International Co-op: An Interview with Erik Bainbridge

International Co-op: An Interview with Erik Bainbridge

By: Christy Liu
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Erik Bainbridge, a Political Science student, shares his international experience doing four work terms in three different positions in China and Hong Kong. He worked as an English teacher in Shandong, an Event Manager at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CamChamHK) in Hong Kong, and a Trade Intern for the Consulate General of Canada in China.

When asked for one word to describe his international experience in Asia, Erik Bainbridge responded with, “Fantastic – that’s how I would describe it.”

I had a great time interviewing Erik and hearing about his four terms of International Co-op in China and Hong Kong. Currently a fourth year Political Science major, Erik has worked in three different positions. First, he was an English teacher in Shandong and then an Event Manager in Hong Kong. His final position was a Trade Intern for the Consulate General of Canada in Chongqing. About to graduate from SFU, Erik shares with us his insights and experience with International Co-op.

Q: What made you decide to do International Co-op?

I always wanted to do International Co-op and I always really liked travelling. You learn a lot more when you’re in a different country and experiencing different things. Being able to accomplish two goals such as travelling and working at the same time always appealed to me. 

Q: How was your international interview unique? How did you prepare?

I was in my office in Hong Kong and I did my interview on the phone for the job in China so the setting was unique. I talked directly to the consul and it was a really great interview and they expressed that they wanted me to come work there. I had thought about it for a long time so I had to decide between working in Hong Kong again or moving back to China. 

I researched the Government of Canada before going and I made myself familiar with some of the people who worked there that came up online. I went over my cover letter and resume I had sent them to make sure I was familiar with everything. It was my third co-op position I applied for so I felt pretty confident going to the interview and it ended up being a very good one. 

Q: How did SFU Co-op/SFU WIL prepare you for your work term abroad?

The Co-op workshops for interviews, cover letters, and resumes were really good. Those three workshops helped prepare me a lot. Also I liked being assigned a Co-op advisor since they’re really good for advice. Of course, it’s up to you to make something out of it but it’s nice to have a support to help prepare you a bit in terms of interviews.      

Q: What did you do in your position at work? 

I worked on the trades side of the consulate so anytime we had trade missions initiatives come up, I would help out with that. Basically, our biggest sector was education: universities and high schools between Canada and China. Some of the big tasks I had was when there was this tour called “Select Canada Mission”, and we took eight different universities from Canada to China and we toured four top high schools in China to help recruit students from Canadian universities. I was lead on that mission so I would do all the logistics, taking trains and taxis. Each high school we went to had a student fair which I would moderate, we had presentations and I would help guide through that and organize everybody.

Q: Why did you do all four co-op work terms in China? 

I didn’t really plan on it. The first two in China came up because it just aligned with what I was interested in at the time. Before this I was just another student in university and I was enjoying my courses but I didn’t have any real goals afterwards. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so the more co-op terms I did and the more China experience I got, the more I started to specialize myself. I was able to pursue other positions doing more of what I like to do within that context. 

Q: Did you receive any financial aid from SFU? Other?

When I was in Hong Kong I applied for the International Co-op Award and I got some financial aid from that. When I went to Chongqing, I did it again, but it was different because the Governor of Canada doesn’t pay at all. It’s like a completely unpaid internship so SFU offers a special site benefit in the Symplicity listing. I got financial aid from SFU both times.

Q: What was one of your most memorable moments?

I was in Hong Kong for the SFU Alumni Gathering just last year and the President of SFU, Andrew Petter, was there. It was basically a big reception cocktail night at the Hong Kong Banker’s Club, which was a gorgeous building. It was a really cool experience as I realized as an SFU Co-op student, I’ve been on this journey for the last year or two and doing all these crazy things. Just a year ago I was sitting in class at SFU not really knowing what to do and a year later you skip to this.

Q: Were you able to make valuable connections/networks while abroad?

I met tremendous amount of both friends and people who were mentors for work and life. I met people in different jobs who wanted me to succeed and challenged me to try new things. In particular, my boss, Peter Liao, the education trade commissioner, was who I worked under for my co-op. He is extremely motivational and I learned a lot from him. We had different styles of work but he really took me under his wing and pushed and challenged me. 


Check out this video interview of co-op students who went to China, including an interview with Erik: 


Beyond the Article:

  • Erik is also a part of BSCAN, a network for BC Alumni who have studied and/or completed Co-op work terms in China. 
  • Read more international co-op stories told by students.
Posted on October 26, 2015