Two adjustments at once

November 11, 2009 at 2:42 PM

Two adjustments at once


Nawal Ali NU‘11 and Jim Stellar


In the continuing effort to capture what happens in the real-world of cooperative education experience, I got an e-mail over the summer from one of my mentees at Northeastern who had just started her 6 month cooperative education experience.  We decided to present it here, because it illustrates not only how outside real-world events (in this case a personal tragedy) can enter the learning environment but also how we think the “other lobe of the brain” works in processing them.  Both experiences are real-world ones. In this case, optimism won out.  Here is the first part of the story…


A lot has been going on my part. Unfortunately, during my second week at coop I found out that one of my close friends passed away on July 4th in a car accident. That really confused things for me because here I am starting a new job, and now I have to deal with this great amount of pain. I tried my best to still do well at work.  At first, I was very nervous at my job as I’m sure most people feel when they first start out. I was trying to get to know the people with whom I am working. I talked to a previous coop student, and who give me advice on dealing with the job and the people who I will be working with. He told me that it can be “scary” at times and people can even seem abrasive, but they are really nice. Well, when I first started I definitely agreed with the fact that the job can be a little bit “scary”, and I really thought I might not be doing a good job which put me down. At the time, I wished that I it was easier to integrate on the job.  Finding out that out my friend passed away, made it worse. But, for some reason, after last week I decided to think differently about how I feel about my job. I decided that I really need to get to know all the other people with whom I will be working. I want to turn them into mentors.  I am particularly interested in learning from women who are in charge as that is an example of who I want to be in the future.  I realized this is a huge learning experience for me. I will not only be learning about what I am doing in my actual job, but I will also be learning about how to work with people who have different personalities. At times it will be tough, but as long as I remain with a positive and happy attitude, I will succeed. Every day I walk in and do my best and that is all that I can do.


…And an update 2 weeks or so later


Things have been going well for me at work! I think it was hard for me in the beginning because I was getting adjusted to my work environment, but so far everyone is being really nice (including my supervisor). I think I got to know everyone better and vice versa. A comical thing actually happened the other day. Dr. Xxxxxxxxx approached me and asked me if I was comfortable enough to do an EKG by myself on one of his patients. I accepted the offer and went right ahead. I did everything right, printed out two copies, and Dr. X said everything was all set. As I was unhooking the patient from the machine I noticed that the machine said he was a female! Instead of freaking out and not doing anything about the situation, I did an EKG for him again, printed out the copies and went right to Dr. X. I told him what happened and he just laughed and said everything is all set. During our meeting on Wednesday, he announced to the team how impressed he was at how I handled the situation, and that my EKG results looked really good. That definitely made me feel 10x better than how I have been feeling about my job in the past. Also, my relationship with my supervisor is stronger and we are getting to know each other. I am also truly enjoying the work that I do, and I am learning so much. I just hope this feeling continues and that I also continue to impress them with my work.


Notice that Nawal has now overcome an obstacle and vastly improved her comfort level.  We often see this in study abroad programs where students overcome something wrong (including things outside work) and then go on to have a much better work/learning experience.  In fact, this is so predictable it appears as one of the stages in a book written by Linda Chisolm to provide a guide to the abroad experience.  What is the connection between abroad and co-op?  The idea of this blog is that these experiences appeal to the “Other Lobe of the Brain,” the emotional logic circuits that are always looking out to see what is going on, whether it is good for you, how to position oneself in what is almost always a social environment with others so as to get these benefits and do no harm. As Chisolm points out, this kind of mental processing has its own stages/grammar, and it goes along with and interacts with the content leaning. Now let’s check in one more time at the 5 month mark.


I have grown so much since the beginning of my internship until now. I was introduced to the real world and to the hardships and benefits that come along with it whether it’s starting a new full-time job, learning how to work with people who have very strong personalities, and coping with a death while continuing to work professionally in my work environment. I have begun to accept my friend’s recent death, and I am learning to move on. At times it is extremely difficult and everything seems so surreal, but I can imagine that this feeling is not out of the ordinary when it comes to dealing with a death of a loved one. I have also strengthened my relationship with my supervisor, and she has in fact turned into another mentor! She enjoys giving me advice about my career and is pushing for me to excel in anything I want to pursue. She also encourages me to attend numerous seminars at MGH so that I can learn as much as I can before I leave.

From Montessori philosophy for elementary students to mentoring college students: The value of feelings in learning success

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