Larissa Witte is a fourth year international affairs major graduating May 2017. She is originally from Newtown, Pennsylvania, a pretty small town outside of Philadelphia, but in her time at Northeastern University she has lived in a few different cities while on study abroad and co-op. After completing her first co-op at Oxfam America, she spent a semester studying French and political science in Paris, and then moved to La Paz, Bolivia, to complete her second co-op. Now that she is back in Boston for the Spring 2017 semester, she is excited to finish her degree and explore her options moving forward.
In high school, Larissa participated in a 3-week summer program with American University designed for potential international affairs majors, and through course study, conferences, and various meetings with representatives in the field she realized it was what she wanted to study in college. After completing her first year at Northeastern, she spent a month abroad in Spain, which solidified her interest in the major because she absolutely loved living abroad and seeing what she was studying from a new perspective. Over the past few years, she has tried to narrow down some of her interests in international affairs, but she still spent as much time abroad as she could to keep exploring different points of view within her chosen discipline.
INTL 1101: Globalization and International Affairs with Professor Denise Horn
“Globalization was just a required intro course for the major, but the course material taught by Professor Horn was so fascinating to me that it convinced me I was in the right major. The class opened up my eyes to some of the issues we face today in the US and abroad, and I attribute much of my interest to move abroad to this first class. It really served as a sampling class, one that may not give you every answer, but inspires you to seek out the answers you don’t know. I just really appreciated the way the course didn’t tell you what to think, but instead helped teach you how to think about things for yourself.”
HONR 1209: Politics of the Islamic Veil with Professor Elizabeth Bucar
“This course was a small seminar made up of students across several different disciplines, and we were all learning material that was almost completely new to us. We studied the origins of the word “veil” in the Koran, and went on to explore how its meaning has become so politicized over time. Again, this course opened up my eyes to issues I hadn’t previously considered in any serious way.”
The “Politics of the Islamic Veil” class inspired Larissa to join Professor Bucar on her Dialogue of Civilizations to Spain to study the history of Moorish rule and the significance of religious pilgrimage there. The group of Northeastern students walked part of the Camino del Santiago de Compostela as pilgrims, and spoke with other pilgrims along “the way” to hear their stories as well. According to Larissa, there is no better way to study and understand the significance of pilgrimage until you walk it yourself, and she feels so fortunate to have been a part of that trip.
According to Larissa, one of the most transformative experiences she has had while at Northeastern is her first co-op at Oxfam America, where she worked with the organizing and alliances team on various campaigns and advocacy efforts made by the organization.
“Working at Oxfam taught me a lot about the efficacy of NGOs and INGOs in the development sector, but more importantly it instilled a sense of responsibility in me to continue this kind of work in the future. Since leaving my internship, I have sought out other volunteer and professional opportunities that share similar goals as Oxfam’s, such as poverty alleviation, gender equality, and food security.”
Larissa considers her second and last co-op the most impactful experience she has had as a Northeastern undergrad. After her work with Oxfam and her time studying in Western Europe, she felt there were several issues in international affairs about which she wanted to learn more. Therefore, she developed her own co-op position as a volunteer coordinator for Foundation ALALAY, a national organization in Bolivia that works to help orphaned or abandoned street children return to school and ultimately overcome their circumstances to lead healthy, successful lives.
“My time there was unlike any other, because I had the opportunity to work directly with children still living on the street to try and understand their stories and the larger problem they were caught up in. My co-op in Bolivia showed me what a complete disregard for children’s rights looks like in real life, rather than just how it is explained in my coursework, and has since reinvigorated my commitment to working for an organization similar to ALALAY’s that is dedicated to empowering children and defending their rights.”
After spending 2016 abroad, Larissa is finally back in Boston to complete her last semester of college. She is applying to jobs around the country after her graduation in May 2017, and she hopes to get her foot in the door at one of the many INGOs headquartered here in the U.S. Her Northeastern experiences have left no doubt in her mind that she wants to work for a non-profit dedicated to global development, and she hopes to realize these aspirations by securing a full-time position after graduation.
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