London Spring Break 2016 Architecture Program

I recently traveled to London, England during Spring Break 2016 with the Architecture Program at The Ohio State University. During the trip we got to visit, experience, and see all the beautiful architecture around London. I went to an architecture firm, OMA, and it was truly inspiring to get to see the amazing things architects are doing around the world.

While completing this STEP project I found out that I am an outgoing person that can be friends with nearly anyone. I made a lot of friends on the trip and I learned how to cope with new foods, new surroundings and more importantly new time zones. Everything I experienced was such a great experience, I really got to push myself and see what my limits are. I usually don’t think about other parts of the world unless I am reading something online or watching the news. This really opened my eyes to see what wonderful things are happening around the world architecturally and in general. I loved that I didn’t feel homesick and that I was honestly so happy the entire time I was there. I experienced such amazing things and I pushed myself in ways I never would have been able to in America.

The first full day my group was in London we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral. St. Paul’s Cathedral was extremely amazing because it showed the ways that architects built back in the day. What I found so interesting is that the architect Christopher Wren knew that London would be an up and coming city. He specifically made a small landing around the top of the dome so that people could go up there and see the beautiful city that London has become. I’m terrified of heights and this made me push myself because this is a once in a lifetime experience that I could not miss. That day was interesting because they specifically buried people in the Cathedral that were important or had meaning in the church. Surprisingly they were buried underneath the floors so that people could walk on their tombs. I was really freaked out by this but as time went on I learned that people thought of it as an honor. I tried to avoid their tombs to be respectful but they were specifically buried under the floors as a sign of respect. That experience really helped me learn myself because I knew I was terrified of heights but I found out that I can push myself past my fears.

One of the days we had a specific time set for “tea-time” which was at the National Gallery. This experience was extremely interesting and really made me see the differences in culture. London, England does not give free water or complimentary water. Every glass of water is 2 pounds which is about 4 dollars per water. Tea time was around noon and it was truly kind of overwhelming with the amount of people around me that wanted tea. This also made me realize how many different cultures there are. Most people in London like milk in their tea, however, Americans really like coffee. They had some Starbucks stores around the area which really surprised me but I was really glad they did. Tea time was enjoyable because they brought us tea that was specifically made in London and very popular. They brought deserts and sandwiches which were extremely small portioned. When experiencing the culture, I realized how big our proportions are in America compared to England. I left every meal in London and still was hungry. It amazed me how expensive it was for such a small amount of food. This was the first experience that made me have a culture shock. It helped me realize how different all the parts of the world are and it opened my eyes to try and look at experiences from other people’s perspectives.

Another event that happened that led to the transformation was when we went to the Architecture firm OMA. We talked to a woman that went to Ohio State University for her Undergraduate degree then got into Harvard to get her masters. She then was picked to do a double master’s program and the second masters was actually research. I had no idea that someone could get a second masters in research of architecture and she got her second masters in London. It was truly amazing to see the beautiful work she alone has done on top of the firm that she is working for. I was amazed that she moved from the United States over to London. When walking around the firm they were showing us the beautiful models they built and then they showed us the drawings they made which were incredibly amazing. They told us what they look for in architecture students and it made me realize how much I love architecture not only in America but around the world as well. These three main experiences taught me so much about myself and about the differences around the world. I loved studying abroad and I hope to do it again.

This change in culture and experience are significant to my life in many ways. For example, I pushed myself when dealing with my worst fear, heights, during one of the best experiences of my life. I never would have experienced that if I didn’t push myself. I taught myself how to deal with other situations like figuring out the Tube, trying other foods that are unique to their culture, while also finding myself. I got to see the goals I want to have in the future and that I hopefully will have. I want to travel the world and more importantly I want to be an intelligent, successful Architect like Zaha Hadid. I think this experience has made me grow as a student because it taught me how to prioritize my time while still getting all my work done. I loved every experience and every moment of studying abroad. It made me the person I am today and for that I am forever grateful for the STEP Signature Project.

 

https://u.osu.edu/london2016/

 

The link above is the link that was all about the class. I wrote multiple blogs on there and have put a lot of photos on that blog as well. There are videos that one of the professors made about the first couple days!

 

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This picture was of my friends and I at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Children’s Mental Health and Child Welfare in Australia

During the month of May, I was able to study abroad in Melbourne, Australia. The program I completed was a three-week social work program that centered on children’s mental health and welfare systems in the country. Throughout our three weeks, we visited many different agencies that worked with youth.

Australia challenged my views on many topics. Being there and learning about their welfare systems. Before my trip, I was unaware of many of the issues facing Australian youth – such as the overwhelming problem with youth homelessness. While learning about these issues, I started to really question how I feel about the amount of government involvement in our everyday lives. Although I am back in the States, I continue to question my stance.

The first agency we visited was the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA). Another issue that I became aware of while in Australia was that of the struggles faced by the Aboriginal population. Until 2008, the government of Australia never apologized for the wrongdoings of the Stolen Generation. The Stolen Generation is the name given to the Aboriginal Children who were taken from their families in attempt to “rid” of the Aboriginal population. This agency visit made the issue of diversity in health care and life so much more real.

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A traditional opossum cloak made by Aboriginal children at VACCA

Another impactful agency visit came from VicSeg. VicSeg is dedicated to helping refugee families transition into Australian culture. This is one of the agencies that made me question my opinions on government involvement. I do not believe there is any clear-cut answer to how the government should act or vote in certain situations. And, once again, the issues of diversity in treatment were brought to mind.

All of the agencies we visited really opened up my eyes to the many issues a psychologist must consider in the treatment of children. When dealing with the youth population, you really have to consider all the factors at play in their lives. The entire trip gave me a new perspective that I can incorporate into my education and future career.

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My friend, Taja (right), and I at our last agency visit and BeyondBlue

So far I have hinted at the fact that I plan to become a psychologist. More specifically, I hope to practice clinical child psychology within my own private practice. Through this trip, I was able to see the importance of holistic treatment, multidisciplinary treatment teams, and family involvement. I feel like I now have many more tools to provide cost-effective and long lasting treatment outcomes in the future. I am thankful for the time I spent in Australia and the lessons I learned.

Environmental Sustainability in Costa Rica: The Reflection

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My STEP experience took me to Costa Rica, on a 10 day study abroad trip with Ohio State.  The topic of our trip was sustainability, and I hoped to learn about how this small developing country managed to make itself into one of the most environmentally friendly nations on Earth.

This was my first time outside of the United States and Canada, but what I was struck most by was how un-foreign Costa Rica felt. Sure, everyone spoke Spanish and there were palm trees everywhere, but the city of San José looked and felt much like parts of Toronto or Philadelphia that I’ve been to. The mountainous, forested countryside broken up by farms and pastures looked like a tropical West Virginia. I think that my reasonably decent Spanish might have made for a little less of a culture shock, but the Costa Rica that I saw had a lot more in common with what I knew than I expected it to.

Speaking of my marginally intelligible Español, one of the most exciting parts of this trip for me was actually getting to use it! I took five years of Spanish classes, starting in eighth grade, but I had never actually spoken it outside of the classroom until this trip. While I remembered a lot of what I had learned, I was surprised at how frustrating it was to coherently say what I wanted to say. I really take for granted my access to a large vocabulary of English words, and it seemed like every other sentence I would be left grasping for a Spanish word that I had never learned. Spanish classes do a great job of teaching you how to write essays about Gabriel Garcia Marquez stories, but they leave you woefully unprepared to discuss something as simple as what you’re studying and your post-graduation plans with a stranger. Even making small talk was hard; I don’t have to think about how to construct complex series of subjects and verbs in English (“she told me to ask you what to do with these”), but in Spanish I mostly just floundered until the person I was talking to was able to fill in the blanks for me. This isn’t to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it, just that it was mentally exhausting. Whether it was chatting with students at an elementary school, or talking to a young woman who worked at our hotel about whether snow really looked like it does in the movies, these conversations were some of the highlights of my trip.

While I expected to be amazed by the natural beauty and wildlife of Costa Rica, I wasn’t anticipating how much of an impact the people I met would have. I’ve already touched on how great the Costa Rican people that I met made my trip, but it definitely wouldn’t have been the same without my fellow students, either. Our class started with a two-week on-campus component, during which none of us really interacted with each other. This didn’t leave me with particularly high hopes for developing camaraderie on our trip, but I was very much mistaken. Over our 10 days in Costa Rica, our whole group became very close. By the time the end of the trip rolled around, no one wanted to go home, which was as much due to the friendships we had developed as to the great times we had in Costa Rica.

As far as the environmental sustainability aspect went, it was really cool to see how dedicated to protecting their natural heritage most Costa Ricans seem to be. From little things—recycling is ubiquitous there—to the huge hydroelectric projects and roofs covered in solar panels, environmental sustainability really seems to be a way of life in Costa Rica. Their government has done a great job of encouraging people to be good stewards of the environment, too. By allowing local communities to manage and profit from parks and preserves, they create an incentive to protect precious natural areas.

I’m not going to spout the stupid “college student who just got back from study abroad” clichés about how this trip completely changed my life—it didn’t. But what it has done is give me a little bit of a broader perspective. I got to visit another country, and see how different it was (not very). I got to see some really cool wildlife and landscapes. I got to meet some cool people. I think what this trip has really done for me is lay a framework for future travel. Maybe I’ll look a little more seriously at the possibility of going to graduate school abroad, or at least doing more international travel. Maybe I’ll more seriously explore the cool places that the US has to offer. Whatever the ultimate outcomes are, I’m so glad that I chose to study abroad.