Work Smarter: Office Productivity Tips For Co-ops

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We all have those days when sending an email feels like dragging yourself through a mile of hot desert sand. It’s easy to hit a wall around 2 or 3pm, when your brain packs up her bags and takes the first train home regardless of how much you still have to do. Increasing your productivity has a huge effect on confidence and workplace satisfaction (you know how good it feels to cross an item off of your to-do list. It’s awesome). Here are a few tips to enhance your productivity this week:

Beat the crowd. By being the first one in the office, you can catch up on emails from the day before, schedule meetings, and get things done before other people arrive. This prevents you from feeling stressed-out or behind on your work throughout the day. This habit also illustrates your dedication as an employee, setting you up well for a raise or a promotion down the line.

Avoid the social media stare. I often fall into the trap of the social media stare – keeping one or two browser tabs for work, one for Twitter, one for Facebook, one for the blog. The social media stare is a source of constant interruption when you stop working for every Twitter interaction or Facebook notification. Close those windows to take advantage of your most productive hours.

Clump meetings together. It’s impossible to get things done when you have a meeting from 10-11am, a lunch meeting from noon-1pm, and a meeting at 2pm. When scheduling meetings, try to create clusters of meetings so you have a few hours at a time to get into a work groove. If possible, encourage your office or just your department to adopt one meeting-less day each week. This will allow for greater focus and more productivity.

Use two monitors. Just do it. Once you start using two monitors, you will be amazed that you ever got work done before. One screen is extremely limiting, especially when it comes to research, writing, and creating presentations. If you have the resources, adding a second monitor will greatly increase your productivity and ability to multi-task.

Take advantage of technology. You are always connected, so you should probably make the most of the innovative apps and tools that are available to you. Have to focus for a bit, but distracted by background sounds? Check out Simply Noise (www.simplynoise.com), a white noise generator that allows you to block out sounds around you so you can focus and be more productive. For an easy-to-use note-taking app, try Evernote. Perfect for list-makers, Evernote allows you to keep track of everything on your phone, tablet, and computer.

No matter what, you will hit difficult days when your efficiency seems to plummet and it feels like you can’t get anything done. Focus on these tips or make your own to improve the quality of your work without spending extra hours at the office.

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/.

Why I Believe in Risk-Taking

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I believe in adventures, risk-taking, and doing the things that scare me. And, I believe that I’m the person I am today because of these beliefs. I constantly thank my 15-year old self, who forced her parents to let her do community development work in rural Paraguay for a summer. Had my teenage self not been determined to go on her adventure, to take that leap of faith, would I be in the place I am now? Would I be going in the same direction, both personally and professionally? Most definitely not. One great adventure can change your entire path- and I think we all deserve to give ourselves at least one great adventure.

Risks are meant to be taken, and sometimes, your life plan is supposed to be a little scary. Leaving your comfort zone is what will make you stronger and smarter, both in personal and professional capacities.

So, I ask you to think of what would scare you the most. Moving to the other side of the world? Working for a giant, multi-million dollar company? Being your own boss? Switching academic tracks completely? Figure out what would give you the adrenaline rush and the butterflies- and do it. Your future self will thank you. Here are some of my own breakthroughs and life lessons, through my adventures over the last few years.

I learned that I could work professionally in another language while running youth development programs in Costa Rican national parks. This was a complete breakthrough, which now has me considering pursuing my masters degree in Latin America. Had I not taken the risk of accepting a job with extremely technical aspects, with coworkers who had little to no English, I wouldn’t have realized my full potential with languages, whether that be Spanish, or now, Portuguese.

I got over my fear of math in a small nonprofit organization’s office in Cape Town, South Africa. “Fear of math” sounds like quite a petty and small thing when I say it out loud, but trust me, it was a fear. I avoided any kind of statistics work at all costs, until the organization of my dreams offered me an internship with Monitoring and Evaluation. I almost said no- M & E is all numbers. But instead, I said yes, and worked five days a week with number crunching and analyzing galore. “Fear of math” is a thing of the past.

I learned the importance of pursuing challenges at Northeastern University. I have been pushed to all limits while at this beautiful university and abroad, but I have also learned that if I want to go beyond these limits, I need to do it myself. No one knows your greatest fears but you- and no one can go ahead and take that risk but you.

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.

“I have a strict learning policy…”

I jumped at the opportunity. One of my cousins approached me quite late on a Saturday night. I had class early the next morning into the afternoon. Originally, I was planning on calling it quits and cozying up to a nice book.

“I’m going with my DJ to a club in Sathorn, I’m leaving at 10:30. I can pick you up and we’ll drive over.”

I looked down at my watch. That was only less than an hour away. I looked back up at my cousin, and without hesitation offered him an emphatic yes. Maybe it was the way he proclaimed the company he was going with as his – the words my DJ, made the whole thing a bit more impressive. Whatever I was getting myself into, I was more than happy to reward myself after a long week.

When the time came, I jumped in his car and off we went to pick-up his DJ. The entire way there we had a conversation of how he got into managing. These concepts were foreign to me. They didn’t exactly agree with how I had imagined the entire industry. I simply thought that the function of managing was just to assemble a string of shows held together by promoters, and to head social media campaigns that used bold graphics that no one actually read or paid attention to. Managing, he told me, was a way of harnessing and nurturing talent. The conversation was an honest look into a love unrelated to his work he did as a coder, although, he did seem to love that too.

Upon our arrival we were escorted to an elevator that was set for the 39th floor. After a brief security check, a hostess brought us to the where the main act was already on stage. After ordering a couple of drinks at the bar, we situated ourselves at a table where we got a clear view of the performers.

I examined the surroundings and found that most if not all of the patrons of the club were non-Thai nationals. Australians, Americans, Africans, Europeans, Britons, every type of accent, every type of dress, every type of mannerism could be observed at this venue but Thai people seemed to be absent. It was a curious observation, and so I pocketed the questions that I had begun to form for later. What was even more perplexing to me was the way the DJ and her partner listened to the performers on stage. There was no dancing, and contrary to the way I had experienced clubs prior, they didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves. Instead, they stood stoic, almost expressionless.

It was 3am and the set was near its finish. The DJ turned to us and signaled for our departure. We gathered and we exchanged reviews of the performance. I was pleased. It was apparent however, that the DJ and her partner had their critiques.

On the way back to their apartment a cascade of ideas streamed from the duo and my cousin. It was indiscernible to me, the whole situation. I couldn’t clearly apprehend what was being said. It was in Thai, the conversation, yes, but even so the way in which these words were said confused me. They analyzed the night, it seemed.

“I have a strict learning policy,” my cousin said to me as they exited the car.

“I take them to these kinds of things at least once a week. It’s how we learn new techniques. Not a lot of DJs in Thailand do it, I don’t think. It’s fun. It is very important we improve and learn to improve.”

Interesting. When he offered to take me out earlier in the night, this was the last thing I thought I’d be left with – this idea of learning, at least, in this environment. To me, it was a creative and exotic way to learn. It made sense in other contexts, though. There was no disconnect for me when I had made the comparison to a professional basketball, or soccer player. Aspiring athletes watch and re-watch film. They ask the questions others are afraid to ask. They offer the answers others are afraid to answer. If you want to improve, you immerse yourself in the culture, the language…you familiarize yourself and drown in wells of knowledge related to your craft. You observe others, eager for the same fruits. These things, I already knew. I’ve heard this same song for years and years, especially leaving high school and into university.

I laid in bed and asked myself if I had actually been applying these modules and others that had up until that point been stowed away on a dusty shelf in my brain. I felt my co-op moving sluggishly. It didn’t have the pace that I expected it to have. I didn’t feel like I was doing enough. This dissatisfaction though, wasn’t due to my colleagues or supervisor. It was my own doing. I wasn’t asking the questions I needed to ask. I wasn’t offering answers to the questions that needed answers. I was being too passive.

The following week, I came prepared. Rejuvenated from the experience at the club and in the car, I felt…good. As my teammates would say, it was time to ‘eat’. I wasn’t alone at the proverbial dinner table either. This newfound confidence, stemming from a bit of introspection put me in the right place, in front of the right people.

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.

Resume “Power Verbs,” And Why You Need Them

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A resume is said to be a representation of your entire professional being, however, employers are now looking at your resume to see what you are actually capable of in the workplace, and what you could be capable of doing in the future. Convincing an employer you are the right person for the job all starts with the right words. Every word on your resume should be there for a reason- if the word serves no greater purpose, get rid of it! I believe that the most important words on a resume should be verbs, which I like to call power verbs. Every verb used to describe a work, volunteer, academic or personal experience should be meaningful, and show both your power and potential in one way or another.

Here are a few of my favorite power verbs, and why you should consider including them in your next resume revision:

Collaborate

In a recent article from Forbes titled “The 10 Skills Employers Most Want In 2015 Graduates,” the ability to work in a team structure was listed as the number one skill employers seek in their future employees. And this skill is not limited to any one field- no matter where you are planning on applying for a job, odds are pretty high that you will be working with others. With all this said, it is important that you show your ability to be a team player on your resume with a power verb. I love the word collaborate, because it implies an ability to both give and receive from a group.

Oversee

Management and facilitation skills are especially impressive to employers (with no surprise, an ability to make decisions and solve problems was number two on the Forbes list), and you can imply you have both with “oversee.” Consider using the word oversee with regard to any leadership positions you have held, whether that be on campus or professionally.

Develop/Design

The verbs develop and design show professional creativity, and prove that you can come up with new ideas and ways to solve problems in the workplace. Both of these verbs are great if you want to show off your creative and innovative experience.

Improve

It seems obvious, but employers want to hire someone who will make their workplace better. They want someone who will make their systems better, their work environment better, and their lives easier. The power verb that shows you are the person for this is “improve.” You can improve just about anything, meaning you can use this verb to describe basically any experience you have on your resume.

Click here to read the full Forbes article.

 

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. 

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.