Handling an International Co-op during a Pandemic

Handling an International Co-op during a Pandemic

By: Victoria Kremer
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Applying for Co-op placements is stressful enough. Applying for an international Co-op placement is next level. Finding a job closer to home seems more probable and attainable. An international Co-op not only means a new job but in a new city, in a new home, with a new culture and far away from everything you know. Sounds scary? Well, it is. But that’s how we grow and develop further into the young professionals we are. 

Picture this: you are looking for jobs in the Netherlands (or somewhere outside of Canada). You are just finishing up your 27th Co-op application. It’s for a company that you know next to nothing about, but you need to find a Co-op placement - and soon. It’s the end of the semester and finals are just around the corner. You haven’t received a response from any of the other 26 applications you submitted. 

Finally, the 27th application is a winner and the company reaches out to you. They ask you to come in for an interview at their headquarters in Amsterdam. But, wait – you’re still in Vancouver! STRESS LEVELS RISE. It’s ok, don’t panic. Send them a polite email requesting a video interview because you aren’t in Amsterdam yet. They accept – YES! But then, another stressful thought arises. They’re most likely to hire someone that can have an in-person interview.  

Nonetheless, you prepare for the questions and practice with your advisors, your friends and your mirror. You’ve got this. You have the interview over video conference. Everything went fine, but you feel it could have gone better. Two weeks go by, and nothing. You’re sure you didn’t get it. But then… You receive an email offering congratulations and saying that they look forward to you starting in a couple of months. Crazy! 

Fast forward a few months, you’ve started work at your new job. You’re learning a great deal, and it feels like it might be the job you’d like to pursue as a career. You like your colleagues and fit right in with the culture. 

Then, while in another country, two months into your internship, tragedy strikes. You find yourself far from home in the middle of a global crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic hits. Suddenly, you find the course of your internship turned upside down. You go from working in the office to working at home, being unable to leave unless it’s to buy food, and with no human connection with your colleagues. 

Nobody prepares you for any of these things. The SFU advisors do their best to prepare you for Co-op but ultimately, it’s up to you. Of course, nothing could have prepared anyone for a global pandemic. 

So, how can you prepare for the unexpected? There are a few things you can do. 

1. Practice resilience. In other words, try to stay positive in the face of challenges or adversity. I know this sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. I have had a very hard time adjusting to this new situation. I struggled with trying to have a positive outlook on life, and thought to myself, what’s the point of trying anymore? Why should I eat healthily? Why should I work out? But looking on the bright side: I still have a job, I am in good health, and I am safe. I need to continue taking care of myself to support the positive things happening in my life. This has helped me try to push through negativity.  

2. Maintain healthy relationships. By this I mean try to have people you can talk to in your life when you need it. Being far away from home, for your mental health especially, it’s even more important to have people you trust to vent to or just chat when you need it. 

3. Ask yourself what you can do to improve the situation. How can you turn something negative into something positive? How can you use this quarantine time to improve yourself? I have written some goals for myself during this time that I would like to achieve while I have the time to do them, such as reading more, creating art, writing more and improving my diet. 

4. Have a plan B, C and D for the future, so you can be more prepared than you were before. For example, due to COVID-19, there is a strong possibility I will not receive a full-time contract with the company I am currently with when my internship is over, due to the economic turmoil we are facing. I am already thinking about what I will do if that happens. 

You might have noticed that the tone of this blog changed about halfway through. I wanted it to reflect on how life can hit you in different ways. There are crazy ups and crazy downs. How we deal with those will influence the person we want to become.

Now, I feel much better than I did at the beginning of the pandemic. Now, I am comfortable working from home and, actually, I prefer it! I can wake up, slide out of bed, get my coffee and start work. I have my own schedule to do whatever I want, whenever I want (obviously while completing work tasks). Though I do still get sad or down sometimes when I think about the whole situation, those are valid feelings to feel at any time. I hope this sheds a light for other students on the roller-coaster that is the student experience, and even life itself.  

Stay safe and healthy. 


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Posted on June 26, 2020