Co-op connects

Many students at Tech choose to participate in an internship or a co-op that includes a rotation during the Spring or Fall semester, a time when the majority of the other students on campus will be taking classes full-time. The typical 9-5 work schedule tends to highly contrast with the schedule that undergraduate students typically lead, which can cause friction for students who are working full-time for a semester and are trying to maintain connections to other students. Whether it is events late on Thursday nights or club meetings that take place at exactly 5 p.m., staying connected to campus while co-oping can put a strain on students. However, working to actively maintain a connection to the campus community is critical to preventing loneliness and isolation. 

One of the challenges of trying to make two very different schedules work is that something has to be lost, and often that something can become your sleep. If your body has gotten used to waking up early every day, and then your friends want to hang out super late at night, you will feel the resulting exhaustion for the rest of the week as your body tries to catch up. It can also become literally impossible to be in two places at once, with club meetings that start while you are still on the way home from work. 

One of the most important parts of college is the connections that you make, and this is still true during semesters when you are doing something other than classes. If you neglect your social life entirely while you are working, returning to classes can be a lonely endeavor, especially when the time comes for 3000 or 4000 level classes that are group project-based. While it might take a bit more work and intentionality than when you are a full-time student, it is still possible to maintain and even create new connections on campus. 

The most important thing you can do is to intentionally choose to participate in clubs and activities you’ve been involved with, even though this can sometimes be inconvenient with a working schedule. While the last thing you want to do at the end of a long day of work is attend that 6 p.m. club meeting or 7 p.m. club sports practice, the first time you choose to sit at home instead of participating can quickly snowball into isolating yourself. While in the moment the rest can feel worth it, the price of disconnecting from the community you are surrounded by could be one you pay in loneliness next semester. 

On the other hand, if clubs that you were previously involved with only meet during your working or commuting hours, looking into different clubs that you are able to participate in can help solve the problem. Since you are not able to meet other students in classes like you normally would, meeting new people through joining a new club or two can be a really good way to make new connections if you aren’t taking classes. The easiest way to stay connected to campus is to continue to hang out with your friends as much as you already would if you were taking classes. Whether your study sessions together might need to change into working out together or you need to hang out on Friday night instead of Thursday night, make sure you don’t lose your friends because of work. Make the time each week to spend time with your friends who you don’t get to see every day during class anymore, and when you return to classes it will feel much more normal. Whether it’s finding ways to participate in clubs you’ve already been a part of, finding new clubs that fit your schedule better or asking your friends to hang out on the actual weekend instead of a Thursday, co-oping doesn’t have to mean that you’re no longer a part of the campus community.