Life as an ‘Expat’

Chulalongkorn University – Bangkok, Thailand

Chulalongkorn University – Bangkok, Thailand

Expatriate. Expat. American. Foreigner…or, more specifically in Bangkok and the rest of Thailand – farang.

Keep in mind, none of these are offensive terms, (at least in the way they are used here) just ways of categorizing a non-Thai national. I’m proud of my upbringing, my country, my town, and my city, much like any other American. However, when I stepped onto campus at Chula, (as local students and professors call it, short for Chulalongkorn University) I couldn’t help but feel like an outsider.

Sometimes, it was quite nice. During the first few weeks of my co-op with the Faculty of Public Health, and even now still, everyday was and is an exciting breath of fresh air. Each day in the lab or in the seminars, there were new faces to greet, hands to shake, and names to remember. Everyone drew themselves towards you, peppered you with questions, welcomed your every move, and guided you along new and unchartered waters.

At the university, I’ve met some outstanding scholars and academics from countries all over the world: Switzerland, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Indonesia to name a few. I’m the young gun, a sheep amongst lions. Many of these men and women are tried and true professionals in their fields, some even working in public health for longer than I’ve been on this planet.

It’s intimidating; especially when a major capstone of public health research is to generate new knowledge. New knowledge. This was something I struggled most with. In an age where information and data is translated and transmitted in the matter of seconds, my first and most immediate contention to this concept of generating new knowledge was, what more do I need to know? What contributions could I make? Today, we have access to a world of resources, a matrix of professionals, and with a little bit of ingenuity, 4G LTE cellphone service, and Googling skills, it’s quite easy to find the answers to everyday questions.

My supervisor, a dean at the school, put the facilities, budget, and libraries at my disposal. No 9 to 5, no need to clock-in or clock-out, and no deadlines other than presentations and meetings. It was a blessing. I was elated at the flexibility she was allowing for. However, I mistakenly became complacent with these offerings. I wandered in and out of the offices during the first few weeks, with no direction, and more dangerously, no purpose.

Complacency was a real working theme that had invaded my life. I remained a stranger to my colleagues, quietly and bashfully offering small talk to them before and after each seminar, failing to establish any legitimate linkages. I was okay with this. Part of me expected them to carry their first-day enthusiasm in our interactions, rather selfishly. After all, didn’t they know that I was empty handed? Didn’t they know I was in search of a research project? I expected them to share their insights and their expertise, unprompted. Another part of me was simply afraid. Was there any real way I could articulately voice my interests that wouldn’t make me seem naïve, young, or foolish?

This approach to my co-op experience however, was just those things, naïve, young, and foolish. I was estranging myself from a party of renowned experts and dedicated, lifelong learners. I was an outsider. I quickly became dissatisfied with my responses to these opportunities and realized that I was very much taking them for granted. I was cheating myself of a profound chance to be a part of a faculty of doctors, leaders, and politicians. Isn’t that what I came here for?

I’m an expatriate, expat, American, foreigner, farang…whatever you want to call it. Ways of life here in Bangkok are different. They’re new. They’re intimidating. At the faculty, the research, the rigor, the population, it’s different. It’s new. It’s intimidating. For too long, I found it acceptable to keep those things that way. So, what’s next?

 

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.

How to End Your Co-op Strong

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The time has come where students are starting to end their co-ops. If you’re on a four month co-op, like I am, you might only have a few weeks left before you say goodbye to your coworkers and head back to school. So how do you end your co-op strong and make the most of your last few weeks or months?

Don’t slack off.

Just because you’re almost done doesn’t mean it’s time to stop doing your job. In fact, this is the time to really step up your game and get the most out of the end of your experience. You want to make sure you don’t leave with any regrets. Ask to attend those meetings you’ve been nervous to attend so far. After four months on the job, you know a lot about your work culture and how your organization runs. If it’s appropriate, your supervisor will be glad you’re showing initiative and you’ll get to learn that much more about your workplace.

Make sure you finish out all your work.

Before you leave your co-op, make sure that your supervisor knows the status of all your projects. You don’t want to be that person who leaves with all their work half-finished. Not only will this leave your office in a state of limbo, but it will also leave them with a bad impression of you.

Finish networking with your co-workers.

Is there that one person you’ve wanted to meet all semester and haven’t had a chance to yet? Reach out to them in your last few weeks! Take full advantage of the resources your co-workers can give you before you leave. Even though you can always get in touch with them once your co-op is over, it makes things a lot easier when your cubicles are down the hall from each other! And don’t forget to get the contact information of your supervisor and other colleagues in case you need a reference in the future. Make sure they’re okay with being a reference and know of your plans once you go back to school so calls from future employers don’t startle them later on.

Lastly, don’t be sad you’re leaving – be glad you were able to spend such a long time in a great position!

You’ve successfully finished another co-op and definitely learned some valuable skills! Whether your co-op helped you solidify your career path (as mine did!) or helped you decide what you don’t want to do in the future, you surely learned a lot about yourself and the industry you worked in. Soak in that knowledge and let it guide you as you decide what your next step is. And make sure you say thank you to everyone you worked with along the way (and handing out handwritten thank you cards on your last day never hurts)!

 

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 justsittingontopoftheworld.wordpress.com and on Instagram.

Battle Your Stress

 

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I am a highly anxious person. Point blank, that is who I am, no matter how many times I’ve tried to change it. But, after years of practice, I’ve been able to research and narrow down helpful methods of tackling my anxiety and stress head on.

How many times have you been at work and find yourself blankly staring at a list of things to do with no idea where to begin? According to Forbes.com, the average business professional has between 30 and 100 projects on their plate. Unruly to-do lists and a never-ending set of distractions from phones to Facebook lead us to these heightened states of stress.

So, how do we battle this growing problem (and to-do lists)? Below are my tried and true methods to calm down, focus, and get stuff done.

Take a Deep Breath | Sounds simple, right? It’s one of the easiest things out there to level your mind and take your blood pressure down a notch. In a method borrowed from traditional yoga practices, the act of sama vritti, or “equal breathing” is a practice to calm and soothe. In her new book Do Your Om Thing, yogi Rebecca Pacheco, explains the method: “the idea is to evenly match the length of your inhale to that of your exhale.” So, sit down, feet flat on the ground, and breath in… breath out…

De-Clutter | A messy space makes a messy mind. Take 20 or 30 minutes, to tidy up your living room, workspace, bedroom, kitchen, you name it! Making space in your living and working area will free up space in your mind as well.

Eat Right | It’s so easy to get caught up in the flurry and decide to chow down on a Bolocco burrito and chips rather than a well-balanced meal. While that’s great to do every now and then (I do love the occasional burrito bowl), but it can catch up to you. Research suggests that eating sugary and processed foods can increase symptoms of anxiety.

Catch some Zzz’s |  Do you frequently pull all-nighters? Are you a night owl? Well, be warned, because research shows that you are a heightened risk for chronic medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and mood disorders. While one night of little sleep can leave you grumpy, continued lack of sleep can have lasting effects. “Chronic sleep issues have been correlated with depression, anxiety, and mental distress.” Get some shut eye, turn off the electronics, relax your muscles, and drift off into a nice rest that will leave you refreshed and ready to tackle the next day.

If you need one final push for a happier, more stress-free day, just take a break and bust a move to your favorite song. (This is mine)

Here’s to an anxiety-free day! Let’s get to it!

Tatum Hartwig is a 4th year Communication Studies major with minors in Business Administration and Media & Screen Studies. Tatum brings experience and knowledge in the world of marketing and public relations from her two co-ops at Wayfair and New Balance. Her passion revolves around growing businesses via social media, brand development, and innovation. You can connect with Tatum on Twitter @tatumrosy, Instagram @tatumrose, and LinkedIn.

How to Prioritize When Everything is a Priority

We all know the feeling: Waking up in the morning, getting to work and realizing there is so much to be done that you don’t even know where to start. I have fallen culprit to this feeling one too many times, and had you asked me a few months ago, I would have said there is no way to avoid the frustration from too many responsibilities. I consider myself to be a notorious planner, but what I have recently realized is that planning does not mean prioritizing. Prioritizing means determining what the most important thing on your to-do list is, and sticking to one task at a time.

Here are some ways to start prioritizing and organizing during your workdays.

1. Make lists your best friend.

“Divide and conquer” is a great way to make your workload seem more approachable. I recommend a good, old fashioned list, wherein number one is the most pressing task, number two the next, and so on and so forth. Once you have created a general to-do list, add details to each number. If number one reads, “Write monitoring and evaluation report,” what are the actual steps to getting this done? These steps can be listed as 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc. I draw boxes next to each item on my list, so that I can check them off as I work. Not only does this help keep me on track, but it lets me see what I have accomplished so far, and all of my next steps.

2. Celebrate every task well done.

It’s hard to stick to your priorities and create new ones when you feel unproductive, discouraged or overwhelmed. Establish a reward system for yourself that is balanced in both challenging you to get work done, but satisfying when you finish one of your priorities. Typical reward systems often involve both food and getting out of the office, such as, “When I finish the monitoring and evaluation report, I will go get a latte across the street.” Give yourself a reward that you will truly enjoy, and that will give your mind a break for a bit. You deserve it!

3. Try “Tab-less Tuesdays.”

This is a prioritizing tool that I just learned about last week. Every Tuesday, one of my coworkers goes completely “tab-less”- meaning that he only has one tab open on his Internet browser at any given time. This system inherently forces him to judge his tasks based on urgency, because he can literally only focus on one task at a time. If an entire Tuesday seems like too much at first, try a half-day, or two tabs- anything that will keep you mindful and focused on only one thing.

 

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 emami.d@husky.neu.edu. Look for Daniella’s posts every other Tuesday.

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 white.mik@husky.neu.edu and check out her personal blog for more a more detailed account of her experiences. 

The Case For International Co-op

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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.

How a Co-op Interview Changed The Way I Solve Problems

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Few things are more nerve-wrecking during co-op season than an e-mail attachment.

Oh, a project? Before I’m employed?

Alright now.

A couple weeks ago I was faced with a co-op case study in design thinking. So, maybe I got it Tuesday of spring break and didn’t start it until Monday. Maybe I started it on the plane on the way aback from Costa Rica. Maybe I did that. This case ended up being one of the more exciting and rewarding projects of 2015 so far – I presented it at my interview, got the job, and I’m happy to say I will be working there starting in July. It moved the needle of my thought process, and it can move yours too. Here are a few important things to think about when solving a large, complicated problem:

  • Push all of your assumptions aside. Whenever you confront a problem, large or small, you approach it with a set of unique experiences and assumptions about the problem. These are important to realize, and important to put aside while framing a problem. Forget everything you ever thought about the problem.
  • Talk to people. Before you think about the problem, talk to anyone who might be affected by the problem. To make this more concrete, here’s an example from the social arena. You’re a person who wants to start an organization or create a product to help people under the poverty line in Dorchester. Great. However, you’re not a person under the poverty line in Dorchester. You see the problem with a set of assumptions – for example, that most people under the poverty line are unemployed. This may or may not be true. It’s important to talk to the people you want to serve so you understand the problem from the perspective of those who are living it. If you want to build a new online tool for your tech company, talk to your customers. Understand the problem first by learning.
  • Spend most of your time thinking about the problem, not the solution. Listen to people. Let’s go back to the Dorchester idea. Don’t spend all of your time brainstorming your big idea. Think about the problem, find as many different perspectives as you can, and the solution will become clear. Basically, the more you understand the problem, the fewer bad (or ineffective) ideas you have to test.

In the working world, you will come across big problems and little problems. Design thinking can help you plan events, develop curricula, find your place on a team, and identify problems to solve.

Lindsey Sampson is a junior International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Find her Tweeting at @lindseygsampsonand blogging about travel & career at http://moreawesomerblog.com/.

New City, New Home – Feeling Confident Outside of Boston

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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 justsittingontopoftheworld.wordpress.com and on Instagram.

On the Other Side of a Virtual Career Fair… Q&A from an Employer’s Perspective

So, are you thinking about participating in the Northeastern University Virtual Career Fair on March 25th?  Have you been to a virtual career fair?  Are you wondering what to expect?

As an employer, I can say we ask the same questions.  For many companies a virtual career fair is a fairly new experience.  Over the past few years, there has been a shift in recruiting across the board from print media, online job postings, career fairs to social media and beyond.  The in-person career fairs have seen a decline in popularity for a variety of reasons including tightening budgets, needing to target recruiting to specific skill sets due to shifting demand, and increases in applicant flow through traditional means.  So why a virtual career fair?

It is easy, we want to meet you!  Employers want you to have the opportunity to meet us and be connected to us for short-term and long-term opportunities.   We have the opportunity to not just view a resume but to spend time with you answering questions and engaging with you.  The best part is you don’t have to get all dressed up to attend.

I have had the opportunity to participate in several virtual career fairs over the last few years.  It is a unique experience and I have found that individuals who are successful with this medium have the following characteristics in common:

  • Strong Resumes:  candidates’ resumes have been reviewed by career services and highlight key accomplishments and achievements in a concise manner.
  • Research Conducted: candidates have researched the companies in attendance and know what the company does; this includes giving some thought as to how the candidate fits into the company from a skills and experience perspective.
  • Engaging: strong candidates don’t just hover or lurk, they approach the employer and ask questions about the work environment and culture; however, they craft the questions to demonstrate their business acumen.  Questions about vacation days may not be the best way to approach an employer.
  • Prepared “Elevator Speech”: strong candidates know why they are strong and can articulate it in a short, concise way that links accomplishments and experience with the nature of the company’s work.  Don’t have an elevator speech? Contact your career services office to help develop one.
  • Avoid “Gotcha Questions”: don’t ask questions that may put a bad light on the employer especially in front of others; you may think you have a strong question, but it may end up being perceived as negative.  Work with your career services office to develop questions that will put you in the best position.
  • Be Patient: the employer is going to be outnumbered and we don’t want to brush anyone off so if the best candidates are patient.  The employer will want to review resumes and finish out other conversations.  You may not know how many conversations the employer is conducting at one time across multiple private chats.
  • Smile:  what? It is a virtual fair.  Don’t let that stop you from smiling.  A smile comes across in how you interact online.  So, the best candidates don’t use all CAPS and are personable.

Above all, enjoy the experience.  It is an opportunity for you to expand your relationships.   You may not get a position immediately with one of the firms, but look to establish a relationship with those you engage.  Make sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and connect to those with whom you meet.  A long-term professional relationship is a very valuable outcome.

Hope to see you at the fair!

Christopher Carlson is a s Sr. Manager of Talent Delivery Programs at Booz Allen Hamilton. Based in Florida, Christopher is a member of Booz Allen Hamilton’s People Services Team. He leads the firm’s university, transitioning military, social recruiting teams.  He is responsible for building strategies and relationships for leveraging these channels to ensure Booz Allen Hamilton’s position as an employer of choice and to deliver the next generation of talent to the organization.

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 emami.d@husky.neu.edu. Look for Daniella’s posts every other Tuesday.