My Study Abroad Experience

Name: Josephine (Josie) Darr

Type of Project: Study Abroad

The Buckeyes take on the Olympic Stadium where Jesse Owens made history

The Buckeyes take on the Olympic Stadium where Jesse Owens made history

 

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. 

I participated in the History of World War Two Study Abroad program, designed to create first hand experiences with significant places in World War Two history. By traveling through related country’s museums and battle grounds, I was able to see how World War Two helped shape contemporary issues as well as had the opportunity to grow leadership roles that can be carried on into future opportunities.

 

The infamous gate outside of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

The infamous gate outside of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

Before this trip, I had only seen foreign countries in the form of film and pictures. I had never left the country, and only had been away from the state of Ohio, where I had been born, for no more than days at a time. I had to navigate myself through foreign country’s chaotic public transportation networks and then around the cities when I am someone that can get lost in my own backyard. I had seen more people from other cultures all together in a way I had never seen before. Each person on a bench would speak a different language and would be wearing traditional clothing from different countries, and all would smile at each other and acknowledge others.

I had left for Europe afraid of the horrors humans could inflict on each other, for I watched in the airport, news of terrorist attacks in other airports in Europe. I did not see this and felt safer in Europe as a whole than I do alone in the city of Columbus, and now I feel that I can take care of myself here if need be. I proved to myself that I am capable of making decisions on my own and finding what I need if I do not have it, such as a place to stay for the night and food to eat in foreign countries. I saw that people are good and that I am a stronger and more capable person that I had previously believed.

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  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? 

Landing in London and finding the way to the hotel was one of the most stressful experiences I had ever encountered. I had flown with my boyfriend (who had a severely broken ankle at the time and was on crutches throughout this entire program), and we landed in an airport different than the one we prepared our navigation for. We expected that there would be WiFi in the airport and we were sorely mistaken, so we did not have the navigation system that we relied on at home. After claiming our heavy and over-sized baggage, we went and exchanged our currency from Euros that we had in Ireland all to pounds, to my dismay. I had not intended on converting all of my money since we were only using Pounds for a few days and would rely on Euros the rest of the trip. The amount of money I lost in fees was in the double digits, and I was almost panicked since this was the very beginning of the program and I had already thrown away so much money on accident. We then had to try and navigate public transportation that we do not have in the States, and ended up at a chaotic intersection of stations. We went above ground and had absolutely no idea where we were or where we needed to be, and we were over an hour late at that point. It was hot, our bags were incredibly heavy, and we were exhausted. We walked aimlessly in circles around a giant block of identical buildings and ended up following an older British couple who we had commiserated with in the Underground. They just so happened to be going to the same exact hotel we had been searching for to no avail. After dragging our bags and ourselves all the way back to where we began searching, we made it just in time for our group to leave to explore.

This event was long and drawn out like this description of it was, and it was nerve wracking since it was the very first experience of the program. I was nervous for the rest of the trip, but later came to look back on this series of seemingly unfortunate events as critical growing points that we used the rest of the program. We felt like nothing else could go wrong and more would, but we ended up just fine. This was something I had needed to experience and am now grateful that it happened because it made me stronger and more resilient for inevitable unexpected turns.

Overall, I got to work with people from my school that I had little else in common with. I got to learn and grow with these people and already miss their company. I got to work closely with professors but be primarily independent throughout the majority of the program.  I got to try and interact with strangers who had as much of an idea of what I was saying as I did them, and see that it is possible, though sometimes very difficult, to communicate when there is no common language. I got to see cultural similarities and very drastic differences and see that one was not necessarily better than the other.

 

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?  

Before this program, I had had a strong indication that I was not as capable of things as I wanted to be, and I let my small stature and naivety dictate my capabilities. I was scared to go anywhere on my own because I was afraid of other people, and because I wasn’t sure if I could honestly get there. I changed this on the very first day of the program and only grew after that. I saw that I can get things done, academically as well, even when things were not how I was used to them being. I could work with significantly limited resources and do well and even enjoy myself. It showed me what I truly need to get by and how much I have extra and take for granted.

After this program, I have been eager to learn more and see more. I am no longer scared of people and know that there are more good people than bad and that there is even good in bad people if you look hard enough. I learned that differences are okay and not as scary as I thought they could be, and that even if things seem impossible they are probably not and I just need to take a breath or a quick nap. I cannot wait to use these new outlooks in my upcoming years that I have been afraid of since they are going to be filled with rigorous and stressful courses and experiences to grow me into the prepared Veterinarian that I want to be. I no longer feel like the little naïve person that I had been before, but now I feel capable and more independent and self-sufficient than ever before.

I was also able to grow with the history that I had been constantly digesting. I was able to grow from the horrible atrocities that I had seen in museums and feel the magnitude of human action at places such as Pointe du Hoc, where the ground was permanently marred by heavy artillery. I got to see just how impossible what our soldiers had miraculously accomplished, and begin to comprehend why so many were lost. Each experience a person has throughout their life changes how information is filtered and processed, and I will now forever be changed in how I look at our history, our country, and our soldiers. I now see how flippant it is to take things for granted, even though they may be slightly inconvenient to deal with at the time. I got a taste of just how brief life is and how easy it is for everything to change and how important the consequences of each action is.

I will be forever grateful for what I have learned, and what I haven’t even realized I have learned yet. I realize more and more each day how much I have taken from this program, and hope that I can travel again in the near future to see what else the world has in store for me.

A memorial inside the personal and honorable British Cemetery in Bayeux France

A memorial inside the personal and honorable British Cemetery in Bayeux, France

One thought on “My Study Abroad Experience

  1. It sounds like you learned a lot about yourself and the world not only on your tours, but also on your “adventures” learning about new cultures (sometimes the hard way.) Good job with sticking with it. It seems like you had a great time overall.

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