How to Be Successful When Working in a Foreign Language

internationalWhen it comes to starting a new job or co-op, one of the things we take for granted is that the work will be done in English. We don’t have to add translating and learning a new vocabulary in another language to the many things that are new about our new workplaces. But what about when we venture out of our comfort zone and decide to pursue an international co-op? All of a sudden, the number of new and difficult tasks immediately grows, especially when English is not the working language.
As a co-op at the US Embassy in Quito, Ecuador, I am on an interesting bridge between working in English and working in Spanish. In the Embassy, everyone speaks English. But all the research and meetings we do are conducted in Spanish, especially when we leave the Embassy compound. Here are three tips to being successful in the workplace when you are not using your first language.
Be patient.
Working in a new language is a challenge and you will get frustrated with yourself and the language at some point. That’s okay. Take a break from the language for a few minutes and regain your confidence. You are still learning the language and you have to give yourself time. There will come a point in your co-op where using the language no longer intimidates you, but at the beginning, be patient with yourself as you learn how to work in a new language.
Google Translate will become your best friend.
Don’t be ashamed if you need to look up a word or two or even a whole sentence to make sure you are understanding your work correctly. It’s better to double-check the phrasing of something than to translate it wrong and potentially disseminate incorrect information to your colleagues. Your new job might have words that just aren’t in your vocabulary yet – for me, I’ve been introduced to a whole new set of vocab since starting at the Embassy with words like admiral, colonel, retaliation, offender and many more. Soon these words will become ingrained in your mind, but for now, Google Translate is a great friend.
Ask people to speak more slowly.
It’s always better to ask someone to slow down so you can understand them than to mindlessly nod along in a conversation and come out understanding nothing. Many times locals will not always clue in that they are speaking quickly (I know I speak pretty fast in the US and don’t always realize it) and that the speed might be a problem for you. Everyone is always very understanding and willing to slow down if asked. They too, want to make sure that you understand them and can bring the information they give you back to your office. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you need someone to slow down – it will be more beneficial to everyone involved.
Working in a new language is exciting, but don’t forget that it can also be hard. By the afternoon, I have found myself to be more exhausted from work than ever before because I have had to work that much harder to focus and understand everything that is going on around me. The experience you will get working in a foreign language, however, is unparalleled and will make you more competitive in the job market after graduation!

First Impressions of Uganda

boda

Riding a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) to the source of the Nile

When I first told my family that I was thinking of volunteering in Uganda for my first co-op, the responses I received were of fear and apprehension. I assured them that Ebola was far, far away (some 3000 miles or so), and that the country is, in fact, civilized and not at war. I informed them that the people in Uganda don’t live in huts and can speak English, contrary to the African tribal people characterized in BBC documentaries.

Nonetheless, I was still unsure of what to expect myself. Although I knew Ugandans don’t live in huts, I didn’t quite know if my host home would have Internet access, running water, or electricity. I went in with an open, but cautious, mind, equipped with my bottles of hand sanitizer, bug repellant, and anti-malarial drugs.

I found this volunteer program in Uganda through an organization called ELI, abbreviated for Experiential Learning International. It seemed to be the most hands-on and culturally immersing program, as well as the most affordable, out of all the ones I researched prior to applying. It offers experiences in microfinance, women’s empowerment, environmental care, orphanages, and hospitals, and I was immediately attracted to the opportunity to work in a hospital. Although there are countless hospitals in the Boston area, I wanted to combine my love for traveling and experiencing new cultures with a focus on healthcare in a challenging environment.

When I reached the airport in Entebbe and subsequently, my host home, I was very pleasantly surprised. I could buy 3G for my phone and a modem for my laptop for Internet connection, and my home had running water, electricity, and even mosquito nets to keep the bugs away during the night. Upon arrival, I met my local coordinator and his lovely family, as well as a couple of other American volunteers – one completing her last year of medical school in the US and another working in Uganda developing her bowtie manufacturing company Lion’s Thread. The area around Iganga is beautiful and green, with goats and chickens hanging around the red dirt roads, women selling homegrown vegetables behind their small roadside stands, and children playing in groups by the water pumps. When evening fell, I was amazed by the vastness of the sky and the clarity of the stars that were unclouded by the air or light pollution of a big city.

Although I’ve only just begun my adventure in Iganga, Uganda, I have the feeling that this will be an incredible educational and cultural experience. While Uganda’s economy is still emerging and stabilizing in terms of employment and education, there is so much opportunity in any field for people and organizations to grow and become a part of. At this point, I have only been working in the hospital for a few weeks, so I’ll write more about the work environment in future blog posts. This is just a quick summary of my first impressions, but if you or someone you know is planning to travel to or work in this part of Africa, rest assured and know that you/they would have a wonderful time.

MikaBioMika 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. 

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 justsittingontopoftheworld.wordpress.com and on Instagram @roselandis.

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 justsittingontopoftheworld.wordpress.com and on Instagram @roselandis.

Taking Advantage of Serendipity

Image

thailand pic

Bangkok’s Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha

The universe has a funny way of unraveling itself.

On the eve of my first organic chemistry exam this past September, I found myself in a familiar place: trapped in Snell Library scouring the Internet, desperate for stimulation. I was left numb from the repetitive and mechanic task of drawing benzene rings and their reactions. There were only so many that I could handle. I needed some down time.

Facebook was an obvious first choice. So, I wandered my News Feed, clicking on BuzzFeed links, reading endless lists of things I probably didn’t need to know, even for conversation’s sake. I flirted with the front page of Reddit, and then moved on to other news outlets, NPR, The New York Times, and Al Jeezera to name a few. This was the usual direction my Internet habits followed to kill some time; and almost as if by automatic action, I always was led back to Facebook. And on this particular night, I am certainly glad I was.

A friend of mine posted a status on her wall; she was in search of a travel companion on her way to an international co-op in China. I curiously, and somewhat jokingly commented “Knowing Chinese necessary?” to which I received a prompt reply, and a private inbox message to accompany it.

In the coming weeks, we exchanged information, key details, and a formulated a basic plan for the spring semester. I danced around the idea for quite sometime, unsure and uncertain about what types of experiences lay before us. Reluctant, but fueled by the prospect of travel and discovery, I began to research ways in which I could make this journey a reality. And, like any good explorer, I started off by first by consulting my mother.

Even through the phone, I was able to discern my mother’s hesitation in giving her consent to me as I pursued this co-op experience. Armed with information, statistics, and narratives from students, interns, and some expatriate friends, I was able to make a compelling case for what these next six months could mean for the future.

“It just makes sense,” I told her.

With the door now open to fully pursue working in China – I gathered everything I needed to make for a seamless process in orchestrating a self-developed co-op. In between classes, I even tried to learn Mandarin (I will emphasize – tried). In looking forward though, doubts began to creep into my head.

I went back to the drawing board.

Hungry for any sign of opportunity, I realized that Thailand was Lady Luck. Again, I assembled what I needed to ensure some solidarity while I would be abroad. I didn’t have any job prospects and was operating with very limited funding. What I did have though, was an incredibly vast support network in Thailand – family, friends, teammates, and strangers I hadn’t even met yet. I was motivated by an even stronger sense of curiosity – I would be able uncover my family’s heritage, learn forgotten cultures, and traditions all to bring back and share a story not only grounded in experience, but in self-discovery and growth. This was all I needed. I then initiated the search.

It was then when I truly appreciated what my friend had done in putting together the co-op that she had laid before us in China. It was a lot of work. The holes and hoops that she had to jump through were countless, never-ending. E-mails were sent to researchers a world away, applications were sent to organizations that probably never read them, or discarded them upon receipt. It felt like a hopeless endeavor. By November, I had contacted over sixty institutions, ranging from laboratories, English language schools, universities, and non-profits.

After the bouts of insomnia, spending hours writing cover letters, refining my CV, and preparing for interviews, three researchers finally gave me the green light.

That’s where this co-op begins – a Facebook post read during a long night of studying, a couple of messages, a phone call, and a little bit of self-reflection. Chance, luck, some preparation, and dedication to an idea all seemed to come together in symphony. A year ago, let alone six months ago, this opportunity was a pipe dream. Take advantage of serendipity – who knows where you could end up.

P.S. This post was inspired by the book, The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things In Motion, by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison.

John Sirisuth picJohn 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.

 

Keep Calm and Move to Africa

picture3big

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 emami.d@husky.neu.edu

Mastering Moving to a New City

woman looking out window

This guest post was written by recent NU alum and frequent contributor, Kristina Swope.

Congratulations! You got a real job in a brand new city. Now what?

Moving to a new city is both the most riveting and terrifying experience I’ve ever had. I had just turned 22 and was fresh out of college in rural Pennsylvania. I was living at home, getting comfortable, and then it happened – I got a job in Center City Philadelphia.

First, I was ecstatic, because let’s be honest, I had a BA in Sociology and had no idea what to do with it. Then when the initial excitement wore off and I was alone with my thoughts, I started to have serious anxiety about the timing. I only had two weeks to move out of my college apartment, find a new apartment in an area I’d been to twice, move in and get settled enough to avoid being an emotional disaster my first day of work. I was overwhelmed and kept coming back to the same thought; am I doing this? Can I do this? Can I really move to Philly when I’ve never been in a building higher than 4 stories? Cue freak out and bring over the tub of ice cream.

Rather than sweets, what I really needed was perspective. This was an exciting life change and an amazing opportunity. I needed to stop being afraid of the next chapter, and the only way to do that was to prepare and embrace it.

In order to embrace the change, you need to prepare – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

  1. Research areas to live. You want to live somewhere safe but you don’t want to be isolated. Google has plenty of information on towns that include events and demographics that are key in the young professional search. It takes time to delve into stats but it’s definitely worth it. Also, Career Development has a great resource called USA Career Guides that provides with a wealth of information on every major city in the US. From cost of living to industry and employment trends it’s a great way to get acquainted with your new city before actually getting there. Access this resource through HuskyCareerLink.
  2. Choose an apartment that has public transportation within walking distance. I can’t stress this one enough. One of the scariest aspects of moving to a new city is having no idea where you’re going. Relying on public transportation relieves you of that stress and allows you to focus on the more important items, like settling in to your new job and apartment.
  3. Speaking of apartments – rent, don’t buy. Your first apartment will likely be strategically planned, based on convenience. Once you know the surrounding areas, you’ll find an area you like better. Renting gives you the freedom to move and create a home somewhere that you truly love.
  4. Check your networks. The age of social media is a beautiful thing. Facebook and LinkedIn were vital in my search for friends because of the search location functions. I found a number of people I knew that were living in the area and proceeded to cling to them like white on rice. A city is way less scary when you have familiar faces around.
  5. Locate stores for your key needs. Find your closest grocery store, bank, pharmacy, mall, Target, gym, etc. within a day or two of moving. The sooner you find them, the sooner you can get back into your routine and feel more comfortable in your new space.
  6. Plan to go out of your way to make friends. If I could do my first year out of school over again, I would try harder to meet others. Push yourself to go out more, do more with your hobbies, and join local groups. It’s easy to meet people when you’re engaging in activities you enjoy, and friends are worth turning off Netflix for!

Kristina is a full-time Market Research Project Manager in Philadelphia and a graduate of NU with a Master of Science in Organization and Corporate Communication, and a Leadership concentration. 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.

Northeastern Career Services Ranked #1 by Princeton Review

No one hearted his co-op more than Spencer Small (left), who was hired by Amazon after an eight-month co-op stint there.

No one hearted his co-op more than Spencer Small (left), who was hired by Amazon after an eight-month co-op stint there.

All we can say is: Thank you, Huskies! The annual Princeton Review Col­lege Rank­ings came out Monday and ranked Northeastern Career Development #1 in the country for “Best Careers Services.” For seven con­sec­u­tive years we’ve been ranked in the top four in the U.S., including four years at No. 1! What makes this such an honor is that it is the students that determine the ranking.

While many grad­u­ates begin their pro­fes­sional careers after grad­u­a­tion, most Huskies start their first co-​​op sopho­more year and can have three pro­fes­sional expe­ri­ences under their belt by grad­u­a­tion. That said, it’s no sur­prise that 90 per­cent of them are working full time or in grad school within nine months after grad­u­a­tion. And 51 per­cent of our grad­u­ates receive a job offer from a pre­vious co-​​op employer.

To under­score a little fur­ther how valu­able the co-​​op expe­ri­ence is, 87 per­cent of those working full time after grad­u­a­tion are doing some­thing closely related to what they studied.

North­eastern is all about inte­grating class­room learning and real-​​world expe­ri­ence. And we pride our­selves on giving our stu­dents the help and resources they need to build suc­cessful careers and become global cit­i­zens. And it’s also nice to be recognized.

Work. Location. Culture.

 

image generated by Wordle.com

image generated by Wordle.com

This article was written by Megan Fernandes, a 4th year international affairs student at NU as a guest blogger for The Works.

Work. Location. Culture. Last year, a professor told me that these are the three distinct elements I need to consider when looking for a job. A few years ago, I might have written this off fairly quickly, but after having a few varied work experiences under my belt, I realized they are all equally important to my happiness and success. Between my first and current co-op, I’ve learned what I need in a workplace to thrive professionally as well as what I need in regards to location and relationships to be happy. Like many other NU students- I have definitely learned what I don’t like in work, even before I figured out what I do.

Work. As college students, we’ve all been encouraged to pursue areas of study that we are passionate about in the hopes of finding a career where we feel we are making a difference. However, I’ve learned over time that feeling too committed to any particular job, industry or institution early on can be very limiting. I had my entire college career planned out by the fall of sophomore year, but so many different opportunities and challenges were presented along the way that threw my plans to the wind and changed what I had previously thought was a priority. Neither the work nor the industry I was in were much of a consideration in choosing my past two co-ops (sustainable agriculture in Cameroon and asset management in Boston), but that doesn’t mean I’ve learned any less about the kind of work I want to do eventually. Being able to stay flexible and transfer over as many professional and social skills between jobs, no matter how different they are, will help keep you positive and confident wherever you go.

Location. Because we attend such a diverse school that offers so many opportunities to leave campus, NU students, more than anyone, understand the importance of location. Cities around the world are becoming more international and physically going and living somewhere else isn’t as difficult as it once was. The big challenge is being OK with being uncomfortable and really giving each new place a real chance; keeping in mind that you may decide, despite your utmost respect for their culture and way of life, that it’s just not for you. Cameroon taught me that, specifically by showing me how different cultural values, social and economic factors can directly dictate the population’s lifestyle. Doing two co-ops in Boston has also taught me that I like living in cities and getting to know a city helps me feel at home.

Culture. Nowadays, people are thinking more broadly about what it means to employ people who are good “fits”. Thinking about if you can sit next to someone 8 hours a day, 5 days a week is more of a consideration in hiring than ever before. It works the other way around as well. I have worked for a company whose mission and work I was highly inspired by, but the internal culture was unexciting and stifling. I have also worked for a company in an industry I am not stimulated by and whose work I often find routine, but its internal culture is more open, laid-back, and appreciative than anywhere else I’ve experienced. This combination has allowed me to see that I need a relaxed culture and the encouragement to form personal and professional relationships to maintain my personal happiness and motivation at work.

As much as it goes against my initial view when I started school, simply working on something you love isn’t enough. I always thought that if you found what it is that you wanted to do, you’d be golden, but I’ve realized that loving what is physically around you, both the location and the people, makes your work even more meaningful and makes you even better at what you do.

Megan Fernandes is an international affairs student in her fourth year at Northeastern with academic interests revolving around global poverty alleviation. Megan is originally from Houston, but went to high school in Bangkok, Thailand before moving to Boston. She loves learning about other cultures and would be happy to show new people around Boston!