Many college and universities offer co-operative education programs, more commonly referred to as “co-ops.” This special arrangement gives students a taste of working life while completing their studies. When deciding on your degree program, you may want to examine whether or not a co-op program will work for you.
One of the biggest draws to co-op programs is the real-life work experience they offer. There are a lot of things that just can’t be learned in textbooks, such as relationship building skills and remaining calm under pressure. When thinking about your future career, it’s important to ask yourself if focusing on the academic side of the profession is more important, or if you could benefit from learning on the job.
Co-ops are also a safe way to try out a profession. Maybe working with children sounds great, but after a semester of dealing with temper tantrums, you might start to reconsider. It’s certainly better to find out you don’t like a career before you invest years of school with that goal in mind.
If you decide to go the co-op route, you may want to consider doing an international program. This is a great opportunity to spend time immersed in a new culture, perhaps picking up a foreign language, all while completing your studies. Some courses are better suited to international co-ops than others. For example, if you’re an archeology student, exploring in Egypt could be incredibly rewarding. If you’re interested in international development, an emerging nation will give you plenty of real-life experience that you may not get at home.
Not only can they enrich the learning experience, a co-op program will give you a major advantage of landing a job after graduation. First, you will have actual experience to put on your resume. In a job interview, you can explain exactly how you handled a difficult situation during your co-op program, rather than give a hypothetical answer. Secondly, it’s a perfect place to build your network. Many students receive job offers at the end of their co-op placements, but even if there isn’t an immediate job opportunity, you may have built up a good enough relationship with your supervisor to have a professional reference. At very least, you will get to meet people in your field of interest who can give you valuable insight during your studies and as you embark on a new career.