A group of North­eastern stu­dents and alumni spent the summer cycling across the United States for Bike & Build, a non­profit orga­ni­za­tion in which teams of more than two dozen bikers build homes along their route through orga­ni­za­tions such as Habitat for Humanity.

Cyclists Dustin Tran and Diane Pham, both 2012 grad­u­ates of the university’s phar­macy pro­gram, 2009 grad­uate Matthew Shin­gler, 2010 grad­uate Heather Gar­diner, 2012 grad­uate Shannon Brown and seniors Sean Reilly and Rachel DeBaun par­tic­i­pated, tasked with raising $4,500 and com­pleting 500 miles of training prior to the start of the 10-​​week ride.

Nei­ther Tran nor Pham were expert cyclists prior to their cross-​​country trek — Tran biked from Prov­i­dence to Seattle, Pham from Ver­mont to Van­couver — but they quickly devel­oped the strength and skills they needed to com­plete their journey.

They picked up vital skills for working at the build sites, too. “When you have 31 people at a site, you can really get a lot of things done very quickly,” Tran said.

For him, the cause was uniquely per­sonal. “I grew up in a Boston Housing Authority unit — pretty much the projects,” Tran explained. “So this cause was very dear to me.”

Bikers rode an average of 70 miles per day, but the longest ride spanned 116 miles, according to Pham. They lodged in church base­ments and high-​​school gym­na­siums — pretty much any spot that was cost effec­tive and accessible.

Hosts, Pham said, were wel­coming and gra­cious, pro­viding potluck din­ners and friendly con­ver­sa­tion at each stop. Every dollar not spent on accom­mo­da­tions was put toward the program’s affordable-​​housing projects.

Pham said it was ini­tially hard to absorb the mag­ni­tude of the trip, owing to its sheer mileage and ser­vice com­po­nents. For both bikers, though, reality started to sink in once they reached the West Coast.

When we first saw the Pacific,” Pham said, “we were just in shock. The feeling was as if you’d won the lot­tery — you’re really happy, but you still kind of don’t believe it.”

Now that they have com­pleted Northeastern’s six-​​year phar­macy pro­gram and Bike & Build’s 10-​​week summer pro­gram, both Pham and Tran are looking for­ward to the next phases of their lives.

Tran is in the process of moving to Oregon, where he plans to find a job in the phar­macy field. Pham, for her part, is spending the next few months in South America before pur­suing a career in public health.

But both said they hope to com­plete the Bike & Build pro­gram again, noting its trans­for­ma­tive experience.

The 30 other people on my trip became my new family,” Tran said. “Even after the first week, it was like I knew these people for years. So having it end? That was bittersweet.”