As an English major, I hear the question, ‘What are you going to do with that?’ more often than I’d like to say. For me, the kid that grew up with five books constantly on the go, there was never a question of what I wanted to study in university. I also knew that I would need to get as much practical work and volunteer experience as possible while I was in school if I wanted to work in the field I was so passionate about.
When I started at UBC in 2013, my biggest dream was to be a journalist. Equally inspired by Gilmore Girls and Christiane Amanpour, I had visions of being a foreign correspondent and reporting from war zones. Obviously, I had an idealistic view of what it would be like and very little understanding of the reality.
I started writing for the Ubyssey during my second year and worked for a newspaper in my hometown in Alberta during the summers. As much as I enjoyed learning the ropes of interviewing, transcribing, and writing articles, I was disappointed to hear every professional journalist I knew tell me not to go into the field. Budget cuts, a changing media landscape, and the ‘death’ of print newspapers meant that journalism was a very different ball game than I had envisioned.
Going into my third year, I saw a posting on the Careers Online website for a Communications position with BC Children’s Hospital. I didn’t know very much about the field when I started university, but that Worklearn position changed my whole career and academic path. I was able to discover a field that used so many of the same skills as journalism: storytelling, writing, and creativity - where being an English major was an asset rather than a liability! My supervisors had done Masters degrees in Communications, Journalism, Creative Writing and English. I was surrounded by professionals that I could talk to about career paths, academic work, and writing. That position was one of the best things that I did during the course of my degree, and opened up a whole new set of possibilities for me when it came to life after graduation. I stayed there for a year, and was sad to leave when my course schedule made it impossible to work there in fourth year.
Going into my fifth and final year in the fall, I now work as a Marketing and Program Assistant for the Faculty of Education. While my position at BC Children’s Hospital focused more on internal communications - proofreading the monthly newsletters, creating digital signage that celebrated research accomplishments, and updating the BCCH website - I now get to learn about external marketing projects, event planning, and all the work that goes into course planning. I specifically work with a branch of the Faculty of Education called Professional Development and Community Engagement, which handles summer institutes for teachers, educators, and students. This includes the UBC-Ritsumeikan language exchange program, courses on integrating technology into the classroom, and a French Immersion program in Quebec City. I provide support for the summer institutes, and also get to work to help market the courses and programs that PDCE runs.
One of the things I love about the position is that my supervisors genuinely seem to value and appreciate my input. They encourage me to ask questions, take initiative, and come up with new ideas. Their expertise, knowledge, and professionalism is so inspiring, and there is a real value placed on learning and growing. When I wanted to start interviewing faculty instructors and write features on them to help create marketing content for courses, I was given the support and encouragement to do so. So far, I’ve interviewed five different instructors and gotten to learn so much about their passion for education while translating that into a story - putting the skills I learned working for newspapers to good use.
Having now had two fantastic Worklearn experiences, I can confidently say that the program has been one of the most inspiring and important aspects of my degree. I love being able apply the writing and research skills I’ve developed in the classroom to the workplace, and Worklearn helped me learn about a field - Communications - that I didn’t even know existed when I started at UBC. When I graduate, I hope to pursue a Master's degree in Journalism and Communications and continue to work in this field. This is a place I’m not sure I would be in if I hadn’t gained the experience that I did through Worklearn.