Melissa Nodding, BPR Co-op Student
Around this time last year I was at a cross-roads in my life. My partner was moving to Australia to chase his dream of becoming a dentist and I was in Halifax leading a pretty ordinary student life. I had the choice of staying in Halifax or moving 20,000 kilometers away. In February 2014 I decided to take a leap of faith and embrace the adventure ahead of me. I would finish my degree online and find my final co-op position overseas.
By May I was packed and ready to make the 34 hour trip to the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. It was a very difficult decision to pick up and leave, as finishing my degree has always been priority. But adventure awaited and with the Mount’s wonderful Distance Education program I had peace of mind that I wouldn’t fall behind.
Throughout summer months (winter in Australia) I was very busy with my online courses. Because of the extreme time difference (16 hours ahead of Nova Scotia) I ended up having class at 2:30 am until 6:30 am twice a week. As you can imagine, this was extremely difficult for me, but it was a challenge I embraced and quite often used as a joke.
The great thing about distance education is that it doesn’t matter where you are, all that matters is that you have an internet connection and a computer. I was fortunate enough to spend a couple days in June between semesters at the Great Barrier Reef. I set my laptop up at the hostel we were staying in and was able to participate in class while enjoying a bit of a holiday.
When fall rolled around I was anxious to find a co-op position here on the Gold Coast. The trouble with co-op positions here is that a lot of them are unpaid. Because the co-op program requires the position to be paid, I had to come up with another plan.
I had talked to my parents in Nova Scotia about my dilemma and my dad mentioned I could try to find a Nova Scotia based company that would allow me to work from home in Australia. After giving it some thought and having no luck with finding positions here in the Gold Coast, I asked my dad to put me in contact with a local business he knew needed some public relations help. After a few emails and skype dates with the owners and manager of The Windbag Company of NS, we decided that it was a good fit. The nature of the work I did for them did not require me to be on-site, and therefore I was able to work from home in Australia. I was in constant contact with the business and had skype meetings with the manager three to four times a week. I was able to build a website from scratch for them, develop a communications plan and produce marketing materials all from a distance.
This leap of faith turned out for the best and I’m so grateful for the opportunity I was given. Often in businesses you are required to work with someone that is not always on location, and this position gave me the opportunity to learn the skills to deal with this. I learned time management skills, a whole new set of communication skills and how to work efficiently with a team I was not in the same physical location with.
I have a tendency to do things a little differently than my peers and taking my degree and my co-op down under is no exception. This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.