Even if you are confident in what you're going to do with your degree, it's nice to get work experience to bolster your resume and say 'yes, I've done this before.’ Give co-op a try. The people who are working in the co-op office are there to help and support you.
Informative. Eye-opening. Supportive. Friendly. Epic. This is how third-year student Cayley Fleischman describes her experience at the University of Lethbridge. Originally from Portsmouth, Virginia, in the USA, Cayley decided to pursue a Canadian education, specifically in her mother's hometown, Lethbridge. Cayley has embraced the unique experiences available at the U of L by joining the co-op program, completing both applied and independent studies, becoming a member of one of our campus sororities and working on the Students' Union (ULSU) as the elected Faculty of Arts & Science representative.
However, Cayley wasn't always the student-advocate or passionate leader she is today. "First-year me just did school and nothing else. I had three friends. Now I'm part of Kappa Beta Gamma (KBG), I've worked at the Students' Union and I've met some wonderful people." For Cayley, academics are important, but friendships inspired her to make the most of her experience. "Make sure you're devoting yourself academically, but also get the social aspects of going to university," Cayley urged. She further elaborated, "We're all here to study, but you can make so much more of your degree if you're getting involved on campus and getting to know other people. You can meet some of the best friends you'll ever have in life at university and you'll get to meet so many interesting people from so many different backgrounds and get new perspectives on life in general." While devotion to one's studies is of high importance, many students find that their grades improve hand in hand with their well-being and involvement. "Give yourself time to explore social groups on campus. We have so many and there are so many wonderful people," Cayley expressed.
In her applied study, Cayley worked at the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience (CCBN) with Dr. Robbin Gibb, a professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the U of L. Here, Cayley completed valuable research around maternal preconception experiences with alcohol and how these experiences impact offspring. Cayley describes this experience as her most impactful moment at the U of L, and an "AHA!" moment, when she realized "this is what I want to do with my career." Cayley has submitted grant requests in hopes of working in this lab again for the coming summer. After this applied study, she completed an independent study in the same lab and continues to solidify her love of research and neuroscience.
As a double major student studying psychology and neuroscience, with a minor in mental health, it is only natural that Cayley should be interested in research and teaching. However, in her co-op term last summer, Cayley worked in what was formally the Counselling and Career Office, editing resumes and cover letters for students and updating documents on the career website. Under the supervision of career and employment advisor Emily Brown, she and another student were part of the Navigator Program, helping students with disabilities get accommodations for work. Cayley expressed how despite being outside of her field of study and a massive transition to online working during the pandemic, her experience was still immensely valuable. Cayley learned to write official documents and guidelines from scratch through this position and learned a lot outside of what she already knew. "It's nice to do a work term outside of what your degree is," she said, adding, "I think that's the whole point of going to a liberal education university, getting that full experience." This position helped Cayley get into the mindset for online classes and gain insight into the co-op office's behind-the-scenes work. "Now I have people asking me for help with their resume and cover letter," Cayley adds.
An unexpected joy for Cayley was the presentations students must do at the end of their work terms. "It was really cool to see the relationship that students had built with their employers and how supportive the experience was," she explained, adding that seeing the variety of different options students have was enlightening. However, she enjoyed presenting even more, adding jokingly, "I like talking." Cayley urges new students to "Give co-op a chance. Even if you think co-op's not for you, find something you might be interested in because it really helps broaden your horizons of what you're going to do with your degree afterwards." For those who don't know if it would be a useful experience, Cayley adds, "Even if you are confident in what you're going to do with your degree, it's nice to get work experience to bolster your resume and say 'yes, I've done this before.’ Give co-op a try. The people who are working in the co-op office are there to help and support you."
As for her future, this curious thinker has changed direction on more than one occasion. "When I first started university, I wanted to go to medical school. But I realized research and teaching are the way for me. I want to get a master's in neuroscience and probably a PhD," she outlines. For this ambitious student, a career in clinical neuropsychology would be "a nice balance of research and teaching as well as working with physicians to come up with treatment plans for patients suffering from central nervous system damage and disease," one of her passions. As for getting there, "we have a solid neuropsychology base here at the university," Cayley explained, with the chance to access professors directly and gain hands-on experience.
For all new and continuing students, Cayley has a piece of advice. "Just make the most of your experience. Have some fun if you can. Studying gets stressful." Involving herself with both KBG and the Students' Union has been hugely impactful to her personal growth and she adds, "student advocacy is hugely important to me." Cayley is excited to continue her journey and degree and see her friends in person again, "I keep telling people when COVID is over, I'm coming to give you a hug!" Unsurprisingly, her favourite class has been Neuro 3610, Human Neuropsychology, where she learned all about brain organization and injury and how to diagnose and treat them, "exactly what I want to do." When she isn't advocating for students with disabilities, researching neurology or volunteering with her sorority, Cayley is usually on the ninth floor of the library, her favourite study spot. "I lived there my first year and when we're back in person, I will continue to live there," she adds. Although she hasn't ever stayed overnight (sleep is important!), she has studied there until 3 a.m. on occasion. For some students, taking a break isn't in their blood.