MA Graduate Story - From a Student's Perspective

UW Economics Master’s Co-op Program: Student Point of View by Jingru (Lorraine) Ye

Lorraine Ye Picture

Intention & Motivation

During my senior year as an undergraduate in my home country, I was determined to study at University of Waterloo for a master’s degree, attracted by both its academic reputation as well as the amazing co-op programs it offered.
When choosing a major, Economics came to mind as it would prepare me with a strategic thinking mindset and help make decisions to optimize outcomes. Since my undergraduate specialization in Information Sciences focused mostly on technical skills, a degree in Economics would really benefit me with more numerical, analytical, and problem-solving skills.

Class Experience

In the beginning, there was a two-week intense math camp at the end of August. Summer in Waterloo is hot and sticky. As an international student, not only did I need to adapt myself to the new environment here, but I also studied hard to catch up, since I was not an Economics undergraduate. The math camp turned out to be accessible and quite useful in preparing everyone to get to an equal starting level. It was also a great opportunity to network with my new classmates.

Courses offered in the first term were relatively limited with predominantly theoretical courses. In the second term, there were more electives for us to choose from depending on specialization interest. The assignments and exams were quite challenging. I studied at Dana Porter a lot during midterm and final weeks. Luckily, the support from the lecturers, tutors and department staff was awesome - whenever I had a question there was always someone available to help me and clear up any points of confusion. Our class also managed to meet up several times after passing tough deadlines, for karaoke, board games, or simply a celebration dinner.

Along with the courses offered by the Econ Department, I was also able to take courses in other departments and transfer the credits to meet the graduation requirement. For example, in the last term, I chose Operations Research and Management offered by Management Sciences. The cross-department collaboration worked so well, which ensured a smooth process for me with all the support and assistance from the faculty staff.

Co-op in 2020

The program contains two study terms, two co-op terms, and one final study term for the Capstone project with certain flexibility. At the end of my second study term when our class were supposed to look for coop opportunities, Covid-19 hit Canada. I got stuck with everything transitioning to online, and so did my classmates. What could be worse? Many companies canceled the co-op interviews and even the positions for the next term. Fortunately, the department actively sought alternatives for our class. Some of my classmates landed in an RA role for the department, some chose to graduate with a regular (non-co-op) MA degree. I managed to get a placement as a Senior Online Learning Assistant (SOLA) within the Econ department at the University of Waterloo. The goal of a SOLA was to ensure the smooth operation of online teaching, improve online efficiency, as well as assist professors in course delivery, class engagement etc. I am still very proud of that eight-month experience since I assisted with my contribution to the University during a tough time.

Graduation Onwards

The program was a fantastic preparation for my job hunting, as expected. In addition to Economics theories and methodologies, the program also improved my logical reasoning and analytical mindset with a wealth of useful technical econometrics skills, such as using Python and/or R to run regressions for analysis. I recently started my career as a Trainee Consultant in a technology consulting firm in December. I need and use the skills I gained from the program on a daily basis. With an MA degree in Economics, I also feel more confident and surer of my future endeavors as a consultant.

I am still living in the KW region, and I love this place. The city is very convenient for students, full of vibrance with young faces, and never too overwhelming like large cities (such as Toronto). As for the future, I will be devoted to things I am doing; however, I won’t limit myself to a certain path and I will always welcome changes along the way.

Overall, the MA Economics Co-op program was an awesome experience for me that I am truly grateful for. I would have never imagined that I would learn so much and would grow so much not only as a grad student but also as a person.