Academics and the real-world connect through experiential learning

Maria Lefchak is a Materials Science and Engineering junior currently on co-op abroad in France working at Johnson & Johnson, her third co-op with the company.

Maria LefchakWhen I chose Drexel for the co-op program, I knew that it would help enhance my resume, but I didn’t fully realize how valuable my work experiences would be for both my personal and professional growth. My first co-op was with Johnson & Johnson Consumer R&D, where I worked in the Raw Material Center. For someone who chose materials science and engineering as a major based off of a love of skincare and makeup products – and with the desire to one day work as a cosmetic formulator – Johnson & Johnson was an amazing opportunity. Not only did I learn ways to apply classroom theories to real-world situations, but I also learned what it means to be in a professional environment. I had an amazing experience with J&J, where I was treated not like a second set of hands, but budding talent. I was afforded every opportunity to network and explore other sectors within J&J. I couldn’t have asked for a better first co-op experience… so much so that I returned the following year.

I returned to J&J Consumer R&D for my second co-op, however this time I worked in Oral Care Product Development. My day-to-day tasks involved working in a lab formulating Listerine products, but once again I was encouraged to take every opportunity to network and make connections. I’ve had a lifelong love of France and desire to live abroad, so when given the opportunity to meet with leaders from the J&J center in France, it was truly a dream come true.  Through this connection, I was kept up-to-date on their recruitment process (which is separate from the site in New Jersey’s), and managed to make two site visits during my term abroad in Fall 2017.  I was hired as an intern, and began working here in May 2018.

In the short month that I’ve been in France, I’ve already learned so much beyond just day-to-day tasks.  When I studied abroad, I was one of many international students; during this co-op, however, I’m the only foreign intern, which is an incredible, unique, very immersive experience.  When working abroad—even for an American-based company, and even in a country with which you may already be familiar—you have to quickly acclimate to a new corporate culture, and, sometimes, a new language as well.  While I already spoke French prior to this experience, I never spoke this much French every single day, and my language skills have improved significantly in only one short month.  I’ve also taken advantage of being in Europe and have traveled nearly every weekend thus far, including a team-building trip to the south of France.  I still have months to go, but this co-op has already brought a new wealth of experiences, and I’d highly recommend fellow students to take advantage of any possible internship abroad.

I am so fortunate to have had my co-op experiences with J&J, and it is thanks to Drexel, where co-ops are a seamless part of one’s education. My co-ops have helped me grow as a person, develop a career path, make professional connections, travel the world, and build important bridges between the classroom and the real world.

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