Ana Tar­betsky worked on graduate-​​level research in edu­ca­tional psy­chology ear­lier this year while on co-​​op in Aus­tralia. But the expe­ri­ence did more than advance her explo­ration of that field. It also con­tinued her global learning that began a year ear­lier on study abroad at the Uni­ver­sity of Sydney.

My expe­ri­ence there felt unfin­ished,” Tar­betsky said. “That was the first time I was abroad by myself. It took me awhile to get estab­lished there, and then once I did, the expe­ri­ence was coming to an end. I feel like my co-​​op picked up where I left off.”

Tar­betsky, SSH’16, a senior soci­ology major who is expected to grad­uate in three-​​and-​​a-​​half years, started searching for a co-​​op in Sydney as soon as she returned to campus in fall 2013 fol­lowing her study abroad. She even­tu­ally con­nected with a pro­fessor at the Uni­ver­sity of New South Wales whose research inter­ests aligned with her own.

As a research assis­tant, Tar­betsky per­formed exten­sive lit­er­a­ture reviews, data col­lec­tion and analysis, and report writing. For her first task, she helped draft a book chapter on a the­o­ret­ical model for pre­dicting stu­dents’ moti­va­tion, engage­ment, and achieve­ment by exam­ining vari­ables such as adapt­ability, or how you respond in the face of new sit­u­a­tions; aca­d­emic buoy­ancy, or how you respond to everyday set­backs; and the role of three fac­tors: autonomy, com­pe­tence, and relatedness.

Next, Tar­betsky worked with the pro­fessor and a post­doc­toral research fellow to co-​​author a forth­coming journal article on how Aus­tralian Indige­nous stu­dents’ implicit beliefs impact their achieve­ment. The paper is based on data obtained through a quan­ti­ta­tive survey admin­is­tered before Tar­betsky arrived.

Tar­betsky, for her part, drafted the journal article sec­tion by sec­tion, from explaining the method­ology to out­lining the research find­ings. She gives enor­mous credit to her super­vi­sors who she says helped her work her way through the entirety of a research article, which she little expe­ri­ence with prior to her co-​​op.

This was an immer­sive expe­ri­ence into edu­ca­tional psy­chology and the cur­rent state of the research,” she said of her co-​​op. “I was thrown right into it, but into an envi­ron­ment in which learning and growth was encour­aged. I didn’t feel over­whelmed. It was chal­lenging, but supportive.”

Tar­betsky plans to pursue her doc­torate at the Uni­ver­sity of New South Wales after she grad­u­ates from Northeastern.

This was an immer­sive expe­ri­ence into edu­ca­tional psy­chology and the cur­rent state of the research.
— Ana Tar­betsky, SSH’16, said of her co-​​op

A snail’s shell shows the way
The field of edu­ca­tional psy­chology wasn’t on Tarbetsky’s radar when she enrolled at North­eastern. She was inter­ested in soci­ology and felt the university’s co-​​op pro­gram could help her define her career path. Ulti­mately, she said, her co-​​op in Sydney “turned out to be the per­fect match.”

Tar­betsky, who is pur­suing minors in both lin­guis­tics and psy­chology, said her interest in edu­ca­tional psy­chology also devel­oped through taking courses in social psy­chology, behav­ioral analysis, and learning and motivation—the latter of which focused on behav­ioral and edu­ca­tional psy­chology. Her interest devel­oped organ­i­cally from her aca­d­emic expe­ri­ences, and she fit­tingly turned to nature to pro­vide a suit­able analogy. “It was kind of like a snail’s shell, cir­cling from the out­side in,” she said.

Serving up some stress relief
There’s no denying that Tarbetsky’s aca­d­emic inter­ests have blos­somed over the past few years. But so, too, has her pas­sion for vol­ley­ball, one of her favorite sports. Tar­betsky played all four years in high school, played on the women’s club vol­ley­ball team during her freshman year at North­eastern, and then par­tic­i­pated in a co-​​ed vol­ley­ball league in Sydney while studying abroad.

She found some familiar faces when she returned on co-​​op and was invited to be part of an all-​​female team. “Vol­ley­ball has been a way to exer­cise, socialize, and de-​​stress,” she said. “It’s some­thing I’ve always sought out.”