Co-op students off to Japan

Apr 04, 2002, vol. 23, no. 7
By Diane Luckow

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Fourteen SFU co-op students will be lunching on sushi rather than sandwiches during their upcoming co-op work terms.

They are among 68 Canadian students placed with Japanese companies such as Sony and Sanyo by Co-op Japan, a consortium of Canadian universities led by the University of Victoria.

During May, the students will take an intensive Japanese language and culture program at the University of Victoria before leaving for their work terms, which range in length from three to 11 months.

Finding international co-op placements is a boon to the SFU co-op program, particularly now when the local economy is slowing. Nancy Johnston, director of co-op education at SFU, says, “Co-op Japan has been a boost in an otherwise challenging semester for job development locally and nationally.”

Finding international co-op placements is a growing priority for co-op education, says Johnston. “We're trying to increase our international profile and tap into the global economy.” Last year, co-op placed 100 students in response to demand. This year, the department is actively seeking international opportunities and has dedicated resources to establish a strategic plan for this direction.

Tanya Behrisch, an internship coordinator with engineering science who coordinated the Co-op Japan placements, received 65 applications. “I had to pick students who would be good representatives of SFU and Canada,” she says. “They had to have a grade point average above three, at least one co-op work term with excellent employment evaluations and they had to demonstrate experience or commitment to cross-cultural involvement.”

Third year kinesiology student Kristen Klassen will be working for a seafood importer/exporter in the city of Onomichi near Hiroshima. “I'll be working in quality control to find ways to decrease the bacteria and organisms in their frozen seafood,” says Klassen.

International co-op does incur expenses. Klassen, for example, must spend $2,500 for the Japanese language and culture program and another $1,500 for her plane ticket and health insurance.

Once there, however, she'll live rent free for seven months in a room in a company dormitory. “Learning a new language and culture really appeals to me,” says Klassen, 21. “And having it qualify as school credits is a bonus.”

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