Doing the Northeastern Shuffle

By Catherine Titcomb
Photography courtesy of Unsplash.com

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Every college campus experiences some degree of fluidity as students come and go, whether to transfer in or out, graduate, or study abroad. This is emphasized at Northeastern largely because of the co-op program, and the phenomenon has earned its own name, the “Northeastern Shuffle.”

N.U.i.n Fall and Spring, out-of-state and country co-ops, co-op cycles and studying abroad affects friendships, relationships and rooming situations. As soon as a student settles, half of their friends leave. However, many Northeastern students believe the fluid campus is what makes the university so unique, and should be seen as an asset.

Lucy Hoffman, a second year student, argued that Northeastern “helps to create an atmosphere where there is always someone new to talk to with an amazing experience and insight to share.” People leave to experience wildly different things, and come back to share their knowledge with their peers, contributing to an socially aware and worldly student body.

Rachel Sigel, another second year, said that the changes often “make it difficult to maintain close relationships with students and faculty.” Friends, research partners and network connections are some of the most valuable takeaways from college, and Northeastern’s constant state of change can make it difficult to establish and maintain relationships.

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At the risk of sounding like a commercial for experiential learning, most students cite the co-op program as a reason for their attendance at Northeastern. However, because of co-op students have at most two years and at least a year and a half of classes before being thrown into the workforce, forcing them to adopt a new routine. The shift from classes to work forces students to learn flexibility, be uncomfortable, learn quickly and build a new network of peers.

I applied to Northeastern because I wanted to have a typical college experience in Boston as well as gain career experience. My acceptance letter told me I would have to spend my first semester abroad, which was the last thing I wanted. I wanted the freshmen floor friends, dining halls and sports games that my friends would be experiencing. I decided to sacrifice this idealistic tableau of my first semester at college for the next four and a half years at my dream school. Now, I cannot imagine freshman year without the friends I made in Greece through the traveling and the memories. My perfect college plan was interrupted from the start because of Northeastern, but the way it worked out prepared me for future location changes on co-op and taught me that allowing change pays off. This flexible mental state is necessary to survive at Northeastern, and is also essential for success and happiness in life.

Accepting flux at Northeastern is a step towards accepting flux in the world. Nothing is more inevitable than change, yet people never expect it. Relying on stagnation and permanence for our happiness leads to hurt.

In his novel Looking for Alaska, John Green references the Buddhist teaching that desire causes suffering and interprets it as, “When you stopped wishing things wouldn’t fall apart, you’d stop suffering when they did.” Both small and drastic changes happen throughout life, and being open to this flux frees one to accept every aspect of life, even if it turns out to be different than what was dreamed or planned for. The Northeastern shuffle causes students to expect change and learn to be flexible, which proves valuable even out of the context of campus.

It is this flux that continues throughout our lives that make life interesting. Despite the pain and confusion it can sometimes cause, change adds variety and combats boredom. This makes it a vital aspect of fashion. For many, picking out a different outfit everyday is one of the best parts of the day. In the fashion industry, designers must embrace flux because the industry relies on newness in collections, techniques, and trends. Rapid change in the fashion industry makes it an example of the beauty of flux and an argument for embracing change. Flux makes fashion interesting, it makes Northeastern interesting and it makes life interesting.