A Reminder for Those Rainy Days in Life

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A photo by Gabriel Santiago. unsplash.com/photos/1vYkQVDWXl0The college years are universally considered one of the high points of peoples’ lives, and for good reason. College is often the first experience with real freedom: no one telling you to clean your room, do your homework, or go to sleep already. Additionally, you’re surrounded by masses of people the same age as you who are all excited to be learning in classes and working toward their future careers. College is also the time where most people turn 21 and going out for a casual drink with friends becomes a reality. For most people, it’s the perfect combination of freedom and a manageable amount of responsibility. Like many others, I consider my college years some of the best of my life, but that doesn’t mean that things didn’t go horribly wrong.

The other day a friend and I were reminiscing about our sophomore year of college and along with the amazing memories came the memories of the times we really struggled. While we were all joining clubs, pursuing our first co-ops, and exploring our individual interests, my parents were getting divorced. While I wasn’t particularly surprised by this decision, it was a stressful time in my life, not least because it was all happening three thousand miles away. The part I struggled with most was that people I loved (my mother, father, and sister) were hurting. There wasn’t anything I could do to take away their pain and I wasn’t there to help with the logistics of their separation, which led to a lot of guilt. At the time it really felt like my family would never recover. Six years later, we have found a new “normal” that I couldn’t even imagine at the time, and we are undoubtedly all in a better place.

Now in graduate school, I’m in the middle of another dark spot. I recently found out that my two-year-old cat I raised from a kitten has heart disease. This news came shortly after a string of unrelated veterinary visits for both of my cats that have racked up overwhelming bills. To make a stressful situation worse, the vet has no idea whether he will do well on medication and live another ten years, or if he will deteriorate quickly and be gone much sooner than he should be. In addition, I now have to remember to give him a pill every twelve hours, which is no easy task amidst the insanity that graduate school can sometimes bring. The logical part of my brain is telling me that this too will pass and that if I’ve gotten through all of the other curve balls that life has thrown my way, I will be able to get through this one too. But there are days where I look at my sweet cat with all of his shaved patches from the numerous vet visits and it really doesn’t feel like I will find “normal” again.

By putting these two experiences next to each other I’ve realized that even though there were difficult times, I still think of my time at Northeastern as some of the best years of my life. Not despite the hard times, and not because I overcame them, but because life is a roller coaster and the downs help us to appreciate the ups and the ups help us survive the downs. And maybe six years from now I will be snuggling with my cat fondly reminiscing about my time in graduate school, both the good and the bad. So for those of you out there who are struggling, and for those days where it’s hard to get out of bed, this is a reminder for both you and me. A wise man once said “what a difference a day makes,” and for the smaller obstacles in life, it’s so true that just one day can completely change your perspective. For the larger battles in life, one day may not feel like much change, but if you can keep putting one foot in front of the other, eventually enough days will have passed that you will have found your new “normal.” So, be kind to yourself because sometimes the world won’t be. Know that nothing lasts forever and that it’s okay to fall down, as long as you continue to get back up, no matter how long it takes.

In the Land of Fairy Tale Castles and Game Designs

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Are you considering Germany as a destination for your global co-op experience? 

This country located in the heart of Europe is an economic powerhouse, hosts some of the highest ranking universities and competitive employers in the areas of research, banking, architecture and every else you might imagine.  A great location with access to many major European cities within a few hours.               

Neuschwanstein Castle

I trIMG_2056aveled to Berlin and Munich in April to develop co-ops with universities and employers.  Northeastern has already active partnerships with Humboldt and Freie Universities and the plan was to expand and include Technical University of Berlin, Ludwig Maximillian University and Technical University of Munich.  Amazing opportunities for research in many disciplines for the Colleges of Engineering (COE), College of Science and College of Computer Science (CCIS) and Information Technology.   Already two NU students are on their way to Munich to conduct their exciting research opportunities at LMU.

Additionally, Germany and Berlin especially is a hub for architects and game design professionals.  Names such as Behzadi, Topotek 1, Peters und Wormuth are among the well-known architecture firms already hosting Northeastern students.  My short visits to these companies were both profitable and enjoyable.  Our students, all from the College of Arts, Media and Design were fully immersed into the highly competitive and diverse teams.  The best part is that they socialize after work which makes life so much more interesting in a city such as Berlin and proves that the Husky network is always strong abroad.

The laboratory at SOPAT
IMG_1931 (002)Germany is also a popular country for COE students with a growing number of engineering firms offering co-ops.  I visited SOPAT, a company specializing in the analysis of particulate systems.  They develop and market an innovative measurement technology for real-time analysis of multi-phase systems.  Their technique is optimizing chemical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnological processes.  Our contact has two ongoing positions for COE students and just created a new one for CCIS.

At Wooga

IMG_1909Wooga, is a true a playground for professionals.  My first and best game design company.  Mackenzie Denker, CCIS student, and my gracious host showed me the magnificent open space offices, employee dining area (they get cooked meals every day), employee nap spaces (yes, you read it right), conference rooms and waiting areas.  The game theme was everywhere and at the reception, a visitor can get freebies.  I ended up with an Agent Alice t-shirt and stickers.  An excellent employer for CCIS students interested in game design and also CAMD for graphic design and art/animation interns and UI/UX.

IMG_2017Linderhof Palace

The real no Disney version– fairy tale castles.  When you find yourself in Germany or any other country close by, you should definitely visit the castles in Munich, Bavaria.  The Neuschwanstein Castle and Linderhof Palace built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria are simply amazing.  During your visit, you can enjoy extraordinary Bavarian food, picturesque villages along the way and the grandeur of the Alps.

Business Co-ops with a flavor – did I mention the desserts?IMG_1893
Make sure you enjoy cheesecake and tiramisu while in Germany.  One of my employer visits included the best cream cheese and cappuccino from a small local coffee shop by the name of Café 93.  Julius Chichon, a D’ Amore – McKim graduate invited me over to talk about co-ops at his start-up company.

Stay tuned…


This blog was submitted by Aspa Papanastasiou.  Aspa brings over 15 years of job development and program management to the Global Employer Relations Team. Talented in recruitment and placement of diverse candidates she enjoys creating partnerships in higher education, business, and non-profit industries.  Aspa strives to maximize her global connections to develop new and exciting co-op opportunities for students of all Northeastern Colleges.   When she is not on Skype with an employer or university in some distant part of the world she enjoys biking and sailing at the Charles River. She can be reached at a.papanastasiou@northeastern.edu

Twitter! Your Networking Secret Weapon

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The pinnacle of my college networking experiences came in the form of tea in New York City with a writer from my favorite magazine. I slipped away from my final semester for a week to network while I could still use the whole “college student figuring out what I want to do with my life” excuse to ask for people’s time. What my career counselor found to be most miraculous about this particular informational interview was not that I was fortunate enough to have it, it was how. In retrospect, my request was quite long-winded and ridiculous. Journalists, I have found, are a laid-back, friendly bunch, though I was too intimidated at the time and could only muster formalities. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My first ever tweet had something to do with the frozen vegetable medley I made with dinner, complete with a hashtag I can’t remember. While that account no longer exists, I filled it with 140-character bursts of millennial genius while latching onto every word Bret Easton Ellis and Nikki Sixx tweeted, and used it to catch up with my internet friends. Everybody starts somewhere. When I got my own radio show on WRBB, I created a Twitter account to promote it and the local musicians I spun and interviewed on-air. Twitter continued to prove a worthwhile tool during an internship with ‘stache media/RED Distribution when I began using the same account to post content about larger/more well-known music artists, which were subsequently shared by said artists, venues, and record labels. Tweeting mostly about music, I began having some semblance of clout. And then one Friday, I tweeted #FF (for #FollowFriday, where the goal is to call attention to accounts worth paying attention to) and listed every writer I could find from my favorite magazine. Most of them ignored it, two of them favorited it, and one followed me back. After we started engaging with each other’s posts, I felt comfortable enough to ask him for his email address and sent a request to meet up for an informational interview the next time I was in New York. This was a few years ago, and his family and I keep in touch.

I share this now with the intent to provide basic guidelines for how one can create one’s own experiences and foster meaningful connections (that can turn into friendships) through Twitter. Social networks, after all, are called “networks” for a reason.

Understanding Twitter’s True Value

My favorite thing about Twitter is how accessible people are — the writers, the celebrities, the executives, the Forbes 30 Under 30. On LinkedIn, you need to be a certain degree to a person in order to message him/her, but with Twitter, you can reach out to anyone. Not only does Twitter provide an opportunity to engage with people on a more personal level, it allows you to keep up with industry trends and happenings in real time.

building-up-strong-connections-on-twitterFinding Ideal Contacts

Interested in working at a specific company?
Follow everyone you can who lists employment at your dream company in their bio. Engage with them about the professional content they post (taking interest in the personal life of someone you’ve never interacted with is creepy). As with anything, being overzealous isn’t appealing — liking or retweeting every tweet your ideal connection posts isn’t going to make a good impression. Instead, share a link to an article or video this person posted and include his/her handle at the end with “via @username.” If he/she wrote an article, tweet the link, tag the person, and write about the value it gave you.

Trying to break into a specific field? Find out who the influencers are by following industry publications and those who write for them. The more time you spend reading up on an industry, the more informed you are of real world applications, trends, and executives. When you engage with potential contacts, you’ll come across as someone who pays attention.

Establishing Your Voice & Rules of Engagement (Don’t be a sycophant)

  • Notice what your potential contacts tweet and how they do it. Of course, don’t curse or get political (even if they do), but, given your field, emojis can be acceptable here.
  • Be a human, not a robot. People like authenticity, not those who are all business, so don’t be afraid to intersperse personal tidbits in your posts. Big sports fan? Tweet about the game. Went to a concert one night? Share a photo.
  • When sharing content about your field, tag all those involved and always give credit when and where it’s due.
  • If you’re not knowledgeable about something, be resourceful and do some research. If you don’t know where to start, tweet to an influencer: “Not too familiar with this but would love to learn. Who are your favorite writers on the subject? What websites do you recommend I look at?” If you show an interest in learning, people are apt to respond in your favor.
  • Do NOT “troll” people, start arguments, rant about a bad day you’re having, or subtweet (passive-aggressive hints at a problem or frustration without directly mentioning the issue).

Twitter can be a great networking tool if you take advantage of the platform and create opportunities for yourself. Who knows who you’ll click with and where it could lead? Remember, you can’t control whether people respond to you, but you can control your approach.

A graduate of Northeastern with a degree in English, Ashley previously was the News Director and a DJ for WRBB 104.9 FM, the university’s student-run radio station. When she’s not working at Apple, she writes for music blogs and builds her marketing portfolio. Informational interviews, cooking and rock & roll are some of her favorite things. Tell her what you’re listening to via Twitter @amjcbs or connect with her on LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/amjcbs).