Julieta Moradei was 16 when she enrolled at North­eastern, having grown up in Mon­treal where high school con­cludes after grade 11. But when her family moved to the U.S., she skipped Quebec’s two-​​year pre-​​university pro­gram, Cegep, and, with a high school diploma already in hand, went directly to col­lege. Moradei, a grad­u­ating senior in the Col­lege of Engi­neering, has made the most of her North­eastern experience—which includes five co-​​ops between Disney and Simpson Gumpertz and Heger, con­ducting research with Jerry Hajjar, pro­fessor and chair of the civil engi­neering depart­ment, and devel­oping life­long rela­tion­ships with men­tors and friends.

Moradei, E’16, was accepted to six grad­uate pro­grams, and after grad­u­a­tion she will begin a doc­toral pro­gram in struc­tural engi­neering at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­fornia, Berkeley. She envi­sions a career that bridges the worlds of engi­neering and archi­tec­ture. Here, she dis­cusses some of the most impactful expe­ri­ences at North­eastern and what lies ahead after graduation.

You were born in Buenos Aires and lived in Mon­treal from ele­men­tary school through high school. Did you feel as though you were bringing a global per­spec­tive to campus when you arrived at North­eastern, and has that per­spec­tive grown as an undergraduate?

Since North­eastern is so inter­na­tional, it was so much easier for me to meet people from all over the world. I was able to assim­i­late with both inter­na­tional and Amer­ican stu­dents. I feel like when you’re from a cer­tain area, par­tic­u­larly with inter­na­tional stu­dents, you tend to group up with people who are from your same area. But I was able to make friends with people from South America and the U.S. We all hung out together.

And from meeting people from all over the world at North­eastern, I learned so much about dif­ferent places and how their values and cul­tures are dif­ferent. That’s so impor­tant when living in an inter­na­tional city like Boston.

You recalled in your “Coolest Co-​​op” com­pe­ti­tion video that when you were 16, you went to Disney World and won­dered how all the rides are built. Later, you got the oppor­tu­nity to work there on co-​​op. What was that co-​​op like, and what did you take away from that experience?

The reason I went to Disney was that in my first class in engi­neering at North­eastern, “Engi­neering Design,” my pro­fessor was showing us what kind of co-​​ops engi­neers could do. One of the images she showed was a mechan­ical engi­neer who was working at Disney after she had grad­u­ated from North­eastern. After class, I asked how to get in con­tact with her. I emailed her, and she sent me back a long email about how amazing her job was. I never real­ized that engi­neers worked there, and the cre­ativity that goes behind every detail. I vis­ited Disney that summer, after my freshman year, and I remember loving it and knowing I wanted to take part behind cre­ating the magic.

My first co-​​op at Disney came during my third year, and it was in project man­age­ment. I worked with a team of engi­neers, archi­tects, and designers. My largest project focused on fall pro­tec­tion recer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Fall pro­tec­tion points are a type of anchorage system allowing you to securely attach your­self to a life­line or lan­yard. At Disney specif­i­cally, you’re strapped into a har­ness to do main­te­nance on a roller­coaster, to access rooftops, things like that. This might seem like a simple con­cept, but the project was the largest I have done up to that point: we had to recer­tify all the fall pro­tec­tion points throughout the parks and resorts. There were more than 400 points to inspect, and we had seven weeks to do this. The last point to inspect was the top of the Epcot Ball. This was toward the end of my co-​​op, and the team I col­lab­o­rated with throughout the seven weeks told me I had enough expe­ri­ence that I could go up there. That was a crazy oppor­tu­nity to have on co-​​op. I was up there at 4 in the morning for two hours with all the inspec­tors and safety team. It was a sur­real expe­ri­ence, and it reminded me how much work I put into this co-​​op. It felt very rewarding.

You’ve vol­un­teered more than 200 hours with preschool chil­dren through Jump­start. What drew you to this vol­un­teer work, and what has it meant to you?

I’ve always known I wanted to work with kids. I have a little brother who is 10 years younger than me, and I loved babysit­ting in high school. I knew when I came to North­eastern I wanted a vol­un­teer expe­ri­ence working with kids, and I found Jump­start. I thought it would be great to help teach kids to read and write. I help my brother a lot at home with that, because my par­ents are both Spanish, so I thought it would be great to do that for other children.

The reason I loved it so much is that I met an amazing group of friends. I was working with a group of four other girls, and we’re still best friends. But working with these young kids also kept me grounded. Freshman year was tough because I was younger, and classes were very hard and I was stressed out a lot. But doing this 12 hours a week kept me grounded, and it kept me relaxed knowing I was helping these chil­dren. This also drew me to teaching. I became a tutor for freshman engi­neering stu­dents from my second year through senior year.

You recently received the Thornton Tomasetti Foun­da­tion National Schol­ar­ship to pursue grad­uate studies in building engi­neering, design, and tech­nology. What’s next for you after graduation?

I applied to a few grad­uate schools to study struc­tural engi­neering, and I’ll be going to the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­fornia, Berkeley starting in Sep­tember. I’m enrolled in the PhD pro­gram for five years in struc­tural engi­neering. I also plan to take classes in archi­tec­ture and pursue research that is a hybrid of struc­tural engi­neering and archi­tec­tural design. Also, this summer I’ll be doing an intern­ship at Arup in Boston in the company’s struc­tural engi­neering group. I’m looking for­ward to it: it us an amazing com­pany that merges engi­neering with archi­tec­ture, and do the most beau­tiful designs. Besides work and school, I plan to travel as much as I can! I will be going to Spain at the end of May, and saying goodbye to Boston by road-​​tripping from the East to West coast in August.

Julieta Moradei, E’16, left, was one of two seniors who spoke to incoming freshmen at the President's Convocation in September. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Julieta Moradei, E’16, left, was one of two seniors who spoke to incoming freshmen at the President’s Con­vo­ca­tion in Sep­tember. Photo by Matthew Modoono/​Northeastern University

What did you learn about your­self while at Northeastern?

This might sound cheesy, but I learned that any­thing is pos­sible. When I came to North­eastern, I was 16, and I thought I was going to fail every class I took because I was missing all these classes that everyone else took in high school. But I just worked very hard freshman year and earned a good GPA, and that led me to work really hard to get my first co-​​op at Simpson Gumpertz and Heger. I real­ized at that first co-​​op that if you ask for things and put your mind to it, people are willing to help you. At SGH, I devel­oped the most impactful rela­tion­ships that set my pro­fes­sional career, and I learned the impor­tance of having men­tors. It truly taught me that your suc­cess is never just yours, but it is really the team of people who helped you along the way. If it were not for my family and men­tors, I would not be where I am today.

Now it’s a lot easier for me to realize that if you gen­uinely put your mind to some­thing, you’ll get there. Maybe not on the first pass, but you’ll find a way. And I think that’s what North­eastern taught me. It gave me a lot of con­fi­dence in myself to go for what I really love, and if you dream big, you can get it.

What memory stands out from your North­eastern experience?

A big one for me was my Con­vo­ca­tion speech in Sep­tember, and the feeling after­wards. My mom, my dad, and my brother were there in the crowd. They were watching intently and it was the proudest I’ve ever seen them. I started at North­eastern being so scared that I wasn’t going to do well. I remember watching the Con­vo­ca­tion speech from my freshman year, and the stu­dent speaker talked about working at the White House. I remember thinking that she had accom­plished so much and that I could never be that person.

For me, it was a nice closing chapter of my North­eastern expe­ri­ence when I gave that speech. I felt like I made it, I did it. I gave all the freshmen class my biggest advice about what I learned on my journey. While writing that speech, I had to thor­oughly reflect on the past five years, and I real­ized in that moment what an amazing five years North­eastern gave me. From 16 to 21, I grew up, devel­oped my pas­sions and met the most incred­ible people.