Nadia Linning standing in the woods and smiling at the camera

An award-winning work co-op with the BC Wildfire Service

January 4, 2023
Author: Eric Zimmer

VIU Tourism Management student Nadia Linning shares her experience

While Nadia Linning has always had an interest in the field of travel, tourism and recreation, a co-op opportunity this past summer resulted in a whole new experience and role for her, one that she ultimately ended up excelling in.

Nadia, a fourth-year student in VIU’s Bachelor of Tourism Management program, worked as a Fire Information Assistant with the BC Wildfire Service during the 2022 wildfire season.

She learned of the opportunity from Brook Pearce, VIU’s co-op coordinator for tourism and recreation students, as well as from a fellow tourism student “who got me really excited about the opportunity.”

During her co-op, “every day was a little bit different because my job really depended on what the wildfire situation in the Coastal Fire Centre was. We usually started the day with a quick morning meeting with the entire communications and information team, and then the rest of the day typically involved media interviews, answering public inquiries, drafting social media posts, information bulletins and status reports, and participating in meetings with other Fire Centre sections.”

One of the biggest challenges Nadia faced in her role were the media interviews.

“No matter how well-versed I felt with the topic, there were always a lot of nerves that came with giving interviews, especially live,” she recalls. “The only way to overcome it was to do more interviews.” She also did media training during downtime, “so I got used to all kinds of questions coming my way. Still, nothing tops the real thing. The best practice was providing real media interviews. My first and last interviews of the season were live on CBC Radio and I’d like to think the last one I did was miles ahead of the first one.”

The biggest surprise of her co-op was “learning about the scope of the BC Wildfire Service,” she says. “Until I was employed with them, I’d never really thought much about everything they do, but it’s a lot. The science behind wildfire management is fascinating, and I loved learning about how and why certain decisions are made. I’m by no means an expert now, but I definitely learned a lot.

She completed her co-op on a high note too, winning the Student Employee Award for Professional Development after being nominated by the BC Wildfire Service Communications department.

“Nadia has consistently worked well beyond what we would expect to see in the short span of time she has been with us, and it is largely due to her curious nature and willingness to step into the role that has made her so successful in her time with BC Wildfire Service,” part of the submission says.

“Winning meant so much to me. I had no idea I’d even been nominated,” says Nadia. “It feels really great to be recognized, especially because this role was so different from my past experience and challenged me in completely unfamiliar ways. I’m also so happy I could have such a positive impact on my workplace and my colleagues.”

Nadia is now looking towards the what’s next. 

“I’ll be graduating next spring, and in the future, I hope to work in recreation programming, with a focus on connecting youth with outdoor recreation opportunities,” she says. “I don’t know exactly what that looks like yet but I’m really passionate about outdoor recreation and I would love to share that with kids who don’t necessarily have the same access or opportunities I had when I was younger.”

Nadia’s advice for others considering a similar post-secondary path is to “pursue every opportunity that you’re interested in and make as many connections as you can.”

 She speaks from experience, having started her post-secondary journey with outdoor recreation management at Capilano University in North Vancouver some years back, but falling one credit short of graduating.

“I always meant to go back and finish but ended up moving to Vancouver Island, working in seasonal tourism and hospitality, and traveling in the shoulder seasons for several years,” she recalls. “When I decided it was time to return to school, I was set on staying on the Island and the VIU program was the best fit.”

Returning to school in her late twenties “gave me an entirely new perspective and I’ve tried to take advantage of every opportunity for personal and professional development that I possibly can,” she adds. “It’s had a huge influence on my educational success and how much I enjoy school and work.”

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