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November: Understanding the Canadian Workplace

For international students, co-operative education can offer a unique mix of opportunities and challenges. While graduating with a year of Canadian work experience can be a great way to launch a long-term career and life in Canada, workplace cultures can vary greatly from company to company, let alone country to country. It can be tough to put yourself out there into new situations with unfamiliar co-workers and adapt to the expectations of each co-op placement.

Luckily, many of our co-op employers have extensive experience working with international students and do their best to foster a welcoming work environment.

“Be confident, be patient, be open to new opportunities, and own your work experience.”

Eva Stoddard can empathise with international students who are nervous about working in Canada. As the Food and Beverage Operations Manager at the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel, Eva has supervised a number of co-op work terms. But she also has first-hand experience of life as an international student.

Growing up in Hong Kong, Eva had a desire to study abroad and improve her English language skills. She moved to Canada to finish high school and later earned a bachelor degree from Dalhousie University. Since then, she’s held a number of jobs in the local tourism industry, from server to guest service agent to her current position with Marriott. This type of work was the perfect fit for Eva’s outgoing personality.

“I enjoy the chance to make someone’s day by sharing what I know and like about this city and province,” she says. “Also, it’s always great fun to meet other people and learn about where they come from, their culture and experience.”

Yet working in Nova Scotia was also an adjustment for Eva. “The weather, the culture, even the difference between North American English and British English I learned in Hong Kong were all surprising to me.”

Looking back on her early years in Canada, Eva has some great advice for current international co-op students. “Be confident, be patient, be open to new opportunities, and own your work experience. Meet up with Canadian students and try to learn from them. Volunteer wherever you can. Go explore and try new things to become more familiar with local culture. And do your research on the companies you would like to work with so you can go into interviews and work terms prepared.”

Upcoming lunch and learn for Chinese students

Of course, students do not have to search for a co-op work term on their own. The Mount Co-op Office provides a variety of resources and professional development sessions to help you craft your resume and cover letters or practice for an interview. In addition, we are pleased to offer co-op students from China a chance to attend a new event with representatives from the Co-op Office, the International Education Centre, as well as Eva to help answer some common questions you may have about working with local co-op employers. Our Understanding the Canadian Workplace Lunch and Learn will take place in Seton 404 on Wednesday, November 27 from noon to 1pm. Lunch will be invited. Space is limited, so please email msvu.ca by November 20 to RSVP for this event.

A mutual opportunity to learn

As Eva notes, “international students bring their expertise in different languages, cultural understanding, new ideas, and different perspectives to the job.” Many of our employer partners have come to realize that there is much to celebrate about the value and various contributions our diverse array of students can offer. Ideally, co-operative education presents both international students and their Canadian employers with a mutual opportunity to learn from each other, strengthening the local economy and growing Nova Scotia’s professional workforce at the same time.