A Reflection on Co-op and the Academic System from the Perspective of an Undergraduate

Since coming back to classes from co-op, I have had some time to reflect on my six months working at KT. I wrote down some of my thoughts on both the academic system and working as an undergraduate.

I have to admit, Spring and Summer quarter of 2013 at Drexel, I was in a very depressive state. While I was hyped up as an individual coming back from my first co-op in 2013 since I had the opportunity to work with fascinating technologies such as Node.js and other web technologies, at the same time, I was also naive. Because of the lack of understanding of myself, while I was depressed, I didn't know why. I just felt.. crap. No single thing that generally did bring my spirits up, brought my spirits up, things such as working out or sleeping well.

Post-2013 academic quarter, I worked at KT for six months. Through this experience, the reason to my depression became very clear to me, as working at KT helped me develop a perspective I never had of myself, which in turn allowed me to see the counter-perspective to my temporary depressiveness state in my 2013 academic year. 

It was simple.

A gripe I have with studying at Drexel has to do with the inherent nature of studying at a large school, with the feeling of un-importance or feeling like just a number within the many numbers. Through the combination of the speed, compactness, and rigorousness of Drexel's 10-week quarter's system, on top of studying a major that's known for its difficulty, it is at times easy to lose sense of one's individuality, self-esteem, and pride. While minor to an outsider, getting an unexpectedly low score on an exam that one has prepared for many days, is one of the many blows and chisels to a Drexel engineering student's self-esteem. This loss of individuality is not unique to me; I know many engineering students around me that have at least once slipped into this state.

On the contrary, co-op allows us to demonstrate to the world and school that we are beyond our ability to assign A B C D E on a Scantron sheet or regurgitate the concepts of polymorphism onto a sheet of paper, as if such rote memorization of fundamental programming concepts are of any major functional importance in real life (I am not inferring that knowing polymorphism is bad). Co-op, however, allows us to demonstrate our ability to practically apply what we have learned throughout life, whether we learned it in school, through hobbies, or through seemingly trivial pursuits, to things that matter in the work place, despite at times not feeling so while studying.

Employment also allowed me to observe the limitations of what school can teach, in particular, the skills necessary for a job. Only one course so far at Drexel has had any skill-based contributions to either my first or second co-op. That course is Beginner Java (our one and only real-world-programming course as a sophomore). Knowing this, and in preparation for my third co-op and future employment, I will be taking more programming-related classes and additional electives that have to do with programming. Also knowing the importance of my programming classes, I will be paying extra attention and putting more passion and hard work into them.

Another goal that I have reached through this co-op really has to do with an inherent confidence of knowing an approximate career path. Though I critique the academic system's inherent negative cause-and-effect on a student, I really appreciate its co-op system that allows a student, early on, while studying, to know whether or not a particular major or career path is for them. Some students may not be so lucky in that on their first co-op they know this major isn't for them, I feel my first and second co-op has revealed a great deal of what I want to do when I graduate and beyond -- software development.