Science Co-op Launches Student on Global Journey

Canadian and Indonesian youth built public washrooms on the island of Borneo - photo courtesy of Lars Jungclaus
Canadian and Indonesian youth built public washrooms on the island of Borneo – photo courtesy of Lars Jungclaus

UBC Reports | Vol. 51 | No. 12 | Dec. 1, 2005

By Brian Lin

When UBC biophysics student Lars Jungclaus signed up for the Science Co-op Program, he never expected it to contribute to a better understanding of his family heritage, Islam and Korean culture.

What began as an eight-month stint in the Microstructure Laboratory at the University of Würzburg in Germany, however, turned into a series of transformative experiences that the 24-year-old honours student says is by far worth the time and efforts.

“I’m half German, so the opportunity to brush up on the language and spend time with relatives was a big draw,” says Jungclaus, who studied the performance of semi-conductor lasers being developed at the world-renowned lab for potential applications in data transmission.

“I also got to travel around much of Europe on the weekends, and once I caught the travel bug, it was kind of hard to stop.”

With his appetite for globetrotting whetted at Würzburg, Jungclaus took a year off school and joined Canada World Youth, an organization founded by former senator Jacques Hébert. “The program pairs Canadian youth with peers from a developing country — in our case, Indonesia — and we spend seven months volunteering in a rural area of each country,” says Jungclaus.

Despite finding some striking similarities to Canadian youth including a passion for Western television and music, Junglcaus was moved by the devotion to Islam shown by their Indonesian counterparts, especially against the backdrop of small-town B.C., where the two dozen Canadian and Indonesian youth spent the first half of the program.

“Part of the time we spent in Fernie, B.C., happened to be Ramadan,” says Jungclaus. “Some of the Canadian participants, including myself, decided to observe the fast in support of our Muslim partners. It was the first time many of us had direct exposure to Islam.”

It was Jungclaus’s turn to stand out when the group arrived in a small village on the island of Borneo, population 100. At six-foot, five-inches tall, Jungclaus says he felt like a tourist attraction for locals as he hovered above most of the villagers, helping plant trees and build public toilets.

“Most of them are quite poor and make a living from selling fruit from their plantations,” says Junglcaus. “But they seem very content with life and derive happiness from simply putting food on the table – things we take for granted.”

Rounding up the globetrotting, Jungclaus completed one more Science Co-op work term in Korea, designing and testing a solar lighting system in a joint project with the Korea Institute of Energy Research.

“I was impressed with the strong work ethics of my Korean colleagues,” says Jungclaus. “They work long hours, then they go out after work and have a good time. The team bonding was probably the strongest I’ve seen anywhere.”

Jungclaus credits his co-op experience for exposing him to a wide range of professional and academic environments, and allowing him to see first-hand how he could apply knowledge to real life problems. “I definitely come away with a sense that I know what’s waiting for me beyond university — whether it’s graduate school or an industry career.”

UBC Science Co-op Program

Established in 1980, the UBC Science Co-op program places approximately 1,000 students in co-op jobs each year with industry employers and research institutions across Canada and in more than 15 countries around the world.

Billy Lau, a fifth-year Engineering Physics student who spent two co-op terms at the University of Würzburg, says the experience helped him develop technical skills while reinforcing knowledge obtained from coursework.

“You can definitely notice the difference in fifth-year lab courses. You just ‘get it’ more,” says Lau.

Ninety-one per cent of co-op graduates are employed within two months of graduation, versus 60 per cent for non co-op graduates.

Seventy per cent of co-op graduates are in jobs which meet their salary expectations, compared to 46 per cent for non co-op graduates.

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