‘They bring a lot more to the table’

Jump into a job at a TV giant’s London office? Or one at the world’s largest private education company, in Lucerne, Switzerland? How about one at a swanky hotel in Granada, Spain?

Thanks to Northeastern’s international co-op program, students have been able to make these choices, and more. Over the past three years alone, nearly 450 students have pursued international learning opportunities, working in more than 40 countries for a broad range of organizations devoted to finance, health care, education, and many other fields.

Students say working and living in a foreign country increases their global awareness, exposes them to a plethora of new cultures and serves as a launching pad for their careers.

But international co-op employers benefit from students’ expertise as well. They describe Northeastern co-ops as intelligent, driven and self-sufficient, and praise the quickness with which they adapt to the global work environment.

Take Turner Broadcasting System (TBS)—home to popular cable news and entertainment networks CNN, Turner Classic Movies and TNT—which in three years has hired five Northeastern students in its London office. The co-ops worked as programming coordinators for the Nordic region, transmitting broadcasts to Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland.

Stepping into a job at one of the world’s largest multinational corporations doesn’t seem to intimidate the co-ops, says Nicholas Hadley-Kamptz, senior programming and content manager at TBS.

“They’re thrown in the deep end,” he explains. And they’re without a ready-made support network. “Not many students have any initial contacts here.”

Yet Hadley-Kamptz is impressed by the co-ops’ enthusiasm and capacity to adjust quickly to a fast-paced, highly social work environment, made up of an eclectic mix of Eastern Europeans, Africans, Scandinavians, Canadians and Americans.

“Every co-op has brought an open mind and an adaptability,” he says. “They’ve learned to multitask and deal with many different needs and requirements from a multitude of sources.”

Acknowledging the inextricable link between co-op and the overall academic experience at Northeastern, Hadley says he prizes the university’s co-ops highly. “They bring a lot more to the table than perhaps some other interns would,” he says. “It’s quite important that they can stay for six months, too. We rely on that because, with local interns, it is not guaranteed.”

More than 600 miles away, in Lucerne, Switzerland, Northeastern co-ops are breaking down cultural barriers by helping people of all ages become more active global citizens.

At EF Education First, a world leader in international education, employees connect customers with language-learning, educational-travel, cultural-exchange and academic programs. Co-ops work in the company’s Go Ahead Tours branch, arranging transportation, accommodations and sightseeing tours for Americans interested in international travel.

The Lucerne office manager, Evangeline Frey, applauds the contributions of co-op student Nathaniel Le Treize, a junior management major who is focusing on tours in France, Greece, Turkey and England.

“It’s not easy for a college student to be thrown into the business world abroad,” Frey says. “Having him as the only native English speaker in the office is valuable for us because English is our business language. The skills he learned in school, especially his writing skills, have been very beneficial to the team. He’s very flexible, and his attention to detail has been important because he has a lot to keep track of.”

Treize, who was born in France but grew up in the United States, says the EF Education First workplace is akin to a melting pot. “I’m sitting across from a French person and colleagues from Italy, Mexico and Bulgaria,” he noted during a recent phone interview. “Doing a co-op abroad definitely gives me a chance to see cultures from a different perspective. I am pretty sure I’d like to work abroad after I graduate.”

Andrea Martin Targa, BA’07, did go abroad to work after earning her international business degree. She became the vice president of sales and marketing at Hotel Salobrena, a family-run business in Granada, Spain. Now Targa herself actively recruits Northeastern co-op students to help plan and coordinate events held in and around the 194-bedroom hotel.

In addition, many of the Hotel Salobrena co-ops knowledgeable in both communications and international business help create print and radio marketing strategies for the hotel’s large new convention center.

“All the students have been really involved with the projects and are very well prepared,” Targa says. “They’ve adapted to the language and culture really quickly.”

One difference between the work environment in Spain and the United States is the pace at which employees conduct themselves, she says. American students have to adjust to Spain’s slower, more relaxed workplace and emphasis on building personal relationships before discussing business needs.

But that’s no obstacle for the Northeastern co-ops, says Targa. “Students have a great attitude toward learning and, if I tell them to do something, they do it,” she reports.

Students who excel at their international co-ops frequently take a full-time job with their employer after graduation.

Mike Mahoney, BA’09, did. In his co-op position as a transition management analyst at State Street in London from January to June 2008, the finance and management major worked closely with equity, fixed-income and foreign-exchange traders, and helped clients transfer stocks and bonds—sometimes in different currencies—to new account managers.

After graduating in May, Mahoney entered a yearlong rotational program at State Street Global Markets, the company’s investment-research and trading arm. The job may eventually take him to Sydney or Tokyo. For now, he’s working in State Street’s Boston office.

His co-op was the key. “Working in London,” he says, “gave me a new view of how interconnected our world economies are. It made me more comfortable in more diverse surroundings and heightened my learning curve.”

State Street’s London office hires a Northeastern co-op every six months to fill its transition management analyst role, notes Amy Slowe, the firm’s global director of professional development.

“We’re getting great talent through the doors to help run our business,” she says.

And the co-ops are accelerating their career prospects. Says Slowe, “Students are gaining real-life work experience and the chance to take theory and apply it in a practical application.” This opportunity, she explains, allows them “to learn the business” while they’re still in school.