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A co-op student's experience working abroad

Monday, January 23, 2017

Open roads: one co-op student’s experience working abroad

Co-op student Nataly Arar next to a tree in winter.

by Andreea Perescu

Having completed over half of her co-operative education abroad in Jordan, Turkey and Singapore, Nataly Arar recognizes the value of an international co-op experience. “I find it important to challenge my way of life,” explained Arar, who is in her fourth year of urban planning at Waterloo. “I find it critical to understand different methods of sustainability and, in many ways, survival. To be able to work together we must understand each other.”

Formerly from the United Arab Emirates, Arar immigrated to Canada when she was a teenager. During her first co-op term, she worked as a translator for the United Nations at a refugee camp in Jordan. “My understanding of the realities of the world have been shifted,” she said, reflecting on her experience at the refugee camp. “I have lived a privileged life so far in the United Arab Emirates and in Canada, where healthcare, water, and living a decent life is attainable.”

Arar’s holistic outlook of urban planning comes from the hands-on approach that Waterloo offers its co-op students. During the first half of her eight-month co-op work term at the National University of Singapore (NUS), Arar was a research assistant and a designer. “I applied ‘design thinking’ techniques to research to understand the healthcare system in Singapore,” she explained. “I also worked on a joint project between NUS and the Singaporean government to try and understand human behavior towards active transportation. Our day-to-day tasks involved finding different ways to attract more cyclists to Singapore.”  

Because of her international co-op career at Waterloo, Arar has developed a unique set of skills. She has filled the role of teacher, researcher, and urban planner and spent the fall 2016 term working as a communications co-ordinator at University Relations. Arar encourages her fellow co-op students to step outside of their comfort zones when they are job searching.

“Don’t build barriers so soon into your career—be ready to explore all the options,” she said. “Take the risk and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Even if you choose to be halfway across the world, just remember to keep moving forward.”  

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