WIL Reflections

Discover what made Samantha, Tim, Abbie, Ashley, Emily get involved in Work Integrated Learning. Explore the benefits of putting your classroom skills and knowledge into practice in the working world.

Meet Samantha

Samantha with her supervisor

After completing three years of undergraduate studies in Health Science at Western University I learned about the opportunity to apply for a practicum in my fourth year. The goal of a practicum is to enhance your learning and gain practical skills while working with a community partner. I was very excited by the opportunity to learn outside the classroom while still completing my other courses and finishing my degree. I applied in the hopes that this could possibly lead me to a future career or a new area of interest to continue my studies in.

Having a considerable interest in the public health sector and a desire to work in a field that does not fully require me to sit at a desk, getting an interview with Middlesex-London EMS was extremely exciting. I joined as a student assistant in their education sector to help with research, data collection, and develop creative ways to implement education into training.

This experience was very unique in that they were able to mold the placement to target my interests within the field of paramedicine. I performed clinical skills that I had only seen in a lecture which I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to do in my undergrad. As well, I learned the art of troubleshooting and adapted to working in a professional environment both on the trucks and in the office. Lastly, I contributed to a research project which will benefit the London community. Paramedicine is not something that is regularly taught in a university setting. We generally learn about what happens after or during a hospital experience, so this change in perspective completed my university education.

...this change in perspective completed my university education.

At the beginning of this journey, I would not have thought it possible to learn as much as I did in a single year. For anyone considering a career in any field under the Health Science umbrella, I would definitely recommend taking time away from the classroom to gain some hands-on experience. I cannot promise it will be as exciting as riding in the back of an ambulance, but I can promise you will gain invaluable knowledge. I will miss all of the great people I met at Middlesex-London EMS, but I’m looking forward to graduating and applying my newly gained skills to the next phase of my career.

Question Period

Why should other students get involved?

To anyone who is considering getting involved with this opportunity, I would tell them to go for it. Rarely in university do you have the opportunity to get hands-on work experience in a field of interest to you. By the end of it, you may have discovered a career you want to pursue, gained a new understanding of a field you had not yet encountered, or even figured out what is not best suited for you. Regardless of the results of your experience, you will have learned more than you possibly could have in a lecture hall.

What was your role? How did you contribute?

I worked as a research assistant for the Middlesex-London Emergency Service Education branch. I had the opportunity to work on a project designed to evaluate the accuracy of the Ontario Prehospital Stroke protocol. Stroke is the 3rd leading cause of death in Canada and the majority of patients will be transported to the hospital by ambulance, our initiative was designed to ensure prehospital treatment and detection of stroke by paramedics is as strong as possible for London citizens. The more involved I got into this project the more excited I became; I was able to see the direct connection between the research we were completing and the community that I had lived in for the past four years. Being able to contribute to a project that will eventually help to influence the health of the community is an extremely rewarding feeling as a Health Science student.

How has this experience benefited your professional and academic goals?

Throughout my placement I had the opportunity to forge connections I would not have regularly encountered as a university student. This experience helped me build my professional network and taught me additional skills necessary to work in a professional setting.

What surprised you?

I was extremely surprised by how much you can learn in 1 year outside of a classroom. I was excited to get up and go to work each week ... each day will be a new experience.

Samantha is a 4th Year Honors Specialization Health Science, BScH 2019 Candidate

Supervisor showing Samantha supplies

Meet Tim

Chemistry Internship participants Nick, Tim, Christian, and ConnorI knew that I wanted to complete an internship during my first year, when an ambassador from the internship program visited one of my chemistry classes. After hearing about the paid work-term, as well as how the work experience would set me apart from my peers after school, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Now that I am nearing the end of my time at Western, I can confirm that the internship was a highlight of my degree (BSc, honors specialization in chemistry).

My internship was located in Burlington, ON, where I was working as a water-quality analyst at Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). This was a lab-based job where I utilized many skills that I picked up in different chemistry courses. Due to the nature of my job, I got very familiar with dilutions, reagent preparation, and got more practice working with analytical instruments. Although I became familiar working in a lab and with performing different analyses, I developed some other skills as well. Completing an internship gave me knowledge about the job search, taught me how to build resumes and write cover letters, increased my networking abilities, and gave me the opportunity to try out a possible profession. These skills are applicable to a wide variety of careers – not just a science related one.

Working at ECCC taught me many things and gave another dimension to my education here at Western. Before the internship, there were many aspects of a career that I did not consider. For example: location, coworkers, workplace culture, opportunity for promotion, bosses, benefits, and time-off are all factors of a career that are (in my opinion) as important as salary. Completing an internship gave me the chance to try a career option and to reflect on the things I did and did not like about the job. This was an extremely valuable process that I would not have gone through had I not completed the internship program.

Doing an internship is something that I would recommend to anyone. Students can expect a supportive work environment where they are given a chance to gain hands-on experience with working professionals. I have found employers to be friendly, helpful, and eager to teach those who are interested. I think students should expect a busy but fun-filled work term where they will gain countless real-world skills. It is exciting to have a steady income and to live in the working-world.

Completing an internship gave me the chance to try a career option and to reflect on the things I did and did not like about the job.

In summary, the internship program was an amazing experience and is something that I would definitely do again. The student receives paid, hands-on work experience from professionals in their field, and they get to try out a new type of job. I wish the best of luck to the future interns – enjoy your time working!

Meet Abbie, Ashley, and Emily

Science Internship participant Abbie, Ashley, and EmilyMeet Abbie, Ashley, and Emily, Western Science students who are taking command of their future! We sat down with the dynamic trio at the Science Internship mixer to get a better sense of what made them choose to participate in internship programming through Western.

For more information on Faculty of Science Programming, discover your options here.

Why did you choose to intern?

Overview: To stand out and hone skills

Abbie: I saw this as an opportunity to hone my technical skills in a laboratory setting which would be beneficial for any perspective lab jobs in the future.

Ashley: I wanted my Bachelor's degree to stand out to future employers.

Emily: When coming out of university many people have very similar resumes and I know having this experience will help me stand out.

What skills are you developing?

Overview: Gained confidence, networking, and communication skills.

Abbie: I have honed many skills over the course of my internship, the biggest ones, of course, relate to lab work. I feel confident in what I am doing and that I will be able to apply my skills in other labs. The amount of networking and connections that I have made are a testament to the social skills I have developed on the job as well

Emily: I am developing my communication skills and public speaking. As an introvert, I never put myself out there to actively meet new people and to be comfortable talking with others. Now that I am working, I am starting to feel confident in myself when I speak in front of small groups and to meet other research scientists that can help me further my career.

How has this opportunity enhanced your student experience?

Overview: Provided hands-on work experience and provided a positive perspective and optimism towards future careers

Abbie: The experience has given me hope for the future. Before my internship, I knew of very few jobs that were in my field. I am definitely more motivated to learn now that I can see what I am working towards. The time off from school was great to get know me better and solidify my plans for the future.

Emily: It has allowed me to gain the hands-on experience I need to fully understand the theories and techniques I learned in class. I am glad to also meet new friends with similar career paths and interests.

What has this opportunity done for your future goals?

Overview: Mentorship from senior colleagues

Ashley: This is the first job I have had where I actually look forward to going to work. The people around you may have answers to your career questions and may advise careers that you would have never thought of prior.

What can students expect from their placement? What's exciting?

Overview: To learn so much and to try new things

Abbie: In my experience, students can expect to learn so much in a way that is entirely different from how we are taught at school. I enjoyed the learning experience.

Ashley: They should be excited to try new things and to work with other people who are just as excited as they are about their topics of interest.

Your experience in a word? Would you do it again?

Abbie: Advantageous. I would definitely do it again. I feel like the experience I gained here is invaluable and not something that could be gained by only going to school.

Ashley: Life-changing.

Emily: Captivating. 100% Yes! As a student struggling to decide what to do in my future, I now feel like there are lots of options for me and I am not afraid to embrace new opportunities in the science field.