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Students explore global opportunities at co-op fair

Northeastern’s second annual International Co-op Fair began on Thursday at 6 p.m. By 6:30 p.m., Evan McEldowney, AMD’17, had found the perfect position to match his skillset: a six-month experiential learning opportunity in Italy, comprising two months of intensive Italian language training and four months of work as a graphic designer at Umbra, the worldwide leader in housewares.

The co-op would begin in January, aligning perfectly with his academic schedule. What’s more, it would afford him the chance to put into practice what he has learned in class as a third-year student of graphic design and interactive media. “College is all about exploration,” he said, when asked why international co-op piqued his interest. “It’s all about immersing yourself in different cultures.” A few moments later, he left to meet his co-op adviser to discuss the position.

The fair, held in the Curry Student Center, gave hundreds of students like McEldowney the opportunity to connect with those who had recently returned from overseas co-ops. These young global citizens represented 19 countries from around the world, including Costa Rica, Singapore, and Thailand, and spent the better part of two hours explaining how their experiences had transformed their career outlook.

Tara Bartilucci’s co-op story is a prime example of the power of experiential learning. Bartilucci, BHS’15, spent the summer of 2013 working in the operating room and intensive care unit of the Airforce General Hospital in Beijing, where she tended to pediatric burn victims.

The experience moved the fifth-year nursing major to apply to complete her practicum at a burn center. “It was amazing to watch these kids recover,” said Bartilucci, who administered wax therapy to her patients. “Despite their experiences, they were so happy, so hopeful.”

Zafirah Zein, SSH’17, worked for an NGO in India, promoting good health practices to sex workers in the slums of Jodhpur, the second largest city in the state of Rajasthan. In particular, she interviewed some 75 sex workers and then compiled her findings in a qualitative report that she later submitted to the state government.

“I gained valuable on-the-ground experience while learning skills related to development fieldwork and surveying,” said Zein, a third-year student majoring in international affairs. “The experience definitely took me out of my comfort zone. It taught me to be more open-minded.”

Ellen McNeill, DMSB’18, is interested in working in India. Or Jordan. Or Costa Rica. Halfway through the fair, she stopped by a booth manned by a student who had recently returned from a co-op at Aakar Innovations, a New Delhi-based startup that employs women in rural India to spread good hygiene practices and produce sanitary pads using agro waste. After receiving a quick overview of the co-op’s experience, she did some quick math, figuring that she could spend as many as eight semesters abroad.

“I’ll never have this opportunity again,” said McNeill, a second-year student majoring in business. “I could live and work anywhere in the world.”

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