1. Why did you choose Northeastern University?IMG_2993

I went to a small all-girl school in Connecticut where I was a day student. I loved how it was community oriented, but after four years of that, I wanted something different. So it eventually came down to Northeastern and Wesleyan. Wesleyan was similar to my experience because it was a small school outside city-life, and so I chose Northeastern to get a new experience.

2. Did you know about the co-op program when you applied?

I did, and when I applied I was very “anti-career path”, as in I didn’t want to be shepherded into a particular career. But when I went on the tour, they described it in a way that they explained it in a way that appealed to me, they said that it was a way to find out what you DON’T want to do; so you can go on a co-op and realize that it’s not something I want to do for twenty years of my life. That was a big factor

3. Why/how did you choose your major?

I graduated high school and took a gap year. I spent a lot of time traveling and living/working abroad. Before I came into college I knew I wanted to study Anthropology.

First I went to Granada, Spain where I lived with a host family and learned Spanish. I was 18 and it was incredible to live abroad independently. It was a really interesting city, built on the side of a mountain so there are some caves on the face of the mountain where some people used to live; sort of outside of the laws of the city.

After I worked on a historic tall ship in California, we would dress in period clothing and bring 4th and 5th graders on the boat and teach them nautical history and line handling. We would also take belfastbattle and adventure sails on the weekend; I knew nothing about sailing, and thinking back I must have been crazy. Everyone else was so salty with actual sailing experience, but after living together in such close quarters (we lived on the boat) we became a family.

Then I lived in Ecuador for two months and ran a summer camp in a coastal village. Then I went to Quito (the capital) and took language classes for a week living with a host family, then volunteered at a center for street kids for the rest of the month.

The last stop was Italy where I took fashion design and cooking classes, with a smattering of language classes, all in Florence. I got to travel a lot and got a peek into backpacking. Then I was completely broke with seven dollars in my account so I went home.

So getting back to the question, I declared anthropology but knew I would be more marketable with a combined major in International Affairs and I loved all of the IAF classes I took. I’m really happy with my choice. I took Conflict and Negotiation and a Quest for Peace class about Northern Ireland and that really cemented my interest in conflict negotiation.

4. Can you describe your co-op experience in Belfast?

I worked in North Belfast in Newtonabbey and lived in South Belfast, which is near Queens University so it was very safe. There are a lot of places where Catholic and Protestant communities are right next to each other, and those places often have a Peace Wall, where I worked had a wall right near my co-op actually.

I worked as a classroom assistant for Hazelwood Integrated Primary School. The way it worked at the school was that they had both Catholic andclass Protestant children studying together at the school, as well as special needs students. Generally there was 1 teacher and 2 assistants in each classroom. Usually 1 assistant helps one student and the other is a general assistant. I worked first in a P2 class (ages 5-6), having never taught before, so it was a hugely new experience. After P2 I was with P5 which was ages 8-9. I worked there 4 days a week and 1 day at the Belfast Migrant Center. After school I worked at a group called Peace Players International, which took Protestant and Catholic students and put them together on a basketball team, in which I worked as a coach. I really tried to see as much of the integration efforts as possible, so I volunteered a lot! I did get a sweatshirt though!

My responsibilities at the school were basically making sure the kids were doing their work, as they were just 5 years old. Just generally helping, because the classrooms were about 30-35 kids which is difficult for one teacher. I also worked as a gym teacher for younger kids. In P5 I worked mainly with small groups of struggling or excelling students. I also helped out generally as needed, which included chaperoning events, working in sensory rooms for special needs kids, and just did whatever they needed! It could be really stressful sometimes though, especially working the P2 students. The nice thing about the job was that after school, your work was done, and you could just relax without having to worry about a project or a deadline. I loved it overall! I have a lot of respect for teachers now!

5. Can you share an experience that you had in Ireland outside of your co-op?

So I play ultimate Frisbee here at Northeastern, and one of the girls who had been on the team had actually been in Belfast before, so I had a connection. I met a guy in Belfast through her and I was invited to a “hat” tournament (random teams) that met in the south of Ireland at a beach. So we drove all the way from Northern Ireland to the south of Ireland with 3 guys from Belfast with thick accents who I could barely understand, the only word I could work out was “mate”. We get there at midnight into a field with a crowd of about 80 reveling Irish people and I just didn’t know what was going on. I oeaceremember thinking, what am I doing here? But everything just kind of snowballed into an amazing experience where I was able to make all these local connections and be a part of a community! I think that joining different volunteering and athletic groups is a great way to find friends in a country where you don’t know anyone.

6. Do you have any plans for your future co-op or career?

I would love to work in conflict negotiation again, ideally in Northern Ireland regarding policy work. It’s a conflict I’ve seen both in person and academically. I met a man named Richard Hass, who has extensive experience brokering deals with paramilitary groups and government groups, which was amazing and to say the least inspiring. I actually ran into him while I was out, Belfast is just such a small city!