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Supporting startups

Med-tech work terms at Harlow Campus: meet Riley Wilson

Student Life

By Riley Wilson

The fifth in a series of six student accounts of their commerce program work terms based at Harlow Campus.

Which one of those little lights is my house? Why are so many lights on at 6 a.m. anyways?

Do I just sleep in late and not notice that everyone is awake this early?

Will that be an issue in the new time zone? What else am I going to have to change in Harlow?

When I felt the wheels lift off the tarmac at St. John’s International Airport on the morning of Sept. 12, my mind was full of questions like these.

The feeling in my stomach was unlike anything I’d ever felt before; I’d been on a lot of trips, but I’d never even sat on a plane without my parents until now.

Now I was leaving my home country without my family for the first time, moving out for the first time, to go to Europe for the first time.

Fast forward just a few months later, I can’t even remember how many planes (and trains) I’ve gotten on by myself to see the different countries of the world.

Over here, a two-hour flight going east will fly me over at least three or four countries. Back home, a two-hour flight will barely get me to Halifax, and that’s in good weather.

Riley Wilson wears a cowboy hat and leans on the rail of a boat near sundown.
Riley Wilson while on his work term in the U.K.
Photo: Submitted

So, needless to say, there are a lot of differences.

Understanding the differences in daily life is a difficult task.

I do like taking the trains and subways, but I’m not sure how I feel about paying for the bathroom. I’m also not a fan of feeling homesick.

Did you know that the U.K., Germany, Switzerland and Russia all have different types of wall outlets, and none of them are the same as Canada’s?

More importantly in this case, though, are the professional challenges that Europe presents.

One thing that shocked me is how Europe is filled with people from Europe, rather than just that country.

The U.K. has plenty of English people, but it also has Danes, Italians, Germans, Belgians and people from other countries in its health-care system.

The med-tech company I work for, JVP Labs, has created a device to help people manage heart conditions.

JVP Labs, is based in Newfoundland and Labrador, but my work term is in the U.K., my supervisor is in Ontario and our founder lives in British Columbia.

Try setting up a meeting time that works for everyone!

I suppose all this complication is the nature of the job, which is also something I’ve learned: working for a startup is very hectic.

“These responsibilities grant more freedom, which allows for a wider array of these skills to be developed.”

I don’t mean that as a complaint. Let’s face it: in real life, nothing goes according to plan.

However, in businesses that have been established for many years, many of the kinks are worked out.

This doesn’t mean that these problems don’t exist, or that you won’t face them in these bigger businesses.

It simply means that most internships won’t give students the opportunity to make dozens of new business partnerships, while also allowing them to develop marketing material and letting them work with a changing product on a regular basis.

Most startup employees are often expected to fill multiple roles, and this includes interns.

In larger companies, many of these tasks are not granted until later in an individual’s career.

These responsibilities grant more freedom, which allows for a wider array of these skills to be developed earlier in a professional’s life.

The entire point of a co-operative program is to diversify a student’s education by giving them chances to apply what they’ve learned, while providing new experiences that complement in-class learning.

By presenting me with new challenges every day, this experience (and all the amazing people involved in it) has given me exactly that.

The Supporting Startups series will run Monday-Wednesday-Friday until Dec. 14.

Harlow Campus is positioned in the U.K.’s Innovation Corridor, a leading sci-tech region between Cambridge and London.

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