Morrell Andrews, International Relations
Arts Co-op Placement at Global Affairs Canada
1) Can you tell us about your current position?
My current co-op term is at Global Affairs Canada (formerly DFATD) in Ottawa. I work as a Desk Officer in the EU-EFTA Commercial Relations division and my countries of responsibility include Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
Because I work on the trade side, my taskings often come from the office of Minister Chrystia Freeland (the federal Minister of International Trade). I write letters, meeting notes, recommendations, briefing documents, and prepare products for the Minister’s use when she goes to high level meetings and bilateral visits.
2) What skills and experiences are you acquiring via this position? What are you enjoying most about the work?
This has been my second term at Global Affairs, and I’ve really enjoyed how much responsibility has been delegated to me this time around. I came into my division when the summer rotation of staff was in full swing, and my five country files were open. Because I had already worked in the Department, as a senior undergraduate, and had just returned from the EU Study Tour Global Seminar, I was well prepared to step into the role and hit the ground running. In my first week I was already drafting Ministerial correspondence and bilateral commercial briefs, and catching up with old colleagues- it felt very familiar and made my start far easier than the first time around.
It has been an incredibly informative term not only on the issues in EU-Canada relations but also because of the exposure I’ve gained on the Ministerial side. My current files keep me very tuned into where the Minister is in the world, what she’s said, and who she’s talked to. I love how high demand my job can be with quick turn-around times and pressure; I work best under these conditions and there have definitely been instances where I spend the whole day stressed, but walk away at 5:30 pm knowing that my work will be useful and read by the Minister herself.
What I have most enjoyed about this role though, is being able to work within the system of global political events and figures. I was on the Hill during the live stream of President Obama speaking to Parliament after the North American Leaders Summit (I even saw the back of his head as he left for the airport in his convoy); the Brexit vote happened while I was working, the first Global Heads of Mission Meeting in 30 years was held in Ottawa and I got to meet the Ambassadors for my countries. I was so excited to meet Minister Bibeau (Minister of International Development and La Francophonie) after a town hall at work and I asked her and Minister Dion (Minister of Foreign Affairs) about how to enhance youth engagement. I also met Prime Minister Trudeau for the third time since he was elected. The executive levels of government have never been so accessible, and the opportunities to interact with them have been incredibly exciting.
3) How has your Arts degree prepared you for this position?
There are so many aspects of my Arts degree that have prepared me to get to this point. I especially credit the opportunities I had with experiential learning at UBC. Programs like Community Based Experiential Learning (offered in conjunction with Allen Sens’ POLI 363 course); the three incredibly formative Global Seminars and one international conference I attended because of the generosity of Go Global and their donors; the involvement roles that have contributed to professional skills development through Orientations, the Student Leadership Conference, the Collegia program, the President’s Non-Academic Misconduct Committee, the Arts Co-op Student Association mentoring program, The Calendar, the AMS, and many more. UBC has been a place for me to tie in my coursework to real life application that has supplemented and guided my education and goals.
The professors and staff at UBC have invested so much into my development whether it’s research and writing skills, time management, event planning, leadership training, or building the confidence to critically evaluate the status quo. All of these aspects have helped immensely in my role at Global Affairs and beyond that, and I’m thankful that these resources have been around to help.
4) Have your experiences in the Arts Co-op program changed the way you think about your post-undergraduate career plans?
My experiences working through the Arts Co-op program have definitely changed the way I think about my post-UBC career plans. The work terms I’ve completed have given me a much better idea at how the federal public service system works, and in ways I could fit into it, along with the parts of it that I don’t want to be a part of. I’ve looked into other avenues and sectors that I could pursue after my degree, and I feel less stressed about graduation and entering the workforce because I have gained a lot of transferable skills and experience to show for it.
Interested in learning more about Arts Co-op? The Arts Co-op Program allows you to explore your career options while gaining 12 months of paid, professional work experience, a network of contacts, and valuable job search skills. Open to second and third-year students, the application deadline is September 26, 2016. Information sessions are available September 15, 19 and 21.