My Not So Perfect Co-op Routine and How You Can Learn From It

Co-op is arguably one of the most anticipated and important aspects of a Northeastern student's life. When I was a freshman, I’d often wonder what my routine would be like while I was on co-op. Would I wake up at 6 am, shower, do my make up, hair, pick the perfect outfit and then end up looking like a supermodel engineer? I also pictured myself making myself the perfect breakfast of oatmeal with a bunch of berries, nuts, peanut butter, chia seeds and all the things you’d see on instagram. 

Now that I am halfway through my second co-op, I look back at my ‘dream’ morning routine and just laugh. In reality, my daily routine for work ended up with me waking up at 8:15 am when I had to leave my house at 8:20 am, me rushing to do everything I needed to do, finding my co-op bag a completely unprepared and somehow managing to make it to work on time. I should add that I do not end up looking like a supermodel. 

What I failed to realize during my time on co-op was that during those six months I was working, I engaged in a lifestyle change and it was very important to accept that I was now on the 9-5 grind. Not permanently of course. But for the time I was on co-op, accepting that made it easier to not be a morning trainwreck. Although I still sometimes wake up 10 minutes before I need to leave my house, and almost always forget to prep my bag, I can honestly say that I have become much better at having an actual morning work routine before going to work. Here are some crucial points that I think are really important when preparing for a day of work ahead.

1. Sleep

I do not think I can stress this enough: Sleep is so so so so important for you especially when you’re on co-op. In classes, you can just run back to your dorm room and take a nap between classes but that is a big no no when you’re in the workforce. Making sure you get at least eight hours of sleep is the first step to having a good morning routine for co-op. The times I have found myself dreading going into work have been when I have stayed up to 2 am endlessly scrolling through Twitter. 

Sleeping well is not only important for you to feel better but also so that you’re functional the whole day at work. Co-op is an opportunity to build a network that helps you with future career prospects, so showing your boss and co-workers that you’re actually awake and paying attention will give a much better impression than falling asleep at the desk. And I actually know people who have done that. 

2. The night before 

I’m realizing as I type this that a lot of what goes into a co-op morning routine is just preparing stuff at night. The co-op experience itself varies so much from person to person that it’s important to think about what works for you, where the location of your co-op is, and the type of clothing you’ll need to wear. 

In terms of clothing, I would recommend laying out what you want to wear the night before so that you can save some time in the morning. When getting ready, it’s also important to consider what time you need to wake up for co-op. During my first co-op, I had to take the commuter rail which only came at 7:30 am, so I had to be ready and out of my house at 7:15 am. A lot of you may have a nicer or easier schedule than I did it, but it all depends. But if you know you need to wake up super early, I always say shower the night before. That way when you wake up in the morning you can just get dressed and get out the door. On the other hand, if you feel like a morning shower wakes you up then maybe waking up earlier to shower is something you could consider. It’s all about figuring out what works best for you. 

And finally there's the most important thing, food. Most companies will have a lot of snacks and lunch options nearby. But a lot of the time, you may not really like what is around. I remember at my first co-op, the only snack that I liked was their hot chocolate, which I drank literally all the time. I think gauging the food scene around your company and figuring out whether you would like to bring your own is something to do within the first few weeks. Personally, I cook my lunch for the work day as it saves money. But as I said before, it all depends on what you prefer.  

3. Transportation

Getting to work on time, or even slightly earlier, is important. Being late is one of my pet peeves so I do everything in my power to make sure I'm not late. Knowing where your workplace is and the easiest way to get there is crucial. Make sure that when you’re choosing your co-op that you understand you’ll need to be going to that place for five days a week for six months. With that being said, there are a lot of transport options in Boston. If your office is close by, you can walk or just take the T. If your co-op is further away — for example, mine was in Westwood — the commuter rail or joining a carpool is always an option. Just remember that Northeastern provides a discount for the MBTA, which can help with the steep prices. Whatever method you use, it’s important to always look out for delays or weather changes beforehand to make sure your morning commute goes smoothly. 

In general, everyone will have a different co-op experience and it all depends on the type of person you are, where your job is located, how chill your boss is with you being late, how you plan to get to work and what you need to wear for work. Just make sure to get enough sleep, make sure you pack your bag, and get your outfit ready the night before. Basically do as much as you can the night before so you don’t freak out in the morning!

If you are reading this and haven’t been on co-op yet, I hope I haven’t scared you too much! Co-op is a great experience and I enjoyed both my co-ops; just keep in mind that you can’t wake up, throw on leggings and a hoodie, and head to work like you might do for class. 

Best of luck with your co-op or co-op search!