Supply chain management, dull? Not for Northeastern University sophomore Rebecca Huot, who hitched her buttoned-down concentration to exciting co-op opportunities in Paris, working on the airfreight team at Charles de Gaulle Airport, and later, for transportation logistics provider Kuehne+Nagel.
“Before my co-op jobs, I’d always dreamed of coming to Paris,” she says. “I’d imagine running along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées with a baguette in my hands.”
Instead of that baguette, Huot could most often be found with her hands full of the details involved with getting freight from point A to B via air, ocean, truck or other transport method.
Working for the airport, she handled airplane parts, ensuring engines and wing parts made it to their destinations. “One parcel had to be delivered by hand to New York City, so we got on a plane, flew to New York, delivered the parcel, and then flew back,” she says.
After a three-month stint at the airport in fall 2008, Huot worked a six-month co-op, ending in July, for Kuehne+Nagel.
The movement of any product between countries requires adherence to strict regulations, so Huot worked on documentation ensuring that warehouses in China, for example, were compliant with shipment rules.
The company offers a wide range of transportation services, including refrigeration and special handling for light-sensitive materials, adding to the complexity of Huot’s job.
But moving herself to Paris was an opportunity for Huot to step out of her sheltered life on campus, and into “undiscovered territory.”
There were times when navigating the French language was as difficult as moving a container of 500 pairs of sneakers to its destination, she jokes.
“Adapting to the French culture was definitely a challenge. The first week and a half was like a honeymoon, but the next couple of weeks were pretty challenging at times,” she says. “I moved in with a French-speaking host family, and by the second week I was convinced I couldn’t remember my verbs!”
A few embarrassing mispronunciations later, Huot says she learned to laugh at herself, relax, and take from Paris all that it had to offer. “My mother encouraged me from the beginning to travel while I’m young, and she was so right.”
Originally a marketing major, Huot quickly switched to supply chain management, a field that drew her to “all the opportunities in transportation.”
One day, she hopes to carve out a niche in one small part of that world: She wants to apply her technology skills to tagging and tracking goods. “I just love the problem solving and logistics involved in getting goods from point to point,” she says. “Figuring out what boat, or what container, to make something a go, and make the customer happy, is very appealing to me.”