Building skills and relationships: Sarina's experience

Hi! My name is Sarina and I am a 3B Honours Public Health student, minoring in Gerontology and Political Science. Today, I will be sharing my co-op experience working in the Department of National Defence - Canadian Forces Health Services Group!

A photo of Sarina smiling in a corn field.What are your responsibilities in the workplace and what does your work entail?

My current co-op position with the Department of National Defence has me working as a staff officer with the Science and Technology team in the Canadian Forces Health Services Group. In this position, I am currently working on overseeing research proposals and working on a research paper for the Surgeon General Health Research Program and Partner Research Organizations on aligning their research goals, funding and priorities.

I additionally have previous experience working for the Public Health Agency of Canada as a junior policy analyst with the Intergovernmental and Stakeholder Policy Division. In this role, I was able to work on the COVID-19 Special Advisory Committee with public health doctors and officials to help introduce federal regulations, policies and health measures at the height of the pandemic.

What has been the highlight of your current work term?

The highlight of this work term has been networking and meeting different members of my team. Having the opportunity to introduce myself to various employers and organizations provided me with the experience of building relations and learning about different career paths and options. Everyone I have met has been very nice and generous in sitting down with me and discussing their work, their research and the path they took as a student to get to where they are currently.

How do you think this experience and/or your previous co-ops have helped you develop yourself? 

My co-op experiences have helped me develop a stronger set of interpersonal skills along with transferrable skills that I can use in my everyday life. Not only have I noticed that I have become a stronger student, but I have also experienced a boost in confidence and maturity in myself. Working full-time as a student has shown me how to commit to a work-life balance while also multitasking and committing to completing all assigned work.

“One of the best elements of the co-op program is that not only do you gain incredible work experience that helps you plan for your future, but you develop certain skills about yourself that strengthen who you are not only as a student but as a person.”

- Sarina Nathoo, third-year Honours Public Health student

How did you overcome challenges during this work term and/or previous ones?

One of the biggest challenges as a co-op student is adjusting to working remotely during the pandemic. Working remotely can seem fun as it lets you work in the comfort of your own environment, however, it also is a challenge as it is easy to get distracted or become overwhelmed with the work.

A way I overcame this challenge was by allocating time when I need to complete my work while also giving myself mental health breaks so that I don’t overwork myself or start feeling overwhelmed. Staying on task can be challenging when there are many distractions around you, but allocating specific time to entertain those distractions allowed me to remain committed to my work.

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