By the hours: a first week day in the life of a Navy co-op student

Greetings from CFB Esquimalt, the Canadian Armed Forces base just outside of Downtown Victoria. I’m doing a co-op work term with the Royal Canadian Navy figuring out how to impact culture change surrounding sexual misconduct and harmful behaviour. You might be thinking to yourself, “Justin, you just finished your second year! What does a 19-year-old working at the Department of National Defence even do?

Well, wonder no more – here’s what a typical day looks like after my first week and a half at my DND co-op:


Yes, I know, it’s hard for even me to believe that I wake up at 6:00am every morning (especially considering I never woke up at this time during the school year), but depending on how I feel, I wake up between 6:00 and 6:30, slap on my government casual (usually a button-down shirt with some dress pants) and make myself a cup of some cold-brew instant coffee. Breakfast of champions.


I grab all my things, double check my pockets to make sure I have my phone, wallet, keys, ID, and mask, and head out the door. On the bus, I meet my coworker, Jared. It takes us about an hour to commute from Gordon Head (the neighbourhood surrounding UVic) to Esquimalt where we work.

Even though 7:00am might seem early to some, the great thing about 7:00am in the spring/summertime is that it’s bright out, not too cold and the streets aren’t busy!

Did you know that there are three main campuses that make up CFB Esquimalt? I work at Work Point, the training arm of the base.


We arrive on campus and get settled in. I check my fancy work email inbox (feeling so fresh and very cool with my email address) and see if there’s anything I need to take care of. Usually, I’ll have a few tasks to accomplish right off the bat but sometimes my team leaders will send me a quick favour or two to complete.


I’ve been asked to attend a virtual workshop on scaffolded learning in French, hosted by my colleagues at CFB Borden in Ontario. The cool thing about being bilingual in the government is that almost every webpage, policy, and service is available in English and French so for practice, I’ll read some policies or launch a helpdesk ticket in French.


It’s time for a team meeting. We huddle up and each member of our seven-member team (3 military, 4 civilian) updates the rest of us on what they’ve been accomplishing.

You might be wondering: why are there civilians working to influence military culture? The answer is that while the military can try and see how they can improve their culture internally, it’s hard to see things that may need to be fixed when they all see it as normal. It’s like a smell in your house – you might not notice it because you’ve been living with it, but when someone else comes in, they might smell it right away and say to you, “you gotta fix that”.

The question all co-op students ask themselves: “if you don’t post a picture of your credentials on social media, did you even work there?”


I spend a decent amount of time going though Department of National Defence policy, which gives me an idea of examples of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. Being familiar with DND policy allows me to get a sense of the mindset of what misconduct looks like in the eyes of the Forces, what stands out to me and how we can incorporate it into our lesson plans.


Lunch time! Something that no one told me about working for the military is that the food is top-notch. I grab some goat stew with potatoes and veggies and eat in the galley, overlooking the beautiful Esquimalt Harbour.

Our lunch is an hour long, but only half of that is spent eating. If it’s a nice day (which it usually has been in Esquimalt, albeit a bit windy), the co-op students will hang out and walk around campus or along the waterfront.

I’m glad that all my colleagues, both civilian and military, are all super down-to-earth. It was definitely a bit intimidating going into this job knowing that I’ll be working with members of the Canadian Armed Forces especially since I have had no experience working with the military before this, so it’s really surreal to see these military people all so casual with each other. It really challenged what I saw in movies and TV of working in the military – there are some parts that are absolutely not tense, and jobs like this aren’t represented enough!

goat stew

On the menu today at the Navy galley: goat stew, seasonal veggies and potatoes!


Back to work I go, and I proofread a lesson plan proposal that’s been in the works for a few years. The team had submitted this proposal and got some feedback before I came on board but they hadn’t gotten around to tweaking it as much. Although I don’t have much to work off of since it’s my first week and a bit, I go through and fix what I can formatting-wise.

Something I have to get used to is the amount of acronyms that are used in the Canadian Armed Forces. From QSPs to POs, organizations like MARPAC and NTDC(P), it’s like they speak a whole other language there!


Since it’s my first week, there’s an onboarding process that I’m still going through. I am running through a few courses mostly on understanding my role as a public servant, learning the culture of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Government of Canada, and how to be an effective team member in the workplace. One of my favourite courses I’ve been in is an introduction to Indigenous cultures.


It’s the last stretch of the work day, so my last hour is spent glossing through all the tasks I did today and making sure that I either have finished and properly sent and submitted them, or I saved them and got them ready for tomorrow. I make sure all the emails I meant to send are done, and check on my IT helpdesk tickets.


I’m done for the day! On my way home, I stop by and grab some groceries, make some dinner and relax. I’m asleep by 10pm so I can wake up bright and early tomorrow.

Interested in what co-operative education at UVic is like? Type “co-op” in the search box right here on MyUVic Life or check out this page!

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