Check-in time for Shanghai co-op

Katie McCabe had never taken a Chinese class — had never even left the country — before January. But that didn’t stop her from walking into Northeastern’s international co-op office last year, and it certainly didn’t keep her from moving to Shanghai, China.

“My goal from the start was to gain a more international perspective, so immersing myself into an extremely different culture was exactly what I wanted to do,” said McCabe, a fourth-year communication studies major currently on co-op with the Crowne Plaza Shanghai Harbor City.

The Crowne Plaza hotel is at the center of a new Shanghai development that will one day house more than 800,000 people.

[media-credit id=19 align=”alignleft” width=”350″][/media-credit]For her, Shanghai — China’s economic epicenter — seemed like the perfect place to explore career options. China, she pointed out, is still considered part of the “developing” world with rapid shifts in both economy and population.

The five-star hotel is the centerpiece of, a new planned development, which may hold nearly a million residents and is located in Lingang New City, slightly outside of Shanghai. Community developers are racing to complete the city to accommodate the rapidly increasing population in and around Shanghai.

Not counting a few senior managers, most of the hotel’s employees speak little to no English; as a result, McCabe is the primary point of contact for most of the hotel’s English-speaking guests.

She has a desk at the hotel, but she doesn’t use it much. When she isn’t working with guests, she’s helping colleagues write in English, who, in turn, teach her Chinese.

“My co-workers are truly some of the nicest people I have ever met, and I have gotten to know who they are really well,” McCabe said. “They have given me a new perspective on how to communicate with people and insight on the Chinese way of thinking.”

The experiential-learning opportunity in China has already changed how McCabe thinks about her final semesters at Northeastern and her career after graduation. She’s already enrolled in Chinese classes, which she will take upon her return to campus with the hope of becoming fluent in a second language.

And on top of her new international experience in the hospitality industry, McCabe said her job came with one unparalleled perk: “Who,” she asked, “would pass up the opportunity to live in a brand-new five-star resort for six months?”