I had a lot of uncertainties starting Co-op. Did I have the skills and experience for my first professional job? What type of job did I want to do? Would I hear back after my job interview? Now, months later, I am finishing up a communications co-op placement with SFU’s Faculty of Communication, Art & Technology (FCAT) and have gained a plethora of new skills and knowledge. As I head back to campus, I am feeling excited and inspired for what's next.
Co-op gave me insight on the types of roles I could do, including ones outside of the Arts program, which I fell under as an English student. In my role as the Communication, Design and Event Assistant, I ended up strengthening my skills in both written and verbal communication, and event planning. I even discovered my love for designing! It has given me the confidence and push to pursue other positions in my field while I am still an undergrad. Working at SFU has been a great experience, as I had a strong connection to the university, even without taking classes. I kept learning about opportunities at SFU, as well as took part in them from “behind the scenes.”
I was tasked with being the primary organizer of the FCAT Undergraduate Conference, which meant I worked closely with our student presenters. I was truly blown away by the time and effort they put into their projects. It was really an honour to showcase the incredible student work, and the way the conference brought together students from all different disciplines into one community. Seeing undergraduate students bravely share their work has inspired me to participate in opportunities like this in the future.
I was also heavily inspired by my fellow Co-op students on the FCAT team who worked in social media and marketing. In my first term, two of the Co-op students and I happened to all be taking the same design course together which was a fun coincidence! Our team’s holiday party happened to be after our final project was due (a mini book!), so we celebrated all the effort we had put into it as well. I added them on LinkedIn and as I started to use the platform more, I found it really inspiring to see what they and other fellow students were up to. From working with publications at SFU, to volunteering at Vancouver Fashion Week, seeing others’ experiences really opened my mind to the possibilities out there for students.
As students, we can be so preoccupied with our classes and grades that sometimes other experiences like volunteering, events, or joining a new club are put on the back burner. However, these experiences are just as important as classes as they allow you to learn more about yourself and enrich your university experience. They also provide a time to decompress and engage with other interests that go beyond academics.
While volunteer opportunities are sometimes hard to prioritize, I realized that they are the perfect way to get involved in a subject you are interested in or passionate about. They tend to have flexible schedules and are less intimidating if you don’t have a lot of experience. People often say that volunteer work will look good on a resume, which is true, but beyond that, it’s because it is an experience that you will grow and learn from. Plus, when it is something you genuinely care about, it can be very rewarding. As I am learning through my Co-op journey, experiences create connections which oftentimes turn into other opportunities one may not have imagined down the road!
This Co-op experience made me want to stay involved and take my design, writing, and event planning skills to the next level, while connecting to causes I am passionate about. As an English major, I had ideas of jobs I might be interested in, like editing and publishing, but beyond reading my friends’ papers for class, I didn’t have the experience to see if this is actually something I would like. I realized that now was actually the perfect time for me to be trying out new things and following interests of mine, even if I wasn’t super sure how it would align with my future. With these ideas in mind, I applied for The Lyre when I heard that they were looking for Associate Editors. I also signed up to volunteer with the SFSS Women’s Centre on their social media and marketing team, and I took on a new position with the English Student Union (ESU) as a social media coordinator when I realized how much I enjoyed making graphics. All of these experiences pushed me to write my first blog post with SFU Her Campus, which I had a lot of fun doing.
Co-op gave me the opportunity to explore my interests by giving me free time on evenings and weekends. I realized how much I value having free time where I can separate myself from my work and not feel overwhelmed. Now, I am looking into better time management and study strategies to achieve this balance when I go back to school.
The past eight months have given me a much-needed opportunity to back up from my studies and look at my undergrad experience in a holistic way. It's helped me to build self-confidence, discover new passions, and be excited for what my future has in store.