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Samia Chowdhury

(she/her)
SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Criminology
Co-operative Education › Local Co-op

Organization
Experience Faculty
From orchestrating engaging conferences to seamlessly coordinating events with the dynamic scientific community, my role as a Conference Facilitator Assistant at TRIUMF was a masterclass in event planning and networking. Each interaction became a stepping stone in driving forward scientific collaboration and innovation, guiding me to a realm that was completely unfamiliar and exciting to me.
Experience Details
Semester
Spring
Year
2024
Skills
Application and Interview Tips
  • Learn about the organization before you apply.
  • Research the organization's latest contributions and projects.
  • Contemplate whether the organization's vision aligns with your ideologies.
  • Brainstorm your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Dress sharp and be confident.
Introduction + Preparation

My name is Samia, and I am currently in my third year pursuing a major in Criminology and a certificate in Legal Studies. I have always loved volunteering, meeting new people and being exposed to experiences and knowledge outside my comfort zone. That is why, when I stumbled across a co-op listing under TRIUMF, Canada's national particle accelerator center and home to groundbreaking scientific research, I knew the next semester would be a brand-new learning experience for me. 

Previous Experience

For a significantly long time, I was interested in volunteering with organizations such as SFU Public Square and the Active Bystander Network, where I could obtain expertise in event planning and content curation. My passion for actively participating in events, combined with the substantial research abilities I gained over three years as a Criminology student, convinced me that, despite my lack of direct experience with communications, I would be an excellent candidate for the Conference Facilitator Assistant position at TRIUMF.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

My co-op placement at TRIUMF was an unexpected and exciting surprise because I had never formally planned to do a co-op in event organization, but my eagerness to volunteer and participate in networking opportunities provided by platforms such as SFU Public Square, CJSF Radio, VLIP, Active Bystander Network, and others were the stepping stones that helped me secure this co-op position. Another piece of general advice I'd provide is to work on personal projects in your spare time to identify your fundamental skills. I chose to study Criminology because I enjoyed research and recognized that I excelled at producing accurate data, engaging in critical thinking, and resolving conflicts. This brings me to my next preparation tip, which is to develop an informed understanding of the field you are applying to. TRIUMF is Canada's national particle accelerator centre; therefore, it is strongly dependent on physics, a discipline that I was both interested in and eager to learn more about through rigorous research. This step helped me tremendously in acing my interview stage. Lastly, co-op placements are quite competitive, so be prepared to face and move on from rejection. Do not consider rejection as a sign of failure; instead, see it as an opportunity to obtain feedback from professionals that you can use to improve your résumé, qualities, and skills.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

My first week of Spring 2024 was a whirlwind of social engagements and becoming acquainted with my role expectations. I was given the TRIUMF Tour, the opportunity to socialize with other co-op students, and an introduction to the management team, as my work needs me to deal directly with administration and management. I also received my first project, which involved creating catering budgets and name badges. My first week passed rapidly, and I used my first task to demonstrate to my supervisor that, despite my contrasting academic background, I was ideal for this position and that I was willing to learn and receive feedback.

Day to Day

On a standard Thursday, I usually start my day at 6:00 a.m. because my commute to TRIUMF, which is located on the University of British Columbia's campus, takes about 2 hours. My workday begins at 9:00 a.m. with a coffee, followed by a jam-packed schedule of replying to emails, receiving my allocated responsibilities for the day, and preparing for the appointments I need to accompany my supervisor to. On most days, a one-hour meeting is organized with either the management team or particular teams in charge of different events. Most of the time, I am entrusted with creating meeting minutes and taking basic notes to help me organize the event. The rest of my day is spent researching places to rent or order from, creating catering Excel sheets that allow me to compare and contrast pricing from various locations, creating posters, signage and timetables, creating badges and vouchers and stuffing them, and so on. During my lunch breaks, I socialize with my co-op friends and explore other parts of the University of British Columbia. I spend the latter part of my workday compiling data and producing documentation in order to make it easier to keep track of all that is being done for each event. At approximately 4:30 p.m., I get myself another coffee and call it a day.

Learning and Adaptation

Going into this co-op work, I was unfamiliar with a wide range of programming and task capabilities in Microsoft programs. As much as my colleagues and supervisor assisted me at every step, I began dedicating an hour of my day to watching YouTube videos that would allow me to self-study and become acquainted with the unfamiliar territory I was in. I also eagerly and actively attended seminars, webinars, and other events to not only network with my peers but also gain a deeper understanding of the topic of physics. Transitioning into an office setting was quite new to me because I had limited experience in corporate settings; hence, I had to carefully examine my surroundings to comprehend the work environment and level of formality among my coworkers. The suggestion that would rank high on my list for adapting and integrating into new environments would be asking questions every chance you get so that your uncertainties are cleared, your understanding is strengthened, and the quality of results you generate is considerably improved.

Accomplishments and Challenges

I believe that we frequently underestimate the value of networking, but getting to know new people and creating professional contacts while working to improve your interpersonal relationships is highly beneficial. My co-op at TRIUMF allowed me to meet new people from diverse companies, provinces, and areas, broadening my knowledge and perspectives on a variety of topics. This helped me strengthen my communication and relationship-building skills. Prior to January 2024, when I had not yet begun my co-op, I believe I lacked the most effective tactics for approaching individuals with inquiries and proposals, and I was fairly nervous about presenting myself. However, being a member of the TRIUMF community has provided me with the opportunity to attend social and professional events, which has greatly benefited me in improving my verbal communication abilities and overcoming my earlier shortcomings. However, the most difficult obstacle I've encountered has been a lack of outlets for my creativity. As a Criminology student, I've always been busy contemplating new solutions and ideas and expressing them through written projects and presentations. In my current role as a Conference Facilitator Assistant, I rarely have opportunities to show my creativity and opinion on many subjects. Despite the aforementioned hurdle, learning new technical abilities such as how to use Dream Weaver and Microsoft programs, as well as becoming acquainted with platforms such as Indico, has allowed me to express my creativity through diverse graphic skills.

Reflection & Tips
Reflection

The past four months at TRIUMF have been a learning curve; it has given me many skills that I can apply in my personal life, as well as countless professional skills that have taught me that every experience, regardless of field, is a good learning opportunity. Working in a professional, semi-corporate setting has taught me the art of work-life balance, fulfilling the dream of living a fast-paced, ambitious life that I had envisioned when I was younger. The work environment also helped to educate me on the worker rights I am entitled to in Canada, which I was previously unaware of due to working in casual, temporary roles. My job at TRIUMF helped me to build great event planning skills, which improved my attention to detail, time management, and adaptability. This co-op opportunity allowed me to network, connecting with scientists, researchers, and industry people who expanded my knowledge of an industry outside of my academic discipline, opening the door to potential future partnerships.

Connection to Academic Studies or Career Goals

My main takeaway from this co-op placement experience was that, while my employment as a Conference facilitator assistant did not align with the typical job expectations in my academic subject or desired career path, there were various transferable skills to gain. These included improving verbal communication, developing technical skills, gaining keener attention to detail and documenting, and learning the art of multitasking, which makes time management much easier. I believe that these newly polished skills will be useful in my future, regardless of what I pursue, because they will allow me to engage in productive conversations with my client, make better use of my technical knowledge, aid me in policy-making and documentation creation, and help me juggle multiple tasks at once without missing any deadlines. Therefore, simply trust the process. Be prepared to put yourself out there and try things you are not used to doing because your twenties are for experimenting, exploring, increasing your knowledge base, and pushing your limits. My time at TRIUMF has provided me with the avenue to connect with people from industries other than mine, introducing me to people from prestigious institutions such as the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) and a variety of universities, demonstrating that my flexibility and adaptability are assets that will greatly benefit me in the future.

Advice for Future Students

For students thinking about doing a co-op term at TRIUMF or another similar organization or job, I have a few suggestions. To begin, accept new learning opportunities and approach your co-operative education with a sense of curiosity and willingness to learn. Take advantage of the variety of learning options accessible to you and adjust to the hands-on experience you will receive. Whatever field you choose, make sure to establish solid relationships with coworkers, mentors, and fellow students, as well as network within the community, as these can lead to future job opportunities and collaborations. Furthermore, do not be afraid to seek feedback and direction from mentors to enhance your skill set and performance, and use the input to hone your abilities and advance professionally. Furthermore, you must be adaptable and resilient in order to manage hurdles and overcome setbacks on your path with a good attitude, making it simpler to brainstorm solutions and use barriers as opportunities for progress. Finally, the most essential piece of advice I can give is to enjoy the journey and appreciate the unique learning opportunity that your co-op has provided you. Accept your struggles, enjoy your successes, and maintain your enthusiasm for your academic field and career. 

Author

Samia Chowdhury

(she/her)
SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Criminology
Co-operative Education › Local Co-op
visibility  165
May 8, 2024