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I Got a Job!

For my final coop, I knew I wanted something international. This job will be leading Northeastern freshmen who were accepted to the January semester (Jan starts as we call them) on a fall semester abroad.  I will TA one of their classes, organize their service-learning projects, lead them on excursions, tutor when necessary, help with homesickness and culture shock, and make sure everyone makes it home alive. No, I don’t know where I’m going yet.  I could be sent to Australia, London, Costa Rica, or Thesaloniki, Greece.  Of course I prefer the developing nations, and the chance to be back in Latin America or the Mediterranean is amazing.  It doesn’t hurt that this position is well compensated, and I felt better about it when Sheff said she feels like it fits my niche well.  What exactly is that niche?  Well I think it’s something like educational, socially-minded travel. But I still had a lot of trouble with this one.  It all comes back to the conundrum I’ve been having for the last few years: there are a lot of subjects that interest me, and whenever I’m doing something that doesn’t directly help people, I feel guilty.  I feel like I’m slacking, like I’m a coward, like I’m taking the easy way out.  It doesn’t help that so many people told me they think it isn’t challenging enough, hard core enough for me.  Several people, after I told them I accepted the job, referred to it as babysitting.  (side note: I will never understand why people think it’s okay to bash your job to your face, but it happens all...

Following the Dog Out of the Window

I am not one of those it’s-for-the-best feel good types.  I’m with Josh Ritter when he says, “if the best is for the best then the best is unkind.”  I am not generally described as fatalist or optimistic. Yet, here I am. It was for the best. I wanted to go to Honduras in November, because I needed SPACE and warmth and travel and there were some enticing prices.  But it wasn’t as good of a deal as I had hoped, so I stayed home.  But I got my space anyway in December, and I got a chance to save some money for the next opportunity coming down the pike. I investigated Alternative Spring Break, which was exciting because there was an opportunity in Honduras with a do-gooder focus and a longer time-line.  But then I looked at the cost, authority on the trip, and simply lost enthusiasm for the project.  For some reason I felt like I needed validation on this decision, like I needed permission to not spend my time and money on ASB. Then I got the most fantasy-fulfilling opportunity of all: I was invited to apply for an all-expenses paid fellowship in Saudi Arabia.  This would allow me to visit a country that is normally off-limits to Americans, do it in a non-scary and not-too-long way, get to travel for free, be back in the Middle East, and get to continue some of my research.  I know, I know, how many American feminist 22 year olds fantasize about wearing an abaya and niqab for two weeks in a Gulf country in which they cannot drive?...

Ego Goes Both Ways

Normally when I travel, yoga is a daily occurrence or more.  It calms me down, helps me sleep better and often attracts friends.  This past week, however, I did a few stealthy backbends and that was about it.  And man, was I suffering because of it. In yoga, one of the internal (eternal) quests is to shed the ego, something I have a lot of trouble with.  This means no mini victory dances when I get twistier than the tiny chick in lululemon pants.  In fact, I’m not even supposed to compare myself to lulu. Generally, not wearing my glasses and closing my eyes helps, but there’s still that little voice that makes me keep going when my flat feet are killing me, because I don’t want people to think I’m too terrible to hold a warrior I. This past week, I saw the harm of my ego cutting the other way.  I was uncomfortable joining in the small ragtag group doing yoga in the middle of breakfast.  This is totally unlike me, as there are pictures of me doing yoga pretty much everywhere: airports, bars, hotel rooms, parties, restaurants, the Sahara dessert.  I laughed, gave some superior advice from afar, and watched the group of newbies look confused and redfaced. Meanwhile, my back was aching for a good chataranga.  Given how easy it was to be “one of them” (gooba-gabba!) once I allowed myself to do it, I wonder how much of that otherness I was feeling was self-induced. By one of them, I mean a part of this new segment of NU’s population.  For them, I am...

Un Dia Perfecto

…but it really didn’t start out that way.  I was most of the way through a week filled with business students, bucket showers and no booze.  A deadly combination. I dragged my heels home down the dirt road covered in all manner of detritus.  The rooster started that strangled howling as I got into bed by headlamp-light, sometime after 1 am.  I had recently been given the “honor” or presenting all our research.  This dubious task meant I was quiet, bad at public speaking, and told how to use a flash drive by everyone who spoke english within a 20 ft radius.  I couldn’t have been more insulted. I didn’t wake up; rather I finally admitted defeat and stopped trying to sleep.  I dropped Stella and set to work on the presentation, eventually relocating because the “help” from everyone was getting a bit overwhelming.  We worked through breakfast, only to cram onto a bus and spend that precious travel time anxiously looking out the window without words, instead of sleeping or finishing the presentation. The presentation came and went and I felt so utterly useless, so removed from the process.  I was like a token placeholder.  I longed to take a stance, to defend or assert anything.  I even almost passed out, as I always do at such inopportune moments.  Annoyed, I changed into cooler clothes and ate lunch before heading out on the afternoon’s visits.  Our newly-formed group rumbled along in an air condicioned bus, sitting on subwoofers and coolers of soda.  A whole cooler, just of soda!  And the air was cold, all on its own!  It...

10 Hardest Things About Working in Study Abroad

Students tell their parents little to nothing.  This is scary because then they call you, usually owing money or unable to locate their child or crying. Most people are fairly certain that they are the first human being to ever go abroad, and there’s just no way you actually know what you’re saying. Travel-envy!  Seriously, I have mentally planned so many fantasy trips that when I have the time and money I can just pull one out from the vault. The things you can’t help students with.  There are so many different programs, so many students, and so many intense visa regulations; I cannot memorize them all.  I wish I could help you, but I am not in charge of everything, and I’m not responsible for ensuring that every possible aspect of your trip is covered.  I am not a travel agent, and you really need to talk about Financial Aid with Financial Aid, and your Academic questions need to go to your Academic Advisor. The stuff you can’t tell students.  Yes, most of you will get in.  Almost all.  But if I tell you that, two things will happen.  1) You won’t turn in all your stuff on time, and 2) via Murphy’s law, you will be our only rejected student.  So no, I can’t tell you your chances.  Just turn in your damn application on time! Everyone else on campus thinks they know better.  So often other students, administrators or faculty members start telling people what will or won’t happen, how much things cost, or a what a policy is.  If it didn’t come direct from this...

Choosing a New Place

When I first heard about the Benin trip, and how it had a one-week France component, I was a little bummed.  I had already been to france, I already had that stamp.  But I think a lot changed when I was in Cuba. As the trip got closer, I thought of paris as a comfort, as a home in so many ways.  As a breath of fresh air, the way a weekend at my parents’ house can be.  Now, when I think of bangladesh, I don’t think oh! Now I can say I’ve been to asia.  I don’t think about all the great proximate countries and how to cram them in as cheap as possible.  I think about how hard it will be to experience my first truly blind foreign language experience.  I think about how ill probably be alone, and what will I do for housing.  I think about how they treat women, and wonder whether harassment is prevalent.  When I think about the Dominican Republic, I think of the comforts of Spanish and familiar food.  I think of the proximity to Cuba and Haiti.  I think about how going there three times in a six month period will be such an asset.  Of course, I also hope there will be enough food, and that I wont get sick of spending so much time there. I think a lot, too, about the choices I don’t make.  Latin america isn’t supposed to be my focus area.  Shouldn’t I be in Africa or the Middle East?  Shouldn’t, as a friend suggested, I be running back to Cairo? This is where...

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