BEHIND THE BULLET POINTS: The Hidden Career Advantages of Global Co-op

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.

Alane De Luca, Peace Corps Volunteer, photographed with two Senegalese friends

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.

Alane De Luca, Global Employer Relations, here with newly married couple in Indonesia

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?

Alane De Luca, Global Employer Relations, here talking to children in central India

 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…?

Alane De Luca, Global Employer Relations, watches as boy and his mother buy ice cream on a busy street in Hong Kong

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.

Alane De Luca, Director of Global Employer Relations, Northeastern University

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

Changing your Life Plan (and why it’s okay!)

Here it goes: I’ve had five different majors since I’ve enrolled at Northeastern University. Their range is from different concentrations of business to mathematics and the sciences. In case you’re curious, here’s the list: (1) Marketing (2) International Business (3) Business Administration (4) Mathematics and Finance and (5) Mathematics and Biology. It may have taken a year of switching around and being unhappy to determining what I love and want to do. At the end of the day, isn’t that what really matters?

You should be able to fall asleep at night comfortable with the decisions you’ve made. From an academic standpoint, I was having a crisis my first year. I was a business student, enjoyed what I was learning, but was not having that deeper connection and passion that I wanted with it. A year later, I made a switch to a completely opposite discipline: mathematics and biology.

So what was that process like?

In one word: stressful. If you’ve been in a position where you’ve had to change your major, I’m sure you can understand where I was for my entire freshman year. I was unsure, confused, and didn’t really know where I was heading. I felt as if I was a regular in academic advising. I was researching all different majors and careers at night. I thought about it for a few months, letting the idea of being okay with a complete mashup in my life plan. Then, it just clicked one day. Just like that, I knew I was unhappy and needed to do something about it.

I was dragging out the process. In all honesty, it’s scary being that unsure about your academic career. And I was scared to make the leap to switch out of business to the sciences. But I am beyond glad I did.

The best part: it’s 100% okay. If you’re unhappy with where you are going in your career, press pause. Think hard to find what is the cause of your unhappiness, and act on that need to be happy. You deserve to be happy.

So, if you’re thinking about making a change in your life plan, here’s a few tips on how to get the wheels turning, from someone who has been in your shoes:

Stay calm. Relax, drink a cup of tea, and take deep breaths. It is completely normal to ponder this and you are not alone in wanting to make a change.

Talk it out. Make an appointment to speak with your academic advisor or even an academic advisor of a major you are considering. Both ends will help you make the decision by educating you and providing you with more resources to consider and reach out to.

Be confident. Have faith in the switch you’re making. You’ll feel it in your heart when you are making the right academic switch. Yes, it is scary, but let your heart drive you to learning about what you are passionate about.

Photo courtesy of forbes.com.

Colette Biro is a 3rd year Biology and Mathematics major with a minor in Chemistry. She is currently on her first co-op in a biology lab at Northeastern working on transgenerational immunity in social insects. Colette is passionate about running, November Project and being a Husky Ambassador. Feel free to reach out to her at biro.c@husky.neu.edu.

How to Start a New Semester Strong

This guest post was written by Scarlett Ho, a third year International Affairs and Political Science major with a minor in Law and Public Policy.

The first few weeks of school, coming back to campus for the spring semester can be exciting and rejuvenating. However, after having enjoyed a much-deserved winter break, students might find it hard to adjust to their new class schedule. (Especially when the winter weather in New England is so uninviting). No matter what grades you got last semester, this is the chance to start anew. Here are a few tips on how to start a new semester strong and to get the most out of your college experience.

1. Plan Ahead:

We have all heard this before: First week of classes start, and we think they’re easy and manageable. We waste our time on random things until realizing days before, an assignment is due. So, we pull an all-nighter and as you can imagine, the final grade turns out to be a disaster. How can you ensure this does not become a vicious cycle?

Read the course syllabus

Since the first week of school just started with new professors and the course syllabus introduction, take time to read it in detail. Highlight assignment deadlines, pay attention to required readings and examination dates and put them on your calendar. Clarify with the professor if needed.

Define workload

Once you understood the syllabus and know your deadlines, how do you go about planning your semester? If a term paper/project is due at the end of the semester, the easiest way is to break the task into smaller chunks, which you could tackle little by little. Create to-do lists and long-term goals to guide you along the way and keep track of progress. For instance, if you got a paper assignment, this is what the to-do list can look like:

  1. Research and pick topics/research questions
  2. Meet up with professor to discuss in detail
  3. Go to the library for academic books/journals
  4. First draft due
  5. Go to Northeastern Writing Center/Peer advising
  6. Revise
  7. Finish the essay
  8. Proofread

2. Maintain a Neat Environment:

According to a study by Princeton University Neuroscience Institute, a cluttered and chaotic environment restricts your ability to focus. As such, a clean and organized working desk, good lighting and room setup are crucial in determining productivity. Even when you look at your co-op workplace, things are kept at a minimal and the office is usually well ventilated with sufficient light.

Make sure you maintain a neat dorm/apartment to have a conducive environment for studying. Set aside small chunks of time or work between breaks to clean up and put away unnecessary things. If the setup of the room is a problem, try going to the library.

3. Get Involved With Campus Activities:

While academic classes are important, school clubs and organizations are also a good way to establish a connection with the school and build up your resume with leadership positions. Since most jobs focus a lot on your ability to interact with others, getting started with school organizations can be a good way to demonstrate you are a team player. In my previous interviews, I was asked questions such as, “Tell me a time when you had a problem with one of your team-mates and how did you resolve that?” Getting involved on campus not only gives you the experience of working with peers, it also opens doors for you and prepares you for the real world.

The other aspect of getting involved is by helping a professor do research. Was there a class you have taken before that fascinates you and aligns with your professional interest? If so, get in touch with the professor and see if you can help them out in anyway. Professors can be great mentors that can guide you along the way throughout college.

So be sure to take advantage of what Northeastern has to offer, both academically and socially, and make the most out of your college experience!

Scarlett Ho is a third year International Affairs and Political Science major with a minor in Law and Public Policy. During fall 2014, she studied abroad in Belgium where she interned at the European Parliament. The summer prior to that, she interned for Senator Warren on Capitol Hill, and previously Congressman Lynch in Massachusetts. She can be reached at ho.sc@husky.neu.edu for any questions ranging from resume writing, job searching to her experiences.

Photo Source: Yellow Page College Directory