Ten skills to develop outside the classroom

Posted on Monday, March 2, 2020

Author: Dani Ablack

The University of Ottawa offers several great experiential learning opportunities, where students learn by doing, outside the classroom. These hands-on experiences help cultivate invaluable skills that students will undoubtedly use during their studies and after they graduate. Students who seize these opportunities are living proof that experiential learning can teach skills that you simply cannot be learned in class. Here are the top 10 skills these students develop.


“My commitment to academics, work and extracurricular activities has taught me how important it is to have time management skills and how to get better at multitasking. Everyone has the same number of hours in a day; it’s how you use them that matters.”

Sarah Aly, Faculty of Health Sciences

“I learned how to manage multiple projects simultaneously. I also learned how to work concurrently in workplaces with varying deadlines and different ways of doing things.”

Alexandre Genest, Faculty of Law alumnus

Alexandre Genest in the workplace

Alexandre Genest in the workplace


“I’ve learned that long-term success is just as dependent on how well you can communicate with others and how well you can sell yourself. This also translates into working well with teams.”

David Gallo, Telfer School of Management

“Networking is a vital tool for the modern world of work, and it is something that we are constantly doing.”

Doug Spencer, Faculty of Social Sciences alumnus

Doug Spencer during his CO-OP internship

Doug Spencer during his CO-OP internship


“Some of the most important skills I learned were to actively listen and to be genuine in all interactions because compassion and kindness can overcome any language and cultural barriers.”

Min Ji (Esther) Kim, Faculty of Social Sciences

“I’ve learned that everyone has their own story and comes from their own background. Listening is the first step to developing a real connection with someone!”

Jacqueline Searle, Faculty of Arts

 Segah Koksal, Jacqueline Searle, Valérie Deveaux and Iryna Tkachenko

Four regional mentors (from left to right): Segah Koksal, Jacqueline Searle, Valérie Deveaux and Iryna Tkachenko


“My practical learning experiences made me realize how the team’s effectiveness is based on celebrating the diversity of each individual members’ talents and shortcomings. It’s easy to neglect the importance of teamwork during a class assignment that lasts a few weeks, but it’s a completely different story when this team stays the same for months, if not years.”

Valérie Deveaux, Faculty of Arts

“Instead of focusing on what we lack, it is important to master our strengths and to learn to work with others who may have the knowledge or the skills that you have not had the chance to master. After all, we have been and will always be, stronger together.”

Jade Taki, Faculty of Medicine

Jake Taki during his volunteering activities

Jade Taki during his volunteering activities


“I have learned how to handle myself under pressure as well as how to be a confident leader. I have also learned how to have difficult conversations, how to handle conflict, and when to compromise for the betterment of the group.”

Kara Hayes, Faculty of Social Sciences

“I think the most important thing I’ve learned is how to lead. Through all my experiences, I’ve learned how to lead with empathy and work with others to make big things happen.”

Toluwanimi Olubode, Faculty of Engineering

Toluwanimi Olubode during his CO-OP internship at Facebook

Toluwanimi Olubode during his CO-OP internship at Facebook


“You learn that, in many situations, you must interact with different people with different needs. These experiences provide you with the necessary tools to adapt to these situations and to feel comfortable.”

Jacintha Gedeon, Faculty of Law

“I really gained experience mostly in developing a better understanding of cross-cultural communication and adapting to different work environments, both culturally and professionally.”

Isabelle La Roche, Faculty of Arts

Jacintha Gedeon during a musical fundraiser organized by Unity for Action

Jacintha Gedeon during a musical fundraiser organized by Unity for Action


“I think the most important skills that I have developed are resiliency and adaptability: it is not easy to try new things and open your mind to new challenges, but you should not give up when facing setbacks.”

Gigi Huang, Faculty of Science

“It’s easy to let opportunities pass you by. It feels a lot more intimidating to sign up for real life experiences than it is to sign up for a class, but they can be far more rewarding.”

Hayley Laur, Faculty of Social Sciences

Hayley Laur during an international exchange in Spain

Hayley Laur during an international exchange in Spain


“It’s easy to get discouraged when things are not working out, but you can learn to change your perception of events by trying to transform them into positive learning experiences.”

Alex-Anne Lamoureux, Faculty of Social Sciences

“You have to stay determined and not get discouraged when looking for experiential learning opportunities. Our university is full of determined and competitive students. However, with a bit of determination, you will end up with a great opportunity. The right experience will be out there for you.”

Zain Awadia, Faculty of Health Sciences

Alex-Anne Lamoureux during her research project in Taïwan

Alex-Anne Lamoureux during her research project in Taïwan


“I’ve learned that perspective is at the root of everything, regardless of position or title. Conflict and challenges are merely opportunities to better understand each other’s perspectives and the best way to solve them is through communication!”

Stephanie Platero, Faculty of Arts

“I have friends from various parts of the world who are from various walks of life. Being friends with these people has broadened the way I think and I whole-heartedly appreciate the opportunities these experiences have provided me.”

Sunny Verma, Faculty of Engineering

Stephanie Platero volunteered abroad as a photographer

Stephanie Platero volunteered abroad as a photographer


“I learned that an effective approach in resolving challenging problems is to dissect and break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks, then prioritize and complete them one small piece at a time.”

David Wen, Faculty of Engineering

“I may not have all the answers, but I feel better equipped to seek them out, or to risk making my own informed decisions.”

Brady Hodge, Faculty of Education

David Wen during his CO-OP internship

David Wen during his CO-OP internship


Ultimately, all these skills will help you build one thing: confidence. Trust your abilities and your training. Use your experiences to learn and grow. Find your way and accomplish everything you set out to do. Learning by doing is how you get to unlock your best self.

For more opportunities, visit the uoExperience website and choose your own path. Don’t be shy: share your own experiences with us!

Back to top