With the switch to online learning and working from home, many co-op student and workers alike have had to revisit how they network and build friendships, virtually. Just as many of us had polished our in-person salutations and office etiquette, we’re now needing to pivot to keep these same connections fresh and genuine. Here’s a few suggestions we’ve developed during our co-op terms at the University of Waterloo:

Getting to know your colleagues

When I got hired for my co-op term at University Relations (UR), I didn’t know what to expect, especially as someone who is introverted, has trouble meeting new people and suffers with anxiety. My predication was that I’d be alienated in the workplace for the next eight months. Without being around any colleagues, how was I supposed to connect with anybody?

manreet birdi

Manreet Birdi, Marketing & Communications Specialist

Fortunately, I was proven wrong in my first week! My colleagues let me know that we’re collectively in the same boat in this confusing, pandemic-riddled world.Thankfully, I was given several opportunities to connect with people at work.

One way that helped tremendously were meetings us co-ops had with the senior leaders within UR. Having the opportunity to become acquainted with senior leaders, ask for career (or life) advice and understand the importance of their roles, was such a fantastic way for us to connect with people we probably would've never met.
Try to get to know the senior leaders in your next co-op job; you’ll never know what will come out of it!

After realizing that everyone was in the same position with the sudden remote working environment, it became easier for me to reach out. I found myself messaging the other co-op's, having one-on-one meetings with my manager that would last an hour sometimes due to us sharing stories and laughing, and even sharing creativity with other creatives in UR. I also met people through different opportunities I took part in, like writing for the Waterloo Magazine which helped me connect with another great individual on a different team. Try to take part in different projects to expose yourself to new people and always reach out to someone if you’re interested in their work!

One great way to meet new people is using the Co-op Connection initiative by the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA). This initiative helps you stay connected to campus and connect with other co-op students in your city while you’re away for your work term!

Chatting with your classmates

During my orientation in 2018, I remember constantly hearing the phrase “everyone’s in the same boat.” I was told not to be afraid to strike up a conversation or make plans because just like me, everyone else was also trying to make friends. 

Meghana Anthannagari

Meghana Anthannagari, Communications Coordinator 

An online environment makes this experience tricky, but not all hope is lost.Waterloo first-year students are in luck by having the opportunity to participate in the Waterloo Ready Program Community. Students are paired with a Peer Mentor (also known as an upper-year student) along with a group of peers. You can enroll and participate in these communities through Microsoft Teams.

If you're an incoming winter 2021 student, join the peer mentorship community now to start bonding with other new students and receive tips and tricks from an upper-year student.

The Learn page is where you’ll access most of your course content and program community, whether it’s accessing lectures, participating in group discussions or checking up on deadlines. Uploading a profile picture in your Learn account will put a face to your name, helping you appear more approachable. It doesn’t have to be a picture of yourself, but something that’s unique to your identity would do the trick. Peers will also have an easier time finding you in a class list with over two hundred students.

Don’t forget that your professors are also looking forward to interacting with their students! Get to know your prof by attending office hours for an informal chat or sending them an email about a lecture you enjoyed.

Outside of academics, socializing and building community through extracurriculars is still possible. Several clubs and societies are running and hosting virtual events. The Waterloo Undergraduate Students Association (WUSA) has a list of every undergrad club as well as their contact information. If a club catches your attention, follow them on social media and shoot them a message asking how you can get involved today.

If you wish visit campus, stay updated on what’s open on campus. Book an appointment to study at the Davis Centre Library or work out at the Columbia Icefield Arena and Physical Activities Complex, while following Public Health and University of Waterloo COVID-19 guidelines.