Co-op not only gives you an opportunity to apply your learning in the workplace, but also a shines a light on where your talents can develop into careers that you may not have known about before.
Worked at: Shadow Lake Centre, The Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest
Getting practical experience is essential when forming a career at the end of your education. Theoretical knowledge is vital, but less useful if you can't apply it in a real-life situation. The co-op program not only gives you an opportunity to put your knowledge to the test, but also a chance for you to learn where your talents and interests correlate with real career pathways.
When I was applying, I knew that I was most interested in brain-related science. After researching a number of other schools, I felt that U of T Scarborough offered the most extensive program options in this field, including mental health, psychology, and neuroscience with the added advantage of a co-op work term.
Co-op gives you the opportunity to network with a range of employers in different sectors that I would never have found or considered on my own. Each work term is such an amazing learning experience, and the connections that you make will help you to reach your goals well past graduation.
My first work term was spent at Shadow Lake Centre, a camp for intellectually disabled adults. I worked 14 hour shifts living in a cabin for 3 months taking care of adults with ranging disabilities. I was responsible for looking after their daily hygiene, which included physically helping to wash them, helping them to eat, and most importantly, making sure they have an amazing time at camp. Shadow Lake Centre really showed me how little I knew about intellectual disabilities.
As a result of my time at Shadow Lake, I learned that I have a strong interest in understanding mental disorders. I plan to explore these in more detail during my neuroscience career.
Currently, I’m in my second work term as a Participant Assistant at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest. I found that my time at Shadow Lake taught me several transferable skills—most notably, handling stressful situations—that were instrumental during the interview process and beyond.
Perhaps most importantly, between my hands-on experience with people with intellectual disabilities and the neuroscience courses I have taken, my interview answers drew on neurological explanations of the disorders I had experience with along with real-life examples of the empathy, communication, stress management, and multitasking skills that I had developed while at Shadow Lake.
It's never too early to start gaining experience! If you are interested in something, find a volunteer position in a related field and gain some practical experience. When applying for positions during the co-op job searching process or on your own, employers always look for extracurricular activities that show that you're active in your own future career goals. So take initiative and find what you love!
My current goal is to apply to a Physician Assistant graduate program to pursue a career in that field. I love mental health and neuroscience, and I enjoy interacting with the individuals who are afflicted by different neurological disorders. I hope to combine these two interests in a related field of healthcare.
This is a challenging program with significant long-term rewards. If you are someone who wants practical skills and are willing to put in the initiative for your future, this is the program that will help you reach your goals. My work term at Shadow Lake ultimately changed me; without a doubt, it was a worthwhile learning experience that I would not have found without the Co-op program.