I vividly recall the day I had my interview for my current co-op job. I was taking the Greyhound out of San Diego that mid-summer day to get to Los Angeles, and amidst my travel, had phone interviews scheduled for two lucrative co-op positions. One took place in a hotel room (in which I sprawled across a bed directly in front of an air conditioner), the other at the side of a road at a noisy bus station. Needless to say, it was a highly eventful and memorable day.
When I received the offer from BlackBerry the very next day my whole world flipped upside down. While on vacation mode I had to quickly come to terms with the fact that I would only be home for a little while before heading to Ontario for 12 months. It was a scary, exhilarating, and daunting prospect. I knew I wanted this, and I knew I was ready, but the idea of being away for one whole year was something I couldn’t quite wrap my head around.
But that’s what I was going through last summer. Now, nearly 8 months have passed and I’m left wondering, “Where has the time gone?” I can only imagine the next 4 months will whiz right by and I’ll find myself back at SFU in no time. And once I’m back, I bet this whole experience will feel just like a dream. It’s funny how something can feel like such a big deal in one moment, and so ordinary in the next.
While I’ve been here, I’ve had a lot of time to think about things I normally wouldn’t. I mean, when you’re in school your brain barely has any thinking power to spare. During my co-op, I’ve found myself looking at things with a new perspective thanks to this freedom from typical student stresses. I thought about the concept of time and how as students we have a warped sense of it. Most of us students measure the passing of time in the completion of semesters, the striking off of prerequisites, and the accumulation of credits. School consumes our lives and being a student forms a great part of our identity. So while lost in that bubble, atop a mountain and feeling secluded from the rest of reality, it’s so easy to lose sight of the fact that even if we stretch our degrees beyond four years, our time here is temporary and so short.
What I’m getting at is, beyond the obvious benefits of co-op, I’ve gained something from escaping that student bubble – something I never would have gained otherwise. I knew co-op was supposed to help me explore my options for the future, but I didn’t expect it to help me evaluate what I’m doing right now. By taking that step back from school (and still doing something productive in the meantime), I have been able to redefine my goals and think about what I will need to do once I return to SFU.
This phenomenon of getting lost in the day-to-day routine of things and losing track of goals isn’t just limited to students—it happens in the workforce as well. After all, there’s an undeniable sense of comfort that comes along with routine, regardless of how soul draining your job or school work may be (luckily for me, my daily tasks at my co-op placement are interspersed with the right amount of variety to keep things interesting).
But if there’s one thing I’ve come to realize from my experience here, it’s that time is precious and there’s a distinction between doing something in that time and using that time for its full potential. To me, taking full advantage of my time means challenging myself so that I continue to grow. I could do what it takes to get by and walk out with a degree in hand, or I could look at my time being an undergrad as an opportunity to do more than just accumulate 120 credits. Of course, everyone is going to have a different definition of “making the most of their time,” but it all comes down to one thing—do you feel like you’re really challenging yourself?
The best part about doing something you’re intimidated by is that it lets you dare yourself; there’s something incredibly satisfying about proving your doubts wrong. When I graduate, I want to have accomplished more than I thought possible when I first came to SFU. Along that same line of thinking, the goals I have for myself now should not be the same ones I have next fall, because by then my definition of what is challenging will have changed. For me, life isn’t about waiting to get to where I want to be, it’s about pushing myself with every step to see just how far I can go.