HERE WE GO… AGAIN

Same place, new voice.

As I read Ashley’s old back-to-school post, I found myself nodding at every word like they were the grains of truth. Indeed, because I’m taking the same courses (minus 2, add another), I feel like I should discuss another very important aspect of back-to-school: how to absorb the most out of my 4th year of Mechanical Engineering.

(My lovely coworkers from YVR)

(My first tour for Mechanical Engineering Student Services)

First, I should mention I’m coming back from 16 MONTHS of Co-op, where I worked under senior engineers and helped them complete their projects. Why is that important? One word-transitioning. Back-to-school to most of you may be leaving the comforts of the summer sun, but for me, it’s also a call-back to homework, assignment deadlines, and study nights.

So I asked myself, “How do I prepare for this?” How do I take the work ethics and skills that I’ve gained in Co-op and fully utilize them in school? Well, to kick off any good project, you must have visions, so I created visions for this semester:

  • Ace my courses (using the work ethics from Co-op!)
  • Build a support network (be inspirational and positive like my Co-op supervisors!)
  • Learn new things (using the drive from Co-op!)

Then I set down the steps to achieve my visions. For the first one, “acing my courses”, I followed one simple rule: “know what you should be learning”. If there’s anything I learned from Co-op, it is the value of self-directed progress. To elaborate, this means you shouldn’t need your supervisor to check up on you every hour, or even, every day. When I was in Co-op, my supervisor would go on one week vacations! At first I was afraid that the small amount of work would make me slack off, but then I quickly learned that by checking on my own progress every day. For example, I jotted down tasks on the log book and then reviewed their completion by the end of the day, the sense of fulfillment and autonomy I had achieved was much greater than any approval my supervisor could give. How can I apply this to my studies? Get a log book. Know what the learning objectives are for each course. At the end of each week, follow-up with yourself: “how comfortable am I with this material?” If you don’t understand something in lectures, quickly jot it down in a log book so you can review them after class. Take this piece of advice with a grain of salt, but from my Co-op experience, anything you don’t understand can be taught by Google! Aside from that, Co-op taught me the importance of a well-designed work environment to your ability to concentrate and be productive. Half a month before school started, I set-up the most productive work station at my dorm. This includes a good lighting, big desk, dual monitors, printer, and stationary at the ready.

The second vision is not as straight forward. Building a network of inspirational and positive people requires time and energy. When I was still in Co-op, I learned a lot about team-building, and I’m taking it back to school. Like working on a project, you have to be communicative and supportive. Be open and honest about life and you’ll be surprised how strong your connection becomes. When I am in the right mental attitude, I found myself quickly surrounded by people who are giving and generous. These people include team members from student design team, supervisor and coworkers form work-learn, new exchange friends, and first year friends. When you build a solid network, you feel more confident about challenging assignments, quizzes and exams. When you struggle together, the victory is just so much sweeter!

Lastly, I want to talk about how Co-op has motivated me to learn new things. I remember the first day I started working at Vancouver International Airport, I was handed a project scope and told I’ll be running the project. Unexperienced as I was, I quickly learned to reach out to resources (senior coworkers, the YVR intranet) and to learn from past projects (for permits, specifications, etc). With that strategy, I was able to accomplish new tasks and in the end, successfully finishing the project at YVR. This semester, I’m planning to or have already reached out to friends with more experience to learn new skills like graphic design, event photography, and 3D scanning.

So there you go! That is how Co-op could actually make your transition back to school so much easier. More importantly, my Co-op experience has had a positive effect on my ability to absorb my fourth year in UBC Mechanical Engineering!

Since I am preparing myself for a semester abroad (in DENMARK), I will be writing about that in my next blog! Let me know if there’s any subject in particular you would like to hear about. And of course, email me if you wish to connect!

Let’s own this semester together,

Kirsten

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