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Gaining experience on the jobJuly 12, 2019

In 2017/2018, over 1,700 students participated in over 2,700 4-month co-op work terms across the globe.

Amy Chow’s love for research and Canada, coupled with the research intensity that McMaster is well known for and the great reputation of its co-op program, led her to accept her offer of admission to the Faculty of Engineering four years ago. Graduating in December 2019 with a Bachelor of Biotechnology, Chow couldn’t be happier with her undergraduate experience, including the two co-op terms she experienced.

 At McMaster, students can choose to participate in a co-op experience from as short as 4-months to as long as 16-months in duration.

Chow decided to complete two co-op terms, and the first was international.

Chow’s journey from her native Barbados to Canada and back to Barbados for her first co-op term working in quality control at a microbiology and chemistry company that tests for various diseases in foods. An international co-op in her home country was great, but Chow was curious about completing co-op in Canada, and decided on a second term, this time for eight months, in Burlington, Ontario. 

Both terms gave Chow the opportunity to experience “life after graduation,” and gain skills in communication and teamwork. It pushed her out of her comfort zone, says Chow, who has plans to remain in Canada after graduation and do more research.

“I love research and I love Canada,” she says, and while her family is still largely in Barbados, she has met friends who have become family in Canada.

On a similar note, third-year Biotechnology international student Tosin Odubanjo reveals that, for her, the co-op experience mimicked real life. Completing co-op at a startup in Innovation Park in Hamilton, Odubanjo realized she didn’t need to go far from McMaster to realize how large the world could be.

“I saw that there was life after graduation and what it would be like once I was done at McMaster,” says Odubanjo  “In that sense, co-op made me career-ready,” she says. Citing persistence and patience as key to being successful in co-op, in university, and generally, in life, Odubanjo hopes to take the invaluable experience of co-op with her beyond the hallways of McMaster and out into the world. 

“Applying what I learned, like creativity, independence, and hard work, is key for me,” sayd Odubanjo. 

Starting in the fall of 2019, McMaster will have an expanded service level across the university to all international students through the access centre, co-op centre, and through greater training to staff at McMaster on how to provide international students with the support they need to succeed.

Kathryn Leistner, Manager, Engineering Co-op & Career Services at the Faculty of Engineering, says the value of co-op to students is immeasurable.

“Our students are going to be the future, they’re the ones creating change as the disruptors,” she says. “Students are already on 2700+ work terms each year and influencing the future of a brighter world. By participating in co-op, they’re starting before they walk out the world. 

Second-year software engineering student Mrinal Tiwari started his co-op experience in the summer of 2019 in Ottawa.  He dived into the co-op term as he did with various extra-curricular experiences, including research assistantships, teaching assistantships, and as a representative for undergraduates at the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE): with enthusiasm and excitement. Just as he completed these extra-curricular activities, Tiwari hopes to be successful at Fibrics Incorporated, where he’s completing his co-op as a junior software developer, and later, be a leader of his own startup.

“Co-op supports leadership – students are developing leadership skills without even realizing it. Co-op makes you stronger innately without even knowing it,” says Leistner.

With an eye to contribute to a better future for those he mentors and teaches, and for generations who need analytical thinkers with heart, Tiwari’s leadership has already contributed to a brighter world, and he plans, through his startup, to continue that contribution.

“Never be shy. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something,” says Tiwari. “I like when people say they don’t know. That’s how you get answers.”

Getting answers is one huge benefit to co-op, as noted by Chinese student Troy Kuang, who’s in his fifth and final year of the Computer Science program at McMaster. 

“At the end of the co-op term, I also knew what I did and didn’t want to do,” says Kuang. “I knew I could learn new things easily. I felt more comfortable with graduating because I have co-op on my resume.”