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For those of you who are new, I am a university student, my program is mechatronics (loosely its basically robotics) engineering, which is a co-op program. A co-op is an engineering related job for four months.

My first co-op was in the middle of no-where, in the middle of winter, I lived with this old lady who tried to mother me a lot, with three cats and a dog. For the actual job I manufactured and designed custom circuit boards for custom designed robots. I worked in a classroom, at my desk or the work bench. I spent the day soldering, designing boards on the computer, ordering and sorting parts. Sometimes I would get to help out with troubleshooting boards or the programming in the chips if it didn’t work. A couple times I got to help repair older robots that we had in the show room.

My second co-op, was not in the middle of no-where, but there was still a lot of country folk, it was fall into winter, I lived at home and switched from my mom to my dads every week. For the job….I built a 100 acre solar farm. Not me personally, construction workers did, but I had to map and track the progress, do quality control and do some customer service work. I would start my day with a meeting with the contractor, then do some email and then have another meeting with some of my superiors. Then I would go out to the field, while we were getting solar panels delivered I had to be present for all deliveries or I did some quality control work, dealt with the land owners, and other random tasks that were necessary depending on the day. Basically I was responsible for everything going on onsite and I had to know everything that was happening and why.

Overall my first co-op was directly within my field, but I couldn’t wait to leave it. My second had very little related to my field except the electrical, and I enjoyed it so so much more. When I mentioned that to a couple people they say that I should re-evaluate my field. But here’s the thing, my program is perfect for me. It is mechanical, electrical and computing. When I was looking at university I couldn’t decide between mechanical and electrical, its over two years later and I still can’t decide. I think it’s not necessarily the industry I was in, but the people and the job. My second job allowed me to have more responsibility, I had to learn more and I become more involved than just soldering pieces on a board. It was a project that had to be completed and we had a time line and constraints to work within. I was able to see that solar farm go from an open farmers field to a field of solar panels. I was outside doing a job that changed and challenged me in different ways everyday. I learned to ask questions from the lowest labourers to the construction manager. My first co-op…..I learned a lot about circuit boards….but it seemed limited, I challenged myself to see how many boards I could get done in a week. I was never really left the room I was in and did not have to opportunity to be outside.

Overall I learned a lot about what I truly enjoy and some areas that I do well in. It also taught me that just because something is not related to your field doesn’t mean you won’t learn from it and that you won’t excel in it.