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Here’s to the Lonely Co-ops

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Waterloo chapter.



As I write this, I’m sitting in my favourite Starbucks in a city that, until four months ago, I’d never spent enough time in to even locate a Starbucks. Four months ago, I was trying to mentally prepare myself for a whole co-op term in a new city where I didn’t know anyone, and the only addresses I knew were my own new home and my new workplace. And yet, sitting here now, I can tell you that down the street is a cute little independent tea shop that serves tea in the most Instagrammable paper cups you’ll ever find. Beyond that is an art gallery with murals in the little alley beside it, and past that is a transit terminal with service to all the cities I’ve needed to visit since moving here. It’s funny how much your experience of a new place can change if you really embrace it.

The first time I moved to a new city by myself was for my very first co-op two years ago. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of dread the day I moved at the prospect of spending the next four months there alone. I’ve come a long way since then, and I’ve learned that those “lonely co-ops” can actually be really positive experiences if you keep an open mind. What do I mean by Lonely Co-ops? I don’t mean the co-op terms when you move back home with your parents for 4 months and commute to work from there. I don’t mean the co-op terms when you get a job in Waterloo and stay with the same roommates and get to hang out regularly with all your friends who are on a school term at the same time. Those co-ops are great too, but I’m talking about the co-op terms when you move to a brand new city that you’ve never lived in, where you don’t know anyone. These are the terms you may dread because you assume they will be a healthy mix of loneliness and boredom. But these are also the terms when you’ll have opportunities to be independent and adventurous in ways you’ve never been before.

Moving to a new city provides great opportunities to explore and try new things. Doing it by yourself gives you total freedom to do exactly what you want without worrying about anyone else. When you see a new restaurant you want to try, you just do it. You don’t go through the hassle of trying to convince your friends to check it out with you and then trying to make plans that accommodate everyone’s schedule. In this way, Lonely Co-ops teach you to be truly independent and help you to focus on you. It’s similar to the way staying single for awhile between relationships can do the same.


The forced independence can also help you to be a little bolder and a little braver. During my first Lonely Co-op, I tried taking a few pole-dancing classes by myself. If I had been in Waterloo, I definitely would have asked a friend or two to try it with me. Would I have been brave enough to try it on my own if they said no? Probably not. Living in a city without your friends doesn’t give you that choice. When you can’t ask anyone to try things with you, you learn to accept that you have to just try them by yourself. Similarly, I went shopping alone this past weekend, and I bought something I wouldn’t normally wear. If I had been In Waterloo and shopping with my friends, I would have consulted them before buying it and relied on their opinions of whether it looked good on me. Instead, being alone forced me to have the confidence to just buy it without worrying about what anyone else might think.

Of course, no one wants to spend four solid months completely alone, so the necessity of visiting friends in other cities during Lonely Co-ops also teaches you to be a master of public transit. During my first co-op in a new city, I was initially hesitant to bus to Waterloo to visit friends, because it was a long trip and I was slightly paranoid about catching the wrong bus and getting lost or something. I’m from a town that doesn’t have public transit, so I had never really travelled to another city alone by any means other than driving myself there in my parents’ car. But living without your parents means you can’t just borrow the car and go. If you want to go somewhere, you have to suck it up and take a bus. Wanting to visit friends in other cities and having no other way to get there means I’ve had a lot more practice using public transit and I can now say I’m a lot more comfortable getting around southwestern Ontario alone than I ever was before experiencing a Lonely Co-op.


Sure, Lonely Co-ops can, in fact, be quite lonely. Sometimes you’ll get bored and sometimes you’ll wish for a little human interaction other than with just your co-workers. But they can also be great opportunities to explore, learn, and try new things on your own. If you’re dreading the start of your next co-op because your new job is in a city where you don’t know anyone else, embrace it. Take advantage of all the opportunities to explore and try new things and it will make your term so much more enjoyable than you’d expect. So here’s to independence. Here’s to solo adventures. Here’s to trying new things. And here’s to Lonely Co-ops.

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Shauny C

Waterloo '19

University of Waterloo Honours French and Business 2019, Her Campus Waterloo Campus Correspondent, Social Media Guru, Tech enthusiast.  Fluent in emoji, HTML and CSS. Avid reader of Refinery 29, Buzzfeed, Mashable & Tech Crunch. Follow on twitter @jena_tweets