Street Team members Rosa Martinez and I, Madhumita Rao, have both been involved in the service-learning world at Northeastern University for a while; in fact, we have both been S-L students and S-LTAs in the past and are currently on the S-L Street Team. In this post, I answer questions about my experiences in those three roles and how they have changed my perspective of S-L over time. Part 2 with Rosa’s answers to the same questions will be up next week!

  1. How did you first get introduced to the world of S-L?

I was first introduced to the world of S-L as a second year student, taking my interdisciplinary honors seminar called “Contemporary Issues in Healthcare.” Within the walls of the classroom, we learned about the healthcare system in the United States and other countries. Outside the classroom, I volunteered at the South Boston Elderly Apartments, where my group and I guided elders in physical exercise workshops. I spoke to the elders, pushed them to do exercises that they thought they could not complete, and created flyers to advertise the weekly workshops. During this experience, I realized how much I felt the S-L component added to the classroom learning and I enjoyed it more than I ever expected!

  1. What made you decide you wanted to get more involved in S-L after that first experience?

That first experience allowed me to more personally connect with what I was learning in the classroom. The material felt more personal because I heard directly from the elders about their experiences with insurance and the healthcare system. This was a feeling that I felt so struck by that I wanted to continue to stay involved in S-L and help others feel the same way.

  1. What was something new that you learned in each of those roles?

During my time as an S-L student, I learned about the importance of thinking of the community based on its assets and remember that we are simply building upon the strengths and resources that already exist within the community as service-learning students.

As an S-LTA, I learned about how to interact with faculty and balance the needs of various stakeholders and individuals, including the community sites, professor, S-LTM, and students. I had to gather the information about all these stakeholders’ needs and communicate them effectively to the correct individuals so that everyone was on the same page and felt satisfied with the work.

As an S-L Street Team member, I learned more about how to interview individuals about their experiences completing their Service-Learning since I am on the S-LOG team and have the opportunity to write posts about S-L at Northeastern. It is important to come up with a reflective set of questions and try to formulate the interview as more of a conversation to obtain the most information from the individual about what they did in S-L and what they learned.

  • 4. How has your view of S-L changed since you were first introduced to it?

I have come to appreciate S-L since I was first introduced to it because it has a much wider scope than I originally realized. When I first became involved in S-L as a student, I was only involved in service in the healthcare field. However, as an S-LTA, I learned how S-L can be incorporated into a writing course about food justice, which is a vastly different field from healthcare and health insurance. When I visited a couple of the sites during my S-LTA role, I was impressed by how closely the service matched the in-class experience and it made me realize that there is a role for S-L in all fields and majors. As a member of the S-L Street Team, I continue to see how S-L can have a role in many different areas; for example, one of the students that we interviewed this year for a S-LOG post explained how she brought her S-L service to a student organization that she founded at Northeastern University! It makes me realize that S-L does not have to be attached solely to a class and can have a wider role in extracurricular activities.

  1. Out of the roles of S-LTA, S-L student, and S-L Street Team member, which was your favorite?

My favorite role was actually as an S-L student! As an S-L student, I learned that I have a passion for service and that in-person contact with the elders with the other service-learning students made my role feel very impactful. The other two roles strengthened this feeling and had beneficial aspects that I did not expect. I felt like I learned the most about how to communicate with others during my role as an S-LTA and I have learned the most about writing and advertising on social media as an S-L Street Team member.

  1. Any final thoughts?

I am very happy that I got involved with S-L at Northeastern; I think it rounded out my experience in a way that classroom teaching alone could not. I would encourage any student at Northeastern to get involved in experiential education beyond just co-op! Service-Learning is a great way to do that.

Adapted from S-LOG post published on April 8, 2021.