2018 graduates Michelle and Felicia Deonarine call themselves the Gilmore girls of Northeastern University.
Like Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, the popular TV show characters, they are mother and daughter as well as best friends.
They live, study, and eat Friday night takeout together. When they’re having bad days, they text each other.
Two years ago, this mother and daughter duo circled this week on their calendars, marking when they would graduate from Northeastern, simultaneously.
Now that time is here.
“We’ve had a long journey,” says Michelle, a graduate student in Northeastern’s pediatric nurse practitioner program who received her degree at a ceremony in Blackman Auditorium on Wednesday. “It’s so great that we’ll be able to share this milestone.”
Felicia, a fifth-year English and architecture major who will graduate on Friday at TD Garden in Boston, echoed Michelle. “These past few semesters have been a wild ride for the both of us with a lot of ups and downs,” she says. “But we got through it together as we always do with everything.”
From Atlanta to Boston
Like many prospective students, Felicia chose Northeastern for the co-program, enrolling in the university in 2013. Michelle, then a registered nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, followed suit in 2014.
Michelle moved to Boston from Atlanta for two primary reasons: to work as a registered nurse at Boston’s Children’s Hospital and study to become a nurse practitioner at Northeastern.
“I always knew Northeastern was a good school,” she says, “but seeing it from the perspective of a parent made a huge impact on my decision to come here.”
“Is that your sixth cup of coffee?”
Northeastern challenged the Deonarines.
Michelle found that working 40 hours per week while taking classes part time could be overwhelming. Felicia changed her major twice and spent many long nights in Northeastern’s architecture studio.
“It was tough,” says Michelle. “Some nights I cried in the shower because it was very intense.”
Mother and daughter used their skills to help each other. Felicia showed Michelle how to use PowerPoint for class presentations while Michelle provided health advice to Felicia. “I’m her personal nurse,” she jokes. “If she complains of a headache, I’ll ask, ‘did you sleep? Is that your sixth cup of coffee?”
Felicia credited Michelle with helping her find her path. “My mom has been instrumental in making my dreams come true,” she says. “I would not be who I am or where I am today without her love and support.”
As a kid, Felicia played with Legos. At Northeastern, she did a co-op at the Aedes Architecture Forum, a world-renowned exhibition space in Berlin. Now she wants to design and construct sustainable buildings.
“The built environment is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases,” she says. “I want to fix that.”
Felicia plans to apply to graduate school in Europe, including ETH Zurich and University College Dublin. Her dream is to live and work in London.
Michelle wants to stay in Boston. Her career goal is to become a nurse practitioner at Boston Children’s Hospital, where she’s worked for the past four years. “I like the autonomy of nurse practitioners,” she says. “They’re able to work independently and use their critical thinking skills.”
Michelle says she’ll miss Felicia if she moves to Europe, but she’d never try to prevent her daughter from flying the coop to pursue her dreams. “Felicia makes me whole,” says Michelle, who calls her daughter a “gift.” “If everything in my life were crumbling, it wouldn’t matter as long as she were OK.”
Felicia, for her part, calls her mom “the most passionate, sweet, selfless person I know.”
Their post-graduation celebration plan? Cake, champagne, and their particular brand of camaraderie.
As Felicia puts it: “We’re a couple of goofballs.”