Andrea Nazarian (left) grew up in Toronto and graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, before enrolling in the Master of Science in Communication (MSC) program at Northwestern’s School of Communication in September 2014. She will receive her master’s degree August 13.
Since January, Andrea has also worked in a part-time student position on the marketing and communications team at Northwestern’s Office of Alumni Relations and Development. As she prepares to graduate, Andrea took some time to reflect on her time at Northwestern.
Over the last 11 months of my life, I’ve seen some highs and lows. But most importantly, I have come away with an immense sense of personal growth and fulfillment. My experience as a graduate student at Northwestern was not at all what I expected it to be, and for that I’m thankful.
Having come to the MSC program straight out of undergrad, I was used to my academic life being a certain way. I completed my bachelor’s degree at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, a university in a town so tiny with a school community so tight-knit that my classmates felt more like family than people I simply sat next to in lecture.
Coming to Northwestern from Queen’s was a bit of a shock to the system at first. The part-time format of the MSC program left me with a lot of free time on my hands initially. I tried to find internship and volunteer opportunities but the nature of my student visa prohibited me from doing any type of paid or unpaid work anywhere other than at Northwestern until June 2015. This was September 2014. Add to this the fact that many people in my program were over the age of 35 and had their own full-time jobs, families and lives outside of the program, and I found myself feeling very bored and very lonely in the initial months.
I immersed myself in the academic material. For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed what we learned about in our MSC classes. Professor Mike Roloff’s dry sarcasm and sharp wit made a relatively straightforward class about change management in the workplace engaging and punchy.
Professor Paul Arntson’s leadership and decision-making class required each student to lead a mock meeting and decision-making process while being videotaped. We were given feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of our leadership and communication style after the fact, which kept us focused and on our toes during the whole process. Looking back at that experience both literally and figuratively, I found the exercise to be very worthwhile.
My favourite MSC class by far, though, was Strategy in the Global Economy, taught by Professor Dilip Gaonkar. In Dilip’s class we discussed everything from the rise of Nike to the implications of globalization on the international economy. The content of the course was relevant and stimulating, and Dilip’s teaching style left me hungry to learn more, even after the class had wrapped up.
International students like myself were required to take separate classes from the rest of the cohort during two of the program’s four quarters. Through those classes, I connected and made lasting friendships with MSC students from Oman, the Dominican Republic and Kazakhstan. These students have become dear friends over the course of the program, and I hope to visit all of them in their home countries one day.
By the time the winter quarter rolled around, I had found myself a part-time job doing marketing and communications writing at Northwestern’s Office of Alumni Relations and Development. Joining the ARD team was the best decision I could have made during my time at NU. Everyone from my supervisor to the other student employees with whom I shared my desk were incredibly kind and supportive people. I was never bored—I was consistently given engaging and relevant assignments and always felt like a valued member of ARD’s marketing and communications team. As I write this, I am less than a month away from my last day at the ARD office before moving back to Canada. Having worked here for the last eight months, it’s safe to say that I’ll miss this place and the people in it.
After graduation, I plan on moving back to the land of hockey and maple syrup to find my first “real” full-time job. I have already begun the long and tedious job search process and hope to find an in-house public relations job at a major organization in either Toronto or Vancouver.
Looking back on these last 11 months, I know I’ve learned a lot both inside and outside the classroom. Coming to Northwestern’s MSC program from a different country, straight out of undergrad and knowing literally no one, was simultaneously exciting and challenging. Nevertheless, in retrospect, even though the circumstances weren’t always perfect, I am nothing but grateful for the valuable experiences, lessons and relationships that came from my time here in Evanston.