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

First Impressions of Uganda

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Riding a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) to the source of the Nile

When I first told my family that I was thinking of volunteering in Uganda for my first co-op, the responses I received were of fear and apprehension. I assured them that Ebola was far, far away (some 3000 miles or so), and that the country is, in fact, civilized and not at war. I informed them that the people in Uganda don’t live in huts and can speak English, contrary to the African tribal people characterized in BBC documentaries.

Nonetheless, I was still unsure of what to expect myself. Although I knew Ugandans don’t live in huts, I didn’t quite know if my host home would have Internet access, running water, or electricity. I went in with an open, but cautious, mind, equipped with my bottles of hand sanitizer, bug repellant, and anti-malarial drugs.

I found this volunteer program in Uganda through an organization called ELI, abbreviated for Experiential Learning International. It seemed to be the most hands-on and culturally immersing program, as well as the most affordable, out of all the ones I researched prior to applying. It offers experiences in microfinance, women’s empowerment, environmental care, orphanages, and hospitals, and I was immediately attracted to the opportunity to work in a hospital. Although there are countless hospitals in the Boston area, I wanted to combine my love for traveling and experiencing new cultures with a focus on healthcare in a challenging environment.

When I reached the airport in Entebbe and subsequently, my host home, I was very pleasantly surprised. I could buy 3G for my phone and a modem for my laptop for Internet connection, and my home had running water, electricity, and even mosquito nets to keep the bugs away during the night. Upon arrival, I met my local coordinator and his lovely family, as well as a couple of other American volunteers – one completing her last year of medical school in the US and another working in Uganda developing her bowtie manufacturing company Lion’s Thread. The area around Iganga is beautiful and green, with goats and chickens hanging around the red dirt roads, women selling homegrown vegetables behind their small roadside stands, and children playing in groups by the water pumps. When evening fell, I was amazed by the vastness of the sky and the clarity of the stars that were unclouded by the air or light pollution of a big city.

Although I’ve only just begun my adventure in Iganga, Uganda, I have the feeling that this will be an incredible educational and cultural experience. While Uganda’s economy is still emerging and stabilizing in terms of employment and education, there is so much opportunity in any field for people and organizations to grow and become a part of. At this point, I have only been working in the hospital for a few weeks, so I’ll write more about the work environment in future blog posts. This is just a quick summary of my first impressions, but if you or someone you know is planning to travel to or work in this part of Africa, rest assured and know that you/they would have a wonderful time.

MikaBioMika White is a second year biochemistry major at Northeastern expecting to graduate in 2018. This semester she’s on her first co-op in Uganda interning at a rural hospital in the town of Iganga. Mika loves to travel, read, and run. Feel free to reach out to her at white.mik@husky.neu.edu and check out her personal blog for more a more detailed account of her experiences. 

How To Find A Co-Op: My Journey As An International Student

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My name is Maria from Venezuela and I am doing a Master in Project Management through the College of Professional Studies. I am writing today because I want to help the international community at Northeastern fight the odds that all foreign students face in the United States.

I have heard many times that finding a good paid coop for an international is very difficult. Well, I disagree with that statement. I will give you a few tips that will help you to find a Coop/Internship.

Set your goal ahead of time. If you put your mind and energy in finding a coop you will get it.

Start four months before the date you want to begin. The earlier, the better.

Write a resume with the USA standards. I highly recommend you to go the Career Development Office. They will also help you with cover letters.

Create a good LinkedIn profile. Here is a link to mine.

Make business cards. This is a technique that can help differentiate yourself from others candidates. You can use Vistaprint to make them.

Start the job search: MyNEU COOL, NU Career Development website, companies’ websites, networking, career fairs, etc. You should try all of them. The university has partnerships with many companies that you can apply to. You can also speak to your friends, classmates and professors and let them know you are looking for a co-op. You will be surprised.

Apply, apply, apply and apply. Many students think that applying to just 10 companies is enough. There is no enough. You end your co-op search when you find the correct one.

You need to work harder. Remember that domestic students have two advantages: English as their first language and infinite job permission. So, it is time to show how good you are.

You will need to find your co-op with time. After you get your co-op, you will need your co-op advisor’s permission and then the ISSI permission to issue a new I-20.

Many students ask themselves what the difference between a coop and internship is. An internship is part-time job (paid or unpaid). On the other hand, a co-op is full time and, in most cases, is paid.

All these tips may look very similar to others you can find online, but they really worked for me. If you focus in what you really want there will be no obstacles you cannot overcome. Lastly, you will really need a positive attitude because you will receive rejections from many companies until you finally get your co-op.

Maria Martin is a Venezuelan Master’s Degree student. She is currently doing a full time paid coop at NSTAR in the Marketing and Sales Department. You can contact her at mariajesusmartin13@gmail.com