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Tesla's headquarters in Palo Alto
Tesla's headquarters in Palo Alto
Windell Oskay on Wikimedia Commons
Looking back on the whole process, being aware of the [following] five things would have saved us a lot of trouble when figuring out how to best manage our time and energy.

Making The Decision

So you want to go to California? Congratulations. More and more people are thinking the same thing so if you are reading this and want to go down to California as well, you’d better sharpen your technical skills and work on some interesting projects because you are competing against people from all over the world with these traits and more.

If you have already secured or are about to secure yourself a co-op in Silicon Valley, I am here to tell you that your work still is not done. In fact, it has just begun depending on how the winds blow. This is why Edwin and I compared and contrasted our experience, because in our opinions while on co-op getting down there and settled was more work than getting the actual job.

Thoughts On Our Time In Silicon Valley

The article is written from the point of view of me, Ian Brown, as a Tesla Motors 2013 summer intern with input from Edwin Chand, an Apple 2013 summer intern and 2014 employee. At the time of writing this article, we are both recent Alumni from the Engineering Science program. Our observations and Silicon Valley, in general, are both geared toward the tech sector, so keep that in mind while reading to understanding why we did what we did and saw what we saw.

Overall, Edwin and I agreed on a few thoughts about working and living in California, and we wish we knew this before we embarked on our Californian adventure as this knowledge might have helped us:

  • Work is only part of your day

  • Getting around California without a car is time-consuming

  • The endless hot weather is annoying

  • Having minimal time to work on things down there was difficult for us

  • Not knowing what to expect made adjusting take longer than it could have

Looking back on the whole process, being aware of these five things would have saved us a lot of trouble when figuring out how to best manage our time and energy.

Getting to California

For the most part, our experiences were similar with the only real difference being Apple's housing program. Apple has an intern housing program that accelerated most of this process for Edwin. Before he opted for the housing program, Edwin and I had started a rough checklist to help us get settled. While preparing to discuss our observations about going down to California with International Co-op, I realized that going down to California for a co-op term was like combining three different tasks into one:

  • Preparing for an international trip

  • A New Job

  • Temporary Relocation and Adjusting to new living arrangements

Going International

The easiest of the tasks was treating this adventure as if I were preparing for an international trip. International Co-op required us to use a WebCT [now Confluence] module to clear up the paperwork on our end. I recently renewed my passport and a lot of the module’s steps were outlined in the information I was sent with my passport as well. It mostly consisted of registering my trip with the government and making sure I took the appropriate steps in case of emergency. Beyond the documents, packing for my flight was the only step left.

Another topic to consider is money. It is hard to survive on income that has not started yet, or travel with no funds. I recommend asking when pay periods are because it is probably a good idea when budgeting for the trip down. Converting currency is not cheap, so I recommend that you think ahead of time to ensure efficiency.

A New Job

Preparing for a new job basically consisted of doing paperwork and reading up on company policy. Once the paperwork was sorted out, it was time to think about getting paid. Find yourself an American bank account as soon as possible. Tesla had some kind of partnership with Stanford Federal Credit Union so I went with them while Edwin chose Wells Fargo. Just keep in mind that in a few months, you’ll have to decide what to do with your money, and then file taxes. I researched how to make international wire transfers and knew I needed an SSN already so I was mostly set.

Temporary Relocation and Adjusting to New Living Arrangement

Treating this co-op as a move-for-work test run was task three. Having the destination as Silicon Valley made it an even more interesting experience than it should have been. I, like many others from across the world, was all fighting for temporary places to live after finding a place to work. Interns cramming into small apartments or small houses, sight unseen, is quite common. Paying for your first month’s rent months in advance is also apparently quite common. I scoured the Internet for several weeks at a time, finding nothing appropriate, so I cut it quite close. Edwin opted for Apple’s housing program so he just went where he was told. Expect to pay a lot for very little either way because space is in high demand and there are lots of people throwing money at the problem. With housing plans sorted out, we were ready to fly down and head straight to our respective places. 

To California

At this point, we were now in California and on another part of our adventure. For the second half of this article, please see part two for our observations about getting settled and getting around Silicon Valley before heading back home.

Beyond the Blog

  • Read through the International Co-op page to learn more about the opportunities available to you.
SFU Alumni
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Nov 8, 2014

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