Jacky Zhai

Jacky Zhai
4A Honours Political Science Co-op

My name is Jacky and I am currently an Honours Political Science Co-op student at the University of Waterloo with a Specialization in Public Policy & Administration.

One of the most common questions I get asked is why I chose Political Science as my major?

Throughout high school, I enjoyed a wide variety of subjects in the social sciences. When the time came to choose the Arts program that I had to major in, it was a pretty hard choice because I was interested in so many things. However, one program that did stand out to me was Political Science. Political Science offered me the opportunity to dive into such a wide range of subjects including law, history, geography, politics, and economics, with course offerings from many different topics. The best part was that you could choose which areas you wanted to specialize in. The interdisciplinary nature of the program combined with the freedom to do the courses I wanted helped me shape my PSCI degree towards my own personal interests and career goals.

What Co-op Positions Have you Held? 

Junior Policy Analyst - Ontario Ministry of Education, Capital Policy Branch
Research Analyst - Ontario Treasury Board Secretariat, Economic Infrastructure Branch (8 months)
Research Assistant - University of Waterloo, Secretariat & Office of General Counsel

What Advice Would you give to Upcoming Co-op Students?

My PSCI major helped me develop many transferable skills that are useful on the job. These included writing, analysis, research, project management, and communications skills. The assignments I did in my courses were very useful as they mirror much of the work I did on my work terms.

Co-op has allowed me to gain real-life work experience and has helped me realize my strengths and weaknesses and allowed me to experience new opportunities I didn’t expect. Some advice I would give to new co-op students is to volunteer and get involved early on! This will help you build experience and add to your resume. Secondly, focus on your academics in first year. A strong early academic record will help support your application. It’s a lot of hard work, but it pays off immensely in the future. When the time does come to apply for jobs, try to apply to a wide variety of jobs. Many students have excellent co-op jobs in completely different industries and ended up loving their jobs. You never know what you might like.

Which PSCI course did you find most useful?

I found that PSCI 331 - Public Administration has been the most valuable course as it provided me with the skills and knowledge I needed for my work terms. I learned about how decisions and policies are created, as well as how all levels of the government bureaucracy function. Course assignments such as writing briefing notes and presenting to small groups helped me develop skills which contributed to my success during my co-op terms.

What are some activities that you are involved with? 

Getting involved is one of the most rewarding and exciting things you can do as a student at the University. You get to meet new people, make connections, and gain valuable experience. I encourage all students to join clubs, volunteer, and also connect with both your fellow students and professors.  

Much of my involvement on campus has been focused towards helping other students and prospective students. I want to make sure that every student feels welcome and have the resources they need to excel at the University of Waterloo. Some of my on campus involvements include membership on the co-op student council, in which I represented the student body and raised concerns regarding our co-op program, volunteering for open house days and orientation, and roles as Political Science department peer mentor and a volunteer note-taker for Accessibility Services.

Read more co-op student profiles here.