While on co-​​op teaching Eng­lish in Turkey, North­eastern human ser­vices major Alexandra Budge, ’12, dis­cov­ered she loves education—but she doesn’t want to be a teacher. Instead, her goal is to work for an inter­na­tional NGO helping to pro­mote lit­eracy in areas where access to edu­ca­tion is limited.

Living and working in Turkey really crys­tal­lized for me just how big a role lit­eracy gaps play in basic issues—like the spread of dis­ease,” Budge says.

Iron­i­cally, she came to that real­iza­tion while teaching Eng­lish to college-​​bound stu­dents at TOBB ETU (Engi­neering and Tech­nical Uni­ver­sity) in Ankara, Turkey. How­ever, as Budge explored the country and met people of dif­ferent socioe­co­nomic back­grounds, she began to notice a number of quality-​​of-​​life issues that could be addressed through better edu­ca­tion and lit­eracy programs.

Even in the more devel­oped areas of Turkey, I noticed a sig­nif­i­cant lack of access to gen­eral edu­ca­tion,” says Budge. “If people had more access to it, they could greatly improve their stan­dard of living.”

My pro­fes­sional goals really solid­i­fied after my expe­ri­ence on co-​​op,” she says. “I know now that I want to work on edu­ca­tional issues and lit­eracy projects that pro­vide basic knowl­edge about HIV and how it spreads.”

Budge says that her degree in human ser­vices will be a tremen­dous asset in pur­suing a career with an NGO over­seas. But it was her co-​​op in Turkey that taught her the skills—namely to think quickly on her feet—she knows she’ll need in the field. “I never really knew what was going to be expected of me on any given day,” she says. “The place was always changing, which taught me to be adaptive.”

The expe­ri­ence, Budge adds, was invalu­able. “I’ve wanted to work over­seas for a long time, and this co-​​op gave me the chance.”