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Nazafarin Esfandiari

SFU Student Undergraduate
Health Sciences

Experience Faculty
Experience Details
Introduction + Preparation

The main factor that helped me prepare for the interview was that the interview questions were emailed to me (and other candidates) prior to the session. This allowed me to be significantly calmer and more prepared. In addition, I made sure to familiarize myself with the department and its mission and vision ahead of time.

Previous Experience

Prior to this co-op position, I had a chance to enhance my teamwork, leadership, and communication skills through volunteer positions that I had at Fraser International College (FIC). In addition, as a health sciences student, I gained knowledge about mental health and mental illnesses through my courses, specifically HSCI 214 (Perspectives on Mental Health and Illness). Overall, this co-op position was a combination of my passion for mental health and my experience in leadership and working with students.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

My first day mostly consisted of meeting and interacting with others in the clinic. Although it is natural to be stressed on your first day in a new environment, those interactions were comforting and welcoming, which helped me settle into my new role. The first few weeks involved familiarizing myself with Hi-FIVE, knowing different teams within the SFU Health & Counselling department and their valuable roles in supporting students’ wellbeing, and receiving training on administrative and other duties.

Learning and Adaptation

This role has been a great opportunity for me to learn more about mental health in a professional setting. In the beginning, I was not sure how to communicate mental health knowledge to students, considering the stigma surrounding it. But at some point, with the support of my supervisors, other teams within the department, and Hi-FIVE Volunteers, I was able to recognize the gaps in communicating mental health knowledge and come up with plans that could take a positive step towards spreading awareness about mental health and destigmatizing mental illnesses through different means of communication.

Accomplishments and Challenges

There were two main areas that I found challenging as I took on this role: First, as this was a communications job posting, I was concerned that it might not align with my educational and career goals, and it might not be an optimal health-related experience I was looking for. Second, I was unsure about taking on an 8-month co-op position, as it sounded like a very long time. As time passed, I learned more about the importance of health communication and health promotion, and how ‘an optimal health-related experience’ can have many different formats and objectives. This experience allowed me to obtain a more holistic approach towards addressing students’ mental wellbeing, which is beyond what I initially anticipated.

Wrap Up

A positive co-op experience is not possible without a supportive team. I want to extend my thanks to my supervisors, Jaclyn Hayward and Lyndsay Cotterall, the Health Promotion team, the Counselling team, my coworkers at the co-op office, Hi-FIVE Volunteers, and all other individuals at SFU Health & Counselling Services who made this experience invaluable.

Reflection & Tips

The flexibility of this position has allowed me to come up with creative and interactive ways to communicate mental health information to SFU students. I learned that students can learn about taking care of their mental wellbeing through social media, a short handout, or even a Trivia, and that their learning experience does not have to be limited to formal academic progress. Overall, this co-op position has been very rewarding in terms of my personal learning experience in a professional healthcare setting, spreading awareness about mental health and the stigma surrounding it, and building connections with several departments, student groups, and faculties at SFU.

Advice for Future Students

Thinking outside the box is a crucial part of exploring your future pathway through co-op opportunities. In my case, I was initially looking for a 4-month co-op position in a research setting, but I ended up with an 8-month health communication position in a clinical setting, and I am very satisfied with the experiences, connections, and skills that I gained from this position. Specifically for my fellow health sciences students, your passion for improving population health can be executed in many various ways that you won’t recognize unless you try.