I have always had the desire to have an international experience as part of my engineering undergrad. Whether it was an exchange to one of the University of Waterloo’s many partner universities world-wide or an international co-op work term, I knew I wanted an international adventure under my belt.
I believe that acquiring a global perspective is an important awareness that every engineer should strive to obtain. Being able to see how different countries approach problems, technologies, or simply their day-to-day living allows an individual to become that much more aware, versatile, and well-rounded. The world is becoming more and more internationally connected, therefore being able to work or study in another country is one step closer to staying on the cutting edge of things.
So with all of these opinions and my drive to go abroad, I did it – I researched, I applied, and I successfully managed to secure an international co-op work placement. This upcoming winter, I will be spending four months working in the country known for its windmills, clogs, and famous meandering canals – the Netherlands. Despite these interesting attractions, the real reason behind my strong desire to obtain an international experience in this particular country is that the Netherlands are known for their innovative water management practices. I have always been very passionate about water resources and the environment; this opportunity could not have been more suited to fit my studies and interests.
For those of you who are as interested as I was (and still am) in going on an adventure and acquiring an international experience, I wanted to share some advice that will hopefully provide some assistance.
First, I think that it is most important for anyone looking to work abroad to determine where in the world you would be open to travelling to, and which countries are actually feasible for you to be working in/travelling to. Going through the job search process with CECA and WaterlooWorks is a good starting place; they often have information regarding the limitations and realities of working in certain countries. Regardless of any restrictions or limitations, you also want to make sure that if you are indeed offered a position, you would be willing and comfortable with working and living in the country you applied to.
Second, be confident in yourself and your applications. When applying to international jobs this fall, even as a 2B environmental engineering student with three successful co-op works terms under my belt, I still felt like I had no shot at getting an interview for an international position let alone a job offer. Believe in yourself people! The worst thing you could do is not apply for a job you want because you think you cannot get it. Let the employers figure out if you are or are not qualified.
Third, realize that a lot more preparation is required than your average co-op work term. Be prepared to put in the extra time, effort, and finances needed in order to get organized for your work term abroad. Extra tasks like acquiring work visas, coordinating and booking flights, getting any necessary vaccinations, takes time and resources that one does not normally have to allot time and money for. However, if you are in the same opinion as myself, these tasks are minor prices to pay compared to the amazing experience that awaits. Nonetheless, they definitely are not something to be overlooked.
Lastly, know that the University of Waterloo has a great system in place to support you if an international exchange or co-op work term is something you want to do. From providing general information, to giving out international experience scholarships/bursaries, to organizing documents one might need, the university is able to assist you in getting ready for your international experience abroad.