Bethanea Chou is a Beedie Luminary from Cohort 2020, and she is not-so-slowly and surely conquering the world one province (and co-op) at a time. Most recently, Bethanea was awarded the Outstanding Junior Co-op Student Award from UBC Sauder School of Business Co-op Program, and named “Student of the Year” by the Association for Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning BC/Yukon (ACE-WIL). In this article, we peek into Bethanea’s experiences to date, and path to success.
Who is Bethanea?
Bethanea is a realistic perfectionist, a second-generation immigrant, and an Human Resources (HR) student at the University of British Columbia (Point Grey Campus). When Bethanea isn’t busy with professional development, she’s styling unconventional outfits, playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and being an exceptional ambassador of the Beedie Luminaries Scholarship Program.
Completing your degree is stressful as is. Let’s talk about your co-op journey.
BETHANEA CHOU — I found my dream co-op opportunity with the Yukon government purely through networking, knowing myself, and expressing my curiosity and passions. In 2022, I attended a UBC Sauder Co-op Networking Night. At the event, I decided to explore even the organizations I had never heard of. For example, I care about providing social welfare for low-income immigrant families like mine. So, I decided to visit a government organization at the Networking Night – the Yukon Government.
That’s when I met an assistant deputy minister (and future coworker) for the first time. I didn’t even know what a deputy minister was, but I had a lot of fun talking to them about the pursuit of social welfare through public vs private work. I was curious to learn more and coffee-chatted 2 Yukon Government interns, an HR consultant, and the head of HR. Before I realized it, my curiosity had led me to a dream job offer with the Yukon Government. Crazy, right?
How did you know co-op was the right fit for you?
As a realistic perfectionist, I knew this job was the right fit because I had been itching to tackle something bigger to challenge myself and grow personally and professionally. This co-op opportunity gave me the chance to overcome some of my fears while doing impactful work that I love. So, I pushed myself to take it. For example, my childhood experience with financial instability has long caused me to be overly fearful of the risks and costs associated with big changes and travel. Aside from the fear of loneliness and confusion in a new city, I have also rarely taken planes since they were always too expensive for my family. However, Co-op presented me with an incredible work opportunity to fly to Whitehorse, do meaningful work that aligns with my career goal to make the world more equitable and emotionally intelligent through education (my 3E’s), and face my long-time fear of travelling.
Co-op presented me with the challenges of entering a new community of complete strangers, moving into a new home, and adjusting to a work environment with coworkers over twice my age. These hurdles pushed me to practice strategic optimism and learn how to stay inspired and purposeful, despite feeling disoriented and lost. However, over my four months of hard work, I was ultimately able to build a small community for myself at work and in the wider community. Even when feeling dejected, I motivated myself to explore the town and found comfort in the friends I made at the local gym, a small food truck that reminded me of my mom’s cooking or observing the unfamiliar plants, insects, and birds of Whitehorse. And even when feeling disorientated from entering a government workplace, I pushed myself to work hard, stay open-minded and be adaptable, which ultimately landed me on multiple impactful projects. Through the challenges I faced, I learned that I am resilient, capable, and strong and emerged from the Co-op experience feeling empowered in my potential as a young adult.
Overall, my Co-op experience with the Yukon Government was a transformative experience that helped me test my resilience, experience personal growth, and become more confident in taking risks. Ultimately, I learned how to stay inspired and driven, even when feeling alone or disorientated by new environments. But that growth is not just thanks to my perseverance, it was also thanks to the Co-op community.
So you made the decision to go. What was the Yukon like?
Did you have first-day nerves? What was your breakfast on day 1?
Great question! I woke up 1 hour before getting picked up for work and made and ate a drop-egg miso soup with a splash of sesame oil and salt! I have a hard time eating bread/sugar/diary in the morning so I tend to eat salty foods that are gentle on the stomach first thing in the morning.
Can you tell us more about the Yukon? What did you love and what did you hate?
- I was surprised by how much I loved the Yukon (especially as someone who hates travelling). The way the nature around me exploded into color in June was incredible, and the mountaintop views and hiking opportunities were jaw dropping.
- I was also surprised by how much I fell in love with the land, the jaw-dropping gorgeous Yukon River, and didn’t have to waste time in long terrible traffic-jammed commutes amongst grey concrete scenery. I got to bike along the river every morning during my pleasant 10-15min bike commute, and I could sit by the glittering turquoise river for hours after work because it helped me feel calm and at peace.
- I also loved learning to spend time alone living peacefully in a small town rather than the bustling life of Vancouver. I’ve always been very extroverted and obsessed with productivity, but through this co-op, I became more introverted, found more joy being alone, and found joy in just existing (not needing to feel like I have to work to prove my worth. I can just exist and chill too!).
- Because Whitehorse is up north, I loved getting to have a temperate summer. It was never over 25 degrees, and was always beautifully sunny. The sun also never set in the summer, so after work you don’t feel like the day is over and its all dark. You have the entire evening to still go out and enjoy the sunshine! It feels like you get 2 days in 1, EVERYDAY. So much more time to do fun activities with the sun always up and with the short commute too.
- The downsides: not much Asian food up there 🙁 I missed all the restaurant options in Vancouver. I also will NOT miss the very poor transit system in Whitehorse (some busses only come once every hour, so if you miss even 1 bus you’re SCREWED)
Did you have a perspective-changing experience while you were there?
At the end of my co-op term, when I was saying goodbye to everyone and giving out tons of thank you/goodbye cards, I went home, sat on my bed, and opened up all the goodbye cards and gifts my coworkers gave me. Not going to lie, I sat and cried on my bed for a while. Because I knew I would miss everyone, but more than that: I was so proud of what I had done. I learned that choosing love (co-op opportunity to make a meaningful impact for an entire province of people) over fear (scared of moving away, being alone, doing something new and uncomfortable) was totally worth it. Love over fear yall :)))
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to do co-op?
Stay resilient through rejection. Job searching is hard, I won’t sugarcoat it. But what makes the difference is your ability to stay inspired. What are you here to accomplish? Stay resilient through rejection by revisiting what inspired you in the first place.
Be open to new and unexpected opportunities. Don’t narrow your options by boxing yourself in. Try talking with the companies you’ve never heard of before tonight. Expand your opportunities.
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