Breaking the NUin bubble through Service-Learning

Written by S-L Street Team member, Cloe Grace

Considering that many of Northeastern’s freshmen now start their college experience participating in study abroad, the term “NUin bubble” is becoming more prevalent than ever before. NUin is a Northeastern program, giving freshmen the opportunity to take classes abroad for their first semester with other students before coming to Boston. This immersive program was a great way to connect closely with other freshmen–however it sometimes creates a bubble effect when these students only interact with their fellow peers that they studied abroad with. When coming back to Boston, many students face the hardship of not knowing how to pop their bubble and become immersed in the larger Northeastern community. As an NUin student myself, I found a way to connect myself to Northeastern and the city of Boston through my time doing Service-Learning.

When first arriving in Melbourne, Australia, I was terrified of not knowing the environment I was in and being so far away from home. I didn’t even know how to cook, let alone know how to immerse myself in a completely new culture. I was suddenly taking classes completely different from those that were taught at my high school, and one of them was focused on Service-Learning. I was assigned a Service-Learning position at a local Australian Red-Cross outside the city, and it was suddenly my responsibility to find my way there each week via public transportation. Having this responsibility allowed me to explore neighborhoods I wouldn’t have normally gone to and to interact with a new community outside the US and outside the college environment. I left Melbourne appreciating how much Service-Learning taught me and ready to start a more comfortable life in Boston.

However, upon arriving in Boston, I realized that even though I was not in a new country or a city, it was hard to truly connect to the city life. I felt as though everyone else already figured Boston out their first semester of freshman year. As the scared freshman I was, I walked into my first day of my First-Year Writing class unwillingly, but after finding out we would be participating in Service-Learning I was comforted.

I was placed at the Castle-Square Tenants Organization, where I helped young students with their homework and helped prepare high school students for the SAT. I was warmly welcomed on my first day on site, and was immediately immersed in their educational program. Not only did I connect deeply with each child, but I was able to push myself outside of my comfort zone by getting to know each of these kids. I gained confidence and practiced my public speaking skills when teaching the SAT class. I expanded on all of my soft skills, meanwhile becoming more and more comfortable with the city of Boston.

Service-Learning pushed me to explore a new neighborhood of Boston that I never would have ventured into on my own. Having grown up outside of Boston, I thought I already knew what neighborhoods existed, but I was pleasantly surprised by how diverse it was- from Back Bay, Fenway, Roxbury, and many more. I was able to connect to a new group of people outside of my NUin friends and learn about their unique experiences. In addition, I was able to learn how to apply my classroom experiences to a real-world situation. I became more aware of the existing issues in Boston such as gentrification and therefore a better-educated Boston citizen.

Service-Learning not only helped me academically but also socially. It made me a more confident and educated citizen and student. It provided me with a whole new group of people from the students I tutored, to my Service-Learning peers. I feel as though Service-Learning gave me a new sense of belonging that I was missing when coming back from NUin, and it truly popped my “NUin bubble.” 

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