Category Archives: Coop

I’m Going to Greece

This news has sort of trickled out in dribs and drabs, but for my last coop I’m going to Greece with NUin.  There’s a bit of info on the Greece page under the “Where I’ve Been” tab, as well as on my original announcement of employment.

Reasons I’m excited about Greece:

  • It’s another Mediterranean country
  • I get to go to Parker and Lauren’s wedding.  The locations have different departure dates, and only Ireland or Greece would accommodate their August wedding.  I know it sounds silly, but they’re my cousins and I would hate to miss a family wedding.  I can’t think of a way to feel more homesick than to miss a big, fun event that my whole family goes to without me.
  • I love foreign language settings (the other options were all English-speaking or Costa Rica).  I’m sure I’ll have plenty of adventures to write about stumbling through Greek.
  • To that end, this will be my first time to go abroad with no experience at all in the language
  • That being said, i got a phrasebook and some language software (NOT Rosetta Stone.  I’m not a fan.)
  • I can go to Istanbul easily–it’s an 8 hour ride from Thess, and ACT runs a cheap weekend trip there every semester.
  • I love the whole Greece/Cypres/Turkey dynamic
  • I’m BEYOND pumped to submit an article to the NU Political Review about the Eurozone and Greece’s current economic situation.  As my dad said, “Greece used to be fine, and then it wasn’t, so Delia decided to go!”

At this point, I have met my Site Director(SD), Chis, who is a retired history teacher and has tons of abroad experience. Plus, he speaks Japanese and has run 4 marathons–how cool is that?!  There are three Assistant Site Directors (ASDs), Jennifer, Staci and Kelly.  Jennifer was an intense corporate consultant before teaching English in Korea for a year.  Staci just moved back from Baha, Mexico, and has also spent a lot of time in Australia.  Kelly just had her birthday during our second orientation (yes, we sang and made the participants sing a bunch of times, too), and just finished her masters.  All of them have masters degrees, actually.  I’m really psyched to work with such a fun, smart group of people.  We’ve all been getting along very well, and I’m excited to meet the other International Student Advisers (ISAs).  There are 7 ISAs plus me.  I’ve already met them all, and the general consensus is that Team Greece=Rock Star Team.

We’ve already had all three pre-departure orientations, or PDOs as the Boston staff insists on calling them.  During orientations I’ve been able to get to know some of our Greece participants, watch the SDs and ASDs of other locations run their programs, and get the hang of how NUin runs their pred-departure.  I’ve done pre-departure for study abroad, but it’s different when people stay overnight, their parents come, and they’re paying $30k for a semester.  Plus, for NUin participants, this isn’t just a semester abroad–it’s their first semester of college, and for some it’s their first time out of the country or even their first time away from their parents for more than a week.

This job in general is pretty amazing, because it is really getting into the niche of using study abroad as a way to motivate people toward social responsibility.  There will be a service-learning aspect, with a 30 hour volunteering commitment as well as a 1-credit course for reflection and discussion.  I’m hoping I get to TA one of the sections, since so much of what I enjoy is examining travel, foreign cultures and volunteerism, so we can make the biggest, most effective impact possible.  I’m also looking forward to some of the programming, from going to the movies in Greece (I always go to the movies abroad if I can help it) to climbing and camping on Mt. Olympus.

Let me know if you have any tips/advice on Greece, or on leading 145 college freshmen in a foreign country.  I’ll need it!

Group Travel: Reflection

Now that I’ve accepted a job leading a group of brave young travelers, I’ve been thinking back on my many, fabulous travel groups and what made them so great.

Reflection is one of my favorite things, clearly.  I love writing, reading, thinking (blogging!) and discussing ad nauseum.  When I was in Egypt, the hours of conversation I shared with J9, Sheff, Iskandriyya, Goldilocks and others helped me grow exponentially.  It deepened my comprehension of Middle East and Egyptian culture, helped me work through my conflicted feelings of our daily experiences, and brought me to a better understanding of our own country.  Sharing my experiences out loud in a safe forum, while hearing from phenomenal, brilliant women whom I hope to emulate really made me get the most out of Egypt.  I honestly don’t think I would have learned as much or been as happy if it weren’t for those ladies and those conversations.

It is conversations like those that are the basis for this blog.  Every time someone compliments the ideas here, I feel like that praise belongs equally to those aforementioned ladies, as well as to Marisa, Jordyn, Kate and Leif, to my roommates in Cuba, to the ballers that made up the DR Dialogue and to my capstone class, all of whom sparked great discussions and debates that I later share with all of you.

I’m sure reflection is already a significant part of the N.U.in curriculum, especially considering there is a 1-credit course devoted to service-learning, introspection and their “Global Experience” as a whole.  However, I plan to make sure some of the best practices that have been shown to me are introduced into their discussions as well.

  • From Amnesty/Benin: Step Up/Step Back.
    On stepup/stepback days, everyone self selects and does the opposite of what they normally do.  Those who are shy are heavily encouraged to participate more strongly, and those who usually contribute greatly (or, like me, dominate the conversation) are asked to hang back.  While I personally have huge difficulty observing the rules of step up/step back, I think it’s incredibly valuable.  I can see that even more clearly after the spring break capstone trip, in which I was uncharacteristically quiet. [note of awesome: Chris, the Site Director for Greece AKA my boss mentioned both this and One Mic during our very first pre-departure orientation!  Woohoo!]
  • From Amnesty (mostly Thenjiwe): One Mic.
    The one mic policy is very simple: there is only one mic, and if you don’t have it you can’t speak.  Let me clarify: I prefer to never have a physical object like a talk stick or whatever, if it is at all possible.  But it’s nice to be able to just say hey, can I get one mic up here? If people start speaking over you when you have the floor.  Much less disruptive than me banging the gavel and saying “decorum delegates!” in the iciest voice I can muster.
  • From SEI: Base your comments on facts and observations. 
    This is actually the rule that pissed me off the most, if only because so many of our discussions were asking for our opinions, and people gave me shit every time I said the word “think” even if it was couched in the statement, “based on those observations, I think…”  But nonetheless, I think it’s good to get students in the mindset of only making statements they can back up, and I have changed its wording to reflect that.  Much like Oberheim’s exericse (read: torture) of not letting us write with the verb ‘to be’, it is not so much meant to be held to with fascist fervor, but is rather a good tool for getting you to leave behind bad habits, like saying a stereotype without realizing you’ve based it on nothing.

I Got a Job!

For my final coop, I knew I wanted something international. This job will be leading Northeastern freshmen who were accepted to the January semester (Jan starts as we call them) on a fall semester abroad.  I will TA one of their classes, organize their service-learning projects, lead them on excursions, tutor when necessary, help with homesickness and culture shock, and make sure everyone makes it home alive.

No, I don’t know where I’m going yet.  I could be sent to Australia, London, Costa Rica, or Thesaloniki, Greece.  Of course I prefer the developing nations, and the chance to be back in Latin America or the Mediterranean is amazing.  It doesn’t hurt that this position is well compensated, and I felt better about it when Sheff said she feels like it fits my niche well.  What exactly is that niche?  Well I think it’s something like educational, socially-minded travel.

But I still had a lot of trouble with this one.  It all comes back to the conundrum I’ve been having for the last few years: there are a lot of subjects that interest me, and whenever I’m doing something that doesn’t directly help people, I feel guilty.  I feel like I’m slacking, like I’m a coward, like I’m taking the easy way out.  It doesn’t help that so many people told me they think it isn’t challenging enough, hard core enough for me.  Several people, after I told them I accepted the job, referred to it as babysitting.  (side note: I will never understand why people think it’s okay to bash your job to your face, but it happens all the time at NU with coops.)

I did, however, find some great comfort from an unlikely source.  The Global Poverty Impact groups that my friend Kevin started are interfaith conversations about equality, poverty, giving, eradicating poverty, why we care and the best way to help.  We also make small, permanent lifestyle changes in order to spend more thoughtfully and set aside some money to go towards a cause of our choosing.  I love how thought provoking this group is, how respectful and smart its members are, and the “Live Deliberately” ethos that I think anyone can get behind, regardless of their religious views.

But I digress.  Jen, a social entrepreneurship person and member of my capstone class, had great insight.

“Just think abut how many freshman you will be effecting.  You can teach them about all the opportunities they have to do good at Northeastern, and be a role model to them.”

It meant a lot to me to hear this from Jen, someone who has also struggled with how to combine socially-minded endeavors, earning money, furthering a career and getting the most out of Northeastern.  When I think about it that way, N.U.in still helps me with the mission I once (and still?) have:

I want to travel to parts of the world with injustice, spend my time there in a meaningful way, and learn their stories so I may tell them on their behalf.  If I can make people understand and care using the gift of my writing, I can catalyze more action than I ever could have accomplished as just one person.

At the time, I was assuming that fact-based fictional stories, plays, or screenplays would be my method.  I never even considered blogging or any sort of journalism, which now seems like such a silly omission.  If I can use service-learning, reflection and this time abroad (perhaps in a less-developed country) to instill an ethic of global awareness and helping others in a useful way, I can consider working for N.U.in a success, and progress toward my mission.  When I think about how much impact Julie Miller had on all of us in Benin, this seems attainable.  Because of her, we were more thoughtful, patient, cooperative, positive and open-minded individuals.

So I am genuinely excited about this job, and the possibilities it brings.

Choosing a New Place

When I first heard about the Benin trip, and how it had a one-week France component, I was a little bummed.  I had already been to france, I already had that stamp.  But I think a lot changed when I was in Cuba. As the trip got closer, I thought of paris as a comfort, as a home in so many ways.  As a breath of fresh air, the way a weekend at my parents’ house can be. 

Now, when I think of bangladesh, I don’t think oh! Now I can say I’ve been to asia.  I don’t think about all the great proximate countries and how to cram them in as cheap as possible.  I think about how hard it will be to experience my first truly blind foreign language experience.  I think about how ill probably be alone, and what will I do for housing.  I think about how they treat women, and wonder whether harassment is prevalent. 

When I think about the Dominican Republic, I think of the comforts of Spanish and familiar food.  I think of the proximity to Cuba and Haiti.  I think about how going there three times in a six month period will be such an asset.  Of course, I also hope there will be enough food, and that I wont get sick of spending so much time there.

I think a lot, too, about the choices I don’t make.  Latin america isn’t supposed to be my focus area.  Shouldn’t I be in Africa or the Middle East?  Shouldn’t, as a friend suggested, I be running back to Cairo?

This is where it gets dicey and where I get all Bell Jar.  Each place I choose is a million I don’t.   And of course, money is always a factor, and my career, and the strength of what I intend to do in this new place. 

How do you pick where you live, go on vacation or work?  For me, a co-op abroad will be all of those things, in its own way.