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Co-op abroad? ‘Just go for it’ says student on co-op in Paris.

Keira O'Connor standing in between a US and French flag at the US Embassy in Paris.
Keira O’Connor recommends a co-op abroad, like hers at the US Embassy in Paris. Courtesy photo

A co-op with the U.S. Embassy in Paris helping connect American and French businesses was the perfect opportunity for Northeastern University international business student Keira O’Connor. 

She says other students should take similar opportunities abroad.

“I mean just go for it,” O’Connor says. “You get to experience so many different cultures and so many different ways of life, and it’s just fascinating understanding how things work in different parts of the world.”

O’Connor is a third-year student on a co-op at the U.S. Embassy Commercial Service in Paris, working as an international trade intern. 

The department helps bring American companies to France and French companies to the United States, often acting as a liaison between companies and potential clients. 

The position dovetails nicely with O’Connor’s studies in international business and minor in international affairs. O’Connor also just got accepted into the PlusOne MS in International Management program.

“I feel like it’s really important to get those global experiences,” O’Connor says.

While at the embassy, O’Connor has a major project with an upcoming three-stop trade mission in the South of France. The event features economic development organizations from 15 U.S. states, traveling to meet with more than 100 French companies at each stop. 

O’Connor is focusing on the logistical aspects of the event, developing marketing materials (including a magazine for American attendees), helping create the event website and registering the participants.

She says it’s been eye-opening.

“You hear about trade shows or trade missions or road shows, and you don’t really understand all of the stuff that goes into it,” O’Connor says. 

She is also the point of contact for participating delegates and companies, giving her lots of exposure to the business and political world of international trade.

Living in Paris has also been eye-opening for O’Connor. 

Although she has traveled abroad extensively — including Dialogue of Civilizations programs in the Middle East and the Balkans while at Northeastern — O’Connor says that the experience of working a 9-to-5 job (well, in Paris, it’s 9:30 to 6) is a nice change from her usual schedule.

In addition to classes, O’Connor works part time, is involved in a sorority and plays rugby while in Boston. 

“It kind of gives you the actual taste of the work-life balance without having the millions of other things to worry about,” O’Connor says of her co-op experience. “I guess that’s the biggest shock — not necessarily culture shock — but it’s just having a different way of life because things are a little slower right now.”

It gives her time for one of her favorite activities: long runs and walks to explore the city.

“I love it,” O’Connor says of Paris. “I could see myself moving here at some point, and I wasn’t necessarily expecting that.”