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In Busy, Rewarding Co-ops, Every “Second” Counts

Written by Elal Segev, a third-year BS in Civil Engineering student


Elal Segev is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in civil engineering and minoring in mathematics. Her first Northeastern co-op was at OCEO, a water filtration startup in Israel. Currently, she’s enjoying a diverse set of experiences in Madagascar through the International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) and Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute (MRCI).

Co-ops at Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute & Onward Israel

“SECONDS!” How odd it is that a single word can suddenly become one of the most important words you can hear. I will forever remember the mad scramble and dash, the silent bartering, and not-so-silent competitive spirit that the word evokes. The slim chance to get a second slice of pineapple, another pastry for dessert, or more potatoes means the world after an exhausting yet satisfying day of intensive exercise. I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to sleep and meals more in my life than I have here in Madagascar.

Studying lemurs, observing birds, recording reptiles seen in transects, working with local farmers to encourage sustainable farming practices, and chopping bamboo are all activities I can safely say I have never done until I came to Madagascar. Through the International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) and Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute (MRCI) opportunity offered here, I learned to observe lemur behavior and to see how wild lemurs differ from habituated lemurs. Here I learned to identify reptiles and properly survey them in order to see how populations are impacted due to changing habitats. Here, I chop bamboo to make bamboo straws in order to reduce plastic waste on the island and thus protect the local turtle population.

I feel that my work here matters, and every day when I hike back to camp with sore, exhausted muscles and a grumbling stomach, I feel a strange contentment in my life. A contentment that vanishes when they shout “SECONDS!” and suddenly, I have an opportunity to get a second dessert. Although I would be lying if I said it’s only in Madagascar that I enjoy more sweets and desserts than I really ought to.

Elal Segev poses for a photo on her co-op in Israel.

In contrast, my experience with Onward Israel in Israel almost seems like it was in a different lifetime. While here in Madagascar, my outside world contact very much relies on the sun and my semi-dependable solar charger, in Israel, the start-up capital, it was so easy to find a plug and get data or Wi-Fi to find out what was happening in the world.

My Israel experience was at OCEO, a startup based in India which sells water filtration devices at affordable prices. Instead of trudging through the forest, I sat in a comfortable air-conditioned room and used engineering software to design models of the company’s products in 3D and make an animation of the parts fitting together. I designed Facebook and other marketing campaigns. I calculated statistics to show affordability of the company product in relation to competitors. At times, I shivered in a room slightly overcooled by the eager AC, while here I sweat and longingly remember the days that I was cold.

That being said, I enjoyed both experiences immensely, and the extreme contrast provided a glimpse into the wide range of opportunities the field of engineering offers. Whether it is Israel, Madagascar, or some other place, I implore you to go out, explore the world, and see how your education can benefit it.

Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering