Gaining Work Experience Before Finishing a Bachelor’s Degree

Staff photos 2018 (11 of 17) 

I remember the moment that I found I was accepted to the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Arts Co-operative Education program. I was so excited to tell my family and friends because I was thrilled about the opportunity. I remember feeling so happy and grateful for the chance to gain valuable work experience before graduating with my Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics. Shortly after my acceptance into the program, I got an email from the Co-op Program suggesting that I participate in Discover Arts, a new event- where students highlight their accomplishments and skills to potential Co-op employers. I was delighted to be able to apply for this, and after submitting an application, was subsequently accepted to represent the Linguistics department as a Linguistics Coop Student, responsible for creating a trifold that showcased my individual skills and talents as well as speaking to what the Linguistics program offers for students.

I stepped into the Taylor Family Digital Library- where the Discover Arts event was being held, not knowing what to expect. I was a third year Linguistics student with a concentration in Speech Language Sciences, and was interested in pursuing a career in speech language pathology, where I could become a healthcare clinician, helping people with speech and language communication problems. At first, I was only familiar with research-oriented jobs that were specifically associated with my field of interest. Little did I know that this event would really open up my world. I learned a great deal about the companies and organizations represented at the event, and was able to tell them about my experience as a student as well. I did not know where the Co-op program would take me, but I was open and —more than anything— ready to open my eyes to the endless amount of possibilities that would help build my career as a young professional.

Towards the end of the event, I had the pleasure of meeting Andrew Barry, the Coordinator, Community Engagement with the Leadership and Student Engagement office (LSE), as well as Meghan Day and Hannah Nesbitt, the two Community Engagement Assistants at LSE, at that time. It was a very positive experience meeting and interacting with them. Meghan and Hannah were very enthusiastic about their positions and clearly loved their work in the office. I did not know much about this office before I had interacted with them, however, after the interaction, it sparked my interest. Sometime later, I saw a job posting for the Community Engagement Assistant position with the LSE. I had not considered applying for it at first, as I was focused on pursuing opportunities that would improve my chances of getting accepted to the Masters of Speech Language Pathology program. I was not sure how this position would help me on my journey to graduate school, but am happy today that my initial hesitation did not stop me from applying. I had a conversation with my mom that night and I said that I had a gut feeling that is telling me to apply for this position, and with her support, I did exactly that.

I am thankful for that feeling, because working at the LSE as a co-op student has been an amazing and unforgettable experience. I was excited to accept the position and start working at this office, but little did I know how much I would learn in such a short period of time. As I began my co-op experience at the LSE, I was very fortunate to meet and work with some amazing, like-minded people in this office, people who have supported me and helped to push me toward success.

In addition to Andrew, I am grateful to work with Carllie Necker, Manager, at Leadership and Student Engagement. I always knew I could ask for her and Andrew’s support and they have helped guide me, taught me so much, as well as have aided me in becoming the best I can be. My first main task along with my coworker and the other new co-op student Milana, was to start planning for the Day and Night of Service. These two events happened the week after Fall Orientation. New students to the University of Calgary get the opportunity to go out into the community, volunteer with different non-profit organizations, and learn about various social justice issues.

In addition to this event, a big part of my job has been to support the organization and coordination of the ucalgarycares programs. There are currently five ucalgarycares programs offered in the Community Engagement portfolio, including: Homelessness at Home, Sustainable Cities, Global Citizenship in Toronto, Culture and Community Development in Costa Rica, and Indigenous Leadership and Engagement in the Yukon. Each of these programs are focused on a certain aspect of social justice such as homelessness, sustainability, leadership, community, and Indigenous culture and people. Other programs include Tzedaqah-Sadakah (a night of service event where the LSE partners with the Faith and Spirituality Centre), Involvement Advising (where staff assist students looking to get more involved on campus), and Trick or Eat (an annual event aimed at helping reduce food insecurity on campuses nationwide).

Currently, I am finishing my second work term and heading into my third, and last, work term with Leadership and Student Engagement. This has been an incredible experience. I have learned so many different skills through this job so far, including organizational skills, people skills, networking skills, and time management skills, to name a few. I have never organized an event such as the Day and Night of Service, which taught me event planning skills as well as learning to liaise with external community partners like Habitat for Humanity and the Calgary International Film Festival. This position has also helped me gain skills that will help me greatly in my future career in linguistics because I have learned how to write formally, and have learned to work closely with vulnerable populations. I cannot wait to see what my last work term at the LSE holds for me. I am excited and ready to take on whatever tasks and responsibilities there will be in the final term of the Co-op program.

A big inspiration for me to apply for this position was actually reading Meghan Day’s blog post about her co-op experience. With that said, I hope you can find some inspiration through reading about my story and that you are able to create your own unique and beautiful experiences with the amazing Co-op Program.

 

-Brielle Usher

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