How to Overcome International Co-op Culture Shock

Finding my way around the chaos of downtown Kampala.

Finding my way around the chaos of downtown Kampala.

Focus on the bright spots. In any place you go, you might initially find that you hate a lot about the place you’re in. The food is weird! There are crazy drivers! Step back and reframe. Although there might be some not-so-great things, there must be something good, however big or small, about your new environment. E.g., I really don’t like the mushy eggplant and flavorless maize mash that I often have to eat, but I can’t wait to have cabbage again! No one speaks English or understands what I’m saying, but what an opportunity for complete language immersion!

Connect with the community. It’s easy to go to a country and stay in a comfort bubble, but it’s not the best way to engage yourself in the local culture. Connecting with the community can be as simple as learning how to cook a local dish, attending a neighborhood church, or bargaining for fruit at the market. Learn how things are done locally, and try to assimilate. Remember that you are a guest in the country, so although you may look and think differently, you should be making the effort to learn the culture and adapt to your surroundings rather than having others adapt to your foreignness.

Continue hobbies from home. Something that can help with homesickness is to find an activity that you can take with you anywhere. While everything around you is changing, you are the same person wherever you go. Think portable. Cameras, sketchbooks, e-readers, journals. Personally, I like to read and run, and I can do both pretty much anywhere with just my kindle and running shoes. I even had the opportunity to participate in a triathlon while I was here, which was an incredible experience!

Embrace the unfamiliar. Of course things are different, but it just means there’s more to learn. Take the opportunity to learn a new language, make new friends, and discover cultural attitudes. You’re surrounded by a whole new world for a few months, so take your time to discover and appreciate as much as you can. Get excited about the fact that you might get lost in a crazy new city. Don’t be afraid to try strange foreign food that doesn’t sound very appealing. Stimulate your sense of adventure.

Create experiences with new friends. Travel around your new country! Go to a concert! Climb a mountain! Most things are more fun in a group – it can relieve stress, create bonding moments, and allow you to reflect upon your journey along the way. So be open to doing some crazy things when you’re with friends that you normally wouldn’t do by yourself. If you happen to be in Uganda, go white-water rafting on the Nile, climb Sipi Falls, and run the MTN marathon!

Maintain communication lines. When you’re going international, as much as you embrace your new life, you shouldn’t forget your old one. Co-ops are only six months long, and you don’t want to return realizing that you lost contact with all your friends from school and have to redo your freshman year socializing. Most places you go should have some Internet connection, whether it is luxurious WiFi or portable modem, so there isn’t much of an excuse to not contact friends and family. There are a number of smartphone apps that allow you to text or call internationally without crazy fees, including WeChat, WhatsApp, GroupMe, and Google Hangouts, just to name a few.

Record your experiences. Keep a blog, take a photo a day, or start a collection. An international co-op should be something you remember for the rest of your life, so make sure you have something to remember and show from your time abroad. For the past few weeks, I’ve been sending my father a photo a day of whatever I happen to experience over the day. By the end of the six months, I’m sure it will make an interesting slideshow: a mishmash of scenery, food, city, work, and people, that I can keep to reminisce about my amazing experience.

Mika White is a second year biochemistry major at Northeastern expecting to graduate in 2018. This semester she’s on her first co-op in Uganda interning at a rural hospital in the town of Entebbe. Mika loves to travel, read, and run. Feel free to reach out to her at and check out her personal blog for more a more detailed account of her experiences. 

The Case For International Co-op


Why leave Boston? I mean, it has practically every amenity, every resource, and every luxury you could possibly need. The standard of living, both nationally and internationally, is quite high. Around every street corner, there is something that will satisfy your hunger, whether it is for food, drink, or entertainment. Not only that, but the density of academic institutions and research centers is unrivaled in the United States. In what other U.S. city can you walk along five college campuses in 20 minutes? And, well, last but not least, Bostonians enjoy the changing seasons of the fall, winter, spring, and summer (although, the winter’s can be quite unforgiving – cheers to missing over 100 inches of snowfall). We are adaptive to these changing seasons, squeezing every bit out of each day, each week, and each year that we spend in our city. We’re a proud bunch of people, we’ll live and die by Fenway, we’ll wake up in the early hours of the morning to run or row along the Charles, and when push comes to shove, we will proudly represent Boston, MA and proclaim the city as America’s best.

There’s no other time in your life like your twenties, especially as a Northeastern student living off of the fruits of your labor during the sweet six (or so) months of your co-op. We’re not quite full-time employees, yet, we’re not exactly the intern – and we can still reap the benefits that the title, “student” bestows upon us. After having taken advantage of Boston’s resources, utilizing every which alley of knowledge we’ve been left to explore, using every tool we’ve been trained to employ, and immersing ourselves amongst some of the best professionals in the business – why not go ahead and take these things (along with your passport) and make use of them?

It’s a tough decision, leaving your friends, your family, and everything familiar behind. It isn’t a semester studying abroad, you’re not housed with other students from your university, and you’re not in a place where you are actively put in a position to learn. Co-op abroad grants you the freedom to explore, discover, and manifest your visions of a life after university, working in the field of your choosing. It’s a pretty cool life-style.

I’m just hitting over the two-month mark (of seven) of my time here in Thailand. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all around the country and even to places such as Singapore and Indonesia. South East Asia offers budget travel options, and going from Ho Chi Minh to Jakarta to Manila to Yangon isn’t so much of a far-fetched itinerary if planned correctly. Needless to say, I’ve made lifelong friendships, enjoyed some great company, and have devoured some great authentic cuisine.

The clinical portion of my co-op is now over, from the wound dressings, learning the basic techniques behind suturing patients, to the fieldwork and home visits, I have truly come to appreciate all that I’ve been able to witness and experience first-hand. In the coming weeks, I’ll have the opportunity to work alongside academics and scholars from all around the world in order to understand our most pressing health needs.

If you want the opportunity to create the life you dreamed of living, pursue an international co-op. Okay, perhaps that last sentence was a bit over zealous, but go ahead and start searching. Don’t be afraid. At times, travel can be difficult, especially when you are without the basic comforts of your home. New York Pizza isn’t right around the corner, nor is Newbury Street just a stone’s throw away. However, the excitement, the novelty, and access to new ideas, information, culture, and ways of thinking will take you much farther in the scope of it all. Go on.

John is a 4th year health sciences student at The Bouvé College of Health Sciences. With a nose for exploration and travel, John will be writing from Southeast Asia about his experiences on co-op in Surin and Bangkok, Thailand. There, he’ll be volunteering in community clinics, in addition to conducting public health research at Chulalongkorn University. Follow his adventures on Instagram: johnsirisuth.

New City, New Home – Feeling Confident Outside of Boston

As someone who has never spent a co-op in Boston, I can say with certainty that there comes a point during your co-op, especially if you are far away from the comforts of Boston, where you feel at home in your new city or country. This point is something to celebrate – you now belong in this new place and that feeling will only improve your co-op experience. However, getting to this point can be challenging. I have one big piece of advice for anyone who is currently on co-op outside of Boston or for anyone who is considering one and it is this:
Explore the city.
I know that this seems like common sense. You’re probably saying, “Come on, I’m obviously going to explore my new city. Let’s hear some real advice.” I’m telling you, this is real advice. It is very easy to get stuck in a pattern where you just leave your apartment to go to work, especially when you are in a new city where you don’t know anyone and where you might not even speak the language. You probably won’t have a car, so learning the public transportation system can definitely seem daunting. I’ve been in Ecuador for three months and I still haven’t figured out how the bus system works, but that doesn’t stop me from trying!
If you’re in another country, you probably bought a guide book, so take that book and pick a new place each weekend to explore. Even if it’s just a restaurant ten minutes away from where you live, pick a night and just go. You’ll feel glad you left your room and you might even meet some new friends! On the weekends, pick a bus and see where it takes you – you might end up nowhere interesting or you might find the coolest thing in your city! Even if you are still in the US, look up what people say is interesting where you are and go check it out.
If you do this enough you will find that there comes a point where you start to recognize how to get around and where you are in your (no longer) new city. This point came for me about two weeks ago and I immediately felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I belonged in Ecuador and once I felt like this, I no longer felt like the new girl at work. I became more confident in my work and in asking questions about bigger projects because I was confident in where I was.
All this being said, don’t ever put yourself in harm’s way just to get out of the house, but don’t be too scared of where you are to ever take a chance on your new city. You might just be surprised by the adventures you find and how they impact your overall experience on co-op!
Rose Leopold is a third-year political science major currently on international co-op with the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador. Prior to this experience, Rose spent her first co-op in the office of Senator Elizabeth Warren in Washington, D.C. Follow Rose’s adventures through her blog and on Instagram.

Beating the First Day Jitters: 5 Simple Steps to Overcoming Anxiety

anxiety ecardIn my experience, starting a new job is rarely anything short of nerve wracking and overwhelming. Getting acclimated to a new environment is difficult and it’s hard to prepare yourself for such a transition, since it’s nearly impossible to know what to expect from your new job. Personally, leading up to my most recent first day of work, I was a mess. My confidence level waned as my uncertainty increased, and I was preoccupied with the thought that my arrival at the office would be a disaster. Somehow, I managed to pull myself together just in time, using these five tips, and rocked my first day on the job. Here’s how you can too:

  1.    Plan Ahead

Since much of your first day is likely to be a mystery until you get to the office, make a plan for the parts of the day that are in your hands. Set an alarm so that you have enough time to really wake up before you head out. Designate the amount of time you need to get ready, and decide exactly when you want to leave. Make sure that you give yourself ample time for your commute so that you’re not rushing to make it on time. Laying out plans ahead of time will give you the sense that more of your day is in your control.

  1.    Do Your Research

To prepare for an interview, it’s important to familiarize yourself with a company and what they do. Why not do the same for your first day? Even if you conducted previous research, look up your organization, your superiors and co-workers, and your own job description to refresh yourself before you arrive. Aside from looking at information concerning the company and the role that you will be playing in the workplace, make sure that you double check where your office is, the best way to get there, and roughly how long it will take you to get there. It can only help you!

  1.    Pump Yourself Up

Remember, starting a new job can be daunting, but it is also an amazing opportunity for growth and improvement. You will get so much out of this experience, and even if it ends up straying from your expectations, the skills that you will develop and refine will be an incredibly valuable asset to you in the future. Get excited to learn and get your hands dirty with something new!

  1.    Then Calm Yourself Down

Whether you’re excited to the point of shaking or you’re just plain nervous, chances are that you’ll need to take a step back and center yourself. Take some deep breaths, listen to music, stretch, take a hot shower, or sit down with a nice cup of coffee or tea before you head over. Your body and your brain will thank you for taking care of them later.

  1.    Fake It ‘Til You Make It

If all else fails and you’re still feeling the nerves, feign confidence. Even if you’re not completely convinced, walk into your office and give your co-workers the first impression that you are ready to take on the world. Being at ease in a new environment takes time, but acting comfortable will help you settle into your niche much faster than allowing yourself to be nervous would.

Joining a new office is a very intimidating experience, but don’t worry, if I can survive it, you can too. Now, follow these steps, get out there, and show them who’s boss!

Rosie Kay is a sophomore at Northeastern majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Business Administration. She is currently on her first co-op at the Governor’s Press Office at the Massachusetts State House. This past summer, she completed a dialogue in London where she explored two of her interests: English history culture and documentary filmmaking. Email her at with questions or comments.

Tips and Tricks: Navigating Being “The Intern”

hello name internLike many other Northeastern students and young professionals, I am currently “The Intern” of my office. To me this is neither a good nor bad title, but one that I have had to grow and adjust into. The word intern often comes with predisposed judgements- especially in an office. What I have come to learn is that a confident, knowledgeable person can always make their work count, regardless of whether they are an intern or not.

Here are some tips for being an absolutely unforgettable intern:

1) Never be afraid of asking questions.

When you are new to an office, it is always better to ask than to be unsure. As much as we all want to find our new groove at work, it is essential to first learn the basics. Never be afraid of coming off needy or dependent- questions show that you want to learn how to do your job, the right way. Your supervisor is there to help you!

2) Remember: quality, not quantity.

Efficiency is absolutely essential, but never feel as though you need to prove your worth as an intern. If more time is necessary to get a project done, ask for the time. It isn’t impressive to turn in rushed work, and or to sacrifice your own mental health in the process. This can also be applied to your personal relationships with coworkers: Start with creating quality relationships with individual coworkers, instead of trying to meet your entire office all at once.

3) Find a project that you can call your own.

One of the biggest complaints I have heard concerning internships is that the tasks provided for interns are both menial and far removed. If you begin feeling this way about your internship, see this is as a sign for change. Look around for something new or exciting happening at your workplace, and ask to be involved. More often than not, your coworkers will love the help and fresh face.

4) Be comfortable with your Intern title, and take the time to understand your role.

Adjusting to a new role is difficult, no matter what it is. With internships, interns sometimes feel like they are at the bottom of the food chain and struggle to find their purpose in the office. These problems can often times be solved within the first few days of an internship, by having a conversation with your supervisor. Come in with questions about your responsibilities and duties as an intern, and ask the questions necessary to understand the who, what, where and why of your position.

Daniella is a sophomore at Northeastern with a combined major in Human Services and International Affairs, and a minor in Spanish. She is currently on her first co-op working for a youth development nonprofit organization in Cape Town, South Africa. Daniella is passionate about social change, travel, and good food- and can’t wait to see what Africa has to offer her both professionally and personally. Email her at Look for Daniella’s posts every other Tuesday.

Image source: Camp4Collective

International Relations Co-op in the Middle East

teaching in middle east

Ryan teaching in the Middle East

For students who are thinking about doing an international co-op or who have a strong interest in Middle Eastern studies, this week we will be highlighting the challenges and experiences of working abroad from the perspective of a co-op student. Ryan Chaffin is a third year student majoring in International Affairs and Political Science currently working at the Hashemite Fund for Development of the Jordan Badia, which is an organization that aims at objective of developing the Jordan Badia, or, the arid areas encompassing much of Jordan’s land. Here is what he has to say about his co-op in the interview:

1. Can you tell us what a typical workday looks like?

There are two types of work day. On one hand, I will be in the office, formatting and writing business proposals, meeting local dignitaries from around the Badia, and colluding with your boss and coworkers on long-term projects and meetings. On the other, I will be doing fieldwork, which includes visiting parts of the “Badia” or desert regions that stand at a remove from Amman, the capital city. However, at the beginning of the co-op, I will mostly be teaching English in a remote town or village, with three- or four-day stints back at your apartment in between.

2. What is the biggest difference between working abroad and working in the United States?

In the United States there is a standard of work that permeates so much of our economy that it feels “objective”. Abroad, this isn’t always the case. Job descriptions are more mutable, and the goal is more subjective. Your expectations for this job may not hold up through the first few days of work or weeks. The needs of the job are also more “comprehensive”. If there’s something you’re asked to do, it’s because being an English speaker makes you the only person able to do it.

Also, it is only natural that you will feel a little homesick because you are abroad. However, if you have a good living space and make friends quickly, this will pass quickly.

3. Describe some of the challenges you encountered at work, and how you overcame them?

Feeling directionless; I asked repeatedly to be involved in projects until I was given more responsibility, and made sure to work quickly to submit any assignments given to build reliability.

Feeling lost and confused; I identified the people who spoke English better than I spoke Arabic and used them to understand my work environment in the first few days.

Lastly, just getting used to the workday takes some time as well. How I overcome that was bringing a laptop and training myself on grant writing until I finally run out of free time after a few weeks.

4. What kind of skills did you learn from this co-op?

So far, my writing skills have been strengthened through formatting international business and grant proposals. My Arabic language skills have also seen improvement through my translation of Arabic textbooks into English, which I hope to publish through the Ministry of Education someday. Lastly, I have learned how to conduct business meetings from being an assistant to my manager, which is particularly useful in improving my Arabic immensely.

5. Has this co-op helped confirm your career goal?

Yes and no. It’s made me very knowledgeable about Levantine business culture and that’s an asset in Middle East career paths. I’m also still willing to work at a government agency or NGO that promises advancement and a chance to impose real reform, although this experience has made me consider the private sector more seriously. What it’s changed is the perception that I need to do all the listening in my co-ops. At the United Nations or the State Department, talented policy architects have built an institution which I would need decades of training with which to contribute meaningfully. But here at the Fund, it’s very self-developed. I could sit at my desk and do nothing all day without reprisal; I could also design my own day around self-developed projects which aid the Fund, and increasingly I’ve done just that. My co-op has increased my confidence that my education at Northeastern is preparing me for the world in ways I didn’t expect.

6. What is some advice you would like to give students who are thinking about a co-op in the Middle East?  

Don’t expect a European co-op. This is a region with more grit and more dust in the cracks. You will be one of, at most, two or three people in the office who speak English fluently, and that means anything English-language eventually goes through you. Since most of the business proposals have been for USAID or other English aid agencies, you’ll be asked—expected—to understand the ins-and-outs of editing, formatting and submitting grant proposals for several hundred thousand dollars at a time. Since I Googled my way through the first month, you can too. But be firm about your needs, or they will not be addressed. Things get lost in translation.

There is also some concrete advice I’d like to give to anyone seriously considering or committed to this particular co-op. Use for housing; look for other expats under “Rooms Available” so you have a support network. Don’t pay more than 300JOD/month unless you’re homeless otherwise. Until you find a supermarket nearby, the Taj Mall has a Safeway and numerous kiosks for a Jordan phone.

Bio-pic_scarletthScarlett Ho is a third year International Affairs and Political Science major with a minor in Law and Public Policy. During fall 2014, she studied abroad in Belgium where she interned at the European Parliament. The summer prior to that, she interned for Senator Warren on Capitol Hill, and previously Congressman Lynch in Massachusetts. She can be reached at for any questions ranging from resume writing, job searching to her experiences.


The Halfway Mark- 5 Things I’ve Learned While on International Co-op

As I realized this week that I have less than 2 months left in South Africa, I’ve also begun to reflect on just how much my international co-op has taught me. Here are a few of my most important lessons thus far:

1. Adjusting to a slower work pace.
This has hands down, most definitely been the toughest part of my international work experience. South Africans call their time “African time”- meaning less emphasis on the clock and a slower pace of life. I am a power-walking, punctual Bostonian who has just had to learn how to chill out. I’ve happily discovered hat deadlines aren’t always necessary to getting work done- and maybe a break from constant timeliness is exactly what I’ve been needing.

2. The balance between exploring a new country, and working a full-time internship.
I had some difficulty finding my South African balance. When I first started work, I felt nervous asking for days off and guilty when I was focusing more on my weekend adventures than my Monday workload. I’ve learned to use the separate spheres strategy- at work, I concentrate on work and learning from my coworkers. Outside of work, I soak in all that Cape Town has to offer.

3. Missing is okay, and not missing is okay.
There are days when I miss the ease of Boston and Northeastern life- having reliable electricity, a trusted schedule, or being able to walk around at night. Then there are days when I genuinely feel as though I don’t miss anything at all. Both are completely normal feelings, and both are feelings I have accepted as normal and part of the process.

4. Judgement and assumptions aren’t personal, or avoidable.
My citizenship seems to follow me around everywhere- and I have always had a love-hate relationship with this. On the one hand, I love being a foreigner, being different, and talking about my culture with coworkers and friends abroad. However, I hate the American stereotypes that automatically come with my obvious accent. In my past travels, I’ve actually felt ashamed of being an American- so with this new adventure, I knew it needed to stop. I’ve learned how to feel comfortable confronting American stereotypes head-on, and have realized that this happens to absolutely everyone- not just me.

5. Living in the moment.
Still working on this one, however I am most definitely trying and learning. Whether it be a small task at work, my train ride every morning, or a coffee date with a coworker, I am attempting to be absolutely and completely present. I will most probably never be in this city again, working with the same people, and living in the same place. Practicing mindfulness has been helping me appreciate each and every moment of my time in Cape Town.

Daniella is a sophomore at Northeastern with a combined major in Human Services and International Affairs, and a minor in Spanish. She is currently on her first co-op working for a youth development nonprofit organization in Cape Town, South Africa. Daniella is passionate about social change, travel, and good food- and can’t wait to see what Africa has to offer her both professionally and personally. Email her at Look for Daniella’s posts every other Tuesday.

What Working in a Ugandan Hospital has Taught Me about African Culture

Operating room in Iganga Hospital

Operating room in Iganga Hospital


We must do with what we have. Personally, I would not like hearing my doctor say, “we shall improvise”, but it is something that is commonly heard and accepted. The government-run Iganga Hospital is often low on supplies, including medical staff, medical equipment, medicine, and organization. Medicine stores in the pharmacy often run out, so patients are sometimes forced to pay for medication that should otherwise be free elsewhere. Power and water outages are frequent; there have been some instances where I have had to hold up my cell phone flashlight during wound suturing. It is difficult to say what exactly contributes to this severe deficit, but for now, we must accept that change is slow and things are just the way they are.

Time is irrelevant. Appointment times, efficiency in patient flow, and urgency are nonexistent here. The only functioning clocks in the hospital are in the main operating theater and maternity ward delivery room. Their function is maintained so that doctors can record the time of birth during deliveries. Visiting the hospital may be a day-long event, due to the huge crowds waiting to be seen by a doctor, the bouncing around the hospital for lab tests, x-rays, prescription filling etc. The slow pace of the hospital – everything from the doctors’ walking speed to the lack of immediate attention during emergency cases – reflects the African way of life. A friend of mine tends to confirm timing when making appointments, “African time or American time?” I’ve been here for six weeks, and have grown accustomed to the untimeliness of pretty much everything. People in Uganda take things a day at a time, with no long-term planning ahead, which can be nice and easygoing, but frustrating at the same time.

Family is invaluable. In the hospital, family members stay with the patient all day and all night to tend to their loved one’s needs. They bring them food, keep them company, and are in charge of communicating with the doctors. Family members roll out mats next to patient beds so that they can sleep next to them at night. One patient who was in a bad car accident and as a result had his leg amputated, stayed in the hospital for a month, and not even for one day, did his brother leave his side. Although a hospital is a difficult environment to be in for such long periods of time, family is so cherished that constant support of a suffering family member is the natural thing to do. In the community, family and friendship bonds are so strong in every part of life. Extended family members commonly help raise each other’s kids, friends support each other’s businesses, and people are generally always looking out for one another. It is a wonderful community to be a part of and really makes you appreciate the relationships you form in life.

We must stay open-minded. As an outsider, it is very easy to have a judgmental mindset and think, “this situation would NEVER happen in the US”, but that mindset is a very pointless one. While it may be interesting to compare and contrast different healthcare systems around the world, it is not acceptable to be condescending. The doctors and nurses are aware of the shortcomings of the hospital and admire the systems in developed countries, but they feel helpless when thinking about changing their environment. Living and working in a place with such great limitations can really ground you as a person, and make you more aware of the world and the challenges revolving around healthcare in such settings.

A positive attitude can brighten anything. Even in the difficult environment where health care is so lacking, the doctors and nurses of Iganga Hospital never fail to have a smile on their face. They make the best of every situation and it really is what allows them to stay enthusiastic when facing such big challenges. Personally, I like to reframe “problems” into “potentials for change”. If we can embody this attitude, the negative experiences and frustrations can change into productivity and pursuit of improvement.

MikaBioMika White is a second year biochemistry major at Northeastern expecting to graduate in 2018. This semester she’s on her first co-op in Uganda interning at a rural hospital in the town of Iganga. Mika loves to travel, read, and run. Feel free to reach out to her at and check out her personal blog for more a more detailed account of her experiences. 

How to Excel in Your Co-Op


As most people jet off for spring break or head home, co-op students remain at their jobs. Whether or not you are enjoying your work, it’s a reality check that half of 6 months is gone- time really flies! So how can you make good use of the remaining time to excel and succeed at your co-op? Seize the opportunity to push yourself and make a lasting impression, from getting a callback to using this experience as a leg up, you will never know how this job will evolve in the future. Here a few tips based on my personal observation on how to do well:

1. Ask Questions

There are no stupid questions, so ask away if you need clarification on your assignments. Employers actually appreciate it, because first, it means you are thinking and proactive, as opposed to just performing the task passively. Second, it leads to fewer mistakes and unnecessary confusion that eventually lead to greater efficiency and productivity. Moreover, questions don’t have to be related to the tasks in hand. After assignments are completed, you can also ask how the project you were working on is being utilized in the company. What is good about asking these types of questions is that it allows you to understand more clearly your role and the impact you are making in the overall functioning of the company. Plus, this knowledge can also enhance the bullet points on your resume!

2. Make Friends with Co-workers

Do not underestimate the power of allies and friends in your office. This is very important, because having a good relationship with them will help you down the line, be it learning their ways of succeeding or observing office etiquette, culture, etc. Moreover, who knows, one day if you were sick, they will be the one feeling you on the details of a meeting or helping you out in something. It’s all about connections and networking after all. Even after you leave your job, they might be able to recommend you or say a few good words to enhance your career.

3. Dress the Part

Just as Oscar Wilde has once said, you can never be overdressed or over-educated. While there is some truth in this, my advice will be to dress the part, and to dress smart. Observe how your boss/supervisor dresses and follow suit. Each office is different, and the dress code differs by industry, so be sure you don’t stand out in a bad way. If you are not a morning person (like me), consider preparing the clothes you want to wear the night before, so you don’t have to spend time ironing it or deciding in the morning- when you are not fully awake, and it also saves time too.

 4. Ask for Feedback/ Evaluation

This is related to asking questions. Be sure to ask for feedback from time to time, and after an assignment is completed to reflect on your performance. Since it is mid co-op season, now is a good time to do that. Not only will it be useful for you to gauge yourself, but knowing how you do will also help you improve and add value to the remainder of your co-op.

5. Make a List of your Tasks

It is always wise to keep track of your tasks and assignments. When your co-op is completed and you are looking for a recommendation letter from your supervisor, this will be helpful in aiding them write it. Moreover, as you are compiling the list of things you have done during your co-op, you may find some areas, say social media, that you have not fulfilled according to your learning objectives. With the remaining time, if possible, you can ask for new ways to get involved.

Good luck everyone!

Scarlett Ho is a third year International Affairs and Political Science major with a minor in Law and Public Policy. During fall 2014, she studied abroad in Belgium where she interned at the European Parliament. The summer prior to that, she interned for Senator Warren on Capitol Hill, and previously Congressman Lynch in Massachusetts. She can be reached at for any questions ranging from resume writing, job searching to her experiences. You can also email her for article ideas, suggestions, and comments. 

Photo source: Young Upstarts


5 Common Misconceptions About the Nonprofit Sector

nonprofit word in letterpress typeAlthough nonprofits play a large role in each of our daily lives, there are common misconceptions about what nonprofits are, and what they do.

1. Nonprofits don’t make money.

This myth stems from a sheer lack of understanding of the term 501(c)(3)- the tax-exempt identification necessary to become a nonprofit organization. Being a 501(c)(3) does not ban an organization from making money, it simply means that all profits go toward their mission and purpose. A nonprofit actually cannot live or function without profit- because they would be unable to run the programs and activities which create impact. And although some nonprofits struggle for funding (including many of the social change organizations I have worked for,) there are countless nonprofits who have no money problems whatsoever. Think of the NFL, the New York Stock Exchange, or Northeastern. All are nonprofit organizations, and all are making quite a bit of money.

2. Nonprofit careers are for those who couldn’t make it elsewhere.

I hear this one all the time- that certain degrees are cut out for nonprofit careers, and certain degrees aren’t. Nonprofit professionals chose careers in the sector because they were passionate and driven about their causes, not because they weren’t smart enough to pursue other career paths. In fact, many nonprofit organizations now prefer to hire MBA’s as opposed to MPA’s- showing the increased demand for business knowledge across the entire nonprofit world.

3. Nonprofits all do the same thing.

Even I have been guilty of imagining a “nonprofit world” in my mind, consisting only of social change and educational organizations. However this is far from the real world of nonprofits. To name a few organizations who are making leaps and bounds in unexpected places: St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, the American Red Cross, TED, the Smithsonian Institute, and NPR.

4. Nonprofit work environments are casual and laid-back.

Just as any other sector, every office has its own distinct environment. Smaller organizations tend to be more casual, while large universities and hospitals expect more professional attire. Speaking from personal experience, I have worked for organizations where I could wear my Birkenstocks to work everyday, and others where my Birkenstocks would be considered absolutely ridiculous and rude. This goes for office culture as well- the entire spectrum from extremely casual to extremely rigid exists in the nonprofit world.

5. Working in a nonprofit means hands-on, direct service.

The most common comment to when I describe my career aspirations is, “You must help so many people.” Every individual who chooses to pursue a nonprofit career wants to create an impact, and see that impact- including myself. However, we often don’t get to see that impact on a daily basis- or directly “help” people. While there are professionals who constantly work in the field and in programs, this is definitely not always the case. Many nonprofit jobs require working in an office, with administration, finance, or human resources material. And although change is always occurring, we don’t always get to see it happen live.

Daniella is a sophomore at Northeastern with a combined major in Human Services and International Affairs, and a minor in Spanish. She is currently on her first co-op working for a youth development nonprofit organization in Cape Town, South Africa. Daniella is passionate about social change, travel, and good food- and can’t wait to see what Africa has to offer her both professionally and personally.

Email her at Look for Daniella’s posts every other Tuesday.