STEP Reflection: What Great Britain Has to Offer

 

Caitlin Post

Global May Britain: Introduction to the History, Politics and Culture of Great Britain

My STEP Experience involved a month-long trip to London along with 39 of my peers and two excellent English professors. While on this trip we were exposed to British culture both inside and outside the classroom. This experience was also enhanced by addition field trips both within the UK and outside.

As a girl who has been born and raised in Ohio I did not really have a good idea of what lay beyond the borders of my state, much less what was across the ocean. Once we landed in London I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, I am on a completely different continent,” and just kept picturing where Great Britain was on a globe. It took a while to wrap my head around that concept. In addition to just the different in geography I hadn’t thought about the different customs, government and laws this nation would have. I knew they would be different, but it wasn’t until I was exposed to them that they became real. I find myself to be a pretty understanding person though, so I could easily accept most of the differences and found myself comparing them to American customs. This trip has opened my eyes to what the world has to offer and now I may not just be content with staying in my own Midwestern bubble.

It is hard to pinpoint specific events that caused my transformation; I think each and every moment of this trip contributed to it. On the first day of class, however, was when I was woken up to how different their law enforcement was compared to ours. A retired police officer came in and talked to our class about safety in London. During his presentation he stated that he has never fired a firearm in all of his years as a bobby. To me that was so weird! I had already fired guns many times because my step-dad collects them. This fact got me thinking on whether it was better that their normal officers don’t have weapons and that their civilians can’t own them, there is no arguing that they have less crime due to this. But it also made me be grateful that we have that freedom in America and that freedom isn’t really something the British will ever experience. Although they may not see it as a particular loss. From that point on I knew that the men with giant machine guns were protecting something very important (maybe like the Queen or something) when you passed them on the street.

Another custom that was particularly new was the royal event that took place in Edinburgh while we were there for the weekend. We had traveled there as a whole group and were given admission to the Queen’s Gallery near the Holyrood Palace. A bunch of us made our way down the Royal Mile (stopping to try some local cuisine of haggis along the way) when we were distracted by the large gathering of people and the sound of bagpipes. At the time we didn’t really know what our admission was for so we thought we were going to be able to tour the Palace. After joining the crowd one of the guys in our group was asking the employees of the grounds what was going on. It turns out the Lord High Commissioner, representative of the Queen, was coming into Edinburgh for an important conference the Church was having. We were at a royal welcoming; now that is something you do not see in America. I do know that this is probably similar to a high ranking government official giving a speech somewhere in the US, but for some reason it feels different when it is royalty. The royals in this country are loved by their people in a way our president can never be loved in our nation. Even if they are just figureheads they are held in the highest respect. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like if it was the Queen, although we were told that it involved tanks and the closing off of the entire Royal Mile. Needless to say, we did not get to see the inside of the Palace.

Another experience that blew my mind concerning the Queen happened on our trip to see Windsor and Eton. On this excursion we learned the Queen called Windsor Castle home and Buckingham Palace the o20150529_113011ffice. Maybe since it is considered her home she gets some liberties that she wouldn’t at the office. Now Windsor is a little town, not just a castle so there are people, both natives and tourists alike, that walked around the area all of the time. When the Queen is home this does not change. There is also a giant park in the Castle’s backyard that where both her son’s live and there is a public portion as well. When the Queen is feeling in a driving mood she can go out the back gates of the Castle and drive in the park. The public portion! With only one guard in the passenger seat. Not only is it amazing that she is still driving at her age, but that she is allowed within the public eye without much security. There is no way the president would be allowed to do that, he is constant surrounded by the Secret Service. I think this speaks to how loved the Queen has and how much trust there is in the people as well. I find it difficult to comprehend that there are people living in such close distance to the Queen. This is probably why it is so expensive to live in this town as well. In addition to this, it was really interesting that the Castle is fully functioning with people working and living within its walls. It is something out of a fairytale. I just want to know how someone comes to get a job within the castle walls!

I think that this transformation concerning the expansion on global understanding is important in many aspects of my life. I think it is important to understand the different cultures around the world, rather than just assuming the American way is the best way. If we look to other ways of life we could learn a lot and it could help both politically and on a personal level. Professionally and academically I have come to understand even Midwesterners like me could go on to live and study in a different country and that they have just as much to offer as the universities in the states. We even met a boy from Milwaukee during our tour of Eton! I would find to be a great honor to be able to work or study under with some of the people over in that country. Hopefully I will have that chance sometime in my future!

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STEP Study Abroad Reflection: Berlin May 2015

Emily Diefenbacher

Berlin, Then & Now: People, Places, and Experiences

 

The Berlin, Then and Now: People, Places, and Experiences is an Ohio State study abroad program that takes place in Berlin, Germany during the May session.  During the program, I learned about the history of Germany through direct engagement with its people and places.  Moreover, throughout the entire length of the class, I worked with a partner on a blog about a person who strongly influenced Berlin (below is the link to our blog).

http://u.osu.edu/berlin2798katharinawitt/

 

Traveling in Germany has helped transformed me in many different ways.  I have become more independent since I had to adjust to the lifestyle and learn how to travel in Germany.  Now I am completely confident in finding my way around the buses, S-bahn, and U-bahn.  Additionally, this trip expanded my global awareness and cultural perspective by allowing me to interact and see various cultures here in Berlin.  One example of seeing other cultures was when I went to the Karneval der Kulturen and saw the different foods and goods at each stand.  Also, since I learned so much about Berlin through its history and from the perspective of the Germans, I feel that I can understand the German culture better than before I came here.  An example of this is when i realized that Berlin used to be two separate cities until almost thirty years ago.  Yes, I learned about the fall of the Berlin Wall in school, but I never fully understood the separation until I went to Berlin and heard about the fall of the wall from people who actually witnessed it and remembered the event.

 

Being in Berlin, I feel, has helped me to understand more about other countries and cultures.  I believe that I now have a better understanding of Germany as well as the United States because I was able to compare both countries.  Because of our trip to Berlin, I now know more in general about German culture, how to communicate and interact with different people, how to be more accepting of differences other cultures have, and how to not be judgmental of something I do not know of fully understand like a culture or religion that is different than my own.  One place where I really noticed a difference in cultures was on the public transportation systems in Berlin like the S-bahn and the U-bahn.  You could tell who was from Berlin and who was a tourist pretty quickly because people who are from Berlin would either talk quietly or not at all and people who are not from Germany tended to be louder.  Another way to tell Berliners and tourists apart was by their accent or if they actually spoke German or not.  An alternative example was when I went to restaurants and I saw Germans drinking beer and just having conversations with their friends and families.  I know that in America a lot of people drink for the sake of being intoxicated, but I liked seeing that people in Germany seemed to enjoy it more as a nice social outing with friends and family.

Because of my experiences in Germany, I believe that I can now function independently in Germany in several different ways.  I believe that if I went back to Berlin I would be able to navigate the public transportation on my own, read a Berlin map correctly, travel by myself, order food, ask strangers on the street for help with directions, and maybe even go to school or live here.  However, I do not think I would be able to live by myself in Berlin because I would not know anybody else and it is easy to get lost in a huge, unfamiliar city like Berlin; there is just not enough time in one month to learn how to navigate all of Berlin without using a map.  Also, if I moved here I would have to learn German, which is easier said than done.

Even though I eventually learned how to assimilate myself into the German culture little by little, I still had many challenges along the way.  Basically, I was challenged to adjust to a completely different lifestyle than I was used to having back home in the United States.  For instance, when we first arrived on Sunday, my roommates and I had trouble finding a place to eat for dinner because a lot of the stores and restaurants were closed (Sundays in Germany are days spent relaxing and with family).  Moreover, I did not realize that in Germany everyone pays mostly in cash instead of credit cards, and that restaurants do not typically split checks.  Another example was when there was a train strike in Germany the weekend my friends and I were leaving for Prague.  We had to take a bus down to a train in Dresden instead of a direct train from Berlin, Germany to Praha, Prague.  It was a struggle to figure out the changes to the trip last minute, but we talked to the people working at the train station and eventually figured it out.  Overall, I was able to find solutions to any problem we faced here in Berlin and was able to have an enjoyable time.

 

I am currently a junior Marketing Major and a Fashion and Retail Studies Minor at The Ohio State University.  I am also trying to figure out if I can be a Business Analytics Minor as well, which would help me in my future career.  My future career goal is to become a fashion buyer for a retail company, however I do not know which one.  A career as any type of buyer would require that person to look at data and, from that data, predict what and how many products you should purchase next for whatever company that individual is working for.  Furthermore, I believe that studying abroad in Berlin, Germany helped me come closer to attaining my future career goal in several ways.  Germany used to be a fashion capital before World War II, but afterward New York took over as one of the major fashion capitals.  Still, Germany today is an important center for fashion trends.  Also, Berlin is a fairly modern city with many different types of architecture, both old and new.  I have seen several pictures of architecture in Berlin, and those pictures of the buildings and the whole design and layout of Berlin really inspired me to learn more about them through personal experience, not just looking at pictures online or in a textbook.  It was incredible to see brand new buildings built next to buildings from the 1800s.  Moreover, I believe this experience will help me accomplish my career goal by helping me learn about other cultures and using that knowledge to become more open-minded.  Also, going to Berlin helped me become more knowledgeable about fashion because I saw a variety of different fashions while abroad, and I could compare them to what I normally saw in the United States.

 

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STEP Reflection

Name: Christine Ruple

 

Type of Project: Engineering Castles and Cathedrals in Wales and England

 

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

This past May a group of 29 of us traveled to Wales and England to study the castles and cathedrals. Prior to travelling abroad, we each performed research on a specific topic we were assigned. Some of the topics included the history and structure background of different castles and cathedrals; nevertheless, other topics included a historical event occurring in the same time period of some of these buildings’ creation. Then, we were assigned to give a presentation to the class upon leaving the country. With this information we researched, we travelled abroad to visit these locations. Upon arrival to each location, the student in charge of researching that specific castle or cathedral became the tour guide of that site. While travelling to the locations, students who researched the historical time event or era lectured this information to us before arriving to a building. For my project, I was assigned to research Chepstow Castle and work with another classmate on the presentation. After arriving at the castle in Wales, we both became tour guides and took two separate groups around the castle.

 

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

Before this study abroad, I had never travelled out of the time zone. It was my first experience flying over seas and learning about the culture on the opposite side of the world. Although this trip was less than two weeks, I was able to grasp how different cultures are compared to the American culture. The Welsh are so laid back and passionate about their country. In England, they have different priorities then us Americans. Not only did I learn about their social cultures, but I also was able to experience the geological culture. Wales is extremely mountainous with beautiful greenery and a ton of sheep grazing throughout the land. England was similar; however, it was much more populated with larger cities. Before I signed up for this trip, I had no idea Wales even existed. Now, I can say it was honestly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been with the sweetest, most welcoming people. This experience has inspired me to open my eyes and be more optimistic of different cultures. It has motivated me to continue to grow and learn about new places.

 

  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? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

Not only did the beautiful landscape and exciting cities make my trip enjoyable, but also my other fellow Ohio State students. Since this study abroad was a new trip and we were essentially the “guinea-pigs”, we all stayed optimistic upon any obstacle. Immediately, each and every one of us bonded at the airport to begin our journey. From there, we were able to continue to build our relationships for the next couple of weeks.

Prior to this trip, I did not know anyone except one girl who was in a Women in Engineering Program with me, so we did decided to room together. We only talked a few times and did not know each other on a personal level at all. Throughout our journey, we began to get to know each other very well. Along with my roommate, I was also able to get to know many other OSU students. In many ways, we were very different; however, we all were the same in some ways. We were passionate students who were determined to make this one of the best experiences of our lives. Every day, we would learn about certain topics, eat every meal together, and hang out till at least midnight. Although we were sleep deprived, I bonded with every person. Whether it was climbing 52 flights of stairs up a castle’s tower or getting yelled at for being late because we were eating ice cream, we all had fun.

I can honestly say I would have never met these amazing students if I had not took the risk of experiencing what this trip had to offer. Now, I could not imagine my life without them. Two months later, after returning from our trip, we still keep in contact almost every day in our group message; moreover, we continue to see each other for dinner or a group hang out.

 

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

This trip has allowed me to develop academically, personally and professionally. As a civil engineering student, I learned about the structures of ancient ruins, massive castles and beautiful cathedrals. Because of their age, it was interesting to learn how their building plans were approached; moreover, how perseverant they were to make these incredible structures stable. Along with gaining this insightful knowledge, I made 26 new friends. Tall or short, athlete or engineering nerd, we all created strong lasting relationships. Along with those 26 new friends, I have personally came to know two fantastic professors. This will help me excel professionally in the future because our personal relationship will help build a better understanding of who I am as a person; therefore, if I ever need a recommendation letter in the future, they would be the professors I ask first.

Caernarfon Castle Cartwheels London OHIO in Wales OHIO at Caernarfon Castle

STEP Study Abroad of Global May Hungary

Ryl Johann Dorado

My STEP Project was actually a two part program.  The first part was to travel to Europe, specifically Hungary, to hone my creative content skills.  The second part is actually ongoing still – in that where Hungary left off I would continue to sharpen the skills I learned to become a digital media artist in hopes of one day sustaining myself in that business.

Going into the project with that in mind planted in my head that I will change from the experience in a predictable way.  As a highly introverted and rather pessimistic person, I expected to do the things I expected to.  However, during my time there it was completely the opposite.  I had expected to simply arrive, take photos, videos, and other things while learning about different cultures since that was my intended goal.  However, that all quickly changed when I got to know the others on the trip really well.  I went from a planned shut-in to a more social person in a short amount of time.  Now while that might not seem like such an important part of my overall goal, it surprisingly is.  The more I talked and socialized with others the more comfortable I was in developing my desired skills.

I’m not certain how many of them actually know that a large part of the original plan for the trip was to help me become a better artist.  Regardless, just being around such happy people who didn’t mind that I do my own thing around them gave me the confidence boost I need to bloom into the business I want.  For so long, my limits were fear and shyness.  Then I met all those people and slowly those limits began to fade.  It was like I walked away from my old life to fall for this new one.  And I loved it.

Perhaps what initially helped me the most in those aspects were the room assignments.  Certainly some rooms were smaller than others but we were all on the same floor at the beginning.  There were no other people there that we knew other than ourselves and the few we recently met.  And no one knew everyone prior to the trip.  This forced us all to interact and navigate our way and life together in a foreign land.  Some, like myself, may have already had an experience abroad but every country is different and so are every city.  We walked, ate, explored, ran, talked together for days.  And I know full well that the first week was our foundation of our friendship.

Even someone like me who planned on a rather solitary trip was swept away by our collective kindness.  It was that kindness and a dash of openness and curiosity with each other that we quickly grew into a rather close-knit group.  We encouraged each other to be less shy and became more inclusive so that no one would be left out.  This became an especially useful thing for us.  We were people in a foreign land and we needed each other so we wouldn’t be lost in the culture.  And it worked.  In a few days, we went from a group of rather nervous foreign students to I guess what I can only liken to a family.  Not just a circle of friends but one that cared for each other and supported each other.

Maybe the most unlikely culprit of the change would have to be the school work.  While the school work seemed to take away our time for exploring, it let us focus on things so we wouldn’t be overloaded with the city.  Ironically enough, the things we learned were facts about that region in Europe.  And with the class came with homework that actually brought us together.  This became a literal case when we were split into groups for our final project.  By then we were less worried about getting to know each other.  While we actually continued to develop as friends, we also gained insights of how we worked under pressure which even though we were in multiple groups we were all experiencing things together.  And from there we managed to let everyone shine their own unique abilities for the roles we placed ourselves in.  It was through those fiery trials that we were forged.

All these steps, while not necessarily anything to do with the second part of my desired work, culminated into the biggest factor that developed said part.  The times I spent together with these people recorded in multiple cameras and journals became little steps that forced me to not only analyse the technical aspects of my multiplatform work, but the human elements of my work.  They, the friends I spent time with in a country I’ve never been to, became the inspirations and motivations for me to be who I am today.  And the more I look back at those few weeks the more it influences me into becoming who I will be, and I like it.

As I mentioned before, I had limited myself to my predicted self-imposed observer-status and to be bound fear and shyness that I was actually terrified of not doing the second part of my project successfully.  This created in my head a loop that if I get involved I would fail the project but at the same time I was already scared and nervous perhaps all the way from the beginning.  It more or less left me a mental wreck when I arrived in Europe.  However, meeting all those people and being part of such a nice community boosted up my confidence a little bit and gave a the motivation I needed to chase my dream.

My overall disposition has changed since that trip.  That motivation drove me closer to being the person I want to be.  It wasn’t easy to open up to people, it usually isn’t for me, but being there and knowing them made the change less hard on me.  The trip gave me a relatively upbeat social life which transformeDSC02089 DSC03593d to getting a good grade in the class, being more courageous in getting what I want.  I’m not completely one hundred percent ready yet, but eventually I will be.  Perhaps the photographer Jasmine Star sums it up the best:  “I may not be where I want to be, but I’m sure as happy that I’m not where I used to be.”

Nicaragua Study Abroad-May 2015

In May 2015, I was fortunate enough to participate in the Social Work Study Abroad program entitled “Social Issues and Human Rights in Nicaragua”. The program focused on analyzing the root causes of social and human rights issues within the nation as well as identifying how these maladies might be improved. In addition, the program encouraged students to relate these issues in Nicaragua to similar issues in the United States. In order to explore these themes, we traveled to various locations within the nation including the cities of Leon, Granada, Matagalpa and Managua over the duration of two and a half weeks. In each city, we visited a number of human rights organizations and governmental institutions including homes for underprivileged women and children, hospitals, universities and rural cooperatives to name a few. All of these experiences allowed me to learn a great deal about the human rights and social issues facing the nation, but the trip as a whole taught me so much more.

Over the course of my time in this beautiful nation, I was able to obtain an abundance of knowledge about the culture, traditions and language of the nation. We were able to interact directly with local citizens to hear their experiences with human rights issues as well as learn about their own customs and traditions. They were such welcoming people who greeted us as if we were one of their own, allowing us to grow close with all of the individuals we met in a short period of time. Interacting with locals in this way allowed me to fully immerse myself in the culture and make a number of comparisons to my own. Amongst the similarities between the two nations, the United States I’ve always known is quite different from the Nicaragua most citizens know. With little opportunity for employment and a lack of government support, most families are forced to live under financially restrained conditions, even if some individuals in the family hold high positions. Of course these problems exist in some places within the US, but as a privileged individual who grew up in suburbia, learning about their ways of life shed a blinding light on how real that privilege truly is.

After reflecting upon my journey, I can be certain that my STEP experience has enhanced my overall academic experience in a number of ways. Before venturing to Nicaragua, I had never traveled out of the country. Thus, this experience forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and explore the world I thought I knew before. In doing so, I was able to develop an understanding of the different perspectives around the world—an awareness which will allow me to contribute to a diverse campus community. In addition, this experience allowed me to practice the Spanish skills I have been studying in a textbook for so many years. Moreover, it inspired me to become more familiar with the Spanish culture and language in hopes that I might contribute to a more globally aware nation. Thusly, my STEP experience has broadened my worldview while equipping me with a number of skills that I could not have obtained by remaining in my comfortable lifestyle back home. It is with these skills that I hope to be a more culturally and globally aware student, citizen and future professional.

Crosswalks: Who Has the Right of Way?

 

 

 

Rubén Morgan

 

Crosswalks and Pedestrians

 

I toured around Spain (and one city in Portugal) in order to find a remedy to Ohio State’s crosswalk dilemma. On the trip, I documented crosswalk signals and other public transportation features, such as bus stops. I followed up by documenting crosswalks and other public transportation features on Ohio State’s campus.

Before departing, I had the idea that Europe had public transportation figured out much more efficiently than compared to that of the United States’. While a good portion of this remained true, Europe (primarily Spain) wasn’t as efficient as I envisioned it to be. For example, many bus stops, metro stations, or other public works were in great need of repair. However, Europe has overcome two important barriers that the United States is still arrogant in defending: SI Units (Système International d’Unités) and the Convention on Road Signs and Signals. The prior refers to the measuring system using meters, grams, liters, etc. The latter refers to using shapes and designs to designate road signs that require no writing on them. Both have eliminated any language barrier and have made global communication much easier. I also found that Spain (and much of Europe) is a prominent advocate for pedestrians, yet still have a lot more that can be done. At the same time, the USA mostly favors automotive transportation. This difference, although cultural, has caused areas high in pedestrian traffic in the US (e.g. OSU campus) to be much more dangerous for commuters of all types.

In order to get the best results for my study, I had to immerse myself in the city as much as possible. Going between large and small cities, touristic and non-touristic areas, rich and poor neighborhoods, I was able to get a better understanding of the public transportation system in Spain. Noticeably, the wealthier and more touristic provinces and parts of cities in Spain typically had better public transportation attention than the poorer areas. However, the size of the city had little affect on the quality of the public transit.

I was able to come to these conclusions by walking around as much of the city as possible before having to go to the next city on the list. Doing so helped me experience the crosswalks on the Iberian Peninsula. From two weeks of walking around in Spain, I found it considerably easier to be a pedestrian in Spain than on campus at Ohio State. For example, Spain has the same crosswalk law as Ohio where the pedestrian has the right of way on a crosswalk in the middle of the street (not at an intersection). However, campus must remind car drivers of this law with a “State Law/Yield to Pedestrian/Within Crosswalk” sign in the road. Regardless of where in Spain you may reside, every driver is well aware of this law and abides by it consistently. Cars have ignored this rule quite often on Ohio State’s campus, causing many students to patiently wait for cars even though the pedestrian is supposed to be given the right of way.

Possibly the biggest surprise was the innovation that is taking place in Iberia. Although driving is less common in Spain than in the USA, Spain has more efficient parking lots. In multiple parking garages in Spain, there are sensors on each space that tell whether there is a parked car (red) or if the space is available (green). In addition, nearly every parking meter was powered by solar panels sitting atop of it. Street parking is much more common in Spain, and the parking meters were omnipresent and plentiful. As for biking innovations, there were roughly ten different types of bike racks that I was able to document. The encouragement of innovation for the public transportation sector has allowed for better and more efficient methods to be discovered.

As a big fan of European progress in the public sector, I was awestruck by my experience. I was able to explore the many pros and cons to public transportation. Currently, I am studying civil engineering at Ohio State and have a dream of bettering the infrastructure of the USA. This trip has opened my mind to new and creative ways to make public transit more efficient. I am hoping to bring forward many of the pros to the USA so that we, too, could create a better and more efficient society.

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Montpellier; Teaching Internship and Study Abroad

For my STEP signature project I chose to study abroad at a Teaching Internship in France. This OSU led study abroad program was a three week long program that allowed myself and nine other Ohio State students to live with a host family, study pluriligualism, and have a teaching internship in a French public school.

During my stay in Montpellier, France, I learned more about myself and the world around me. Never in my life have I experienced such a positive and life changing adventure all in three weeks. Before leaving for France I imagined my experience to include sight seeing of old buildings, struggling with a new language, and learning more about the French educational system. Today I can realize that my experience has brought me so much more. I was able to view a part of history in France that I have only read about in school books as a child. My eyes widened with each excursion as my history school books came to life right before my eyes. I was also able to learn more about myself and became proud of my achievements of being able to find my way through a new city, in a new country, by myself each day. My quick ability to learn up a new language simply by listening and taking notes each day also shocked me and by the end of the trip I was able to hold a (simple) conversation with my host family.

Living in Montpellier with a host family was also a major aspect during my stay. Living with a host family allowed myself to fully immerse in the local culture and helped myself practice my language skills. Coming to France without knowing much French was very intimidating at first, but after living with an amazing host family, whom I am still in contact with today and plan to visit again soon, I was able to pick up so much of the language and learn more than most students do in a French language class. During my time at my host families house I always made sure to do my homework in the living room which was located in the center of the house. This allowed myself to full engage in the family activities and allowed myself to communicate with my host family many times throughout the day.

Living in the French city of Montpellier was also amazing as I was able to witness the beautiful history that the city has to offer, as well as its neighbor cities that I was able to visit on our many excursions. Montpellier is a great city with a large student population that allowed myself to interact with locals my own age! I was able  to communicate with locals and ask them questions that helped me better understand their lives. This allowed me to relate the French lives to my own life and compare and contrasts the people that I met in France to the people that I know in the United States.

My relationships and activities in Montpellier changed my life and gave me a chance to learn more about the local culture. Staying in contact with my host family has also allowed myself to continue to think about my life and has started a new passion in my life for the French language. This incredible experience gave me an opportunity to evaluate my life compared to the French people’s lives that I interacted with. In the end I feel that I was able to discover more about myself by finding new passions for traveling and learning about new cultures.

As an aspiring teacher, being able to first hand observe a French public school was the chance of a life time. In the school I was able to witness teaching techniques while also practice my own as I instructed the English class lessons. I was able to see teaching techniques that I had studied back and home at OSU being used in a school in a different part of the world. It was such an amazing experience to see the similarities and differences between American public schools and a French public school. I think that this internship has helped my educational pursuit in my field of Early and Middle Childhood Studies and will help me in the future when I have a classroom of my own.

Overall, my decision to join the Teaching Internship in France study abroad trip was the best decision of my life. This was a life changing adventure for myself and I am so very thankful to STEP for the financial help that allowed this dream of mine to become a reality.

 

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Beautiful buildings around the “downtown” of Montpellier

 

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A gate around the city of Montpellier

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Myself and the 9 other OSU students who went on the study abroad trip

Global May Study Abroad Program – Morocco (Maroc)

S.T.E.P. and Ohio State provided me the opportunity to attend a Global May Study Abroad Program to Rabat, Morocco. Our trip to Rabat, Morocco began as an adventure and it did not stop upon our arrival. Fifteen other students, our professor, and myself took part in a journey to reach Morocco. Our flight to Casblanaca, was turned around after a belligerent passenger began to verbally harass a flight attendant. We spent a night in the Germany airport, on our arrival to Casablanaca, Morrocco we had a two-hour car ride to Rabat. Our first weekend in Morocco our whole group got food poisoning. When going to the U.S. Embassay our driver made an illegal U-turn which caused a huge argument and scuffle with the Moroccan police. These and many more event made my trip memorable, and kept it interesting.

We were greeted with the aroma of street vendor foods, the Islamic call of prayer, and our host families waiting to take us home. For four weeks, we lived with a Moroccan family, attending class 5 days a week. My learning took place in and out of the classroom through guest lectures, excursions, sight, visits, and new friends.

Morocco and the U.S. have different cultural norms, which is to be expected. People always say Americans are always on the move, and when you go to other countries one usually finds a slower, relaxed pace of life. I, truly enjoyed this serenity of Morocco. However, the traffic in Morocco is way worse than anywhere in the United States. No one follows traffic rules, cars dip in and out of lanes, there is no right of way with pedestrians, so it is move at your own risk as cars speed down streets. It is typical for children to live with their families until marriage or a mother’s in-laws to live with the family. We walked down the square in the morning to go to class, to find most shops still closed and streets pretty quiet. Many people wake up later in the day, and everyone stays up really late. Dinner is commonly eaten after 8 pm, between 9 to 10 at night. The Islamic call of prayer notifies people of the time. I remember walking with a group around at night to find the cafes filled with older men, drinking mint tea or coffee watching soccer. Many teenagers would walk the pier and sit at cafes to hang out. Because Rabat has a beach, teenage boys would come in the evening from the water dripping with water walking the square. When shopping everything is paid in cash, it is very uncommon to see a credit-card. Spending only what is available reduces the stress of credit-card payments, and more bills.

I found most Moroccans to be happy, welcoming, and not stressed. Parents come from work and children come form school to eat lunch at home. Family is very important in Morocco, and from my observations valued and respected. I think in America if we start adopting some of the values of other countries, the average persons stress rate would go down. Talking to my host sister, she remained calm and optimistic about a bad predict she was in with her program. Most people, myself included, would get angry and verbally aggressive. In my everyday life, I am trying to implement this same patience to live an overall positive life. The interactions I had with strangers in Morocco was personable, while in the U.S. it s easy to feel like just another number. Lifestyle is a major factor of quality of life, so I am working to adopt smaller practices in my everyday life to create a sense of calm.

In the United States, we have 24-hour access to a variety of news programs on the television, Internet, and newspapers. We had the opportunity to have a guest lecture on Media and the Arab spring in the Arab world. We learned the breakdown and history of major news channels like CNN and Al-Jazeera. The ways information is presented on the media can be heavily misconstrued and distorted. On our weekend excursions we had the opportunity to shop in the squares for souvenirs. Everything in Morocco is bargained for, so when our group asked for a price on an item we were met with a ridiculous price. Many of us did not know Arabic, so it was apparent we were foreigners. Shopkeepers would not bargain with us sometimes, saying we come from America we are rich or such items are not expensive for ourselves. I had many experiences where cab drivers, and merchants would try to take advantage of us being foreigners. Catcalls and comments to the females in our trip were too common. Many of the men had this perception that American females were promiscuous. Walking down the streets it was important not to make eye contact with the men on the streets, because it would be inviting. Many of the perceptions people had of Americans came from media not personal interactions. I used to take what was presented on the news as the source of truth, but I have learned and am still learning that may not be the case. Many times information is presented a way in the media to raise viewing audience. For example, my friends and family were very nervous for me to go the North Africa because of the many stories seen on the news of different attacks in the Middle East and Tunisia. On my arrival I found the streets of Morocco to be safer than some streets in the United States. We had this perception of Arab countries to be war torn and destructed. This lesson affects my academic, professional, and personal life. It is important to always note how stories are being presented in the media, and why is it presented in a certain way.

Our study abroad program did not require anyone to be a specific major. I am a majoring in business, so I have taken some economic courses and an international business course. These courses along with a guest lecture and site visits on Morocco’s politics and economy helped me understand how truly globalized we are becoming as a species. Many people in Morocco spoke 3 to 4 languages, traditional dress was typically only worn on Friday instead people wore typical Western clothing. Talking to my host siblings and new friends, many of us had the same taste in music and artists. Culinary such as couscous with chicken is a staple dish; couscous has made its way to the U.S. as a healthy option. International trade has allowed for different nations to adopt aspects of each other’s culture. However, I wonder, as we become more globalized and uniform will different nations began to lose their orientalism or uniqueness. This program made me more aware how the world is changing, in terms of job opportunities becoming increasingly offshore. One day I could be working in another country, which is why it is crucial for us to be able to speak more than English even though business is typically conducted in English. When working and talking to people from other countries it is important I understand their culture as not to offend anyone.

Ohio State and S.T.E.P. allowed for me to see new sights, gain new perspectives of society from my fellow classmates and people I met along the way in Morocco. Throughout the course of four weeks my impressions of the Maghreb, North African, region, continuously evolved. Morocco is a country that is developing its economy, and evolving traditional views to become more progressive. Our generation is changing the world as we become more cross-cultural and advanced. I hope to continue to remain open minded, and apply my findings in my academic, professional, and personal life.

IMG_54601. Traditional couscous meal with couscous, chicken, potatoes, carrots, zucchini, and caramelized raisin.

 

IMG_56822. New Moroccan friends at the beach during sunset.

IMG_5985 3. My host family in their beautiful Moroccan home.

STEP Reflection – Global May Hungary

For my STEP signature project I participated in the Hungary Global May study abroad program. We spent the month in Budapest while taking small excursions to Warsaw and Vienna. Throughout the month I was immersed in the Hungarian culture and learned about the history and politics of the country through morning classes and afternoon city tours.

When I arrived in Budapest I did not know much about what the city had to offer. I was also a little nervous about spending an entire month abroad away from my familiar college lifestyle with my family and friends. However, the hostel was very similar to my college and dorm lifestyle, so it made it feel more like home. Despite my nerves, I was energized and ready to explore the city that I would call home for the next month.

Budapest started to feel like a home when I began classes because although I was across the world from OSU, I was in “student mode” and realized that I can make any city my home by immersing myself in the culture. Also, I was invested in learning what life as a Hungarian is like because my great-grandparents were from here. My family is proud of our Hungarian heritage, and I wanted to take advantage of everything I could to make this trip an unforgettable learning experience. That included trying all the famous Hungarian dishes that I often eat at home such as paprikash, goulash, and fried cheese!

Throughout the month my view of the world started to change. I realized just how important it is to expand my horizons and learn about different cultures and people. I do not want my worldview to be limited to the United States. I came to realize that a well-stamped passport is the best textbook because one can learn about the past, present, and future of today’s global world. Despite differences in cultures, I found that I could make a home any place in the world by creating unforgettable memories, like I did in Budapest.

These unbelievable memories would not have been possible without first and foremost my fellow Ohio State classmates – all of whom are now family to me. When the trip started out we were all strangers who might have exchanged a glance or two back on the oval during the massive class exchanges. But that quickly changed as we all lived in very close quarters in the hostel and our budding friendships began. From the first day we all made a “no man left behind” pact because we were determined to make everyone feel included. Little did we know, we would all feel like family by the end of the trip. One of my favorite experiences was on our first weekend when nearly the entire group decided to go on a hike together, even though we could have all done separate activities. It was a great way to bond and get to know one another on a personal level. From then on, everyone looked out for each other and started to form deep friendships that will last a lifetime.

My yearning for exploration began as Budapest started to feel more like home. Once I realized I could learn to be comfortable in a foreign city I developed an urge to travel more. This was perfect timing because about half way through the month we had our excursion to Warsaw, Poland. Not only was I able to get another coveted stamp on my passport, but also I could learn about my own Polish heritage. I learned much about Poland through our lectures, but mostly from my program director, Daniel Pratt. His passion and excitement for Poland was contagious; he had lived there for a few years and developed a deep love and appreciation for the country and especially the city of Warsaw itself. One day he was telling us countless stories of his experiences and I couldn’t help but want to travel the world just like him. He is definitely one of the catalysts of my desire to explore all that the world has to offer.

Throughout the month I gained much knowledge about Hungary, Poland, and Austria. I am not a very big history buff; however, the material that I learned on this trip was so engaging that I looked forward to attending class the next morning. Learning about the rich history and cultures of these countries from locals themselves made the information relatable and exciting because they were able to share their own personal experiences and stories. Then to top it all off, our learning was accompanied by walking tours of the city so we could visit monuments, memorials, and museums that brought the history to life. Now I cannot wait to travel the world so I can make more unforgettable experiences that will shape me into the global businesswoman that I aspire to be.

I would love to be a well-traveled businesswoman and I believe that through this STEP experience I am on my way to achieving that goal. This experience enhanced me professionally from a business and communication perspective. As a developing businesswoman, I want to gain as much international exposure as possible and learn about different cultures and practices. Being able to understand and grasp varying customs of cultures from around the world is key in conducting international business. Working collaboratively with Hungarian students on my multimedia project helped me understand how to create a global network and work respectably and efficiently with international cultures, which is crucial in the business world today.

My aspiration is to become a Certified Public Accountant before I begin a full-time job with a Big Four Accounting Firm in fall 2017. I am looking to travel domestically and internationally in my career and I believe the experiences from the Hungary Global May Program will help me to do so. By attending this trip I can show future employers that I am capable and eager to travel internationally. Not to mention, I will have already extended my global network with professors, students, and local business professionals. I am so thankful for the opportunity to attend the Hungary Global May Program because of STEP, as it far exceeded my expectations. I have grown academically, professionally, and personally; and I would not trade this experience for anything.

Here is a link to my multimedia video project on Budapest Café Culture:

This is a picture of my fellow Ohio State classmates and our program director, Daniel Pratt, during our farewell dinner on the Danube River. This was one of my favorite experiences of the trip because we were all together in one place, sharing our favorite memories of the month.

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This picture was taken at Buda Castle and overlooks the Pest side of Budapest.

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STEP Signature Project – Study Abroad Reflection

John Huyler

Study Abroad – Global May London

I studied abroad while in London, England for my STEP Signature Project. My group and I stayed in town houses in Kilburn Park and went to school Monday – Thursday from 10 am – noon, while site seeing, touring, and adventuring for the rest of the day.
I thought it was really cool and incredibly interesting to see how other completely different cultures live on just the other side of an ocean. While over in London, I also took advantage of free weekends by going to Paris, Edinburgh, and Amsterdam. Seeing not only contrasts in these places from the US, but also seeing how they differed from each other, was also something I found fascinating. The way these societies function with seemingly entirely public transportation whether it be the London Tube or taxis or Amsterdam’s trams or Paris’ over grounds, I had never seen anything like it to that point in my life. The way so many other countries were seemingly used to speaking English as well as their native tongue was also very eye opening to me. In summation, I found it was much more similar to the US than different, but nonetheless provided me with a completely different culture to take in.
One thing that I noticed right off the bat was when I got there, how quickly I made it from Heathrow Airport to my townhouse in Kilburn, a completely different place in central London. Usually I would have had someone pick me up or at the very least take a taxi, but with the directions I received from my study abroad director, I was able to swiftly and easily ride the train to a stop that connected to the subway system and take that right to my townhouse. This was my first experience of the public transportation system there and a very accurate portrayal of what was to come for the entirety of the trip.
Another couple of experiences that stood out to me were my weekend getaways to Paris and Amsterdam. Before the trips, I was somewhat uneasy and nervous that I did not know more of the French language than “Bonjour” and did not even know that much of Dutch, the Netherlands’ native language. Upon arrival in the first stop, Paris, I was amazed to find out that all of the hotels, restaurants, public attractions, and even common people knew a decent handful of English! It was no trouble at all ordering food, checking in and out to our hotels, even asking for directions from natives. Amsterdam was more of the same, even better in a lot of areas with English. It was very cool to see these other countries go out of their way to learn how to speak English, along with I’m sure other languages as well, but also in a sense pulled me down to earth that I myself only knew one.
I found that the food was something that made me think that living in the countries would be relatively similar to living in the States. Outside of each country’s signature food, such as Scottish haggis or Paris escargot and crepes, they eat the same food we do. They have the same chains we do, the same brands we do, and make the same general meals we do. They add less sugar, sodium, etc. while losing some flavor in my opinion, but overall it is the same food we eat every day in the US, which was something I found to be very interesting.
This experience not only greatly enhanced my learning experience while at The Ohio State University, it also enhanced my life, my relationships, and my character as a person. My independence and self-will were unquestionably tested throughout this experience taking on a new city in a new continent, but I learned how capable I am to accomplish something I want to do, whatever the task may be. I came back to America a more confident person with better social skills in life, more connections and friends at school, and more eager to further my education and succeed in life to experience more of the benefits that come with higher learning. Studying abroad was a great success and something I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life.

Big Ben, London, England

Big Ben, London, England

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland