As I drink a warm cup of coffee and reflect upon the journal I have kept for my past year, and my third and final work term as a co-op student working in a professional work environment, the best summary for my experience would be that life is more fun when we allow ourselves to adapt to different situations. A lot has happened in the (almost) year as a co-op student with the Leadership and Student Engagement office (LSE). I have been afforded a lot of opportunities to adapt and grow in my past year as one of the Community Engagement Assistants with the Leadership and Student Engagement office, with successes and failures, but failures only lead to an end when we don’t grow from them. I learned the importance of individual accomplishments, but I also learned to appreciate the success that comes from being adaptable when working in a collaborative environment.
When Samira, the second Community Engagement Assistant, and I began our first week with the LSE, I was incredibly nervous about how well I would fit in with the office and staff. Being adaptable can mean working on deadlines, but still taking time to do wellness activities that help “reset” the mood, so you can continue working. These can be 15-minute walks to stretch your legs or if you are promoting LSE programs, a good chance to put up posters! Enter the Orientation team, Alisia, Kyle and Quentin, Student Life Assistant Kelsey, and Leadership Ambassadors Winnica and Victoria, who kept the spirits up in the back office of the LSE with conversation and fun team activities like “Fryday: The Great Machall French Fry Taste Off” and luncheons in The Den and Last Defense Lounge, to keep us from feeling too overwhelmed with looming deadlines.
In the first work term, planning the Day and Night of Service event for Orientation was the first big project. For context, the Orientation Day and Night of Service is a one-day volunteer opportunity for UofC students to participate with a group of their fellow peers to volunteer and learn about a local non-profit organization in Calgary. Samira and I were incredibly nervous as the big day loomed near, and we checked and double-checked that we had everything prepared for all the participants. On the Saturday morning of Day of Service, Samira, who takes Calgary Transit, was caught in a service delay (of course!), and we stepped up to communicate remotely while coordinating the first 30+ participants into their groups and on their way to their volunteer organization, with great success. Thinking on our feet and having “survived” our first surprise obstacle, we knew going forward into our next projects that we would always find a way through any unexpected surprises that may come up in our plans. In our second co-op term, Samira and I worked on separate events in the Community Engagement portfolio, and we would schedule “Tea and Talks”, which were one-on-one meetings to step away from our desks, get a cup of tea, update each other on what we were each working on and provide support if needed. Work is important and a priority, but it should never take precedence over my emotional and physical health. With the frenzy of activity during those months, from ucalgarycares applications, planning for Tzedakah-Sadaqah and Trick or Eat, our Tea and Talks were not only a way to provide professional support, but a chance to update each other with news, laugh over memes, and enjoy each other’s company over a cup of tea once a week. Additionally, we had daily, informal check-ins with LSE staff where we would give updates on our lives, provide support when needed, laugh about the latest reality show episode or (jokingly) rage about current events. It was such a pleasure being able to both work and grow with such a caring and uplifting team that I hope everyone has a chance to experience and thrive in a similar working community.
As a student majoring in Economics, I dove into the Community Engagement Assistant position both curious and determined to utilize the knowledge I have gained from my degree into an unconventional job While yes, I did not need to make economic models or calculate cost-benefit calculations, I learned to appreciate the importance of organizing data for program proposals and concise record keeping when planning and facilitating events. I saw the beauty of data visualization that I did not fully appreciate until I had to use it in a professional setting. I learned to plan deadlines, and how to divide those deadlines into smaller, more manageable deadlines. I learned that no matter how well you may prepare, anything can happen at the last minute, and that it is not the end of the world if something does not go exactly as planned. And I learned that an office thrives when it is a supportive environment, and that someone will help, if you ask. Trust that you are capable in succeeding in any challenge, keep a clear and open mind, and be open to new experiences.
- Thao Tran