While it is difficult to secure a co-op or internship placement in today’s declining job market, out-of-province work experience is even harder to come by. That being said, the experience is far more rewarding, and valued by many employers than you think.
As a SFU Business undergraduate student, I have had experiences spending a semester studying abroad, as well as working out-of-province for two semesters for co-op, so I understand the value of the experience and the lessons learned from relocation. Indeed, adaptability, independence and the courage to step out of one’s comfort zone are great qualities that will help you gain a competitive edge over other job applicants, so it is beneficial for you to start developing these skills as early on in your career as possible.
If you are going to relocate soon or are thinking about doing an out-of-province co-op or internship placement, here are some tips and information you should keep in mind and help you make the transition smoothly:
Research Your New Environment
After living in Vancouver for the last 10 years or so, it was a major transition for me to adjust to the weather in Ottawa, Ontario. You can never fully know the local weather until you actually experience it. Here is some homework you should research and consider prior to choosing a housing facility:
- Grocery stores and restaurant locations
- Bus routes
- Carpool options
- Weather – average temperature and snow/rain precipitation
For most of the working students, we are likely to end up renting a room somewhere when we first relocate to a new province. Since physically checking out the locations is not a feasible option, sometimes a combination of calling, exchanging emails and asking your families, friends, co-op coordinators and peers become the next best alternative. Always exercise caution when choosing your place to stay, and sometimes, you just have to go with your gut feeling and hope for the best. That being said, ask about the following may help your research:
1. Is there a contract? If so, is it legally binding?
2. Is there a deposit needed prior to arrival? Is first and last month of rent required as deposit?
3. What is included in the rent?
- Furnished vs. semi-furnished vs. unfurnished?
- What exactly does each option entail?
- Is there any shared area in the housing facility? For instance, are living room and kitchen shared at all times?
- What appliances are included as part of the rent?
4. Where to look?
The website Kijiji seems very popular in the East Coast of Canada, whereas craigslist seems to contain the majority of the housing advertisements in the West Coast of Canada. I find these online postings and advertisements very self-explanatory.
5. There are a few things that are taken for granted when living at home that you need to pay attention to as they may cost more money if you don’t do your research carefully:
- Internet usage – know the monthly data limits, and if you need to, ask your landlord to upgrade the internet plan. I had to pay much more than the monthly plan, which was an unpleasant experience to say the least
- Snow shoveling, if applicable
- Laundry – if it is coined or excluded from monthly rent
6. Cooking, cleaning, laundry and showering schedules – it is nice to know beforehand what other people are up to, for instance, if your housemates need to shower in the morning, what will be the times that you can shower. Similarly, since you are renting, you may sometimes clean the bathroom yourself, so it will be nice to know everyone’s schedule in advance so you can plan your cleaning activities accordingly.
7. Rules around the house:
- Find out if guests are allowed for casual gathering, and if applicable, are overnight guests allowed?
- Delegating garbage/recycle bin responsibilities
- Latest time to return home/shower/etc., if applicable
- Storage room, freezer, refrigerator, extra storage room, etc. that you can use
- Access to common area, such as living room, dining room, kitchen, garden, etc.
Although IKEA is really convenient and the prices are attractive, you may to consider the tradeoff between costs and quality. For instance, I bought both plastic lunch boxes and utensils from IKEA, but after a week of using them, I realized the quality of the utensils was really concerning and the lunch boxes deformed after using the microwave. I ended up paying more than double the price to buy both the utensils and lunch boxes elsewhere.
Common household appliances such as water boiler, pans, and utensils should be discussed with your landlord prior to finalizing the renting terms. As a tenant, you should be respectful of other people in the household, while demanding a reasonable level of respect in return. For instance, if your landlord is a vegetarian, be respectful of that, and avoid yourself from using his plates and utensils when cooking meat products.
Keep in mind that the professional growth is only a small part of the away-from-home experience. Relocating is also a great opportunity for you to learn to live independently, be adaptable to new environments and learning to budget your resources accordingly! These lessons you are about to learn will surely be great skills that will help you transition from a student to a working professional smoothly and successfully.