Miila Kai Tuju, a small-town girl from Muskoka pursuing her 4B term of Planning says, “Never be afraid to apply to a city you’ve never been to before.” She never imagined to be working for the federal government out in Ottawa. Miila says, “It's really important because if I hadn't made that decision one night to just randomly apply, I wouldn't have been here running the federal Geographic Information Systems (GIS) day.” Going into Statistics Canada, Miila didn’t really know where she wanted to work or if she wanted to work for a public or a private company. She hadn’t really leaned into the GIS role before. However, working in this role has allowed Miila to gain the hands-on technical experience that has contributed towards her degree.
Being a part of Statistics Canada, Miila expressed how supportive her team was in order to reach her success. She says, “I think what's really helped me avoid that burnout is by taking on more diverse projects. I am privileged enough to work from home and to have a great team and many supervisors, so I can reach out and talk to them. I do struggle with ADHD and staying motivated as well as staying focused has been really difficult. Communicating that with my team has been really key. If I just talk it out, it makes things much easier for me, to get focused and stay on task. Where if I don't, then I get panicked and avoid it which creates a bad result.”
Miila has faced commuting from place to place as a challenge during her co-op work terms. She says, “it is really jarring to move around to all these different places. Securing housing, trying to secure a job and trying to figure out how you're going to get there and everything. Just having to keep re-adapting has been a great challenge.”
If you are experiencing something similar to Miila's journey, the University of Waterloo offers embedded wellness counsellors that provide mental health support specifically for co-op students. These counsellors understand the co-op program and the unique stress and pressures students may encounter while applying for jobs or during their work term.
Advice for first-year students
Being a fourth-year environment student, Miila shares her advice for incoming students to the co-op program.
"Build that work and volunteer experience. Most first years, get that summer off. They should use that time wisely. Get some work experience. Get some sort of volunteering done because everyone else will be doing that too, right? And you don't want to come out with no experience during that time.
Also, build up your connections. Whether it’s making a LinkedIn profile or connecting with upper years students. Upper year students love first years.”