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Student stories

Core competency profile: Adrienne Attorp

Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education

Kinesiology grad Adrienne Attorp isn’t afraid to chase her career goals, wherever they lead—she’s completed four co-op work terms in four different countries. Now a Master’s student studying agriculture and development at the University of Reading, UK, Attorp looks back on co-op as the ultimate learning experience and the ways she put communication into motion in the workplace and beyond.

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“Living and working abroad broadened my worldview,” she says. “I was forced to consider what it means to me to be Canadian, and how that shapes the way I view myself and the world.”

A career in agriculture wasn’t what Attorp originally had planned. She started at UVic as an aspiring physiotherapist, and landed her first co-op position as a student therapist at Hillside Physiotherapy and Sports Medicine Clinic. Next, she flew to Atlantic College, Wales, to work as an outdoor recreation leader. After she was well into her degree in kinesiology, however, she found a new calling. “I was incredibly interested in the politics of health, nutrition, and agriculture, and wanted to do something about nutrition-related health problems,” she says.

Instead of starting from scratch, Attorp seized the chance to tailor her remaining co-op terms to her newfound interests.  For her third work term, she travelled with uVolunteer to Costa Rica, where she taught environmental education classes and established organic gardens at local schools. She spent her final work term in England, where she conducted health research at Brighton University and worked on a school-based agriculture project. Through it all, she learned the importance of effective communication.

“Every word we say and every action we make confers meaning, and it’s crucial to be aware of this when interacting with others,” she says. “I worked with so many different people in a variety of settings, and I needed to communicate effectively with them so I could do my job to the best of my ability. I also became comfortable approaching my employers to discuss my goals, challenges and concerns.”

Attorp hasn’t nailed down her final career, but hopes to conduct field research related to population health and nutrition before potentially returning to university to earn her PhD. “As a researcher, I’ll likely be working with many people from completely different cultures, and being able to clearly communicate my intentions will be crucial to the success of my research,” she says.

Whatever her future holds, Attorp recognizes co-op’s impact on her career journey. “My co-op terms have made me more a more capable, self-motivated and independent person and a more effective communicator,” she says. “Without the relevant work experience I gained in Costa Rica and Wales, my application to do an agriculture-based Master’s degree might not have been successful.”

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