My Life as a UNICEF Canada Co-op Student
By Ayra Kathuria
Just as I would describe my co-operative learning experience - I’m going to keep this blog post short and sweet. I’ll try my hardest not to come across as cheesy, but no guarantees because in my honest opinion, I couldn’t have asked for a better co-op placement than UNICEF Canada.
Coming in on a sunny May morning, I didn’t know what the next 23 days would entail. Would I get to work around the office with different people? Was I going to get help with upcoming projects? Was I going to be filing and photocopying for the entire time? Or worse…get stuck doing coffee runs?
Luckily, that was farthest from what really happened.
My first day started with a general orientation, but then I was quickly thrust into the world of “One Youth”, more specifically focusing on the release of the Canadian Companion to UNICEF’s Report Card 14. From there on I did everything from helping facilitate youth and children’s workshops, planning social media timelines, creating training workshops, attending and proof-reading press releases, to even writing my own blog posts!
I would often be doubtful of my school’s co-operative learning program. What was I really going to get done in a month? I was inquisitive of its benefits, especially since it meant I had to finish school a month early, which added a lot of pressure to complete course curriculum on time. But after being at UNICEF for a month, I can reassure anyone who has doubts about the value of a co-op experience that you will learn more in a month in the real world than you will learn in a month-or even six months of traditional school.
Everything from navigating public transit, to working in an office environment, and my favourite part-getting to apply the knowledge and skills I’d learned from school in real life, is why I would recommend this for all students. Let me give you an example of the real world application I mentioned: I’d been studying the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in my World Issues class for the past year, had just written a large portion of my final exam on them and had assumed that knowledge was going to get stored into that back part of my brain along with the other hundred concepts I’d never use again. So, you can guess my surprise to find out that UNICEF’s Report Card was actually centered on the SDGs! I was ecstatic to know what I was learning would actually come in use. Because never once in the three years I’ve studied about trigonometry have I had to solve angles or prove identities outside of the walls of Room 106.
I’d been texting my friends over the course of the month, asking them how their co-ops were going, to surprisingly hear back that a few of them weren’t having a good time. Their tasks included copying, note-taking or entering data. Now I could say that I had been above these mundane jobs. That I’d never had to spend a day at the desk. But then I’d be lying. Between the days where I’d been at workshops or busy interviewing professionals for my blog, I’d been at my desk typing up data from my first youth workshop or reading 60-page reports. But somehow, and this is why I warned you earlier about my cheesiness, I felt like I was part of a bigger purpose. It was as if the hour spent annotating or the clicks of my stapler represented more. I didn’t mind any task that I did because I knew I was doing it for a better cause-I was doing it to improve the lives of children. Maybe not directly, but to know that my work was going towards an organization as incredible as UNICEF, made every second of the day not only worth it, but all the more meaningful.
I’ve just realized that I’m nearing the 600+ word count (which I’m pretty sure puts me over my “short and sweet” promise at the beginning of this post), so I’m going to finish with a couple of thank you’s.
Firstly, a massive thank you to UNICEF Canada for taking me in and giving me the chance to work with such an amazing organization.
And secondly, to my supervisors; Alli Truesdell and Stefanie Carmichael for being such great bosses and well, people in general. You guys really are the best.