Combatting Imposter Syndrome: A Life-Long Battle

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Aspen ImposterImposter Syndrome: we’ve all felt it at some point in our lives. It starts with a creeping feeling of self-doubt. Then the questions start. How did I fool everyone for this long? Will everyone realize I don’t belong here? How much longer can I keep up this façade? Sometimes nerve-racking situations like giving a presentation to peers will bring the onslaught of questions, while other times all it takes is a bad day at work. It is a phenomenon that is experienced by most but discussed by few as if repeating the questions out loud will somehow make them a reality.

Imposter syndrome was first defined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imesas as: “high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.

Sheryl Sandberg, the author of Lean In :Women, Work and the Will to Lead, also shares a description of this phenomenon:“Many people, but especially women, feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being high achievers, even experts in their fields, women can’t seem to shake the sense that it is only a matter of time until they are found out for who they really are- impostors with limited skills or abilities.”

Even wildly successful people such as Tina Fey, Neil Gaiman, and Maya Angelou have admitted to feeling this way at times.

If you Google imposter syndrome you will find numerous lists and articles about how to combat it, and I think many of those suggestions are valid. I particularly liked 21 ways to overcome imposter syndrome by Kyle Eschenroeder. However, most are suggestions that involve intentionally changing your thinking, which is often easier said than done. Instead, I will offer something that has worked for me. It may sound simple, but I’ve found that the best way to combat imposter syndrome is to have a hobby. By hobby, I mean something that you love and know that you are good at. For me, that hobby is photography. When I’m having a bad day, week, or month of experiments in the lab, or when I’m nervous about a presentation, I find that photo shoots and capturing images that I am proud of help to remind me that it’s all in my head. It reminds me that I’m talented and that I got to where I am with hard work, not by misleading a bunch of people about my skills. This suggestion probably sounds weird, because my ability to take a photo and the skills that make me a successful graduate student are seemingly unrelated, but I’ve found that it works. I think it works because it breaks the cycle of self-doubt, even just for a few moments, which is all it takes to fight back against imposter syndrome. It’s like a reset button that gives you a chance to start again and focus on the good things instead of the doubts. Unfortunately, this isn’t a permanent solution, and the next presentation or stressful day to come along brings back those same questions. But so far, doing something that I love has worked every time to stop that inner voice from asking how much longer I have until someone sees right through my façade.

Katie Stember is a Northeastern Alumnae (Class of ’13) who was very involved with Husky Ambassadors as a student. She is currently a Ph.D. student in Biomedical Sciences at UNC Chapel Hill studying an autoimmune disease called ANCA Vasculitis. She’s a proud cat mom and in her free time does volunteer photography for a local animal shelter. Feel free to contact her at


The Pros and Cons of Living WAY Off Campus

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With room and board being ridiculously high in the city, some students turn to alternative living situations. Thinking of living WAY off campus? Here are some pros and cons I’ve gleaned from living in a small suburb in Malden, Massachusetts.

Let’s start with the cons (we’ll save the best for last!)

backpack2THE COMMUTE
The commute is by far one of the toughest parts about living far off campus, especially when the Boston snowpocalypse descends upon our helpless souls. Every morning and evening, I travel 40 minutes to and from school and occasionally endure the hellish 7-8 rush hour on the T. And no one is a happy camper on the T when it becomes a stuffed sausage in which no one wants to make room for the person next to them.

One convenient thing about living on or close to campus is being able to collapse on your bed in the middle of the day. I mean, I guess you could find an unoccupied couch in the library. And if you forgot your class materials back at home, better come up with a GREAT excuse as to why you’ve come to class empty-handed!

While living on campus allows one to take only what you need to a certain class before returning to your room to pick up the necessities for a later class, living way off campus means having to take everything you need in a day, packing it on your back like a mule, and hiking to every class with a lunchbox, laptop, and notes. On the upside, it’s trained me to think “light” and take only what is absolutely necessary. Last year, I left my laptop at home and got used to using the computers in the library. May sound ludicrous, but it helped me focus better in class when I couldn’t get on Facebook as “wah-wah, wah-wah-wah,” started coming from my professor’s mouth.

When you can’t walk over to a girlfriend’s room or classmate’s dorm at 12am for a little fun time or a class project because you’ve already gone home for the night, it’s hard to have that 24/7 access to campus social life.

If mum and dad can’t help out, and you didn’t hone in on your saving and budgeting skills over summer break, paying for rent out of pocket can be a pain and a pressure. $650 a month means cutting costs for most college students. It means rarely ever going out to eat or shopping in order to afford the monthly payments, and working all year round to make sure rent is always covered.

While that may sound rough, here are the reasons why I LOVE living WAY off campus!

Woman with coins in jar

The best thing about living off campus, is, of course, the affordability. While living on campus in the cheapest dorms can be up to $3,100 per semester, some of the cheaper living situations off campus can be up to $2,600 a semester with the internet, water, electricity, and laundry included. For example, my current rent is approx. $650 a month with all expenses included. It helps me sleep better at night to know that at least room and board aren’t being added to my college debt!

One of the struggles of living in a campus dorm is loud neighbors and the hubbub of noisy city life. For someone who doesn’t really enjoy having neighbors who constantly invite people over, play loud music, or simply have people living around them who seem to be unidentified zoo animals, the quietude of a small suburb and mature and respectful housemates can be a godsend.

Many graduate students or mature young adults live in rentable rooms out in Boston suburbia and commute thirty minutes or more to work or class. One plus of living off campus is feeling like a legit grown-up instead of the “waking-up-5-minutes-before-class-and-skipping face-washing-or-teeth-brushing” routine. In order to get to class on time, being on top of time management is essential. Great practice for the dreaded ADULTHOOD!

Living off campus, I’ve met graduate students and interns from all over the world–from an Austrian archaeologist to a Venezuelan lawyer. I’ve also befriended the neighborhood mom-and-pop hair stylists who trim my hair for $10. Pretty good deal on a haircut if you ask me!

For some busy students (or anti-fitness individuals), walking is the only exercise worked into their schedule. Walking to the T stop every morning and night are sure to have your calves walk-marathon ready.

Having a semester T pass is a must when commuting on the daily. While the price for a semester T pass is high (and also un-refundable if you lose it), having a T pass is like having the FastPass at Disney World. Worrying about refilling your charlie card is a forgotten misery while your friends struggle on the other side of the gate to recharge their cards!

Despite all the difficulties of living out of the way, I love living off campus and would recommend it to anyone looking for comfortable and cheaper rooming options!

This Blog was written by Laura Ma.  She is currently a third year English Major and ex-Architecture Major. She has an assortment of passions including working the drive-thru window at Taco Bell, learning to speak German, and dancing solo in her basement. Feel free to reach out to her at


Co-op Abroad! Discover Trinidad & Tobago

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For students who are considering a global co-op that would prefer an English-speaking location with amazing weather, budget-friendly flights and living expenses, great professional opportunities, and the perfect place to get in some vacation fun during your off hours…then Trinidad & Tobago may be the right place for you.

A Caribbean island not far off the South American coast of Venezuela, Trinidad & Tobago is famous for having the world’s best Carnival celebration, mouthwatering cuisine, and breathtmap-of-trinidad-and-tobago-7aaking beaches. However, there is so much more that the island has to offer than being the perfect host for a holiday.

Trinidad being heavily influenced by oil and gas is not only one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean but also the third richest country by GDP per capita in the Americas after the United States and Canada. Furthermore, the World Bank recognizes it as a high-income economy. The nation has a natural gas industry that stands well over GDP $20 billion and is the financial capital of Caribbean. These factors drive the demand for quality labor, especially in specialized areas as it pertains to the energy sector. Also, with the big consulting opportunities the country is an attractive location for business, engineering and computer science professionals as well.

With a mission to expand Northeastern’s global co-op opportunities to new regions, I took the opportunity to venture to Trinidad with the hopes that it will increase the number of students going to the Caribbean.

My first two days were spent at The University of West Indies, St. Augustine (UWI). UWI affectionately pronounced “you-ee” is situated right outside of the capital of Port of Spain. The 15 minute trip to their campus cost less than $1 using a “maxi taxi” which are local taxis running pre-set routes just like a bus line. Once there, I had the opportunity to engage with employers and present at their career fair. These included names such as Deloitte, Sherwin-Williams, and ScotiaBank, who would be interested in hosting students from Northeastern University as well.

Right now, Northeastern has an exchange partnership with UWI for both studying abroad and global co-op. The school’s focus is on research and innovation and they have academic programs spanning six colleges that are fully accredited and internationally competitive. Also boasting a cosmopolitan campus community this would be an excellent location to gain some international experience in the Caribbean.

Following the campus visit and career fair the remaining days were having private meetings with companies. Due to our strong alumni base and parents of international students, I had the opportunity to make unique connections with certain employers. Some notable examples include Ansa McCal, a multibillion-dollar conglomerate operating in 8 different sectors as well as the International School of Port of Spain, which is an international baccalaureate institution.

However, the trip was not all work and no play! When the week was over and it was time to unwind before returning to Boston I made sure to indulge in the sights, sounds and flavors the country had to offer. In Trinidad, I went to Maracas Beach which is a short drive outside of the capital city. Along the way, there is much to see as you drive through the mountains and can stop at the Maracas lookout point where you can see the beautiful bay that Maracas beach resides. Once on the beach, I was told that one would be remiss to not try their native “bake and shark” dish from one of the many huts selling them. The shark is deep fried served on the “bake” which is kneaded flour that is fried in make the bread and then you can customize your toppings. Another day I took the ferry to the neighboring island of Tobago. While Trinidad is catered around business, Tobago generally is more reminiscent of a resort island focused on tourism. If you’re into natural wonders such as beaches, waterfalls, and coral reefs you will not be disappointed!

Having been to the country and experiencing first hand what Trinidad & Tobago has to offer I can say that a professional or academic trip there would be well worth it and very much enjoyed!

Joshua Best is a Global Employer Relations’ Coordinator working in the Department of Cooperative Education and Career Development. In his current role, he is responsible for global co-op development in Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. When he’s not at work or studying he enjoys exploring the local food scene, refining his Spanish skills, and practices Krav Maga.
Prior to this position he lived in Australia working at an international development consulting firm overseeing staffing on their projects in Indonesia. Originally from Columbia, MD he has an undergraduate degree in Anthropology from the University of Maryland, College Park and is now pursuing his MS in Global Studies and International Relations from Northeastern.