Hi, welcome to my blog! My name is Gretchen and I am from Virginia Beach, VA. I’m a second year Health Science student, with a minor in Food Systems Sustainability, Health, and Equity.

Ask me any questions about:

  • The coop application process
  • Community service in college
  • Taking language classes at NU
  • Cool cafes in Boston!

I’m excited to keep you updated throughout my time at Northeastern and share why I love this school so much 🙂

Peace out Boston

A few weekends ago, my friends and I packed all of our gear into a minivan and left Boston for a weekend of camping.  We headed north, drove for about five hours, and eventually arrived in Penobscot, Maine. We found our campsite through Airbnb and it exceeded all expectations. The host had kindly put up lights for us so that we were able to find our way around when we arrived around 10:00 p.m. That first night was spent setting up tents in the dark, grilling hamburgers, and huddling around the campfire.

The next morning my friends and I decided to wake up early and watch the sunrise. Our campsite was located on a lake and had kayaks and a canoe, so we decided to take the boats out and watch the sky change color over the water. The still water paired with the rising sun was a truly ethereal experience. The calmness of the morning took a turn when my kayak decided to capsize. Unfortunately we had failed to notice the gaping hole in the back of the boat and I ended up taking a very early morning swim. Luckily it capsized not too far from the dock and I was able to swim/walk the way back to shore. The chilly Maine water was definitely a unique start to the day.

I spent the rest of the morning huddled by the fire, trying to dry off myself and my many layers of clothes. After repairing the kayaks, we spent the rest of the day paddling around the lake and hanging out on the island in the middle. The evening entailed listening to lots of music, much more time by the fire, and grilled chicken and baked potatoes. The weekend overall was very relaxing and a much needed break from the city!

Four or Five?

A five-year track at Northeastern is very common. Many students choose to take full advantage of the co-op program and participate in two or three, which can often extend the time spent as a Northeastern student. I am currently on track to participate in two co-ops over the course of four years, graduating with a whole year of full-time work experience under my belt. 

On tours, I often get asked: how is that possible?

Northeastern’s schedule can be a little different compared to other universities. Northeastern offers two summer terms, Summer 1 and Summer 2, where students can take classes in order to meet graduation requirements. Summer 1 classes run for two months, from May to June ,and Summer 2 classes are in July and August. This year these summer classes were all remote due to COVID-19, but normally Northeastern’s Boston campus is busy with students every month of the year. Over the summer, Northeastern also offers Dialogues of Civilizations. These programs occur across the globe and allow students to take two classes while immersed in different cultures. Whether it’s taking classes in Boston over the summer or taking classes with a cohort of students and faculty in another country, Northeastern offers many ways for students to stay on track for co-ops and graduation. I do want to clarify and express that all majors are different– some may be more strict in requiring summer courses, while others may leave it to individual preference. 

When I was considering Northeastern, I was hesitant about the unusual schedule compared to other universities; however, I have enjoyed the flexibility Northeastern offers during my time here. Especially after high school, I felt somewhat drained from constant classes. I have found co-op to be a refreshing change of pace, and I am looking forward to taking classes again this fall. Northeastern has an ever changing dynamic, which is really appealing to me. No two semesters feel the same and this variation keeps Northeastern feeling fresh every semester.

Learning in a Pandemic

Uncertainty feels ever present these days. Especially in regard to COVID-19, it can often feel like reliable information is hard to come by and that the news spreads misinformation instead of fact.

That is one of the reasons why I was proud that Northeastern offered a free, one-credit class on the pandemic during Summer 2. Open to all students, the class, COVID-19 and Pandemic Response: A Pop-Up Course, helped shed light on what was really occurring in response to the pandemic and how we can get involved.

The class met once a week for two hours over zoom. During that time, the instructor Patricia Case and the teaching assistants all did a marvelous job of incorporating discussions and panelists to curate thoughtful conversations. The first week consisted of an overview of the current COVID-19 pandemic and compared it to previous pandemics. In the class, we discussed the clinical presentation, epidemiology, and policies at the federal, state, and local levels in regard to COVID-19. The next session focused on current numbers, emerging infectious diseases, and economics impacts of the pandemic. In the following sessions, we covered a variety of topics that are impacted by the pandemic, including mental health, homelessness, people who use drugs, racial vulnerabilities, contact tracing, ethics, and where we go from here.

Our final paper focused on ways we could get involved through volunteering. As I researched opportunities, I realized there are simple ways everyone can do something to lighten the burdens this pandemic has placed on our society. There are a variety of remote opportunities, such as digitally connecting with elderly members of a retirement community to combat isolation, and also many in-person opportunities, including volunteering at food pantries. A simple way to help those around us is to check in on our family, friends, and neighbors. Connecting is an important step to combat loneliness during this time. Furthermore, asking neighbors who may be at higher risk if they need any groceries is another way to help lessen the burden. These are simple tasks, but kindness goes a long way, especially as we are all feeling extra stressed.

Times are weird. There is lots of uncertainty and confusion surrounding both the now and the future. But I was happy that Northeastern offered this class for its students. It felt reassuring hearing from experts and learning more about proper protocols.  There is much to learn from our current circumstances, especially as a public health student, and I feel fortunate to have been able to take advantage of this learning opportunity through Northeastern.

A Wrap on Co-op

This was a bittersweet calendar notification to receive. Mostly because Friday wasn’t my last day of co-op.

I have enjoyed my past six months working at my co-op, and was even asked to stay on another month, which I am looking forward to. But seeing that notification reminded me of what could have been. I remember putting it in my calendar in January and thinking about all the experiences I would have between my first day at work and my final one. I was expecting my co-op experience to all take place in Boston, which was not the case. I was excited to go to work every day and have more time to explore Boston on the weekends, especially during the warmer months. I was looking forward to attending meetings and lectures, while sitting next to my colleagues and getting to know them more. But unfortunately, seeing that calendar notification just reminded me that this semester was nothing like I expected. 

For the past three and a half months, I have been working from home. While at times this has had its perks, it definitely changed my co-op experience from the one I was expecting. I am fortunate that I am able to continue to work during these challenging times and that I can do my job remotely and social distance at the same time. But I have realized that Zoom meeting burnout is real and that I really miss the social aspect and conversations I was able to have at work. 

Working remotely has changed what my job looks like a bit. Now taking notes during online meetings is a major aspect of my job, which I never had to do back in Boston. I have also had to juggle working in a different time zone from the rest of my colleagues, which has affected my normal routine. However, I am also aware of how fortunate I am to be in my position during this time. As a student studying public health, I have had incredible access to different lectures and meetings from public health officials during a global pandemic. I have also witnessed how the researchers I work with have had to shift their focus to meet current needs for data and include COVID-19 research into their ongoing projects, surveys, and clinical trials. 

Sure, I was hoping to experience all of my co-op in Boston and I miss going into the office everyday. My expectations have definitely shifted from when I first put that notification into my calendar; however, I have still managed to learn from my colleagues, expand upon my skill sets and knowledge of the research process, attend interesting lectures and meetings, and adapt to different working conditions. I still have one more month to go and I am excited to continue working remotely with my team. While it is not exactly the co-op I imagined, I am still proud of what I have learned and accomplished in this role, especially during these challenging times.

My Favorite Class at Northeastern

Spring semester of my freshman year, I walked into my American Healthcare Systems course with little expectations. Professor Bauer introduced herself and explained that this was also her first semester teaching at Northeastern and one of her first classes teaching undergrads. I was very nervous about what the expectations might be from a professor who had previously only worked with graduate students; however, it soon became my favorite class I have taken at Northeastern.

Part of the reason why I think I loved the class so much was that it was one of the first real public health focused classes I had taken at Northeastern. Before coming to college, one of the aspects I was most excited for was taking courses that actually interested me. Through readings, lectures, and discussions we dissected how our healthcare system functions and uncovered many of its flaws. I found the course fascinating and the lessons very applicable to everyday life. For example, knowing how our insurance works and what all the related terms mean has helped my understanding in numerous situations, whether it’s reading proposed policy changes or when filling out forms at the doctor’s office. Although I may be a nerd for anything related to public health, many of my peers who are pre-health found the course equally beneficial. We need future healthcare workers to understand how the system currently operates, so they can implement necessary changes. 

What is 'Medicare for all'? - CNN Video

Throughout the course, Professor Bauer also hosted many guest lecturers to talk about the topics we were studying. I found learning from professionals, who had years of experience in these areas, to be extremely beneficial.  One of our first assignments that offered an overview of issues in our healthcare system was reading the Time Magazine article titled, “Bitter Pill: Why American Medical Bills are Killing Us.” I was completely shocked while reading the article. I highly encourage everyone to read it, as it explains key issues within our healthcare systems that I believe many people are unaware of. It opened my eyes to the suffering of many Americans who do not have insurance and have to decide between receiving necessary care or enormous debt. 

I recommend this course and Professor Bauer to everyone because the course alerted me to many perspectives I had not previously considered on an issue that affects everyone. It helped shape my decision to continue studying public health because I do not want to live in a society where life-saving medical care can also be a financial death sentence. We need to make changes to our healthcare system and I want to be part of the generation to do so.

An Abrupt End to a Great Year

This past month away from Boston has given me ample time to reflect on the year and look through old photos and memories. I have decided to do a wrap-up of all the cool events I was able to attend at Northeastern this past year.

Homecoming Headliner:

John Mulaney and Nick Kroll performed live stand-up at Northeastern during our Homecoming celebrations.

In October, Northeastern celebrated homecoming with special events throughout the week. The highlight for me was the Homecoming Headliner show, where I watched John Mulaney and Nick Kroll perform live stand-ups and conduct a hilarious Q&A. The night began with a performance from opening act Emmy Blotnick. Extremely funny and very talented, Emmy was relatable to the crowd of college students. The whole event was hilarious and I don’t think I have ever laughed that hard for so long. It was an extremely memorable event and a great way to take a break from studying for midterms. 

Former US Ambassador to the United Nations: Samantha Power

Samantha Power visited Northeastern and answered questions during a live Q&A

Northeastern hosts an ongoing series, The Civic Experience, which brings in a wide variety of speakers covering different issues. In January this year, I was able to attend one of these programs, where Samantha Power, the former US Ambassador to the UN, was interviewed. It was a great opportunity to hear her talk about her career path and international affairs. She also took time to answer questions from Northeastern students.

Global Health Conference:

This year, I attended Global Health in a Changing World: People, Planet, Technology. This Global Health Conference at Northeastern, which is partially run by students, brought many different speakers to campus to discuss a wide range of global health issues. My favorite lecture from the event was a presentation by Dr. Andreas Pottakis discussing health concerns created by the EU migration crisis. 

Winter Walk for Homelessness

Boston Winter Walk 2020

Another neat event that I attended for the first time this year was the Winter Walk for Homelessness in Boston. I joined the event with a group of students from the Alliance of Civically Engaged Students. We participated in a walk around Boston on one of the coldest days of the year to raise awareness and money for those citizens of Boston that do not have a warm place to sleep at night. I thought this was an eye-opening event and plan on participating in future years, in support of those experiencing homelessness in our city. 

Climate Change Open Classrooms

Another really interesting opportunity at Northeastern is the Myra Kraft Open Classroom, hosted by the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. This is a lecture series that occurs each semester and is open to the general public and the entire Northeastern community. This semester, the series focused on Climate Change, and each week, they brought in speakers that discussed a wide range of topics related to the issue.  I particularly enjoyed this series, especially since I am on co-op and have missed the typical classroom setting. I highly encourage anyone in the Boston area to look into this ongoing series, which happens each semester.


Northeastern’s Council for University Programs hosted many concerts this year, including Ashe and Maya Lucia.

This year I joined the Council for University Programs, also known as CUP. This organization hosts different programming for Northeastern Students, such as showing the new film, Knives Out. They also bring many different artists to perform at Northeastern. This year, the concerts included Ashe, Spencer with Julian Yeboah and Mint Green, STL GLD with Cliff Notez, Riz La Vie, and Zaia. I always enjoy going to these concerts because you get to be close to the performers as they are usually in AfterHours, which is a small venue we have on campus. 

Boston, I miss you.

Reflecting back on my time at Northeastern these past semesters, I am very grateful to all the opportunities I have had. Although I was sad my time was cut a bit short, it has been amazing to see the Northeastern community find ways to engage while social distancing. For example, events such as yoga classes, lecture series, and club meetings have been moved online so students and faculty can still feel connected. I am looking forward to upcoming semesters at Northeastern, especially with an enriched appreciation for the great community I have found there. 

Co-op 101

The prospect of co-op can be a little daunting to students. I know it was something I was nervous about, but luckily the semester before you go on your first co-op, Northeastern requires you to take an Introduction to Co-op class. The Introduction to Co-op classes at Northeastern are major-specific, so advisors are best able to tailor their advice. Because of this, all classes are a little bit different and I can only speak to the Health Science Co-op class that I took. Some programs have more structured timelines for application submissions and interviews. I will describe an overview of what the process was like for me, but bear in mind other students may have very different experiences. 

The semester before you go on co-op, NUCareers will probably become a staple tab, always opened on your computer. NUCareers is a database created by Northeastern and lists all available co-op positions. Before you get access to NUCareers, your Co-op Advisor will most likely meet with you one on one to discuss and approve your resume. I personally found this meeting extremely helpful, as she was able to give me insight into what employers are looking for and how to best position myself. Once my resume was approved, I was able to start applying, which was both daunting and very exciting. 

The application process differs depending on the job and company. The type of jobs you are applying for might also have different protocols. Some jobs require just a resume, while others might also need a cover letter. Some jobs conduct in person interviews, while others do video or phone interviews. Regardless, your co-op advisor is an expert on all these nuances and is there to answer whatever questions you might have during the process. 

In my experience, most of my interviews had pretty similar formatting. All of them consisted of a few members of the team interviewing me together. I felt prepared during my interviews as I came with multiple copies of my resume and had prepared questions I wanted to ask the employers. Although I was extremely nervous at the beginning of each of my interviews, because of co-op class I felt much more prepared and had an idea of what to expect.

While I was applying to and interviewing for co-ops on my own time, during co-op class we did activities to prepare us and listened to different speakers that would benefit us during our co-op search. For example, one day we did mock interviews to work on our interview and conversation skills. We also reflected on our strengths and weaknesses, to be able to best discuss those with employers. In terms of speakers, my advisor brought in different employers and upperclassmen, who had previously gone on co-ops, to share their experiences with us. It was interesting to hear about the hiring process from employers and get the chance to ask them questions. It was also beneficial to hear from upperclassmen and hear first hand accounts of what co-op is like. 

Although the co-op search can appear overwhelming, Northeastern simplifies the job search process through advisors, your co-op class, and NUCareers to ensure that their students are able to gain experiential learning outside of the classroom.

Why Northeastern?

As a tour guide at Northeastern University, I love to talk about my school, whether it’s explaining the concept of co-op to confused looking high school students and their parents or telling stories from my transition to Northeastern as a freshman. I always reserve the last stop on my tour to tell visitors why I decided on Northeastern. There were many reasons why I ended up choosing Northeastern, but to simply sum it up, I went with my gut. Throughout the entire college application process, I was always most excited about Northeastern. From first submitting my application to finally getting accepted, when I pictured myself in college, the visual always seemed to consist of huskies, co-ops, and Centennial Common. So my advice to any confused high school seniors is to trust your instincts. If I had followed this advice, I would have chosen to go to Northeastern much earlier instead of waiting days before the decision deadline, which probably would have made my last year in high school much less stressful. Alas, that was not the case, but I am forever thankful that I ultimately went with my gut feeling instead of staying in my comfort zone or following the footsteps of friends. 

To me, Northeastern represents something exciting and new. Not just to my freshman self, but I believe that with Northeastern’s unconventional class and co-op schedule it is a place that remains exciting and will never feel boring or antiquated. Fresh faces and new experiences come with each semester, which was one of the aspects I was looking forward to the most at Northeastern. I enjoyed my time in high school, but with the same group of students in most of my classes I was more than ready for change, which is why Northeastern was perfect for me. 

In addition to Northeastern’s innovative class/co-op schedule, the location also really appealed to me. Boston is a young city. Go to almost any cafe and take a look around, the majority of the customers will be under 25. Being an out-of-state student from Virginia, I knew I wanted to go to school in a lively city that I had yet to explore. After being here for over a year, I can say that Boston never disappoints. Every weekend there are always a slew of fun events to attend, such as food or book festivals. A “what to do in Boston this weekend” Google search has yet to fail me thus far. Boston is simply a city one can never be bored in. 

Another reason why I was and remain so excited by Northeastern is the emphasis on experience. If you have toured Northeastern at all, you have probably heard about the four pillars of experiential learning that it prides itself on: Co-op, Global Experience, Service-Learning, and Research. Unlike some of my peers, I have never had a singular vision of what my future career will look like. It typically changes week to week, depending on whatever latest career in the public health realm has caught my eye. So for me, the chance to go on co-op has been incredibly valuable. Getting to work as a professional before graduating makes me feel much more confident in my education, so I can tailor it to best serve me and take classes that are the most beneficial.

Additionally, even before applying to Northeastern I researched the different programs and majors and fell in love with the Health Science curriculum. Flexibility was essential to me because I did not want my undergraduate experience to be riddled with generic, irrelevant classes. The Health Science major at Northeastern has allowed me to take interesting classes, fulfill my minor requirements, and still graduate in four years with two co-ops. As a disclaimer, not all programs have the same flexibility, but I encourage anyone considering applying to Northeastern to take a closer look at different programs that might be of interest.

Finally, Northeastern’s campus has really become a home to me over this past year and a half, which is why I choose to come back every semester. The people I have met here have played a huge role in this, from the incredible professors I have had, who have helped shape my career path to the friends I made during orientation and still live with today. I hope through this post that anyone considering Northeastern has a good understanding of the aspects that most appealed to me. Furthermore, if any high school seniors are struggling with their decisions, I wish you the best of luck and just remember to trust your instincts. 

Bye Bye Bye Sweatpants

I will be honest, 40 hours a week can sometimes feel quite endless. 

The transition to co-op is a weird one. About a month ago, I started my first co-op at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as the International Projects co-op for the Nutrition and Global Health Program. I was previously accustomed to having classes sporadically throughout the week, with time in between to do homework, nap, or go to the gym. While sometimes I miss this flexibility, there are also many perks to being on co-op. When I get home at the end of the day, I no longer have to stress about assignments or upcoming exams. Throughout the day, I don’t have the chance to grab lunch at Rebecca’s with friends or see them at random times in passing, but when I am home from work I have ample time to catch up, without having to make time to do homework. 

Another opportunity through co-op is the chance to get to know my coworkers. Working with a team that conducts and sponsors various research projects regarding nutrition and health all over the globe also means that everyone has had their fair share of incredible experiences and is a unique resource to gain insight into the world of both academia and global health. However, sometimes it is also crazy to me to have coworkers that are all so successful. Almost everyone in the office has their doctorate, so contributing to lunchtime conversations can be a little nerve-racking. I also find it comical being 15 years younger than all of my co-workers, especially when we talk about weekend plans and theirs all revolve around their kids and trying to find time to go to yoga class. Overall, I really enjoy working with my team and am looking forward to getting to know them over the next five months.

Another major aspect of co-op that I have had to get used to is the lack of sweatpants. Sometimes, especially when it’s a snowy, cold morning in January, it is completely disheartening to have to put effort into my appearance. Tragically the days of waking up at 9:00, rolling out of bed, grabbing a granola bar, and heading out to my 9:15 class are over. On the flipside, sometimes putting on “real people clothes” can at least make me feel like I am slightly more on top of it and together than usual.  

Although the transition can be a strange one, there are both pros and cons to being on co-op. I truly am thankful that I go to a school that places such importance on experiential learning, because it is not often that you get to test out a career for a six-month period to help decide if it is something that interests you. A month in, I am still excited by my co-op, but definitely think I now have a better idea of what I want out of future co-ops and jobs. I am hopeful that the next five months are beneficial and insightful, even if it means a lack of time spent in sweatpants.

A Collective Haul of Study Spots

In the spirit of finals, I decided to compile a list of my favorite places to study on and around campus. If you’re like me, then studying in a silent library is not the most ideal location to do work. So hopefully this list contains some insight into other study spots around Northeastern.

Spots on campus:

  • ISEC (Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex): Arguably my preferred spot on campus, ISEC has a great atmosphere and open layout that always help to channel my productivity. With six levels that each have multiple studying spaces, it is easy to find a place to set up shop. If eliminating noise and outside distractions is the goal, the bottom floor also has fun, egg-shaped pod chairs that do a good job of blocking noise. Cafe Strega is also located in ISEC, to accommodate any study break food necessities.  
  • Any empty classroom: Often forgotten about, empty classrooms can be ideal locations to do work with a group of friends, especially when Snell Library is overcrowded. Buildings, such as Shillman and Richards, seem to always have space available at night or on the weekends, making them good places to check. 
  • Afterhours: Located conveniently close to the Starbucks in Curry Student Center, Afterhours is a venue that sometimes features musicians or speakers. This location is fantastic for studying, as good music and coffee are both featured. The atmosphere is most similar to a cafĂ© with a calm, yet dynamic energy to it.
  • Tatte/Marino: While perhaps not the most obvious place to write an essay, something about the close proximity to all the wonderful pastries from Tatte and the active energy present in Marino creates an interesting, but productive dynamism. There are almost always tables open, unless you visit around noon on a Sunday when all the seats will be filled with the weekend brunchers. 
  • The great outdoors: In the rare event that the weather is actually warm in Boston, Northeastern has many outdoor spaces on campus to do work while enjoying the sun. 
    • Centennial Commons: A crowd favorite, Centennial Commons is one of the main green spaces on campus. Located next to Ruggles Station, students can always be found enjoying the nice weather in adirondack chairs or lounging in hammocks. 
    • The law library quad: Next to Northeastern’s law school, this quad has less traffic than most, making it a great spot to do work without being distracted by passerbyers.
    • ISEC: In the warmer months, tables are put up outside and making ISEC once again a fantastic location to do work. 

Places near campus:

  • Boston Public Library: One of the most magnificent buildings in Boston, the BPL has a gorgeous reading room filled with long tables and green lamps, making it an excellent place to study. The overall atmosphere feels much more like a museum than a library, which is why a study trip is the perfect excuse to go check it out and spend some quality time there. 
  • CafĂ©s: I have also found that cafĂ©s are great places to study, as they offer both sustenance and good atmospheres. Luckily, or perhaps not so lucky for my bank account, Northeastern is located close to many great cafĂ©s and bakeries. Here are some of my favorites:
    • Farmer Horse CafĂ©
    • Caffè Nero
    • Caffè Bene
    • Oakleaf Cakes Bake Shop
    • Pavement
    • Render Coffee
  • The Prudential Center: Another location off campus that is perfect for studying is in the Prudential Center. Although sometimes busy with frantic shoppers, there are lots of spots to sit, making it a nice place to get off campus and get work done without going too far. 

In conclusion, one should never feel limited by Snell library or dorm room common spaces. Northeastern is filled with great study spots, and is in close proximity to a wide variety of locations in Boston that will cater to all studying needs. 

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