New City, New Home – Feeling Confident Outside of Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Tips to Maximize Week One in the Workplace

Rose pic 2_Fotor_CollageI’ve officially made it through week one at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador and I have to say, it has surpassed every expectation I had. The community here is unlike anything I have ever seen – being some of the only Americans here breeds a strong sense of camaraderie. I feel extremely lucky that I have been welcomed so warmly into the community, both professionally and personally.

Maximizing your first week in the office is incredibly important. It sets the tone for the rest of your co-op and you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot. Here are three tips to get the most out of your first week and to set you up for a great co-op!

1. Soak in everything that is going on around you.

Starting a new job, wherever it is, means there are tons of new things to take in. You have to learn how the office runs, what is expected of you, who are the key players in the organization, and where basic things (like the bathroom and the cafeteria) are. Compared to Capitol Hill, where I worked for my first co-op, Embassy Quito is small. There is little opportunity to get lost, but the amount of other things to learn is vast. I spent most of my first week trying to figure out exactly how everyone fits in to the Embassy structure and what each office does. Even though it can sometimes be hard to ask your new co-workers to explain the basics of what they do, it shows that you are interested in getting to know your new surroundings and the work that is going on all around you.

2. Meet everyone you can and start to build important relationships.

Your new co-workers are the start of your new network. It is critically important that you start to build these relationships as early as possible. Whether you have four months or six on co-op, time will go by quickly. You don’t want to wait until your last week to start building relationships with your co-workers in order to get a good letter of recommendation. Meeting your colleagues early on will not only provide you with a strong base for networking, but it will also make your work experience more enjoyable.

I was able to sit down and meet with the US Ambassador to Ecuador on my second day in the office and it gave me the confidence I needed to ask to sit down with the other department heads to learn about what they do every day.

3. Be flexible about your assignments, but don’t be afraid to speak up

Learning about what exactly you will be doing on co-op is a very exciting time. You might not get to do a lot of actual work your first week as your employer gets everything set up for you. This was especially true for me this week – my office had to schedule briefings and meetings for me, figure out how to set up all my computers and email, and show me around the Embassy compound.

Understand that as the co-op or the intern, you are most likely at the bottom of the office hierarchy. Take the work that is given to you, even if it not what you originally expected, and make sure you do it to the best of your ability. This will show your supervisors the quality of your work and instill confidence in them about the work you are capable of. Speak up if there is something you see going on in the office that you want to be a part of. Don’t expect that people will read your mind about your interests; you have to let them know what you want to work on.

This week I’ve been able to work on research about NGO funding to Ecuadorian programs, but I was able to sit down with my supervisors and discuss my interests in issues affecting disadvantaged populations. Now that they know what I want to work on, we are talking about the research I can do on human rights abuses in Ecuadorian prisons or the issues surrounding indigenous populations.

No matter what kind of job you’re starting, keep an open mind about your workplace and be open to whatever work comes your way!

Rose Leopold is a third-year political science major currently on international co-op with the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador. Prior to this experience, Rose spent her first co-op in the office of Senator Elizabeth Warren in Washington, D.C. Follow Rose’s adventures through her blog and on Instagram @roselandis.

5 Ways to Make the Most of Working Remotely

laptop computer deskIt seems as though nowadays, you can work from just about anywhere- a traditional office, your home, a coffee shop, you name it. And to be honest, I personally love working away from the workplace. It has been proven that working remotely minimizes distractions, increases productivity, gives employees much needed flexibility, and increases creativity. Who wouldn’t want to work away from the office then?

Although working remotely is more convenient, and often more efficient, distractions can be abundant. Keep these tips in mind before you start out for a new work location:

1. Have an agenda.
Working away from the office provides greater independence, however it can also lead to wasting time when there is absolutely no structure. I recommend writing down your tasks before heading out, in order of urgency. If there are projects that need to be completed, start there. You’re your own boss away from the office.

2. Figure out what kind of background noise works best for you.
Always listening to music, and always finding yourself distracted? Try going to a cafe or outdoor space, where you can have some white noise. If the white noise of public spaces feels strange to you, find a work playlist or Pandora station that can keep you focused. Working remotely gives you the opportunity to find what works best for you, not for your entire office.

3. Keep normal hours.
Although it’s tempting to work at random times, keeping a general 8-4 or 9-5 schedule helps to maintain a bit of structure to a seemingly structureless workday. If a “typical” workday schedule is what you are trying to avoid try setting time limits such as, “I will work from noon until 3, then allow myself to take a break.” When working remotely, time can either be your biggest friend or your biggest enemy. Aim to befriend it.

4. Stay in touch with your work- and ask questions.
This seems somewhat obvious, however it is surprising how being away from an office can lead to directionless working. Being aware of what your boss or supervisor’s expectations are can go a long way- especially when they are not easily accessible during the day. Try to get what is expected of you in writing the day before, so that you know exactly what your responsibilities are for the following day.

5. Change up your space often.
You found a coffee shop that you love, or a public library you adore. But going there every single day can cause this beloved place to become a new type of home- thus causing the same exact rut that you were attempting to avoid. Switching up your environment can spark new creativity, and stops the “same old, same old” feeling of the workplace.

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

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

Preparing for International Co-op

white workspace macbookPreparation is key.

I leave for Ecuador in exactly five days and I just bought my plane tickets! I know exactly what you’re thinking, for someone writing about job preparation, she really doesn’t seem very prepared for the next four months.

Let me backtrack a bit and describe my situation. I will be on co-op with the U.S. Department of State for the next four months at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador. I’ll be doing political work in the Embassy, which will include researching political issues in Ecuador and writing reports on how those issues affect the United States. I am beyond excited to start, but for a while I didn’t think I would get to do the work at all. I’ll talk about my experience applying for international co-op and preparation for the adventure with three simple tips.

1. Have an idea of what you are interested in doing and start researching early.

Before I left my last co-op in Washington, D.C. I had already begun brainstorming what I was interested in doing for my second co-op. This proved to be essential because I was able to get a head start on my application and was not rushed when the due date rolled around. Many international co-ops have earlier application deadlines than domestic co-ops, which is why making sure your resume is always up to date is very important. I knew I wanted to work in government in some way for all my co-ops, but I was also very keen on traveling. When someone mentioned the State Department overseas Embassy internships, I knew I had to apply. My application deadline was extremely early – July 1st for a job that wouldn’t start until at least January of the following year. While this early of a deadline is unusual, other international co-ops can have early dates because of visa issues. Making sure that you do your research early so that you are aware of any special deadlines is crucial if you are considering an international co-op.

2. Keep an eye on your inbox and make sure you respond to emails from your employer right away.

This is key for any job, but especially if you need special paperwork for your international co-op. In my case, I had to complete extremely in-depth paperwork so that I could obtain a security clearance as well as get fingerprinted by the police. Both of these things were very time sensitive in my case and responding early to those requests is what allowed me to get my clearance in time to start my co-op as planned.

In other cases, you might have to deal with background checks, visa issues, and international housing; all of which take time to figure out. Don’t wait until the last minute or your plans for international co-op could be ruined.

3. Be patient.

This is perhaps the best piece of advice I received and that I could give to someone. Even though I accepted my co-op back in July, it was not official until I was granted my full security clearance the second week of January. This whole process has taken six months to get set up and so much of that time was filled with uncertainty. I won’t lie – I had many freak-outs over the past semester when I thought my clearance wouldn’t come through in time or when I was sure something was going to go wrong along the way to prevent me from ending up in Ecuador next week. Patience is key, especially when you are traveling and working internationally.

Rose Leopold is a third-year political science major currently on international co-op with the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. Embassy in Quito, Ecuador. Prior to this experience, Rose spent her first co-op in the office of Senator Elizabeth Warren in Washington, D.C. Follow Rose’s adventures through her blog and on Instagram @roselandis.

Keep Calm and Move to Africa


In 48 hours, I’ll board a plane destined for Cape Town, South Africa to begin my first co-op. My bags are packed, my passport is ready, and my movie playlist is prepared- yet I feel strangely apprehensive. I’ve worked abroad before, however, I’m now under more pressure, and more stress. Any Northeastern student can recognize this bizarre feeling of elation, curiosity, and uneasiness. This is co-op. And to add, this is Africa.

Looking back on all of the moments I’ve left my comfort zone, I think to myself, how did I do that? Mustering up the courage to move is difficult, emotionally exhausting, and just scary. Add in a full time job and the stress doubles. To ease my pre-travel butterflies, I’ve given myself four reminders- four sentences that will ground, gratify, and calm my million-miles-a-minute mind. Four ways to give myself a break during the circus which is international co-op.

I will mess up both professionally, and personally.
But that only means that I’m trying. Expectations often create unattainable standards that we don’t realize we have set for ourselves- until we don’t reach them. I want to keep myself motivated, happy and healthy at work. I want to challenge myself, I want to take on new tasks, and I want to interact with exciting youth and inspiring coworkers. Holding myself to perfection is both limiting, and destined for disappointment.

Embrace my difference and run with it.
There is something both absolutely terrifying and absolutely beautiful about being a foreigner. What I’ve come to realize is that my difference is my greatest asset, and while it’s sometimes simpler to run away from it, the most rewarding route is to run towards it. My American perspective brings new ideas and new ways of doing things to my workplace. Why not capitalize?

Work is just going to be work until I make it something more.
Who says you can’t benefit personally from your job? I’ve realized that loving a job not only makes the work day go faster, but makes the work mean something. I want to savor every meaningful experience I have- whether it’s learning from my phenomenal coworkers, facilitating a successful workshop, or finally figuring out what a new South African word means. Every single moment should be more than “just work.”

I’ll get it- eventually.
I’m new, and eventually, I’ll understand. It may take some time, and it may happen after some embarrassing moments and misunderstandings. The beauty of working abroad comes from learning, growing, and exploring- not from being an expert from the start.

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

Finding an Internship Without Prior Experience



This guest post was written by Sam Carkin, a middler studying Marketing and Interactive Media. This article was originally posted on The Works on February 24, 2014.

The “real world” can be intimidating; especially when you’re just starting out. Sure, that first job as a house painter or bus boy is great for earning some money and learning to work with others, but I am assuming if you came to Northeastern you are looking to do something within your major. Northeastern is special in the sense that co-op allows you to work within your major prior to graduation, but what if you want some experience for your résumé before applying to that first co-op job? A summer internship right after your freshman year is an awesome way to go, and something I had the opportunity to do last summer with integrated marketing firm GY&K. Below, is some strategies I used for landing that internship where I gained experience in the marketing and advertising field before my first co-op (which will begin in July).

1. Network, network, network:  I visited a family friend who worked at a huge marketing agency called Arnold Worldwide. He had been in the industry a while and agreed to introduce me to an employee at GY&K, the person who ultimately offered me the internship. Ask your parents, ask your friends, find SOMEONE that works in your industry of choice and ask them if they know anyone that you might be able to talk to or work for.

2. Informational Interviews are kEY: OK, so I had been introduced to this person from GY&K, but what now? An informational interview is a perfect way to demonstrate professionalism and interest, while also learning a great deal from someone who knows the industry well. If it goes well, you have a better chance of possibly working for the person you speak with.

3. Have confidence: Going in to speak with an industry professional can be extremely intimidating; however, setting up informational interviews shows that you are genuinely interested in what that person does and see them as a successful individual in their field. They will be just as excited to tell you what they know as you are to learn, and it should be treated as a casual conversation during which you can make a great first impression.

4. Do not be afraid to ask: If your interview went well, at the end feel free to ask if that professional’s company has any opportunities for you to gain experience, or if they know of any other companies that might have these opportunities. It will allow you to possibly find that internship position, or continue to grow your network.

Sam Carkin is currently in his 3rd year at Northeastern University. He is a dual major of Business Administration-Marketing and Interactive Media and will be finishing up his first co-op this month. Feel free to contact him at with any questions related to the blog post or his experiences.

How To Find A Co-Op: My Journey As An International Student


My name is Maria from Venezuela and I am doing a Master in Project Management through the College of Professional Studies. I am writing today because I want to help the international community at Northeastern fight the odds that all foreign students face in the United States.

I have heard many times that finding a good paid coop for an international is very difficult. Well, I disagree with that statement. I will give you a few tips that will help you to find a Coop/Internship.

Set your goal ahead of time. If you put your mind and energy in finding a coop you will get it.

Start four months before the date you want to begin. The earlier, the better.

Write a resume with the USA standards. I highly recommend you to go the Career Development Office. They will also help you with cover letters.

Create a good LinkedIn profile. Here is a link to mine.

Make business cards. This is a technique that can help differentiate yourself from others candidates. You can use Vistaprint to make them.

Start the job search: MyNEU COOL, NU Career Development website, companies’ websites, networking, career fairs, etc. You should try all of them. The university has partnerships with many companies that you can apply to. You can also speak to your friends, classmates and professors and let them know you are looking for a co-op. You will be surprised.

Apply, apply, apply and apply. Many students think that applying to just 10 companies is enough. There is no enough. You end your co-op search when you find the correct one.

You need to work harder. Remember that domestic students have two advantages: English as their first language and infinite job permission. So, it is time to show how good you are.

You will need to find your co-op with time. After you get your co-op, you will need your co-op advisor’s permission and then the ISSI permission to issue a new I-20.

Many students ask themselves what the difference between a coop and internship is. An internship is part-time job (paid or unpaid). On the other hand, a co-op is full time and, in most cases, is paid.

All these tips may look very similar to others you can find online, but they really worked for me. If you focus in what you really want there will be no obstacles you cannot overcome. Lastly, you will really need a positive attitude because you will receive rejections from many companies until you finally get your co-op.

Maria Martin is a Venezuelan Master’s Degree student. She is currently doing a full time paid coop at NSTAR in the Marketing and Sales Department. You can contact her at

Company Holiday Parties: A Survival Guide

allow-apologize-advance-going-christmas-ecard-someecardsThis guest post was written by graduate candidate and full time professional, Kristina Swope.

It’s that time of the year where everyone’s full of joy, love, and gratitude. It’s a time to reflect on the last 12 months, be thankful, and let others know that they are appreciated. Considering you spend 40+ hours per week with the same people, why not share that appreciation with your coworkers at a holiday party?

It sounds innocent enough. You say, “it’ll be fun”, “I won’t drink that much”, or “I’ll be careful.” It always sounds like a great plan, yet before you know it, you wake up the next day and realize you sang Lady Gaga karaoke with your divisional leader in front of the whole company. You’ll hide under the covers in shame, convinced you can never emerge from the depths of cotton. You don’t realize there are more details coming Monday that will further shame you. For example, hearing that you stood in front of the artificial smoke machine screaming “HOOOOOOO!” a la Michael Jackson. It might sound amusing, but that’s only because it happened to me instead of you.

While it was fun, in hindsight, I wish I had just been a normal person at that party. Instead, I started off my career with embarrassing party behavior that will haunt me forever. Reason being, it completely changed the dynamic in the office afterwards with coworkers now seeing me as the fun, silly, goofy one instead of as a committed member of the team.

To prevent this from happening to you, here are a few a suggestions for surviving a company holiday party:

  1. Don’t “go hard”. If you’re old enough to have a big kid job, you’re old enough to drink responsibly and be aware of how much you can consume without making a complete fool of yourself. Excess consumption is just not worth the risk of saying something you won’t remember or being unsafe; stay within your limits.
  2. Don’t completely let loose verbally. Your coworkers don’t need to hear you swear 1,700 times or hear about super personal events just because you aren’t in the office. Remember that, despite the casual environment, you’re still with coworkers and need to keep that line of respect if you want the dynamic to be normal on Monday.
  3. Don’t sing or dance “seriously”. Just don’t. Unless you are the second coming of Adele or you are an adorably awkward dancer like Taylor Swift, just avoid it entirely. Chances are you think you’re doing way better than you actually are, and you don’t want to ruin a song for yourself by linking it to your corporate humiliation.

  4. Do thank your CEO before either of you leave. Company parties are not required. It’s extremely generous for CEOs to throw a party with free food and beverages for his/her employees, and it’s incredibly important that they are thanked by everyone for it. Just as we appreciate positive reinforcement, they should also hear how much their efforts are appreciated.
  5. Do get to know new coworkers. Whether they’re new to the company or just new to you, this is a perfect opportunity to get to know one another in a less buttoned-up environment. Mingling outside of your comfort zone makes the party more fun and overall more interesting – and who knows, you might even make a new friend!
  6. Do keep the buddy system. It’s a common assumption that because it’s a company party versus going out with friends that you can abandon the famous buddy system rule – this is not true! In fact, without friends you intentionally came with, it’s even more important that you’re looking out for one another. Always let a coworker you’re friends with know when you’re leaving the party and when you’ve gotten home safely, and ask the same of them.

Kristina is a full-time Market Research Project Manager in Philadelphia and a full-time student at NU pursuing a Master of Science in Organization and Corporate Communication, with a concentration in Leadership. Check out her LinkedIn profile here.  

What I’ve Learned from Managing a Social Enterprise in South Africa’s Townships—And Other International Co-op Lessons

heart capitalOn Aug. 26, I boarded a plane destined for Cape Town, South Africa. Twenty five hours later I arrived at my new home for the next four months.

A week later, I started my co-op at Heart Capital, an impact investment firm on the outskirts of Cape Town that manages a portfolio of social enterprises in local townships. So what have I learned so far from this incredible opportunity to learn about social enterprise management in one of the regions of the world that needs it most? Read on.

1. Printer ink, Internet access, phone calls, and meetings are luxuries—not necessities.


In Cape Town, I’ve realized that you can still conduct business without a formal corporate infrastructure in place—it’s just a little more difficult. No technology on site? Better make sure you bring everything you need with you. Deliverymen didn’t drop off your compost in the right place? Time to revamp the work schedule so that you can account for manually hauling your supplies to a different location.


Being innovative and flexible are essential in the social space—you often won’t find well-oiled business machines in under-resourced townships.

2. Sometimes, the needs of the business don’t go hand in hand with the needs of beneficiaries. And that can be challenging.


The difficult thing about managing social enterprises is that they don’t operate as for-profit businesses, but they aren’t nonprofit either. In this space, we spend a lot of our time wrestling with wanting to help people directly while still trying to progress the business. These tough decisions make this space incredibly challenging. What’s important is that you figure out the best way to cope with the situation. For me, I’ve found that leaving work at the office and exploring the area allow me to clear my head and face the challenges ahead. Figure out what gives you inner peace and capitalize on that.

3. Creativity is key.


When there isn’t a clear procedure on how to do something, that presents an opportunity for innovative thinking. Past and current interns have developed new systems for inventory management, sourced free materials from willing companies, and launched crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for supplies. Success in this industry—and especially in an international environment—relies on drive, creativity, and innovation.

4. Working internationally is different than working at home.

Sometimes you might forget that cultural norms you took for granted aren’t the same in other countries. Email may not be effective, the laws and regulations for donations may be different, and common words and phrases may not be present in your new space.


Like any new job, it’s important to take each lesson in stride. Sometimes, working in a different country can be frustrating and confusing. It may make you want to tear your hair out, find the nearest McDonalds, and try to un-block Netflix. But by using each experience as a learning opportunity, and then reminding yourself about the lessons you’ll be able to take home with you, you’ll survive—and, even better—thrive.


Sarah Silverstein is currently managing Heart Capital’s ongoing Indiegogo campaign to raise $15,000 USD to purchase a bakkie, or small vehicle, which will drastically improve the organization’s operations on the ground. Check out the campaign page to learn more about the campaign.