7 tips for making the most of your student experience

Posted on Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Several students walking on campus.

By Mireille Piché

What would I have done differently? I often ask myself this when reflecting on my student years. Back then, I greatly enjoyed residence life, wine and cheese events organized by my student association, participating in the Jeux de la communication and the Work-Study Program. However, it is only now that I’m back on campus, as a working professional, that I realize I also missed out on some incredible experiences.

Whether you’re starting school this fall or think your university life could use some spicing up, follow these seven tips to make the most of your student experience. These ideas could also help you down the road in the job market. Take it from me, an alumna!

1. Apply for CO-OP

Just imagine: you’ll have the chance to gain work experience, discover what interests you and get your name out to potential employers. If I had known I could finish my bachelor’s degree while also building up a resumé filled with paid internships with multiple companies, I would have jumped at the opportunity. Learn more about the CO-OP program.

Mireille Piché

Mireille Piché. Photo: Fidèle Lavigne

2. Go on a national or international exchange

Life is beautiful. And travelling is life. But with a full-time job and perhaps two to three weeks’ vacation a year, going on holiday becomes a bit more complicated, to say the least. So now is the time to take advantage of travelling. Your experience abroad will show employers you’ve acquired some general knowledge and have an open mind. These photos and videos of exchanges collected by the International Office should convince you. For more information, refer to the Getting started page.

3. Find a mentor

Grabbing a coffee with someone whose academic and professional path inspires you can be a great opportunity to learn more about how they got to where they are now. Get on LinkedIn, explore your options and remember not to limit yourself to one mentor. One phone call could change your life.

4. Participate in events

You can find plenty of career planning workshops, panels of professionals and experts, and networking events on campus. You’ll meet interesting people and learn more about job possibilities. Check out the uO2.0 program for students and young alumni or visit uoCal for a calendar of all uOttawa events.

5. Develop an entrepreneurial spirit

Wanting to launch your own business is something of a trend nowadays. If you’re part of a group of young entrepreneurs ready to devote your time to your work, I highly recommend you check out the Startup Garage program. As with many other supports, this program is part of the Entrepreneurship Hub. Oh, and don’t miss Entrepreneurship Week from November 14 to 18!

6. Meet alumni

I’m pushing my own agenda here. But seriously, this is a must. Meeting alumni is propelling yourself into the future; it’s meeting your future self; it’s seeing what your degree is worth in the job market. University of Ottawa alumni (there are more than 210,000 in all!) come back to campus often, such as during Alumni Week, which will happen May 1 to 6, 2017. Check out other uOttawa alumni upcoming events.

7. Continue your studies

Pursuing your studies at the graduate level extends your student experience — a unique time in your life. Working with professors and writing a thesis is very rewarding, and I’d even go as far as to say it’s exciting! If you have the energy and the means, a second bachelor’s degree, a master’s, a PhD or a professional certificate can really make you stand out from other applicants in job interviews. So, have you ever thought of going back to school?

Mireille Piché did her joint honours in communication and lettres françaises at the University of Ottawa (’09) and her master’s in literature at Concordia University (’11). She is now an alumni relations officer at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Arts. Contact her at mireille.piche@uOttawa.ca or https://ca.linkedin.com/in/mireillepiche.

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