Canada and it was amazing to be involved with the whole process of their employment: from the point where Canadian farmers apply for workers with Service Canada, to the point when those workers go back to Mexico when their contracts end.
This was a great work term because the consulate gave interns the encouragement and responsibility to take the initiative in choosing their approach to completing assigned tasks. Moreover, the staff members working for the program are bright and talented individuals with different educational backgrounds who have a lot to offer students looking for advice and experience. I developed close relationships with many of them, obtaining invaluable connections and references for my future.
My daily duties at the consulate included updating databases (like the worker arrival and early repatriation list), answering phone calls to attend to the various needs of employers and employees, filing paperwork, translating documents from English to Spanish, and mediating between employers and workers when conflicts arose. Along with my everyday tasks, I also welcomed workers at the airport when they arrived in Canada, visited ill workers in the hospital, and conducted visits to farms which I later wrote reports on.
Throughout the work term, I developed and improved many skills. For example, the program required knowledge of Microsoft Excel and a specialized program and database so I learned a lot about computers and various applications. In addition, my communication and problem solving skills improved dramatically because I constantly had to mediate between the needs of Canadian employers and Mexican workers, as well as communicate and make decisions with my team. Finally, I gained experience in an office setting where professionalism, communication and teamwork are important elements. I will be able to transfer these skills to many other work settings and situations in the future.
Getting involved with Co-op is the best decision that I made during my first year at SFU. I was able to gain amazing work experience throughout the summer, develop relationships with interesting people in all fields, gain new skills, and apply knowledge that I obtained in the classroom to a work setting. A big thank you goes out to our Co-op program at SFU and the staff members who take the time to find opportunities for students, give us advice, and answer our questions. They are there from the beginning, offering information, arranging workshops, offering practice interviews, and conducting on site visits. I truly urge students reading this to get involved with Co-op and what it has to offer, especially at the Mexican Consulate!
Beyond the Blog
For more opportunities like Diana's, visit the SFU FASS co-op page!