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Dialogue of Civilization, Alternative Spring Breaks and Research Projects: Student Saoirse Herlihy shares her Northeastern experience

Saoirse Herlihy.

Saoirse Herlihy is a third year CAMD student pursuing a combined degree in Design and Communications Studies. We had the opportunity to catch up with Saoirse to learn about her time at Northeastern thus far. 

Why did you choose to attend Northeastern? 

When I came to college, I was initially undeclared. The Explore Program for undeclared students was a huge factor in my decision to attend Northeastern. They had a lot of support for students to find a major that aligned best with their goals and interests. I also loved the idea of the co-op program and the opportunity to get hands-on skills and experience in the workforce before graduating. 

During your time here so far, what have been a few highlights of your experience! 

The summer after my freshman year I went on a dialogue to Berlin and studied design. I was undeclared at the time so the experience gave me a great insight into what my courses would be like and the opportunities I would have if I pursued a major in design. It was awesome to be able to meet new people from different years and majors. I’m still friends with a lot of people that went on my dialogue and I got to form a great relationship with my professor as well. Dialogues are a great way to travel while also getting the credits you need towards your degree. 

My freshman and sophomore years I also got the opportunity to participate in Alternative Spring Break. Both years I and a group of about ten other students went to Ecuador and worked with the Tandana Foundation. The first year I went as a participant and the second year I went as a team leader. It was really cool to be in a new culture and have the opportunity to make connections with different community members in Ecuador. The foundation we worked with was awesome and the projects are all driven by community-led initiatives, meaning that the projects we helped with were all projects that the community themselves believed were necessary and beneficial. It’s been nice to continue to feel connected to the foundation via email and stay up to date on their lives and projects they’re working on. 

Saoirse Herlihy and Northeastern students in Ecuador for Alternative Spring Break.

Tell us about the Research Project you’ve been working on! 

I got the opportunity to work with one of my design professors this past summer on a design research project. The project involved photographing signs in the type of COVID-19. We initially looked to document signs that responded to closures, distance markings, revised hours, etc. However, after the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in late May and early June this developed to incorporate photographing signs for racial justice and equality. I’m continuing to work on this project with her now as we begin to organize our data and begin outreach in specific communities. 

Any clubs or student organizations? If so, how have they helped shape your NU experience?

I am part of the civic engagement program, NU | ACES, on campus. The alliance partners first-year students with a community partner in Boston, and students go to that partner all year-long to do weekly community service. I have stayed with the organization I was first paired with, 826 Boston, throughout my three years at Northeastern. It’s been one of my favorite aspects of my college experience so far to develop relationships with the staff and students there. NU | ACES also has a variety of alliance-building events to create a strong community among its members, and they have bi-weekly meetings about different social issues relating to Boston and the US more generally. After my freshman year, I became a student leader for the club and have helped facilitate different events relating to civic engagement and social justice! I also have a radio show with two of my friends on WRBB. We started this semester, and I’ve loved having an outlet for music in my life. It’s also been cool to hear about the different music other people in the organization are listening to and learn from them. 

What advice would you give to prospective students interested in attending Northeastern? 

I would say try not to compare yourself to other students. I felt really overwhelmed my freshman year trying to pick a major and think about my career path. Sometimes it felt like everyone had it all figured out except me, but shockingly that wasn’t true! Northeastern has so many great opportunities to take advantage of, but you don’t have to be involved in everything. Your experience will likely look different than other people’s which is part of what makes Northeastern so cool. Everyone has widely different passions and interests, and we’re all pursuing them in different ways. Pick a few things that interest you and make you happy and put energy into those.

Just because your experience looks different doesn’t mean you’re not as successful or capable. Everyone has a different path!