It’s time again for another yearly reflections article. This is actually my fourth year as a college undergrad, but because of co-op I was still doing my third year courses. Just like last year, I only spent four months in school and spent the other eight months working as a co-op student (and am still working at the time of writing). Unlike last year however, I didn’t become very ill and therefore there are no emergency room visits to speak of. This probably means this article won’t be as exciting as last year’s, but I’m glad not to have that kind of excitement. Anyways, read on to find out what I’ve been up to in the past year.
Continuing from my last reflections article, after surviving a tough first half of third year and a bout with ulcers, I spent last summer working at a local electric utilities company. Working at a utilities company sounded like a chance for me to apply the things I learned from all my circuit theory and electromagnetism classes, but it turned out I spent most of my time writing scripts. This co-op term also marks the first time I have ever been a part of a union, although I’m not sure what I got back for all the union dues I paid. The company, with about 400 employees at that particular location, was the largest office I have worked at up to that point, although I mostly stayed on my own floor and therefore didn’t see most of the other employees. With a large office, there were a correspondingly decent number of co-ops, and despite working in different departments and on different floors all the co-ops knew each other fairly well. Every second week some of us would go out to lunch together, and I even served as a guide for a couple of out-of-province co-ops and went on a crabbing trip with them. Despite being the de facto authority on crabbing on the internet, I failed to help my fellow co-ops catch any legal-sized crabs on that particular trip, but it was fun and it was a trip that I would never have been made on my own (I only go crabbing when friends and relatives want to go).
Other than interacting with fellow co-ops, there were plenty of other nice things about this co-op term. Even though there wasn’t a public snack cabinet like my first co-op employer, there was some free food everyday and there were quite a few free lunches and/or office parties with food. I did limit my intake of sweets and junk food so that I didn’t become even more overweight, but free lunches are always appreciated. I also went on a few company-sponsored tours to substations and generating stations, and those were definitely nice experiences. The last nice thing to mention is the location of the office: the building is situated in a downtown location and only three blocks or so from the waters, which meant that there were lots of places to go during lunch break. Since the company didn’t give co-ops gym memberships, I usually walked around after lunch in an effort to do some exercise.
Overall, my four months at the utility company was an enjoyable experience, mostly because the nice office environment and perks. I also ended up making more money than my second co-op term. More money is always appreciated, especially since I’m saving up for grad school. After the nice co-op term, I seriously considered going back with the company for my remaining terms, especially since utilities is an area I would prefer to go into for my career. In the end though I decided to go try something else instead since one of my main goals for participating in co-op is to explore the various industries, so for my remaining co-op terms I was going to try something new. But before the next co-op term there was a term of school that I had to get through first.
Just like the first term of my third year, I took six courses for my second term: five of them were technical courses while one was a “technology and society” course. The amount of lecture and lab time was similar to first term, and so was the effort required to complete the work and study for exams. One thing that was different though is that for the first time in my university career I had a four day schedule. That’s right. Despite having the same amount (or more) hours of lecture and lab time, I managed to squeeze all of my courses and lab sessions into four days, giving myself a break every Thursday. That extra day at home really helped since I had extra time to study, do assignments, and relax. I think I would have had a much tougher term if I had to go to school five days per week.
Other than my four day schedule, everything else about my academic life was similar to that of my first term of third year. There were some easy course, some hard course, some fun courses, and some really boring and confusing courses, but in the end I ended up with a decent average that was slightly above my average for the first term. Other than academics, I got a gym membership like I always do, although like always I don’t think I lost weight or gained muscle mass despite working out three days per week. I also joined the university badminton club to get even more exercise. While not a good badminton player like my father, I still consider myself to be fairly proficient at the sport, but that didn’t stop me from dropping the first seven games at the badminton club. After that I manage to turn things around and won most of my games afterwards, and at the end of the term I believe I had a .500 record. One thing I didn’t do this term was participating in the math contest club that I was part of in my first and second years. This was because the club met on Thursdays but I had Thursdays off, so I didn’t bother going to school just because of the free pizza. Maybe I’ll rejoin during my fourth year.
The last thing to mention for my school term is my co-op job search. Just like the previous school term, I managed to land half a dozen interviews including the university’s IT department, small local companies, and very large corporations. I had thought of going out of town for my last co-op term just to get a taste of what it is like to live on my own, but I ended up landing another local job (my current job) instead. The position was at a small branch office of a big semiconductor company, and I was signed up for two terms (8 months) which probably turned out to be a good thing given the tough economic times that followed. I haven’t worked in the semiconductor industry before so this was a good chance to experience something new, and even better my salary is higher than all of my previous co-op terms. Overall my job search during the school term went pretty smoothly since I secured my job after the first round of interviews, and this meant I can concentrate my efforts on academics for the rest of the term.