We’ve all come to love that Northeastern is synonymous with all things global and experiential! Dialogues of Civilization, Study Abroad, the hallmark Global Co-op program, a large international student body, and many other avenues to name a few, are ways in which our students gain critical exposure to an array of foreign cultures.
To be a university student in America offers a certain right of passage – to ‘find’ oneself – to be able to explore courses of interest, entertain various career options, and take advantage of the many co-curricular options often promoted on campuses across the country. Now is the time to seize this luxury opportunity – to indulge oneself – to imagine the possible and realize the impossible! The convergence of this moment offers students multiple of directions from which to chose their path – my advice – be open to the new and different. I did just that when I joined the Peace Corps, and it was one of the most transformational experiences of my life.
Much discussion about the benefits of Global Co-op revolves around the unique work experiences students can expect and the interesting companies and organizations co-ops are offered. What many students miss at first glance, is that a Global Co-op also offers invaluable learning opportunities and cultural exposure way beyond the 9 to 5. It’s the day-to-day living in a foreign culture that cannot be assigned a price tag – the complete immersion into how business is conducted in another country, soaking up the language, and easily overlooked nuances of communication among people. These are the exact bullet points that are difficult to add to your CV, but that are so critical to self-realization. They might be hard to articulate, but so powerful once experienced.
Here, for example, after a day of meetings, I was spontaneously invited to attend a weekend wedding (not your usual turn of events given that I did not know the family), and what an incredible chance to seize a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity that would be forever imprinted in my mind. How incredible it would be for a student to have a similar experience – no, this activity is not necessarily resume-worthy, but as a Global Co-op and to absorb and reflect upon these types of cross-cultural interactions, is what will give you the ‘career advantage’ over your competition and indelible passion for diversity in years to come.
I am often struck by the smells of foreign lands. Burning wood in Bali, simmering curry and saffron in India, barbecue steak in Argentina. Who would think that something so powerful as the sense of smell would be part of a career blog?
Exactly. No one. To my point, when a Global Co-op ventures to their work site across the globe, part of the journey is to relish in the new and different. Global Co-ops are laser-focused on developing new skills and adapting to their new employer as they should (mapping out resume-worthy bullet points the key goal), however, it would be short-sighted to overlook the permeable grittiness of day-to-day life in a new environment. Something as innocuous as smell can lend to deeper learning – an up-close-and-personal diary of sorts about society the economic advantages and challenges, the geo-political climate, and the societal norms, to name a few. When I was in India, for example, I was metaphorically slapped in the face with economical inequities – one that brought me right back to my Peace Corps days. Knowing now what I didn’t know then made me realize that I could not have put a price on how an experience from 25 years ago would prepare me for feeling so at home in a place surrounded by such rich and contrasting realities.
Sometimes the simplest things are the most profound. Travel is an education – unbound by walls with endless horizons to take in. My hope is that this blog will inspire one student (if not hundreds or even thousands) to take a chance on a Global Co-op. A Global Co-op experience will put you on the front lines of the impossible, where strength is challenged and growth is inevitable. Impressive CV’s are a common commodity in today’s economy – what will make you different? How will you stand out? What will be your story – one that can be told as if you are painting a picture – what impression will you leave your next employer, and employer after that, and so on and so on…?
In closing, I will leave you with this – I was struck by seeing this simple ice cream truck on the side of a busy road in Hong Kong. The little boy and his mother were rushing and hailing their hands to make the truck stop for them (just like we would do here). What struck me is that I would not necessarily notice this seemingly traditional pastime of buying ice cream from an ice cream truck in my own neighborhood – but, given I was in a new culture with senses heightened, to me, observing a mother and child buying something as simple as ice cream seemed so poignant in a foreign land. Definitely not a bullet point for the resume, but oh how cool it was to witness on that hot summer day….
Alane De Luca oversees the Global Employer Relations team and global lead-generation initiatives within Career Development and Cooperative Education. She comes to Northeastern with 25+ years of experience working in the international education arena. Alane’s passion for global experiential learning began when she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, where she worked alongside NGO’s and native Senegalese in rural parts of northern Senegal. Upon returning to the states, she assumed a position funded by the United States Agency for International Development focusing on initiatives set forth by the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation and administered at Northeastern.
She also has experience directing global and experiential learning programs within academia at Merrimack College, Salem State University, Suffolk University Law School, and Saint Anselm College. She is a dual citizen of Italy, holds an M.Ed. from Northeastern University and a B.A. from The College of the Holy Cross. www.linkedin.com/in/alanedeluca
“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien