La Dolce Vita

For my STEP project, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy for Maymester 2015. I lived in an apartment in Florence with another girl from the program and took a class entitled “Italian Food and Culture.” In our class, we learned about the differences between Italian and American ways of agriculture and preparing food, as well as the differences in the ways we enjoy our meals. We also learned a lot about the Italian way of life. Over the course of the trip, we traveled to Venice, Rome, Tuscany, Cinque Terre and Bologna. We studied art, history and food. We were fully immersed in the Italian culture and learned so much about not only Italy, but ourselves as well.

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Throughout completing this project, I grew a new understanding about other cultures and myself. I learned how to adapt to change, try new things, step out of my comfort zone, communicate with others and live life to the fullest. Traveling to a foreign country without a parent or supervisor there to guide you can be very intimidating. I got lost more often than not, but each wrong turn led me to a new place and experience. Navigating the city with only other people my age enabled us to bond over figuring things out together, like: where to eat, where to turn and what statue we were studying. I learned how to communicate with people from all over the world. A lot of the trip was spent trying to pick up on social cues to adapt to the new culture. I gained a lot of independence on that trip and really felt like I utilized every moment that I was there to experience something new.

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There were kids from all over the United States in my program, so it was awesome to make new friends from my own country on top of meeting people from all over the world. We had the privilege of visiting several churches, buildings and museums, including: The Coliseum, the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Mark’s, the Duomo, La Academia and several other famous landmarks. This led me to a better understanding of my Catholic faith and my Italian heritage. I learned so much about art and history during my time there, and grew a new appreciation for the beauty of Italy. There is so much history and it was mind-blowing to see buildings, paintings and statues that were hundreds of years old. I also spent a lot of time eating my way through every city we visited. I learned how to cook classic Italian dishes and how to truly “live to eat.”IMG_6971

This experience was extremely valuable to my life. I gained a lot of confidence going on this trip and learned a lot about myself as a person. As they say, the best way to learn about the present is to study the past, and it was such an amazing experience to go back to where my ancestors are from and where my faith was founded. It was really fun meeting so many new people and being able to connect with them despite language and cultural barriers. After traveling to Italy, I feel more comfortable taking risks and putting myself out there in my personal life, as well as trying new things and being more adventurous. All around, it was an incredible experience that I was extremely fortunate to be able to participate in through STEP. It truly changed my life and grew my understanding of myself as an individual and the world around me.

STEP Reflection: Mexico Study Abroad

My STEP project was a Service Learning Study Abroad class called The Economics of Immigration. This class consisted of 3 weeks in the classroom and 1 week in Tijuana, Mexico. In Mexico, we spent our time with a foundation called Esperanza International which is an organization that builds homes for families in the area with help from volunteers and people of the community. This trip was an incredible experience for me as I had never flown on an airplane or been out of the country. I never realized how good I had it to be able to grow up in the United States.

Before taking part in this class and the trip to Mexico, I was very unfamiliar with Mexico as a whole. One of the things that struck me right away was the ease with which we entered Mexico compared to how difficult it was to cross back into the U.S. When going into Mexico, there was no line to wait in, but on the way back we had to wait at least 1.5 hours. That was the time when I realized just how different it was going to be on the other side. I started to realize how good I had it to have been born in the US as an American Citizen. Every single person I met there was incredibly nice and welcoming. This got me thinking about what we could do as the US to help them and if we had a duty to doing it.

The first thing that made me think about this was the proximity of where I was to the US. Mexico border’s the US and I really didn’t know anything about it going in to this. When thinking about this, it seems like the right thing to do would be to help out our neighbor in any way we could. Because we are a superpower, it has almost become our duty to help out those less fortunate than us. In this sense, we might as well help out the less fortunate that are so close to us.

When going into this trip, I never expected to see some of the living conditions that I saw. Throughout Tijuana, there were area’s of homes that were in pretty decent condition and there were also homes that were not. One family we were helping to build a house actually didn’t have plumbing. That was one thing that I grew up not even considering never having and they were still essentially using an outhouse. It was amazing to see this. Seeing this conditions made me feel like we should be doing something in order to help these people. Today though, I realize that there probably are people in the United States living in similar conditions that I’ve never seen. I’ve almost lived in a bubble in my own town where conditions aren’t nearly as bad. From then I have started to wonder whether we should really be focusing on helping other countries when we need help ourselves.

One big object of debate that could potentially help them is immigration. Before going into this trip, I would say that I was a bit more anti-immigration, but after I am starting to see why it would help. When it comes to the jobs in the US that these immigrants are working, they are often jobs that no one really wants to do. So are they really taking jobs from Americans? While I am still a bit unsure where I stand on immigration, I feel like our system of deportation should change. We went to a home for those that had been recently deported. There was one man that really stood out to me because he had been in the United States for over 20 years but after a minor traffic citation, he was deported to Mexico. While he was never a legal resident, he had lived over half of his life in the US. Because he had been in the US for so long, it was difficult for him to adjust to coming back to Mexico because he had been away for so long. The place he was from was overrun by the cartels and he couldn’t go back. He even had a daughter in the US that he wouldn’t see for many years. I think when it comes to someone like that, we need to find a way for them to stay.

This change was very significant to my life because I feel like up to this point I had been living my life with blinders. On this trip I was able to see a different culture and how the people of Mexico live on an every day basis. I was also able to give back to those less fortunate to me by helping them to build their homes. This trip really got me to think about a lot of political topics and while I’m still not 100% where I stand but at least I’ve begun to put more thought into it. My generation is this countries future and I feel like I should really start being more informed about all of the things going on not only in our country but around the world.

 

Multicultural Histories and Legacies of London and Paris

For 18 days, I had the chance to take part in life-changing experiences during the Multicultural Histories and Legacies of London and Paris study abroad program. Our group explored London and Paris from two different perspectives – a tourist perspective, the most common when visiting such cities, and from an educational perspective, focusing on issues such as the histories of multicultural groups that inhabit those areas and immigration. I believe that this study abroad gave me more than fond memories; it taught me a lot as well.

From visiting these two amazing cities, I learned that I love to travel and experience new things. Every place we visited I felt in awe at the rich layers of history that can be found, even in the smallest of places. It was breathtaking to visit the palaces that kings and queens have built over the years and learn about their roles in English and Parisian societies back in the day. It was equally as breathtaking to visit the massive cathedrals in both London and Paris, namely St. Paul’s and Notre Dame, and see the beautifully intricate artwork that makes up the buildings.

Other than the places that we visited, another thing that I loved about visiting those two different cities was having the chance to experience their food. In London, I had the chance to try fish & chips and eat from the chain “Nando’s” for the first time. In Paris, I had the chance to try authentic Parisian bread, éclairs, and crepes (both the savory and sweet kinds).

The changes/transformations that took place was due to both the tourist and educational activities/events that we took part in. For the majority of the trip, we visited places that typical tourists would visit. In London, we visited places such as Madame Tussauds, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace (and watched the Changing of the Guard), Big Ben, The Globe Theatre, and the Tower of London. I enjoyed that we ventured out of the city of London on several occasions, as well, to gain perspective on the whole country of England. On these occasions, we visited places such as Dover Castle, Stonehenge, and the Roman Baths. After the city of London, we visited the city of Paris. In Paris, we visited places such as Notre Dame Cathedral, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées, Eiffel Tower, Versailles, the Louvre, and the Catacombs. And just as in London, we visited places that were outside of the city of Paris, namely 3 Loire Valley Chateaux (Chambord, Blois, and Chenonceau).

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Other than the tourist-type activities we took part in, we visited Brixton in London (a place that has a lot of history of people from the African descent), the area around Spitalfield’s market in London (a place that has a lot of history of people from South Asian descent), and took part in a walking tour around the city of Paris and Luxembourg gardens that focused on immigration. In addition, we also volunteered at a homeless shelter in London and interacted with the British League of Muslims to learn about their experiences as Muslims in London.

Finally, the relationships that I developed with my fellow peers truly expanded my understanding of myself on this trip. I had the chance to interact (and live with!) other Ohio State students that I had never met before. Being with my peers day in and day out for 18 days straight gave me more than people to explore with, it gave me a chance to hear different perspectives on everything that we were seeing and learning. It was fascinating to see how a miniscule thing that I might’ve overlooked might mean the world to someone else. By the end of this trip, I hadn’t just spent 18 days with my peers; I made friendships that will last a lifetime.

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All in all, this experience has helped shape some of my academic, personal, and life goals that I have. Academically speaking, I have never been someone who enjoys the subject of history. However, I absolutely adored learning about history during this trip, because the history came to life in the form of actually seeing the effects it had on the cities of London and Paris. Personally speaking, I learned that I love to travel. Therefore, my academic, personal, and life goals have melded into one goal that I plan to pursue; and that goal is to travel the world as much as I can and become a great global citizen along the way.

Study Abroad in Dresden, Germany

bedroom 4In June of 2015, I studied abroad at the Goethe Institut in Dresden, Germany. While there, I took an intensive German language class every Monday to Friday from 8:00-1:30 for four weeks. At the end of the month, I had to take a 4 part exam called the Zertifikat. What is interesting about the Goethe Institut is that there were students from eighty-nine countries around the world attending, but none of them were German. Therefore, during class, I met people from Italy, India, China, Mexico, Iraq, etc, but we were all there for a common purpose: to learn German. This gave us an opportunity to not only learn about the culture of the country in which we were residing, but each other’s as well.

The biggest thing that I learned from this trip was how to adapt to change. A lot of things ended up being very different than what I expected them to be. For example, I thought that we were going to be studying at the university in Dresden, Technische Universität Dresden, but we were not. The Goethe Institut was its own entity and on the other side of town. I thought I was going to be on this huge campus with tons of other students, but Goethe was just a building in the middle of the street. I also thought that we were going to be staying in dorms at the university; instead we were in actual apartments where real Germans also lived. I had a hard time adjusting to this change at first, but eventually I was able to make the best out of it. My German, of course, also improved. However, my grammar and the language that you learn in class was not what improved the most, but my slang and conversational German. Also, coming from Ohio, I was terrified of the public transportation system and now I am extremely comfortable with it. In fact, my parents came to visit after my program finished, and I had to teach them how to use the trains (U-Bahn and S-bahn).

Most days after class, the Goethe Institut offered tours of local sites or cultural programs. I took advantage of many of the tours, including tours of Altstadt (“old city”), Neustadt (“new city”) and several of the castles in or around Dresden. After the first couple weeks, my new friends and I felt comfortable enough to explore Germany alone, without the guided tours that Goethe provided. We found our favorite local restaurants to eat at, parks to play Frisbee at after school and on the weekends, and met many locals. We were even featured on “Humans of Dresden” (their version of “Humans of New York”). We were also very lucky to be in Germany at the height of their festival season. One of the last weekends that we were there, Dresden held their largest festival of the year called Bunte Republik Neustadt. It was a huge, city wide party full of traditional German food, beer, music, and dancing! Although I went to Dresden to receive credit for my German minor, my project was about so much more than sitting in a class room for five hours a day. It was about being immersed in the culture.

I think that my favorite experience was our day trip to Berlin. We got on a bus in the morning and arrived in Berlin two hours later. We visited all of the government buildings first, like the Bundesrat and the Reichstag. Coincidentally, we ran into a group of OSU students there and they took a picture of us doing OH-IO in front of the Reichstag. We found out that there was an ice cream festival going on and while searching for it, we found an African festival instead. Next we tried to find the Berlin Wall, but got lost for over an hour. We finally ended up finding the Eastside Gallery and stopped for the most delicious schnitzel I’ve ever had for dinner! On our way back to the bus stop, it started to downpour and we got lost again. We didn’t think that we were going to make it back in time. Two of the guys in our group ran ahead to ask locals if they knew where the bus stop was, but nobody seemed to know. It felt like we just kept running in circles for hours in a torrential down pour. By the grace of God, we somehow made it to the bus stop with fifteen minutes to spare. Although we had to sit in drippIMG_0224ing wet clothes for two hours on the ride home, it was something that we can all look back and laugh at now.

Although it may sound cheesy, the biggest personal impact this experience had on me is that I made some really great friends. We spent an entire month together non-stop and helped each other through some difficult times. For example, when one of us was homesick, the others took our mind off of it. We explored a foreign country together and were able to bond over a language that our friends at home could not speak. Our last night in Dresden was probably the most memorable. After we got home from class, we all packed to leave in the morning; then we got on the S-Bahn and shortly got kicked off the train. The conductor came back to our seats and kicked us off because our feet were on the seats! It was pretty scary to have a little old German man yell at you. We ended up laughing about it and went to our favorite döner restaurant one last time. After that, we went down to the banks of the Elbe River and watched the sun set. We took pictures together and laughed about all of memories we had made in the short span of a couple weeks. When we came back to our apartments, having to say “goodbye” was the hardest part. Luckily, many of the friends that I met are also OSU students and we are able to meet fairly regularly and reminisce.

I went on this study abroad trip to receive six credit hours and complete my minor in German, but it meant so much more than a couple classes on a transcript. This experience has absolutely impacted my career aspirations. I had been considering the Fulbright program and moving to Germany to teach English for a year. While I had an incredible experience, I think that a year would be a long time to be away from home. However, without this experience, I would have been going in blind and would not know that this probably was not the right road for me. I do still want to pursue a career in International Relations, though. This experience has confirmed that. Ultimately, I genuinely believe that the relationships I made were stronger because of this experience and the lessons I learned could not have been taught in a classroom.

Eating My Way Through Italy

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For my STEP project, I traveled to Florence, Italy and spent three weeks living in an apartment in the center of the city immersing myself in the Italian culture (which included A LOT of food). While in Italy, the main activities that I participated in was taking an Italian Food and Culture class, traveled to a few different Italian cities including Rome, Venice, Cinque Terre and Bologna, and of course integrating myself in the local food cuisine by taking multiple cooking classes, trying the local food and wine and eating as much food as possible.

I traveled to Florence, Italy hoping to not only visit another country, but to step outside of my comfort zone. I also learned and found out a great deal about myself while I was abroad. This trip was the first time that I had traveled outside of the country. I am originally from Columbus, OH and since I also chose to attend school here, I have not had much experience coming into a new city and learning about that culture. From the moment I arrived in Florence, I was able to see how a completely new city and culture operates. Being a part of school in Florence, gave me that chance to tour places and learn about aspects of the city I may not have sought out on my own. I learned numerous things about myself, as a result of studying abroad. This includes my ability to communicate with others although we may not speak the same language, how to navigate a foreign city and to try as many new food experiences as possible. One of the transformations that took place as a result of my STEP experience was a change of understanding. This was a change of understanding of how I see and understand myself. Living in a new country, I was really worried that I was going to get homesick, that I would not be able to communicate, would not like the food, the worries go on. All of my worries were a waste of time. I surprised myself and tried so many new foods, experiences, made new friends. Another change that occurred during my trip was to my assumptions. I had a few assumptions before going into the trip. They included assuming that Florence was very touristy, there would be a barrier between me as an American, and everyone else and that the Italians would be rude. I assumed I was going to be able to get around without a map (which was definitely not true). Many of my assumptions were proved wrong. There were touristy parts of the city, but those were only parts similar to how it is in the US. I never really experienced a barrier and never had trouble with any rude Italians. Whenever I made a cultural error, their response would be to smile and laugh.

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I would say that my entire time studying abroad in Florence all lead to the change and transformation of not only my views on the world but on myself too. I got to see historical parts of Italy, including Michelangelo’s David, the Duomo; the Colosseum in Rome, the ancient Villages of Cinque Terre, my list could go on. I learned how to make a traditional Italian pizza (I learned how to eat a full pizza too); I learned how to make and eggplant Parmesan. I visited a pasta factory, an olive oil farm, attended various wine tastings. All of my experiences added to me experiencing a new place. Whether it was through traveling, learning how to cook local dishes, trying various foods, observing how things are made, this all adds to my experience.

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The changes and transformations that I experienced while abroad in Florence were all extremely valuable and significant experiences for my life. This experience matters so much to me because I was able to have an extremely new life experience. I was able to not only visit another country, but also live there for an extended period of time. This change matters because it caused me to want to experience so much more. I realized that there is so much more I want to accomplish and see, and there are even things I don’t know about out there. This trip caused me to want to experience all different cultures and meet so many new people. This caused me to want to set more goals in the future. These goals are to travel more and to experience more. This relates to all of my academic, personal and professional goals in so many different ways. Academically, I realized that I want to be able to finish my degree and then go on to travel. I realized how important it is for me to get out, and after I start working it will be nice to be able to take trips. Professionally, since I was able to interact with another culture that will help me is able to interact with patients (I am a nursing major) of different cultures. Lastly, my personal and future goals are the most important to me. This experience just caused me to make a list of places I want to travel to, and that I am going to do whatever I can to get to those places. Lastly, I like being comfortable and that is how I would describe my life in Columbus. Studying abroad forced me to be step outside that comfort and see what the rest of the world has to offer.

India Public Health

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This past May, I used my STEP funds to travel to India for a month to study public health as it relates to Indian perspectives. Through an intensive 4-week program in the southwestern coastal town of Manipal, India, we studied a variety of public health, sociological, and cultural issues. The region has a rich history, evolving from interactions with Arab, Portuguese and British civilizations over the past 1,500 years, along with significant populations of Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and Jain religions. Field visits and experiential learning are vital components of the program that provided us with an understanding of the historical evolution of the region, culture, multi-ethnic make up, unique challenges, hopes and creative solutions towards public health and human development.

This trip not only transformed my world view, but confirmed my desire to pursue public health as my future career. I plan to get my Master’s in Public Health and this trip truly changed my perspective and future aspirations and I am forever grateful for that. I have a strong desire to go back to India one day and I learned that international work is something I need to strongly consider. The field of public health is so broad and there is so much work to be done, so I feel strongly that there is much room for growth in this field to better the lives of many around the world.

In this month, I learned more than I ever have in my life. I made 20 new incredible friends and had the privilege of being guided by an amazing professor from Ohio State. I come away from this experience with a stronger sense of who I am and how I want to use my time to make the world a better place. India has a truly amazing culture with strong familial and community bonds unlike in the United States. It was interesting to reflect on both its strengths and weaknesses and use that knowledge to challenge current societal norms we experience here in the United States.

Our professor's daughter's wedding reception in India!

Our professor’s daughter’s wedding reception in India!

I think the most unique part of this trip was the opportunity to go on a field trip almost every day. These included community health centers, HIV/AIDS clinics, TB clinic, factories, Women’s Health Center, orphanage for children with disabilities and more. Being immersed in these types of environments while learning about the public health implications created a very rich and real learning experience. I learned so much about how India’s healthcare system works and the difficulties surrounding access to care. For example, in rural villages there is a real shortage of doctors and lack of education about diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Cultural norms play a role in why these topics are not well addressed among the public.

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My favorite experience was our field trip to Manasa Jyothi, an orphanage for children with mental and physical disabilities. It was an experience I will never forget. Maartje, the founder of the orphanage, shared the shocking stories of some of the children at the school and how they came to be at Manasa Jyothi. She spoke of how some had literally been chained up, not fed, abused, never had communicated with others, and how initially some would recoil in fear from a simple gentle touch. It was horrifying to hear that because children with disabilities can have trouble with communication, if they are physically or sexually abused there is no proof and no action taken against the offenders. Manasa Jyothi was no doubt a very impressive place, equipped with the resources and staff necessary to care for their children in an individualized manner. Maartje made it clear that Manasa Jyothi is not representative of what many of the other orphanages for children with disabilities are like in India. Most do not have sufficient funds, clean facilities, individualized care, and abuse has even been reported in many other orphanages. It is clear that India has to change the cultural perception of disability to reduce the stigma attached to children with disabilities. Currently, there are not jobs designed for children with disabilities but despite this Maartje is trying to come up with her own solution of having the kids run a farm when they grow up. If the government was more intentional and proactive about providing education and jobs for children with disabilities, there would be positive effects not only on these individual’s personal growth but also on the economy as a whole. Maartje is the definition of selflessness and I found her continuous passion and devotion to be so remarkable. Maartje is such an unbelievable role model and I hope to live my life with the same compassion and dedication that she lives with every minute of every day in my future as a public health professional. It was truly inspiring to witness her work and be exposed to her desire of giving these kids a better life.

There’s nothing I would change about the way I have used my STEP funds.  STEP allowed me take part in the best and most enriching experience of my life.  Furthermore, I was fortunate enough to have a stronger relationship with a faculty member at OSU, and learned how to manage a budget and make a plan.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to reach out to me!

tritt.12@buckeyemail.osu.edu

We all got to ride on an elephant!

We all got to ride on an elephant!

and a camel!

and a camel!

vid india

Beautapest 2015

My STEP project was an Ohio State Sponsored Study Abroad program by the name of Global May Hungary. The program occurred in the month of May, 2015, and extended into the beginning of June. In Hungary, I took a general education course over Central European culture, politics, and history, specifically focusing on Budapest, Vienna, Warsaw, and Hungary. The class occurred everyday for three hours and was accompanied with professor guided tours and excursions on the weekends.

I went into my STEP Project with no idea as to how it would affect me. I did very little research about the area and simply chose Hungary on a travel-bug whim. Having a lack of knowledge about my fellow classmates, the topic, and the area honestly gave me a more authentic experience in Hungary. As to my own growth, I was not prepared for the amount of learning I would be doing regarding myself. I’ve always been a relatively hesitant person especially when it comes to my own skill set. Where this thought comes from I’m not sure, but I know that many years of believing it has compounded and brought me to an unhealthy level of skepticism. My time abroad in Budapest introduced me to an innate confidence I was unaware I had beforehand.

Budapest taught me more than just confidence. It taught me how to be an individual and taught me to expand my perceptions of the world. I have always prided myself on my ability to consider other realities, whether it be for the person next to me or someone across the world. Before Hungary, I saw myself as open-minded and observant. After actually immersing myself in a different culture and part of the world, my perspective on my perspective changed. I become more cognizant in practice, not just theory. Alongside my perspective, my ability to be an individual evolved. I think being in a completely new setting with no strings attached to the people on my program and the people of the place led me to see situations for what I wanted and not what others wanted around me. I functioned in the city as a singular person with obligations only to myself, something the context here on campus and in my hometown doesn’t really permit.

The confidence I gathered from my time in Hungary worked synergistically with my newfound sense of individualism. A lot of it came from my ability to navigate the city. I began with this idea that I needed to know where I was in order to know where to go, so I tried to learn the metro map, bus map, and outline of Budapest as quickly as possible. Others were a tad lackadaisical in learning the system. People began to rely on my directional skills which was a new experience for me. Because I learned how to navigate for my own sake and not for the good of the group, I felt ownership of it. I learned that the reason I do things can really change my understanding of those things/skills/actions. If I chose something for myself and people came along, I felt a sense of power and reaffirmation from those around, but the difference is that I was not intentionally seeking it. A majority of my live had been making choices with others ranking over my own thoughts, changing how I felt about my choices. I was unaware of my confidence from my own choices during my stay in the city and only noticed it upon returning home. I haven’t been able to continue it much, but because I know I am capable of that confidence and ability now, I’ve been working to implement it into my already written life which has been an experience in itself and one that is long but purposeful.

I think one of the greatest gifts from traveling comes from perspective. I’ve been aware of how much of a bubble I have lived in for most of my life, something I began to notice when I moved in high school. Acknowledging it was the first step of change and something I have been working on. I think one of the moments that I realized how my sense of perspective itself had changed was on our monument tour of Budapest. I was observing all the monuments representing different points in Hungarian history and saw how their depiction of the Holocaust, the Communist Era, and the post-Communist Era were so different than my own and, to generalize, America’s depiction. A lot of the existence of Hungary was due to its background, from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Queen Cici to the loss of the Big Fish in WWI. It reminded me how important these lenses on our own realities are and how important it is to see any situation from multiple sides. After leaving Hungary, I also developed an even greater sense of perspective during the Syrian Refugee migrant crisis. It as mind boggling that there were people stranded in the same train station I arrived in coming back from Vienna. It was insane to see thousands of people in the squares that my peers and I walked through every day. My experience in Hungary gave me in-the-moment perspective as well as post-abroad perspective that most people wouldn’t experience. My understanding of the importance of our own interconnectivity increased drastically since the crisis and has kept me on the forefront of any news regarding the people trapped in a city I came to love.

One of the last things my trip offered me was a new group of people I could relate to. Now, you can say that groups can be found anywhere from organizations on campus to classes you take and so on. There’s something different about being in a country where they don’t speak your language predominantly that brings people together. I genuinely believe that I was a more authentic me because I had very few strings attached to who I needed to be for these newfound friends. I was able to express myself with no preconceived notions of how I should act or what I should believe. That was truly liberating. I found some much of myself in the relationships I made with my fellow students. I see these friendships as something deeper than what I could have found here in the United States. We relied heavily on each other but not in the sense of “accept me, like me, be my friend.” We relied on each other to get by and experience the city, which in my eyes builds friendships that are truly unbreakable. I have kept in contact with most all of my Budabaes through GroupMe but also through the effort of maintaining these one-of-a-kind bonds. I want to continue these friendships because I feel that most of these people know a more truer me than a lot of my friends here at Ohio State and back at home.

These developments in my life has greatly changed who I am and how I perceive myself. I’m thankful for STEP for providing me with the ability to have this experience but also requiring me to view it as something more than a simple Study Abroad experience. A lot of this experience has taught me to reflect on a level I didn’t reach often in my life. Alongside that, the skills I’ve listed above have greatly impacted the way I see myself. These changes are incredibly important to my future in that if I hadn’t known I could be naturally confident or hadn’t known that my own choices were just as important as the group’s or hadn’t known how genuine friendships can feel, then I wouldn’t be at the place I am today. In a way, this experience opened my eyes to a new reality for myself, one where I am more appreciative of me. Sounds cliche, I understand, but I truly believe that going to Hungary and living there for so long while learning of Hungarian culture and having few attachments has led me to a truer version of myself. It will help me go through life with a sense of purpose, understanding, and more acknowledgment to my own existence and how it affects me and is affected by those around me.

Overall, I loved my STEP Experience. It was unforgettable. I still think about it 6 months after it occurred. For our class, we made a video regarding something we learned. Mine was actually about Animals in Budapest. Enjoy some wonderful videography courtesy of me and a fun timeline and idea courtesy of my group mates :).

Below are some of my favorite photos from my STEP experience:

This was taken on a boat down the Danube after returning from a day excursion to Sventendre and Visegrad. It shows the Buda Castle and Chain Bridge.

This was taken on a boat down the Danube after returning from a day excursion to Sventendre and Visegrad. It shows the Buda Castle and Chain Bridge.

When we travelled to Warsaw, we went to a food and artisan festival. They had this insanely large cotton candy that took forever to eat but was delicious!

When we travelled to Warsaw, we went to a food and artisan festival. They had this insanely large cotton candy that took forever to eat but was delicious!

Here is a look at the Chain Bridge beneath the façade of the Buda Castle. We were walking back from exploring tunnels under the Buda Hills and the lighting was really nice and deserved a picture.

Here is a look at the Chain Bridge beneath the façade of the Buda Castle. We were walking back from exploring tunnels under the Buda Hills and the lighting was really nice and deserved a picture.

This was taken by our super macho Visegrad tour guide. We were on top of the tower which gave us a great view of the Danube. This was before we knew each other, too. :)

This was taken by our super macho Visegrad tour guide. We were on top of the tower which gave us a great view of the Danube. This was before we knew each other, too. 🙂

This is one of my absolute favorite photos I took on the entire trip. I am in love with this building and the space surrounding it. One of my favorite places in the entire city of Budapest.

This is one of my absolute favorite photos I took on the entire trip. I am in love with this building and the space surrounding it. One of my favorite places in the entire city of Budapest.

This was a night of fun as Monica and I walked through Vienna at night. Vienna is gorgeous but it becomes even more beautiful once the sun sets. We tried the classic coffee and their special bakery item, a sweet bread roll with plum jam inside!

This was a night of fun as Monica and I walked through Vienna at night. Vienna is gorgeous but it becomes even more beautiful once the sun sets. We tried the classic coffee and their special bakery item, a sweet bread roll with plum jam inside!

My entire experience was unforgettable and I will never forget it as long as I live. #BUDABLESSED

STEP Reflection: History of World War II Study Program

The 2015 World War II Study Tour group

World War II has been a subject I have always enjoyed learning about. The scale, importance, causes, and consequences have captivated my attention ever since I was young. This study tour was an incredible opportunity to learn about the subject in an immersive and visual way I would have never gained in the classroom. In addition, visiting London, Bayeux, Paris and Berlin showed me cultures both new and intriguing. Witnessing the World War II sites in their respective societies granted myself with a newfound sense of perspective on historical remembrance. Every event or battle that was presented was done so in different light in each country. What was important to one was of little importance to the next. This trip showed that France and Great Britain wanted to paint a historical narrative of war that shows their nation in a positive light, whether it be in battle or resistance. The result was quite the opposite for the defeated, Germany, where the focus was placed on the Holocaust and other monstrosities perpetrated by themselves during the war.

In London, the attention of our sites was mainly placed on individuals or smaller groups of people who had a profound impact on the war. Both the Churchill War Museum and Bletchley Park exemplified this. The War Rooms showcased the high-pressure atmosphere from which Winston Churchill and his war cabinet directed the British forces. Churchill was a monumental figure for the British in the war, and the museum has an exhaustive exhibit just for him. His leadership was pivotal for the British from the onset of the war to its end. At Bletchley Park, there was the exhibiting of those who worked in complete secrecy to break the Nazi enigma. Despite being relatively small in numbers, they were able to shorten the war by a number of years. These two sites are displays of leadership and courage that exemplify the positive light that the British are trying to set with their World War II.

An interesting contrast with the aforementioned idea in London was the notion of empire. Great Britain, before the war broke out, was still arguably the greatest maritime power in the world. This shows within London. Influences, flavors, languages and smells from the farthest reaches of the empire all nestle themselves into the greater London area. In addition, the royal (despite having practically no real power) holdings are some of the most notable landmarks of the city. The empire was needed the most in 1940, when it was clear that Great Britain was the last nation standing against the Nazis in Western Europe. A sense of unity derived from this pressure, especially as the Blitz was underway. This is exactly how the British want to remember their war. United against the Nazi onslaught. This idea of unity, paired with the heroism of individuals or a small group, creates an idyllic picture of Great Britain during the war. However, very little is mentioned about the firebombing of German cities or the destruction of Norman towns and villages during Overlord.

France was a completely different animal compared to Great Britain. France had been conquered by the Nazi’s and then subsequently liberated in 1944. The history taught in high school world history in the United States was that the French army was completely and utterly routed, paving the way for collaboration with the Nazi’s for the Holocaust. After visiting both Normandy and Paris, it is clear that the French do not share the same narrative. The one presented is more focused on resistance, while strongly denouncing the Vichy government as having no real claim to power. They really do see themselves as a nation of resisters, whether it was quiet or active. This makes sense, as this history is way more favorable towards national identity as opposed to the overdone “always surrender” cliché of the French. The danger with this account is that it masks the deportation and willingness to collaborate with the Nazis. There is a dangerous and often murky line in history on what one wants to hear as opposed to what one should hear.

The Normans were generally more welcoming of Americans than the Parisians. However, the attitudes towards Americans in the museums in Normandy were strangely unfavorable. It really derived from one museum, the Caen War Museum. Many of the students on the trip were very irritated at the history presented. It portrayed the Allied invasion as more of a burden than a favor to the Normans. They were subject to bombing campaigns where thousands of innocent civilians died, which is true. But lines such as, “with or without the Allies help, much of France had been liberated by the end of 1945” almost completed discredited the Allied efforts in favor of the French Resistance. Now, it is understandable that a nation wants to support its resistance against tyranny in history. But condemnation of the very driving force that liberated them is doing a great disservice to the men who fought and died there for their freedom.

While the culture in Paris is oddly xenophobic, the remembrance of Allied forces was more favorable. In Les Invalides, the war museum and tomb of Napoleon, the World War II section is thorough and detailed. It describes the Allied role in the liberation of France well enough. Although it does practically describe the “crucial” role of French Resistance in just about every battle until they liberated Paris, it does not condemn the Allies. Once again the French role in the Holocaust is rarely mentioned, not until the Shoah museum was any kind of collaboration mentioned. A few other memorials are in place, but nothing substantial, it is almost as if the Parisians do not talk about their crimes.

Germany were the aggressors, they were responsible for the Holocaust and the war. After being leveled in 1945, Berlin was occupied for the years following. The culture of the city was essentially changed, split in two by the USSR and American/British/French sectors. Here the group saw the best approach to historical remembrance. Berlin presented in a factual and honest the crimes of the Nazi’s, formulated and taken place in the city. Learning about this coming to terms with the past in class was one thing, but actually witnessing it was another. No German flags hang from houses and any kind of nationalism is muted until major sporting events. People certainly seem to be proud to be German, but in a subdued way, due to the crimes of their predecessors. Is this the best way to approach historical wrongdoings? Possibly so, it seems like the city has very much moved on, while maintaining a cautious eye on the past.

This trip was eye opening to say the least. Seeing the places where world-changing events happen is not something one gets to do very often. In addition, gaining a new perspective on how other nations remember an event as significant as World War II was almost just as valuable. It has never been more vivid to me that there really is no definite answer in history. An elementary reasoning to learning history is so we do not repeat it. Teaching and confronting wrongdoings of one’s own nation is the only way to truly effectively do so.

 

For a more in-depth look at the experience, please read the blog that myself and the other students kept on the trip

Gothic Cathedrals of Paris

For my STEP experience, I chose a study abroad trip. I went to Paris, France for two weeks to study gothic architecture and its relationship to French culture. Before we left the country, we took a class here at OSU to learn about the places we would be visiting while in France. Each of us prepared a presentation based on a research topic we were assigned pre-departure. We stayed in Paris for the duration of the trip but went to surrounding cities to visit cathedrals as day trips during the week. We were in Paris from May 23rd to June 7th, and stayed in a centrally located hotel in the Bastille region of the city. We visited cathedrals located in Paris as well as in surrounding cities.

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One of the main reasons I wanted to go to back to France was to see if living there after college would be a feasible option for me. I have been wanting to return to Paris since the first time I went in 2012. I instantly fell in love with the city due to the diversity and history embedded in its culture. When I travel, my goal is to see all of the historical monuments and museums that make each place unique. For me, Paris is a city that belongs to the dead but is simultaneously throwing itself full force into the present times. It is a place that I want to live in, or at least continue to return to, for the rest of my life.

Before I went to Paris, I set several goals for myself that were both personal and academic. While I was in France, it was my goal to speak French the entire time I was there so that I could practice my pronunciation and understanding of the spoken language. I have a minor in French and hope to live there one day, so this was a test for myself to see how close to achieving that goal I was. I found that while I was there I could understand most conversation, and was able to order my food and converse with others in French. It was a great experience for me because I was able to see myself living and working in Paris. My trip reaffirmed my positive feelings about the city itself and reminded me why I chose to study the language. Academically, I have found that even the two weeks I spent in country improved my speaking ability and accent in French. Moving forward, I plan to use online programs to practice my pronunciation and accent as well as office hours with my professors. I also find that my reading fluency has improved. Going back to France rekindled by excitement to study the language and because of it I have become a better student.

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Before this study abroad trip I had never studied Gothic architecture or the cultural atmosphere of France during the time that they were built. I have interest in a wide variety of subjects, and this trip allowed me to have an experience I would not have had otherwise. Medieval France had a significant cultural difference from modern day France, but the influence of medieval France is still an important part of the city. While taking the pre-departure class, we were each assigned a topic to research. I was given stained glass production. It was an incredibly interesting topic to me due to the extreme amount of detail and care that went into matching colors within the glass. I learned to better appreciate the effort it took to produce windows of the scale that would last. The windows also illustrated biblical stories, so it was fun to try to pick out which story was in the window while I was visiting them. We also learned about what life was like for the people who attended mass in the cathedrals, how they were built, what the structures in them and outside of them were called, and the importance of a town having a cathedral. I also got to visit small towns in France that I had not previously been to, such as Laon, Saint Denis, Reims, and Amiens.

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While in Paris, we were given afternoons and weekends to explore the city. As I have previously been to France, I wanted to experience more of the city beyond the famous museums and landmarks. One of the places I have wanted to go to for most of my life was the house of Nicolas Flamel, the man rumored to have created a philosopher’s stone through the use of alchemy. Alchemy has always been an interesting concept to me, and finally getting to visit his house in Paris was one of the best parts of my trip. I also got to see the tombs of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette, who are two of my favorite French historical figures. Saint-Denis is the cathedral in which all of the French monarchy is buried. Their tombs feature statues of their likenesses, which was both morbid and interesting. They were kings, princes, princesses, and queens, all of varying ages at the time of their death. What is interesting about Louis XIV is that his remains are no longer located in the Basilica. They were exhumed and completely destroyed during the French Revolution. There is still a memorial to him there, however, and I felt that I was able to pay my respects despite the lack of remains. However, my favorite landmark was the fountain where Les Innocents Cemetery was once located before the bones were exhumed and taken to the Catacombs.

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Returning to Paris allowed me to continue to do what I love most; learn new things. The most important thing I took away from my trip was a greater appreciation for French culture and a desire to learn more about it. The museums and historical landmarks were my favorite part of the trip because they showed how the past connected to the present. I have read many books that take place in Paris, and seeing the locations I read about and fell in love with in person was an amazing experience.

Multicultural Histories and Legacies of London and Paris

During the Multicultural Histories and Legacies of London and Paris study abroad class this May, I learned a lot about how a culture is formed, while also enjoying the many wonderful sights and attractions that these two great cities had to offer. The eighteen days that I spent abroad were packed full of tours and lessons on the history and culture of the cities in which we were staying, and their surrounding areas.

While in London, we learned a lot about how the city, and country are run. We toured the City of London and had a discussion with a professor on how the business sector of London is becoming more like Wall Street in New York City, and what that might mean about the future of the country’s finances and government policies regarding business. We also met with the British League of Muslims, and a few police officers, to discuss the treatment of people of different races, religions, and ethnicities in London. It was brought to our attention that London is much more accepting of differences than we are in the United States. The representatives disclosed to us that they felt at home in London, and that they believe they, and other people of ethnic or religious minorities have integrated quite well into British society.

In London, we also volunteered at the North London Action for the Homeless, which was essentially a soup kitchen for those in need. While there, we learned that service can be anything from pulling weeds, to wiping tables, to even just sitting down to have a conversation with someone. Service is not about what you want to do to help, it is all about what will help the people and the community that you are working with the most, even if it is not the job you would have chosen to do on your own. I’m very glad that we had the opportunity to volunteer while abroad, because even though it is not likely that I will ever see the people that I worked with gain, I believe that I made a difference at that soup kitchen, no matter how small it may have been.

In Paris, one of our main focuses was on how immigration has impacted the formation of the culture in and around Paris. We went as far back as the beginning of the monarchy in France to demonstrate how immigration has affected the country, because almost every French Queen was an immigrant from a powerful family in a different country. Surprisingly, the culture on Paris, is much like the culture in New York City, and I imagine it is very similar to a lot of other big city cultures. Obviously it has its own added flare in language, food, and political interests, as all big cities due, but at the core of the culture, it doesn’t differ much from anywhere else.

It can be argued that food, music, language, politics, and religion are the main aspect of any culture, and consequently, differences in these things would make for an enormous difference in cultures, and that argument would be correct. But, during this experience I found that the massive variety of beliefs added to a culture of many different cultures interacting harmoniously. Because of immigration to major cities, those cities now have a diverse population with many different beliefs and traditions all living together in the same society. This creates a mixture of cultures from all around the world in most cities. Although the people and cultures are all blended at different times, places, and amounts, the result is a comprehensively diverse and blended culture in most parts of the world, leading to an acceptance and convergence on different lifestyles.

Upon graduation from The Ohio State University I plan on joining the Peace Corps. Like all jobs, the Peace Corps has a very competitive application process. This experience, along with all the knowledge I have gained from it, will help me to become a little closer to the ideal Peace Corps volunteer. Being a well-travelled, global citizen can only serve to help me in my future endeavors. I believe that this experience has taught me a great deal about how to act while abroad, how to handle even the most subtle cultural differences, and how to travel and navigate a foreign country, rather than just touring a foreign country.