Emily Tam, a fourth-year Kinesiology student at the University of Waterloo, shares how she kept herself motivated by journaling during her co-op terms.
I dedicate a separate notebook for every co-op term. At the end of each workday, I’ll journal about my day. This might include the tasks I completed that day, new concepts I learned, or any connections that I can make between school, my job and the real world. If there was an interesting clinical case presented during the day, I would even jot non-identifying information down - clinical presentation, contraindications, potential courses of treatment, etc.
You learn something new every day and I wanted to help myself identify that, no matter how big or small the concept is. The learning never stops, whether it’s your sixth week or second co-op term with the same employer. Journaling helps push me to keep learning something new so that I can flip through my notebook at the end of the term and look at everything I’ve learned. I even find myself flipping through past notebooks during school terms or future co-op terms when I encounter a similar case or am finally able to match a concept with a particular clinical presentation I was exposed to over a co-op term. It’s even helpful for writing your work term report at the end of the term!
I found transitioning to working from home really difficult. I was used to commuting to and from work, interacting with clients and co-workers every day, and wearing work clothes. Working from home was really different - the commute time drastically decreased from 20 minutes to 10 seconds, I had much fewer social interactions, and who would care what I was wearing if I didn’t have any meetings scheduled for the day?
"I was also used to being around my supervisor and receiving feedback regularly, whereas remotely, my interactions with my supervisor were more structured and limited. I had to make sure to capitalize on those opportunities to ask for feedback and guidance. At the start of the term, I didn’t know how long I was going to be working remotely, but I was determined to make the most of it."
I first brainstormed what aspects of the in-person work experience I could translate into the working-from-home situation to help me feel more like I was at work. For me, this was wearing non-pyjama clothes, meal-prepping lunches and creating separate online workspaces (I use my personal computer for work). To set physical boundaries for work within my living space, I created a separate space and made sure this space was only used for work. Lunch was not to be eaten at my desk!
I also had flexible hours, which are both a blessing and a curse. I usually thrive on structure - for example, arriving at work early to see the first client at 8AM and daily lunchtime from 12-1PM. That didn’t have to exist in the remote work lifestyle but I wanted to try something different this work term. I lived on campus this term so I was able to continue some of my other roles in-person within Campus Housing and Athletics & Recreation. Additionally, I wanted to incorporate gym sessions and outdoor walks into my day to break up all the sitting that I do while working.
"The time constraints on my day helped to increase my productivity at work because I knew I had to put a “hard stop” to work in the late afternoon to make time for my evening commitments or helped kickstart my morning."
"In the lab, I was one of four undergraduate summer students. After one week of working from home, we all agreed that we felt somewhat isolated in our roles and longed for that social connection. Our solution was weekly chats - we would all hop onto a video call once a week for 30 minutes to update each other on what we’ve been working on. Not only did we recreate that sense of connectedness in the lab while working remotely, but we were also able to learn from each other’s individual experiences and help each other troubleshoot problems."
I’m going into my 4A/4B academic terms after completing my five co-op terms. During the year, I’ll be taking KIN 431/432 (Research Proposal/Research Project) as a continuation of my most recent co-op term in Dr. Clark Dickerson’s Digital Industrial Ergonomics and Shoulder Evaluation Lab. I'll also be working alongside the Varsity Women’s Volleyball as a Kinesiology Student Trainer and will be applying for my Master’s of Physical Therapy to pursue my passion for rehabilitation.