Why Co-op?

Why Co-op?

By: Andrea Sanchez
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Let me start by saying that making the decision to become a co-op student wasn’t easy for me. Coming from a country where practical experience is a requirement to graduate instead of just an option, it was tough coming to terms with myself. On top of that, I had to make sense in my head of the fact that I had to pay to get the experience I needed to get a job.

After numerous emails, research, attending workshops, etc., I realized that I wouldn’t be going through so much research if I didn’t really want to do co-op, so I decided to give it a shot. After all, the worse that could happen was that I didn’t like the job postings and therefore I wouldn’t apply that semester.

But far from that, I started dreaming about co-op. The more I looked into the job postings, the more I learned about interviews, writing cover letters, and resumes, the more I realized that this was just what I needed, to become an active student rather than just someone who read books and wrote essays for a grade.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but when you sit down and ponder upon your future, and you see yourself wearing a suit, taking flights, being all “profesh” and whatnot, it suddenly hits you: I need work experience.

Long story short, after writing A LOT of cover letters, tailoring resumes, attending interviews, and reflecting upon what my “transferable” skills were, I landed the best co-op work term I could have ever asked for.

During these past 8-months I had the pleasure to work as the Student Life Assistant for SFU's Vancouver Campus. I had the most amazing supervisor, his name was Francisco Gallegos (Student Life Coordinator), and I was based mainly in SFU Harbour Center, but I got to work in all campuses.

As the Student Life Assistant, I was able to plan and execute various events and programming for student engagement. The main purpose was to improve the campus experience that students were having, to offer volunteer opportunities for personal development, and to create a welcoming environment for our students. To do this, I ended up doing much more than what my job description detailed. I gained skills in design, promotion, marketing, event planning, project management, community outreach, fundraising, partnerships, and more. By now I knew that co-op was my gateway into the real world.

After 8 months, I left co-op with a rich set of applicable skills that I could then use for the future, and it didn’t take long for me to find just the right thing. While I was still in my position I started drafting an application for the Semester in Dialogue: In the City, where my experience in community engagement and project management played an important role in my acceptance into the program.

My initial perspective of co-op shifted in such a way that I can now say with enough confidence, that this is what you need in order to add extra value to your education and take full advantage of being at student. What I got from it was a wonderful resume and valuable set of skills in my pocket. But even more so, I got to build important relationships, change my perspective about a lot of things, redefine my career path, and what I needed the most; to apply what I was learning in the classroom in a practical setting.

Are you thinking about co-op now? Don’t think twice, because the experience will definitely be worth your while.  

Posted on January 04, 2013