Meet Kersten Chong:
Kersten Chong is a 4th year Psychology Co-op student at the University of Guelph. Kersten has had the opportunity to work in a couple residential homes for neurodivergent individuals during two of her co-op work terms. She has gained valuable skills in these roles that she notes will be meaningful as she begins her career search post-graduation. With her work experiences, she wants to help in educating others and helping to end the stigma while working as a psychotherapist. Kersten shares her experiences in Co-op, her biggest takeaways, and her advice for others in a co-op stream.
What did you do in your co-op work terms at the residential homes for neurodivergent individuals?
“During these co-op work terms, I worked with a team in helping individuals to fulfill their goals in their Individual and Behaviour Support Plans. We also provided support for these individuals when they experienced behaviour episodes and escalations. Additionally, we would provide support with daily tasks such as medication administration, personal hygiene, meal preparation, and planning engaging activities for the residents.
What has been your favourite part about working in these co-ops?
“My favourite parts of working in these placements are the relationships you develop with the residents and seeing the progress they’re making towards their goals! It’s a wonderful feeling to know that the support you are giving is helping create a positive impact on their lives.”
How have the skills that you've developed in these roles helped prepare you for your future career?
“The skills I developed in these roles have given me a better understanding of how to effectively work with people who are neurodivergent and need extra support in accomplishing their goals. I am hoping to become a psychotherapist in the future so these skills would be essential for this career path.”
Has co-op helped shape what you see for yourself in your career?
“Yes, I am really glad I decided to pursue a co-op stream in my studies! These placements have given me amazing experiences that are simply not taught in the classroom. On top of aiding me in further developing skills for my future career, co-op has helped me in discovering new skills that I did not know I had.”
What is your biggest takeaway from co-op so far?
“My biggest takeaway is you should be open-minded about new opportunities because you’ll never know what it’s like without trying. Co-op has really helped me in stepping out of my comfort zone and discovering things about myself that I would not have known before. I can further push myself into trying new things in the future and I am grateful this program has helped me with this.”
What is your advice to anyone in a co-op stream?
“My advice for any students in the co-op stream is to not stress too much if you haven’t received any offers or interviews in the first couple of months of job searching. More opportunities will crop up and you might find a better-suited option later in the semester! Additionally, I encourage you to apply for jobs that may be out of your comfort zone. While this can be initially daunting, you may surprise yourself with skills you didn’t know you have! Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Asking questions shows your employer that you truly care about what you’re doing and are dedicated to improving your work.”