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School ties

Gaby’s from Mustique, a small Caribbean island. Bandar and Khalid are from Saudi Arabia. Saaj, who’s ethnically Indian, was born and raised in Dubai. Otto is from Paris.

They met and bonded in Switzerland in their early teens, as students at a boarding school called Aiglon College, nestled high up in the Alps.

 As graduation neared and it came time to pick a university, they weren’t quite ready to break up the gang.

So they all enrolled at Northeastern. 

“I always wanted to come here,” says Saaj Shewakramani, whose older brother Sagar, BA’08, majored in marketing at Northeastern.

“I got the idea from him,” says Khalid Al Dabal, pointing at Bandar Al Saud.

When the five students first started thinking seriously about Northeastern, they were immediately drawn by the fact that the University is so internationally focused. Like them.

Besides hailing from various parts of the world, the friends — entering their fourth year except for Khalid, who’s will be a third-year — are all pursuing some form of international study.

Gaby Mitchell is an international affairs and political science major. Saaj is an international affairs major. Otto studies both international affairs and economics. Bandar majors in international affairs and modern languages. And Khalid studies finance and international business.

As it happens, they’re just several of the twenty Aiglon graduates who have attended Northeastern since 1990, most of them in the past seven years.

David Hautanen, associate dean and director of admission, has recruited at Aiglon since 2003. He attributes this interest to the fact that “Northeastern offers so much, both academically and through experiential education. And we have a great campus.”

Like Northeastern, Aiglon places a strong emphasis on international study, travel and service. As teens, Otto and Gaby took a school trip to Vietnam, and Bandar and Saaj took one to China. Khalid did a service project in Peru after that country’s 2007 earthquake.

The students appreciate that Northeastern offers them so many opportunities to study and work abroad. Even the campus itself is a crossroads.

“It would be hard to find a class where there aren’t at least three different nationalities represented,” says Gaby. “And, honestly, that’s what we crave.”

At Aiglon, the friends were together almost all the time, either in classes, at meals or in their residential “houses” (a living arrangement not unlike Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, says Gaby).

Now, at Northeastern, their schedules are busier than ever, and their paths don’t cross as often. But they’re determined to keep their ties strong, meeting weekly for lunch or dinner, or just to hang out.

Along with the international focus, what do they most like about Northeastern?

For Bandar, it’s co-op. “When I heard about co-op, that’s when I knew for sure I wanted to go here and nowhere else,” he says. “Most jobs require experience — and if you’ve been in school, you don’t have experience. But at Northeastern, that’s not the case.”

For Gaby, it’s that Northeastern wants its students to be three-dimensional human beings. 

“Northeastern looks at what you can bring to the university — not just the SAT, but the whole picture,” she says.

“When I learned this, I thought, Yes! A school that understands.”