In 2015 Taylor Mckinney had the incredible opportunity to complete an 8-month Co-op term in Whitehorse, working with the Communications Unit of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). At the time Taylor was studying at Simon Fraser University, and her interest in the work of INAC was driven by a desire to learn more about Indigenous history and how the government was shaping its relationship with First Nations people.
We caught up with Taylor recently to ask her to reflect on her experience as a Co-op student living a more remote lifestyle in the Yukon territory:
ACE: How was the transition between busy, urban Vancouver life and Whitehorse? Were you apprehensive? What is the one piece of advice you would give someone making a similar trip for their Co-op?
TM: Going to Whitehorse was a significant part of the draw for me with that position. I’ve always been willing to move for new opportunities and have been a fairly avid traveller for most of my adult life (27+ countries so far). I was a little apprehensive about the cold but it wasn’t as bad as I initially anticipated. My advice to other students is plan well, accept invitations from coworkers and new friends once you arrive, and allow yourself to go with the flow. I made friends and got to see the Yukon because I was open to meeting new people. If I had been resistant to change I wouldn’t have had such an amazing experience.
ACE: You say your mentors on placement went out of their way to develop you professionally, what is one area that you think developed during that time that you are using in your current role?
TM: My supervisor and coworkers went above and beyond to make sure that I was able to develop skills that would be useful past my placement. They also emphasized that I take up opportunities that interested me. The most useful — thus far — has been writing. I didn’t have a lot of experience with non-academic writing when I started that position but I knew it was something I needed to work on. My supervisor and coworkers gave me a ton of guidance on how to be a better writer. And also how to write for a greater range of platforms.
ACE: What does the future hold for you? And what role do you think your Co-op played in shaping this future?
TM: I’ve recently graduated and am currently working at SFU as the Editor and Social Media Coordinator of the OLC. I’m not sure what the immediate future holds for me but I imagine I will apply for a Master’s program sometime in the next few years. Co-op was the most useful thing I did in university. It really helps you develop your goals, confidence, network and skill set. There are several key opportunities I’ve had in the past two years because of co-op that wouldn’t have been possible had I not joined the program. I’m very grateful that there is a co-op program at SFU and that so many organizations I’m interested in recruit through them.