How I got my Internship and How I Afford Life
Yesterday I went to Whistler, BC to go snowboarding and on one of the ski lifts I was talking to an 8 year old boy who was from Toronto but visiting Whistler for a ski trip and he told me it was beautiful here and his dream was to get a job and move here to British Columbia one day when he’s older. I told him to remember that dream and don’t forget to pursue it because too often people have dreams as a kid but when they get older they forget their goals and become complacent in their comfort. Not to say my life is goals, but I did make goals and I am adamant about following through with them. That brings us to today where I’ve been living in Vancouver now for almost a month.
“Oh but aren’t you only 20 Michelle? And what about school? Isn’t Vancouver super expensive?”
Yes, yes and yes. Okay I know yes doesn’t really answer the school question, so here’s my life currently: I’m taking online courses from UIUC still, about 19 credit hours which is 6 courses, and I’m working a remote internship until August when I’ll go back to Champaign to finish my last year at UIUC. The company I work for is Nascent Health and I can work from anywhere! Let’s backtrack a little. When I tell people I’m working an internship some people say, “Oh is it with your school?” I understand why people would ask that question since many universities, especially the ones in Canada, have a co-op program that’s set up specifically as part of the degree to take one semester off doing co-op and another doing school. But University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, let me tell you, does not do that. Girl… I went after this internship and looked for it myself!
It was back in November when I went to a food show in Chicago for the food industry where big food manufacturers and companies go to network and sell their products and attain customers. The Food Science department at my school takes a trip up there for those interested to network and just inhale all the free food samples. I went around talking to companies and came across one guy who represented Nascent Health. They were showcasing Stevia, which is a natural zero-calorie sweetener and sugar alternative. I took interest in it and told him I was familiar with Stevia and had used it very consistently back in high school. We talked some bit and I asked him about any internship opportunities. He said the company didn’t have an official job posting but he was the hiring manager and his boss did say they were looking to expand their research team. He asked for my resume and my hourly wage; then a few days later he actually emailed me. I told him I needed to be in Canada to satisfy my permanent residency requirement of living there for 2 years out of 5. He said the position is remote and you can work from anywhere, you just need a 4-decimal point scale – one of those fancy chemistry lab equipments.
Fast forward to one interview later and me getting the job. To be honest with you, my resume didn’t change much since freshman year. When I go to career fairs even, I’ll introduce myself as a junior in food science and ask about internship opportunities and company representatives will scan my resume and tell me to apply online. And so, I’ve gotten a few interviews from companies after career fairs but they never turn out. Maybe it’s because I suck, but maybe it’s because I’m not cut out for that much of corporate business in my life. The interview questions are so intimidating and so formulated. There is nothing against that, since it’s clearly necessary for big companies if you want to eliminate all the candidates and pick out your two perfect interns out of the hundreds that applied. For people that get jobs that way, really good on you! For others who may not have as much luck, may I suggest networking and people connections?
I am far from a charismatic personality, but I believe me talking to the hiring manager myself in person was what landed me this opportunity. There was no official job posting, so I would have never been able to have found out through my interweb searchings. I think I also have an extremely chill and cool boss who was very open to me. I didn’t have experience working with other companies before, but my high school hobby was my experience. I baked cakes, brownies, cookies and all sorts of goods with Stevia. I had used different kinds like tabletop packets, baking Stevia, and Truvia powders. I wasn’t an expert in the area, but I had definitely explored some of my own interests and it happened to line up in this area. Furthermore, I was involved in the Product Development Club at school and that was extremely helpful to have on my resume. My boss asked for the recipe we formulated and a few follow-up questions. I wasn’t expected to be an expert on product development, but having being exposed to that environment was a huge benefactor to me attaining this internship.
What more could I ask for? My work entails me doing some baking application projects with Stevia, for example baking cookies with Stevia and reporting back how it tastes, or some sugar reduction formulations in carbonated soda drinks or milk beverages. I also do a lot of computer work, currently just research on plant proteins or companies that use Stevia whom we could potentially work with, so all I need is a kitchen and my fancy 4-decimal point scale and I can work. I log my own hours and work for as many hours as I need/want to. I also have coursework to do, so I balance taking breaks from work to do homework and taking breaks from lectures to do work. And of course, I make time to go on some excursion every so often since I am living in the city of my choice: Vancouver.
It took me a really long time to decide on this city because it’s a big decision! If you have the choice to live in any city in Canada, where would you choose? Keeping in mind the cold winter, I ended up in Vancouver, where it just rains but doesn’t snow. I debated between Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, or even living at home in Ottawa, but this goes back to the complacency I mentioned in the beginning. I would love to stay at home and save money and spend time with my family, but at the same time I’ve already moved out of home for quite some time already and I just didn’t feel it quite the same to move back in. I love my family, but it’s really quite freeing and a maturing growth experience to live on your own in a completely new city. I did it once when I moved out for university, and I’m doing it again, but this time only for half a year. You know, Montreal was always a place I thought I’d like to live in because I wanted to improve my French and be in that community but Vancouver was also a place I visited one summer and I told myself I wanted to live here someday for some time because I liked it there. I didn’t just fall in love with the summertime Vancouver – no I’m not that shallow. I liked the city system, the cleanliness, the environmental eco-awareness, the transportation, the location, and the terrains of BC. You’ll find most residents of Vancouver agreeing to that because most people grew up somewhere else and have come to settle in Vancouver for 20+ years. In the final decision between Montreal and Vancouver, my parents told me, “You know Montreal is so close to home, only two hours from Ottawa, that if you’re going to live and pay rent somewhere else you might as well go to Vancouver.” That ‘go big or go home’ notion- I like that way of thinking and once I heard that affirmation from my parents, I knew I was going to make Vancouver my home for the next few months.
So when people ask me how long I’m going to be in Vancouver, I still don’t really know, but it’s probably going to be until about June. I booked my stay with Airbnb (that’s my secret to cheap accomodation) and booked it long-term so that way I don’t have to be tied down to a lease contract in an apartment. My ‘secret’ with Airbnb is that since I’m staying for a few months, there is a huge discount. Airbnb is usually marketed as a per day or per few days sort of pricing, but when you book weekly or monthly you can get discounts up to 50%. I’ll detail more of my housing situation and my adventures around Vancouver area in the next post.
Until then, think about your passions, goals and dreams. I don’t want to say cliché things like just pursue your dreams or just do what you love and you’ll never work a day, but definitely think about your passions, your goals for these few years, or what you want out of life because life is what you make it. A passion doesn’t have to a hobby, a subject or a talent. A passion can be a notion. A Youtuber and dancer I follow , Megan Batoon, says her passion is, “making people’s days better if they’re bad. This world is full of chaos and I want to be able to take someone out of that and make them feel good or validated – all the things that we don’t get in this world.” People often envy my life or say they’re jealous of my travels or that I’ve “made it” in life by having this job and lifestyle, but no. There’s nothing in my life you should be jealous of because I too have insane struggles that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. There can be things in my life that motivate or inspire people, but you’ll never be able to have what you want if you don’t go out there and get it. Whether it be that internship, a special someone, or a lifestyle, it takes a certain kind of person to be able to handle those things. So how do you get an internship? How do you get your crush to date you? How do you get your dream lifestyle?
Proactive engagement. This can be applied to anything and everything in life, whether it be working out, gaining social media influence, or making money. It’s no complicated step-by-step list, but instead a mentality shift.
This is my story,
Michelle Yin | February 5, 2018 | 4:28 am |