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Global co-op: paying it forward

Helping pediatric burn victims in China, adding to an eco-village’s infrastructure in Costa Rica, working on a Hollywood movie in South Africa. These were just some of the unique experiences students who recently returned from working in far-flung countries shared with their peers at the International Co-op Fair on Thursday evening in the Curry Student Center Indoor Quad.

About 35 veterans of international co-op shared their stories with some 500 students who were interested in learning more about the benefits of co-op in another country. The crop of students who presented at the fair had worked all over the world—from Australia and Belgium to Singapore, Antarctica, and Greece.

Northeastern is the recognized leader in experiential learning, anchored in the world’s most innovative cooperative-education program. The university offers students opportunities for professional work, research, service, and global learning across 92 countries.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I was 22-years-old and working on a Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges movie in Cape Town,” said Ryan Kenney, AMD’14. “It was amazing.”

Kenney, a dual major in communication studies and cinema studies, worked on data managing and color grade on the production of “The Giver,” a film based on the popular young adult novel by Lois Lowry. Before starting co-op, Kenney completed almost every production class offered at Northeastern—a strategy that prepared him to work on the movie as well as a music documentary and several television pilots.

“I did a little bit of everything,” Kenney noted.

Nursing students Heidi Yiu, BHS’14, and Tara Bartilucci, BHS’15, also utilized skills they learned in class while on co-op at a pediatric burn unit in Beijing. The pair said they had the opportunity to observe all facets of care for the children, from surgery to physical therapy.

“It gave us a good view of every aspect of nursing in China, as well as the values,” said Yiu.

One of their most meaningful jobs was doing play therapy sessions for the children. In once case, they helped a girl who lost both her arms create a painting with her feet.

“I really liked it a lot,” Bartilucci said of the experience. “We really made some strong connections with the kids and we got to play with them all the time.”

Catherine Aust, S’16, traveled to Lanas de Puriscal, Costa Rica, and worked in an intentional permaculture community committed to holistic sustainable living. While there, the environmental studies student had the chance to work in eco-village construction with supplies such as local teak wood and recycled tires.

“It was great because I was able to wake up every day and know exactly what needed to be done,” Aust explained. “I lived in the jungle and it had a very nice community feel.”

That “community feel,” she said, was very strong one day when everyone on the farm came together to celebrate the second birthday of a Dutch boy who was staying there with his family. Aust said she heard “Happy Birthday” sung in Spanish, English, Hebrew, Dutch, and Finnish.

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