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Health Sciences
SFU Co-op Student

Kelowna landscape
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I was also able to discover more about myself and explore my interests.. I learned that it is important to push your boundaries and allow yourself to discover new hobbies and interests.

In this article I will talk about my experience moving away from home as a co-op student, my work at Interior Health as well as tips for before moving and after the move.

Getting the Placement

Prior to the job search, I had decided that I did not want to move away from the Lower Mainland for my placement. I had commitments in the Lower Mainland that I thought I would not be able to give up for a co-op placement, even if it was only for eight months. However, this all changed when I saw the job title that read “Infection Prevention & Control Hand Hygiene Auditor”. Right away I was intrigued, what is a hand hygiene auditor and what work would they do? After reading the duties and responsibilities, as well as the skills and abilities I realized the job would be suitable for me.


The only thing that stopped me from applying for the position faster than ice cream melting on a hot day was that the placement was in Kelowna. After discussing this with the co-op coordinator, we decided that this was an opportunity too good to let pass by; I applied for the job. Three days after the interview, I accepted the job offer and I was overwhelmed with excitement and nervousness knowing I would soon move away! 

Here are some things to consider before moving away for your co-op:

1. Rent

Where do you plan on living? Research what areas you may plan on living in. I used Kijiji, Craigslist, as well as other sites that featured rentals in the Okanagan when searching for my housing. The general rule is: the more space and privacy you want, the higher the cost. I first moved into a house with four other roommates but halfway through my term I moved into my own space. Although it is nice to have your own space, having roommates may give you the opportunity to discover things you would not have on your own. I was fortunate enough to become friends with my roommates and we continued to spend time together after I moved out. Lastly, if you are bringing a vehicle, be sure that there is space for you to park your vehicle.

2. Transportation

Getting to your new location is not the only thing to worry about in terms of transportation.  You also need to decide what your main method of transportation will be once you get to the city. If you are choosing to use public transit it is important to ask yourself, how reliable is the transit system? Commuting to your workplace is one thing but consider whether it will be difficult for you to do other tasks such as getting groceries. If transportation becomes an issue, it may be necessary to look at other places to stay. 

For my stay in Kelowna, I was able to bring my vehicle with me. This made it easy for me to run errands or discover new places. It’s also helpful to find out from your employer if there will be other places you need to get to for work. I frequently had to go to other buildings to pick up Fleet vehicle keys. If I did not have my vehicle, it would have made it much more time consuming and difficult.

3. Weather

The weather will impact how you pack. Research the area you will live in and pack for whatever the weather may throw at you! If there are big changes in temperature, make sure you pack items that will be suitable for your stay. An alternative is to shop once you get there or get items shipped to you. I moved to the Okanagan during the snowstorm and had packed all my winter clothing. By the end of March, the temperature started climbing higher and soon we were in the high 20s, and by June we were reaching high 30s. Since Vancouver was only a few hours away, I as be able to go home occasionally and bring back what I needed. 

4. Create a Budget Using the Information Above

Try to calculate what your income will be. Although you do not need to be strict with the budget, it is good to have a general guideline of how much money will be spent and how much you will have remaining. Be sure to include money spent on housing, food, and transportation and of course money to spend to explore the city. At the beginning of my co-op I was concerned about saving money. Halfway through my co-op placement I decided to make the most of my situation. I made more of an effort to explore the city and to go to events with my friends. Saving is great, but one of the biggest perks of moving away is to be able to explore the area you are in. 

After the move
Big White Kelowna

Prior to moving to Kelowna I had never moved away from home. During the first week, I became horribly homesick. Moving from a quick paced city like Vancouver to a slower paced town was difficult and I had not made friends in Kelowna yet. My way of combatting this homesickness was to find a routine. I got a gym membership and became friends with my roommates who have lived in Kelowna for a longer period of time. Being busy allowed me to not focus on being homesick until eventually Kelowna became my new home.

My Job at Interior Health

As a hand hygiene auditor, my job was to conduct hand hygiene audit observations and collect the data to be submitted to the British Columbia’s Ministry of Health. I provided information to many Infection Control Practitioners regarding hand hygiene compliance at their sites as well as education to front line staff such as nurses, physicians, and housekeepers.

During my first two months, my travelling was in the area between Kamloops and Oliver. If I were working out of Kelowna, it would be at least an hour drive away. Slowly, I became more familiar with the areas of the Okanagan as well as the smaller towns in between. The drives that once felt long became more enjoyable as the sun was out earlier. As the weather became warmer and the road conditions improved, I was even able to travel to the Kootenay Boundary area, working in areas such as Nelson which would be a four hour drive away. Alternatively, I would be flown to Cranbrook to conduct audits in the Kootenays. The constant travel and wide area I had to cover meant that I was constantly in different areas. On my lunch breaks I would explore snippets of the area I was in and while I was away for a few days I was able to explore the city after work.

Final Thoughts

My experience at Interior Health has been more than amazing. I was given the opportunity to work away from home, independently and discover the vast amount of job opportunities that are available within a health authority. More importantly, I was also able to discover more about myself and explore my interests since I was away from what I am used to. I learned that it is important to push your boundaries and allow yourself to discover new hobbies and interests. For me, it included gardening and composting (which I often get teased about from friends at home) but I have learned to care less about what others think of me. I have freed myself from everything I limited myself from back at home and I have been able to focus on what makes me happy. If you are given the opportunity to work away from home, I encourage you to definitely take it.

Beyond the Blog

  • Learn more about Interior Health and career opportunities from their website

SFU Co-op Student
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Sep 21, 2015

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