European Architecture Study-Tour

The STEP project that I engaged in was an OSU study abroad program. I travelled to Europe with the Knowlton School’s European Architecture Maymester program. Over the course of the month, we visited seven countries and studied almost 200 important works of architecture.

Prior to my STEP experience, I was considering focusing on residential or educational architecture in my future career. During the trip, however, I noticed that my attention wandered from these traditional typologies of architecture to factories and landscape architecture spaces. My interest in factories was not surprising; my father owns a woodworking factory and I grew up in the factory environment. The landscape interest was something new. While I had always appreciated exterior spaces before, I now see landscape architecture as a profession which engages with current environmental problems while creating dynamic situational spaces for people to meet, socialize, contemplate, or exercise. As a senior looking for post-graduation employment, thanks to my STEP experience I plan to apply to both traditional and landscape architecture firms.

Over the course of the trip, whether because of room assignments or going out to eat on free nights, I ended up spending a significant amount of time with students that I had previously thought that I had little in common. Through this experience I have come to know some of them as some of the most kind, unassuming, and welcoming people I know. When I started at the Knowlton School, I had a hard time relating to the students in my year. Growing up homeschooled in China tends to put you at a disadvantage when everyone is bonding over awful high school stories, and I assumed that other students wouldn’t like me due to our differences and therefore isolated myself. Spending time with my fellow architecture students in this concentrated environment allowed me to get out of my self-induced social-coma.

One of the most thrilling places that we visited was the Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord in Duisburg, Germany which had been designed by landscape architect firm Latz+Partner. We arrived late in the afternoon on our tour bus and were told to “go play.” However, we had to be back at the bus in two hours. By this point in the day we had already been to a few cathedrals and toured an ancient silver mine (all in the same day), so we were very tired. The park was located at the site of an old iron-working factory which had not been used for many years. The landscape architects were challenged to re-program the site for public use while not erasing the character of the site, creating a living memorial of a former time. The idea was to work with existing site components to the point where grandfathers could take their grandchildren to the park to play and say, “I used to work on that [insert factory department]!” The park was filled with frame after frame of amazing views, from tranquil pools of water in giant vats, abandoned railway structure, to cat walks in the air created from pieces of old building from which I saw a series of delightful tiny “secret gardens” tucked into the half-destroyed cellular storage rooms of the factory. The park registered in me a nostalgia born from growing up hanging around my dad’s factory in central California, pre-recession.

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Slide from a distance

Slide from a distance

While in Paris, we stayed in apartment-style housing at a hotel, with two rooms and a kitchenette. The suite I shared with three other girls opened onto a terrace, and in the evening we gathered outside with some of our other classmates. It wasn’t a big deal to them, but for me it was the first time that I had hung out with them outside of studio at school. As we sat there, talking about things we had seen that day, listening to music, I felt included as I had never felt in architecture school before. Later that night the others went out clubbing while I stayed behind to relax, take a bubble bath, and catch up on sketching. Out of habit I locked the door and eventually went to bed. In the morning I woke up, surprised and alarmed that my roommates had not returned during the night. They were locked out! Though understandably annoyed, they were remarkably forgiving and didn’t hold it against me for the rest of the trip. These memories are important to me as a remembrance of good times, but also as a landmark of growing up and being able to socialize and feel comfortable in my own skin.

Moving forward in my career I am full of questions as to the direction my path may take due to the unexpected things I discovered about myself in Europe. The library of both architecture and landscape architecture spatial ideas developed during the program is proving to be extremely valuable as I start my senior studio in architecture. As a more confident, well-rounded student, I approach graduation and joining the working world with anticipation and excitement about things to come.

 

 

Saudade: Eu sinto sua, Salvador

My STEP experience allowed me to go abroad to Salvador, Bahia, Brazil with ten other undergraduate and graduate students and engage in cultural exchanges rooted in dance. This trip took place from March 8-March 21st 2016, over Spring Break.

 

This trip was exciting for me because it was my first time going out of the country, travelling to a country that I have always wanted to go to, and also being able to dance internationally. I really had no prior assumptions on how the trip would go or what to expect because the thought of Salvador was so foreign to me, so my anticipations were high. From flying over Salvador, I immediately knew I would love it there. The sun glistened, the sky was so beautifully blue, the clouds covered the sky like clumps of cotton, and the warmth hugged me as I exited the airplane. As we waited for our program director (Clara Ramos) to meet us, we learned a Portuguese phrase that we used often, “com licensa” or “excuse me”. When she arrived, we came into our first contact with Brazilian love. She gave us hugs and told us how excited she was that we were there.

 

That experience opened my eyes to the friendliness, love, and acceptance that Brazilians share. I realized then how much that I was willing to open my view to the wonders of the culture that I would be in for the next two weeks. It was so easy for me to do so because I felt so welcome and Salvador so quickly felt like a second home to me. I’m glad I had no prior assumptions of Brazil or the experiences we had because everything I experienced was so amazing, there was no way I could I have dreamed it to be true.

 

The main reason we were in Brazil was for dance. We had spent several months planning repertory, rehearsing, and learning about the culture all to prepare us for our experience there. We spent our time performing in various school locations and theater settings, learning dances native to Brazil, such as Afro-Brazilian dance and dances of orishas of the Candomblé religion, and learning about the history and dynamic of Salvador.

 

We spent our first couple days going on tours around the area around our hotel and historical Pelourinho. Our tour guides, Fred and Simone, were awesome tour guides and keyed us into traits that would lead us to really be immersed in the Brazilian society, such as using a thumbs up to thank someone letting you walk across the street. Although we performed many times in Brazil, people’s reactions were always the same. They would be so in tune with our dances and would be so interested in who we were in person that we would get swarmed with people, love, and appreciation for the performance we just gave.

 

We took a variety of classes while in Brazil, including classes in capoeira, Afro-Brazilian, and more. We got a first hand experience on the types of formal dance that Brazil has to offer by taking these classes and also going to a performance by Balé Folclórico. This allowed us to not only share how we dance in the States, but also to admire and even try the types of dances that Brazil has to offer. There was a real sense of cultural exchange that took place in Salvador.

 

Through these practices we were able to establish relationships with many people ranging from the hotel employees, students at every school, teachers, and random people on the street. We were easily able to create friendships and connections with people that influenced our time in Salvador greatly.

 

This experience of travelling to Salvador changed my life. It allowed me to see the world differently, engage with people I never thought I would, and perform internationally. I was able to have a sense of home outside of the U.S., which was so special to me. I was able to see a different part of the world, take classes from amazing teachers, analyze cultural appreciation from cultural appropriation, and even got to enjoy the beauty of Brazil. I have never felt more at home in a place outside of my own, and to feel that in Salvador was amazing to me.

 

This trip lead me to want to continue service and outreach activities this school year has increased my want to go back. I plan to go back to further study Afro-Brazilian dance and also be able to teach dance genres that aren’t accessible in Brazil, such as contemporary. I felt very connected to the Afro-Brazilian dance style and feel that it would be great for me to study more in depth. Also, since travelling to Salvador, I am currently enrolled in a Portuguese language course this semester so I can be well versed, if I do in fact return.

 

In conclusion, STEP allowing me to study abroad in Salvador was by far the best experience of my life. I know being in Brazil has shaped who I am as a person today. It has also influenced my future studies since I now want to learn more about Afro-Brazilian dance. This trip was an honor to have been chosen to go on and learn as much as I did about company, cultural, and social experiences.

 

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Intensive Chinese Language in Suzhou (China): STEP 2016

For my STEP project, I spent seven weeks in Suzhou, China studying Mandarin Chinese at Suzhou University. This trip was through Ohio State’s Intensive Chinese Language in Suzhou program, through Ohio State’s East Asian Studies Center.

 

Spending two months in China reinvigorated my deep interest in, and appreciation of, Chinese language and culture. I started studying Chinese in 2013 during my freshman year of high school, but until this past summer, had not traveled to China. Spending seven weeks in China greatly boosted my confidence in speaking Chinese with native speakers, and daily exposure to Chinese people and culture in and outside of the classroom gave me a new perspective on China as a developing nation. Discussing the rapidly changing economic and political climate with Chinese nationals made me realize how drastic the economic, political, and cultural transitions within the country have been in recent decades, and made me consider the issues China faces in coming years as rapid economic growth continues to transform China’s cities.

 

While in China I also had the opportunity to become acquainted with the program’s coordinator, Xiaobin Jian. Professor Jian also happens to be the coordinator for Ohio State’s Advanced Chinese Language and Culture (Flagship) program, OSU’s master’s program in Chinese language and culture. Although all of my classmates in China were OSU undergraduate students, we also had daily contact with the current Flagship students. From talking with the Flagship students, I realized that there are a lot of opportunities through the master’s program to continue Chinese language studies while pursuing academic studies catered to each student’s interests. The underlying theme of researching in Chinese allowed for the actual topic of research to be open to nearly all subjects. Furthermore, I was thoroughly impressed by the Flagship students’ conversation Chinese. I quickly realized that the Flagship student’s conversational Chinese skills were far more advanced than that of just Chinese majors. During one conversation I had with a Flagship student, she admitted that my current level of Chinese was better than hers when she was participating in the undergraduate program I was a part of while in Suzhou. This sparked my interest in applying for the Flagship program after graduation, realizing that during the two-year program I could greatly improve my conversational Chinese. Since being back in the U.S., Professor Jian and I have already begun discussing potential thesis topics to research if I get accepted to the Flagship program.

 

 

Living in Suzhou for nearly two months provided my classmates and I the opportunity to get involved in the Suzhou community through activities such as dining at local restaurants, riding public transportation, shopping, and going out on the weekends and meeting residents of Suzhou. These experiences helped me become comfortably acquainted with many locals, such as a now good friend of mine, Longfei Li, who is a waiter at a high-end restaurant in Suzhou. Perhaps the bridging gap between my classmates and I, and Chinese society, was that OSU’s partner-school in Hebei province had sent a group of Chinese university students to Suzhou to tutor us every day after we were let out of class. Because this program’s intent was to provide us an environment where we would be forced to communicate in Chinese, many of our tutors had very basic knowledge of English, and those that did almost never spoke to us in English. The hours that we all spent together in the library on weekdays and the times that we all hung out together, whether it be over dinner or at karaoke clubs, these interactions contributed to our Chinese progression immensely, as the learning we were experiencing was engaging and personable. The relationships we built with the tutors, many of whom I still maintain contact with today, has helped bring a part of the immersive Chinese experience back with me to Ohio. I know that the next time I return to China, I will have many places to travel to and many friends to see.

 

Being immersed in Chinese society–especially in Suzhou, a city with much less of a foreign presence than larger Chinese cities such as Shanghai–not only forced me to use Chinese to communicate with everyone other than my classmates but also provided countless opportunities to learn about Chinese culture in a historic Chinese city. There were many instances in which I was required to step out of my comfort zone, but all of these experiences ultimately contributed to a very positive experience in China. For example, the lack of foreigners in Suzhou brought about many situations where people on the street would ask to take my picture, or ask me to hold their child while they take my picture. Although the first few of such experiences felt a little uncomfortable, I quickly understood how peculiar my classmates and I must have seemed to the people of Suzhou.

 

Besides classes, Xiaobin Jian organized a few field trips for us to local spots to learn about Chinese culture. These trips included a day of hiking in mountain town, where we helped local fruit farmers gather Yangmei fruit. Afterwards, we shared lunch with a local family in their home, where they served variety of local seafood dishes. We also had the opportunity to go to a tea school, where we learned the traditional Chinese way to prepare and serve tea; and go to a calligraphy museum and school, where we saw ancient calligraphy scriptures and were able to use an ink brush to create our own calligraphy.

 

One weekend, I traveled with some classmates to Shanghai. The trip only took about 30 to 40 minutes on a bullet train form Suzhou. Although we were only in Shanghai for about two days, and many people were staying indoors due to a typhoon warning, I was able to meet people from all over the world, including various regions of China, Europe, and Africa. On the second day I met a Chinese man, James Sun from Nanjing, who was staying in our youth hostel. After helping me find medicine for food poisoning I had acquired, James invited me to go along with him to his office, which happened to be down the street from the Shanghai Stock Exchange. I brought my camera and was able to interview him about his perspective on Chinese businesses and their rapidly changing role within the international community. This experience left a large impression on me, as I realized how different the Chinese domestic market is compared to the American domestic market, from marketing to the types of products available, I realized that many Chinese industries are just beginning to step onto the world stage.

 

While in Shanghai my classmates and I also met up with recent graduates of the OSU Flagship program who have been living in Shanghai either working, or doing independent research. Listening to their experiences of living independently and working in China made me realize that finding work in China may not be as far off as I initially had thought.

 

A few of the flagship students told me that they had put in more time studying, and attended class more, than the other flagship students that year. I noticed that the differing skill level between those students indeed very evident when observing them interacting with Chinese speakers. In a way, this made me realize my potential in being a Mandarin speaker, and furthered my drive to build and maintain contact with Chinese people. My study abroad experience in China put me much closer to my goal of becoming conversationally fluent in Chinese, and helped me realize that the work I put aside now to study, will undoubtedly pay off down the road once I return to China.

 

Since having returned from China, I have continued taking language classes and have sought out opportunities to practice my Chinese outside of the classroom. I have been able to befriend multiple Chinese international students who have been willing to speak with me in Mandarin rather than English. I have also begun brainstorming research ideas for the Flagship program, and meeting with Xiaobin Jian about how I can narrow down topics, and where I should go to begin collecting materials and sources. Since being back, I have been told on multiple occasions of how much my Chinese has progressed over the summer, and have personally noticed an increased motivation towards my studies. I have begun filling out the application for the Ohio State Flagship Program, and am committed to being an outstanding student if accepted. I look forward to future opportunities to not only return to China and build a career, but also be engaged with Ohio State’s Chinese program.

 

Link to a video I made about the trip: https://youtu.be/jTvk1urebpY

World War II Study Abroad Tour-Katie Holman

Name: Katie Holman

Type of Project: Study Abroad

For my STEP signature project I participated in Ohio State’s World War II Study Abroad tour. Through this program I was able to travel through Europe starting in London, followed by a tour of France, a stop in Krakow and ending in Berlin.

This trip was the highlight of my time at Ohio State. I have always had a passion for history, however I was only able to follow this passion through studying in books, listening in lectures and watching documentaries. This program allowed me to add a whole new dimension to my historical study. It is one thing to be able to study a country’s specific attitudes and cultures, its completely different to be able to experience these things for yourself. Through this program I learned how British’s view of the war seems to match that of the United States. In France they try to cover up for some of the collaboration they participated in the war. Krakow takes on a heroic narrative to try and cover the painful memories of the war years. Finally Germany offered a more apologetic narrative of the war.

Being able to visit Normandy was really where I began to see a differences between the United States view of the world and another countries. Obviously, the beaches of Normandy are famous as the location of the D-Day invasion. These beaches are a powerful component of American history, even though they are thousand of miles from the United States. That being said American heroics were not nearly as celebrated as they are here. The town of Bayeux where we stayed celebrated the American liberators, however many of the French museums we visited in Normandy offered an interesting contrast. They really played up the French involvement with the liberation as well and the resistance unit. While this doesn’t really follow the narrative we learn in America, it can be easy to see why the French wouldn’t want to be associated with German collaboration.

The most powerful place we visited on our study tour was Auschwitz death camp. It is one thing to read about the camp, and to see pictures, but it is a completely different one to be able to experience it in person. Here was a site where millions of victims lost their lives to indescribable evil. The camp itself doesn’t look like anything special. However, there is a dark mood hanging over it. It would be impossible to be able to fell the mood of the camp without actually having visited the camp itself.

This trip expanded my horizons far more than I could ever imagined. I learned about new people, experience new foods and saw new things. However the biggest thing I took away from this trip is how similar people throughout the world really are. Europe to me always use to seem so foreign, yet after having visited it, I realize it is not so foreign after all. Learning about how similar the human race is, while still appreciating its difference will help me in my future career. I hope to become a lawyer and learning to be empathetic toward new cultures and new people will serve me well in this career field.

link to my blog: http://u.osu.edu/wwiihistorytour/author/holman-120/

Francophone Africa: Between Tradition and Modernity

For my STEP signature project, I participated in the Francophone Africa: Between Tradition and Modernity study abroad program in Senegal, a West African country that many people would have trouble spelling or locating on a map, for five weeks. While there, I learned about a culture and lifestyle that greatly varied from my own by staying with a host family in the country’s capital Dakar, attending lectures that were taught by nationally and internationally renowned intellectuals and historians, and going on field trips to cities that are culturally rich and play an important role in the country’s complicated history.

The first day I spent in Senegal, we drove from its capital to an arts compound 45 minutes away and I was stricken by the small towns and villages we saw on our journey: the restaurants, barber shops, and clothing shops were dilapidated, clearly hand-build by inexperienced civilians, and very small; mass amounts of litter covered the ground; and dogs and cats covered in scabs roamed freely. These observations of my surroundings differed so greatly from the towns I grew up in and visited in the United States that I had no idea what to expect from the rest of the trip. Would the people be just as different? Would I be able to bridge what I then thought of as an enormous historical and cultural gap? Was I in danger? Would I be judged? Would I fall into the trap of judging others based on my own Western standards? I soon found out that I had made the wrong assumptions already by judging a very diverse group of people based on where they came from and what I thought of their living conditions, and that although the Senegalese people and I may have grown up in differing environments, we were much more similar than we were different. As an anthropologist, I am familiar with the concept of cultural relativism and the temptations of judging a culture by how much it deviates from my own, but learning this first hand while conducting my own interviews, forming my own observations, and personally participating in rituals and daily routines forced me to form my own perspective on the world as a young adult. This trip also served as an opportunity to confront any previously unknown biases or prejudices that formed within my previously ethnocentric-based perspective. Why had I thought I was in danger simply based on my surroundings without ever having contacted the people who I feared, and why had I thought they would not accept me? This trip allowed me to question these Western thought processes and ideals, and not only correct them to reflect the diversity of the World’s population and cultures, but also be humbled by the vast majority of what I did not know.

The most important interactions I had that brought about this self-discovery and humility were those with my host family, who guided me through this new way of life and cultural philosophy. My parents taught me how to eat, be respectful towards elders, welcome visitors in their native language Wolof, wear traditional clothing, cut fruit properly, and cook, basic tasks that even my four-year-old host niece had mastered. My host brother Sodaty taught me about transportation systems, education, politics, dancing, and music, and how to wash my clothes, serve tea to my parents, and barter with shopkeepers. Being a foreigner is like being the most naïve learner, like being a small child trying to navigate a world that s/he is familiar with, but ultimately unknowledgeable about. Learning about basic knowledge and how to perform everyday tasks as a twenty-one year old from children was certainly humbling, and coming to terms with my ignorance made me a more willing learner, but observing how my family interacted with each other also taught me a great deal and was what ultimately lead to my most revolutionary discovery: humans, whether they come from New York City or the most remote towns in Senegal, are much more similar than different. Sodaty would constantly be annoyed with his nieces and nephews, and would argue with his mom over money or his curfew. My nieces loved their stuffed animals and playing pretend. My mom was devoted to her children and grandchildren, and she loved to laugh at my awkwardness and ineptitude, then correct my mistakes. They all suffered from the death of the oldest daughter in the family who died a year earlier in a car accident. My connection with Sodaty reminded me exactly of my relationship with my brother; we argued with each other, made each other laugh, and learned new things together. My connection with my nieces and nephew reminded me of my relationship with my best friend’s younger sister, who I consider family. We would tell each other about our day while eating dinner and say good night to each other before going to bed. These small actions and relationships came naturally to me; I did not have to learn how to connect with them or force this connection, and I was not confused by their grief over their lost daughter and sister. We all experience the same emotions, find joy in meeting and learning about someone new, and seek human connection. Through this experience I discovered what it is to be human, not just in Western terms, but what we have in common cross-culturally, and this discovery is essential to my furthered appreciation and respect for my brothers and sisters living in all parts of the world, walking on all different paths of life.

Outside of my host family, I was also able to observe and talk with other Senegalese citizens, leading me to another very influential and powerful discovery. Firstly, I observed the behavior of the Senegalese towards my other group members and me, which was always very pleasant, warm, and welcoming. Before the trip began, I attended several information meetings with Dr. Thiam, who lead our trip, and our study abroad coordinator, and both felt the need to remind us during every meeting of the troubled history between the United States and Senegal, which may in turn negatively affect the way we would be treated by those who live there. I never experienced a problem of this kind with anyone I came in contact with or any sort of mistreatment because of my skin color or my ethnicity. This fact, which I realized within the first week of being in the country, immediately dispelled any fears regarding my safety or my acceptance by the community and told me that the Senegalese do not judge someone’s character based on his/her skin color or his/her country’s history, which also told me a great deal about America. The second observation I made concerned the interactions between the Senegalese, and how their attitudes contrasted with the environment in which they lived. Juxtaposed with the dilapidated small shops and restaurants, the Senegalese were always smiling and laughing with each other. I never heard my host family talk about being stressed or complain about work, I never saw a customer argue with a shopkeeper or waiter, and whenever I ran into someone who I had briefly met through my host family they hugged me and wanted to know about my day. This way of living was very new to me and being immersed in it allowed me to appreciate a new way of life that does not revolve around stress, but rather around community.

The lectures were another major contributor to the reconstruction of my world perspective, considering that prior to this program I was limited by an Americanized education system, with all the biases and misinformation that comes with being taught by mostly white, male, and American teachers. During this program, I was taught by Senegalese intellectuals, artists, and historians who were not tainted by the Westernized perspective that I had become used to. They taught us about the hold France maintains over their country, about the vestiges of ancient African religions found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and about places like Gorée Island, the last piece of African land that enslaved West Africans would be taken to before crossing over the Atlantic, and Touba, a city built in protest of colonialism. These professors taught us from the perspective of experience, as descendants from those who were colonized and as people living in a country still very much controlled by Western influence. From these lectures, the true weight of slavery, globalization, and greed was unloaded onto me and I was finally felt the pain that Senegal and other formerly colonized countries endure. Nevertheless, the Senegalese did not envy me nor did they wish me harm, and it was naïve of me to think this would be the case. The Senegalese are a welcoming, joyous, and hardworking community, and to see them building themselves up while still hurting from their present and past afflictions put me in my place and helped me to realize that they do not need my pity nor my help, they need our recognition, acceptance, and support.

Traveling to Senegal was my first time out of the United States, so I had never completely immersed myself in any culture other than my own and had no idea what to expect. As a white American, I rarely feel like the “other” in any situation or group of people I find myself in because my skin color and nationality give me a certain favored distinction. Before this trip, my world-view was limited to that of a person who always felt comfortable, represented, and confident that my skin color did not identify me with an expectation or idea that is not true to who I am. In Senegal I became the “other”, the one who was prone to feeling awkward and out of place, and the one who had to learn how to fit in, an experience that I could not find in a Western, predominantly white country. I believe the cure to racism and many causes of violence in this world can be found in understanding and experiencing peoples and situations that are “foreign”, because the result is almost always coming to the realization that humans are more similar than different, that our skin colors tell us nothing about our characters, our beliefs, or our pasts, and subsequently, that this inequality that we struggle with in our society makes no sense. My passion has always been to help people, and with this trip my passion has only grown stronger and evolved into a goal: to promote social progress and uproot social institutions that promote racism and ignorance by researching underrepresented populations, educating others, and advocating for the respect and love of humans by humans.

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Adventures in Rome, Venice and London

For my STEP Signature Project, I traveled to Rome, Venice and London in the month of May. My trip was through the Ohio State University’s Psychology and Culture and in Europe program.

The last time I traveled out of the country I was thirteen, and under the protective umbrella of my parents. This trip was the first time I’ve ever been able to be fully immersed in another culture and explore it completely. The structure of this trip forced me to take ownership of my own experience which was strangely liberating. That coupled with meeting new people with so unique stories forced me to think about my life outside the bubble of Columbus, Ohio. Before this trip, I didn’t like to think about life after graduation, and when I did I thought of it more as a series of steps that needed to be taken. Going on this trip and experiencing things outside the realm of Ohio helped me realize how many possibilities there really are in the world. It helped me be excited for what’s to come, for what I can use my degree for, and that even though I many not have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing after graduation, there is so much time to figure it out. I learned that the unknown can be an exciting thing.

The first aspect of the trip that stood out and made an impact, was interacting with our various tour guides in each city. In Rome, a truly passionate and good-humored man named Giuseppe led us around the city he grew up in. He was a terrific and knowledgeable guide, but at some point on our trip he made the comment that he used to be a medical doctor. In the states, physicians are so respected – partially because we’re all aware of everything they had to accomplish in order to become a doctor, and partially because once you are established as a doctor, you make a good living. Giuseppe told us about how his life is so much better since his career change. Not simply because he loves Roman history, but he makes so much better money as a tour guide, which is not what you’d expect. It seems like such an insignificant event when it’s in writing, but I remember being really shocked when he told us this. It gave me and my classmates quite a bit of insight into how standards are so different around the world. The healthcare in Italy is drastically different than it is here in the United States, but the prestige and value placed in these two career paths in each country were very different.

I’ve always been a bit of a history buff, and Italian history always fascinated me. Visiting Rome was surreal and I was floored by the palaces, statues and historical monuments that were in nearly every street. Giuseppe constantly used the word “modern” to describe monuments constructed in the 1700s – which is hardly modern by American standards. The best day in Rome was the day when we visited the Colosseum. It was amazing to stand inside of it and witness where so much history happened. It was mind-blowing and humbling to stand there and think of how much human history has passed since then and how different things were back then. It’s exciting to think about everything that can change in the future, in ways that we can’t even imagine.

Lastly, while we were in London we had the chance to visit the Royal Bethlem Hospital. It was amazing to see one of the longest-standing psychiatric facilities. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the mental health field, and it was fascinating to see how far the field has progressed. We were able to peruse old patient cases and look at historical treatment equipment. For instance the binding jackets patients had to wear, and the restraints they were often forced to wear. It was heart-breaking to see how mental patients used to be treated, but uplifting to know we’ve come a long way. It was so inspiring to see, and it excited me to become a mental health care professional one day.

I found this trip to be inspiring and thought-provoking. A look into the past, and a glimpse into the future. It reaffirmed that there are so many opportunities for growth, particularly within the field of mental health. And it also showed me that I can concoct as many ideas as I’d like, but I can’t possibly imagine how things will change in the my life. I could become a mental health nurse practitioner as I want to right now, but I don’t want to become too stubborn in my ideas, because really anything can happen. That’s not to say I don’t want to make goals and work towards them. But I learned it’s important to be fluid and flexible when planning for the future. I’ve only seen a small portion of the world, and I really have no idea of all the different options that there are. I may not know what’s going to happen in the future, but I know I’m excited for the unknown possibilities. I’m so grateful I was able to go on this trip and discover that.img_0888-1 img_0320-1

Global May Spain Adventures!

The Global May Spain program has been one of the best experiences of my life thus far. This past summer I traveled to Madrid and various other locations throughout Spain. We took part in a lot of different cultural activities along with learning about the culture and history in the classroom itself. I feel that this program has really helped me to grow individually and collectively with my group. Although on the surface the program looks like a series of never ending walking tours, in reality it is a cultural immersion like non other than I have experienced before. Being able to live in the same city for almost a whole entire month, wiped away the glamour of the touristy things and allowed us to see the city as more locals. Towards the end of the program, we were able to navigate the metro like pros and went on numerous excursions to explore the city.

 

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This is a beautiful, panoramic view of Toledo, Spain!

 

For a while the language barrier was an issue for me to adapt to. However, you learn to pick up on body language and context clues to be able to effectively communicate in Spain. For example, when we visited the Museo de Ejercito in Toledo, a woman approached me and began speaking. However, I did not comprehend what she had been saying so I panicked and turned to another girl in the program for help. Upon watching the girl and this woman interact, I learned that she had been asking what a certain part of the museum was and if I had paid attention to her body language, I would have understood that. After this scenario, I began paying closer attention to nonverbal cues of communication to aid with my understanding of the verbal words. This really increased my comprehension and helped me to survive in Spain.

In the United States, the language barrier is very seldom an issue that I have run into. Most people that I have interacted with in the States has either fluently spoken English or had some understanding of the language that we could communicate. However, for the few times that I will experienced this issue I feel that I have a new found understanding of what it is like to feel so helpless. I work in a residence hall that has a high population of international students and the language barrier is often an issue. Because of my experiences in Spain, I have become more patient and pay more attention to body language as well.

 

Another change, I noticed in my experience with Spain is the eating customs. In Spain, Madrid in particular, the days are longer and slower and meal times are more spread out during the day. Lunch, being the most valued meal of the day, is around 2 pm and dinner is around 9pm. In addition, people often go out for tapas and drinks after work before they go home and make dinner. This is very different compared to the United States, for lunch is around noon and dinner is anywhere from 5 to 7pm, depending on your own individual schedule. In general, people in Spain seem to value their time with peers and family while they are eating. This is something that I took home with me and I take the time to sit and eat rather than grabbing food and running out the door. I learned that it is okay to sometimes sit and take the world in versus being always on the go, which is common in our culture.

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These are some of the tapas we enjoyed together as a group.

In addition, this experience helped me take a lot of risks both physically and mentally. Being immersed in a different culture and language allowed for me to work on overcoming those anxieties I had going into the program. Also the wonderful peers that went on this trip with me were always there as a comfort and guide, if it was needed. After studying abroad in Spain, I have found myself being much more social with other students in the university both that were in the program and others who were not. The trip really expanded my horizons and allowed me to open myself up socially and emotionally to others. One particular time during the trip in Santander, a group of us went climbing on some rocks along the ocean side. This part of the trip I feel was a pivotal point, for it felt very freeing to take such a physical risk that I never had before. It also allowed me to take other risks in my life and be more open to life in general.

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This is the view from the cliffs that we climbed in Santander.

Overall, I feel like exposure to all these similarities and differences between the different countries, has added a new dimension to my academic experience. Being a psychology major, my study is predominantly focused around studying people and their habits and seeing a new culture has helped to broaden that horizon. As I mentioned earlier, I pay much more attention to people’s body language when communicating and observe that from a psychology point of view to understand the message they are trying to convey. The differing food schedule’s has taught me that different cultures value different aspects of their lives over others and that is an important thing to note when dealing with a diverse population of people within the world. However, the experience has also taught me that despite these differences, people are essentially all connected for we all have an understanding of universal messages. In conclusion, traveling to the different parts of Spain has allowed me to see different aspects of the culture of Spain and compare it to the culture I have grown up in, in a way that adds to my academic experience at The Ohio State University.

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These are some of the great people I met on the trip as we enjoyed watching a soccer game together!

A Lifetime of Experiences

img_3407My STEP experience was a study abroad in Barcelona, Spain during the summer of 2016. I was a student at the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo through ISA’s Spanish Language and Culture Program. Enrolled in two courses, Spanish Cinema and Spanish Art and Architecture, I learned a ton, both inside and outside of the classroom. 

In no particular order, here are some of the things I learned and the ways I transformed abroad:

• I’ve learned how to be flexible. When it’s hot and you’re sweaty 24/7 and there’s never any air conditioning, when living spaces are much smaller than you’re used to, when your family img_2379eats dinner at 10 pm instead of 5 pm, when your bus breaks down on the highway, when the currency is different, etc. You have to be flexible, take everything in stride, and have a positive attitude. 

• How to navigate a completely new city, in a new country, in a new language. If you had dropped me in the middle of Barcelona when I first arrived and asked me to point which way to the beach, I couldn’t. I learned to take the metro (which I had never taken in my life before this trip, public transportation for the win), take a cab, take a bus or train, with confidence. 

• We really take for granted being able to easily communicate ourselves in our daily lives. You don’t realize until you’re in another country that sometimg_2989hing as simple as ordering a coffee with hot milk to go, please, can become a daunting challenge, and when successful, a mini triumph to celebrate (and if not, a learning experience (once a clerk asked me who helped me pick out my bathing suit and I accidentally told him “I don’t recommend” instead of “I don’t remember”)). This phenomimg_2294enon is a reminder to never be unkind or demanding of people in your home country trying to speak your language, because it’s really hard! I’ve studied Spanish since I was 14 and I still made mistakes. But at least now my heart doesn’t beat super fast when I have to ask for the wifi password in Spanish. Making an effort to speak someone else’s language is super humbling and really appreciated. 

• You live a different life for every language that you speak. Learn as much as you can!

• I realized how young of a country the United States actually is. Barcelona is a city so rich in art and architecture that each marvel I learned about made me appreciate the city more and more, whether it was one of the many beautiful works of Gaudi or the elegant and well-preserved Gothic and Romantic churches and cathedrals. Everywhere you turn in Europe, there seems to be a different legend, story, art or architectural feat, or a piece of history to marvel at. Try to get to know more about your surroundings and where it comes from. 
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• Life really begins at the end of your comfort zone. Be smart, but do things that at first intimidate you. Do things on your own. Push yourself to grow.

So, of course my Spanish improved, which is amazing because I dream of being fluent one day. But I learned so much about myself and my place in this world during my time in Europe. The world now is a much less scary and unattainable place than I thought previously. I met so many young people traveling and growing with no reservations. It was truly inspiring. There were so many moments during my time abroad where I would have to remind myself that it was really happening, that I was 5,000 miles away from home, that I was the luckiest girl in the world. I now live for the moments that I look back on and can’t even believe were real. I want to live every day of my life like the adventure that it wimg_2395as each morning waking up in Europe. Through this experience I have fostered a deeper understanding of myself, an appreciation for people from all over the world, and a lifetime love of travel and novel experiences. And that is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.


Public Health Perspectives: India

This May, I traveled to Manipal, India through the College of Public Health as part of my STEP Signature Project. While abroad, I took a global public health class taught by an Ohio State professor and went on various field visits to learn more about the Indian culture and healthcare system.

As cliché as it may sound, this study abroad program was a perfect reminder to me to “never judge a book by its cover.” img-263584827Having only little experience traveling outside of the United States, my views of India had been shaped entirely by things I read online or saw in the media. Preparing for the trip, I envisioned polluted cities, poverty-stricken streets, crumbling buildings, and dirt roads. What I found when I arrived in the country was far different than anything I had expected. Sure there were unhealthy levels of pollution and impoverished neighborhoods, but there was also so much more than that. The country was beautiful and far more developed than I anticipated. There were newly paved highways (better than many roads here in Ohio), beautiful temples, and ongoing efforts to improve life for the Indian people. Everyone I met was friendly; and, most asked questions to learn more about the United States. My study abroad experience showed me a whole different side of India that is rarely portrayed in the media.

My study abroad experience also changed my understanding of the role I play as a global citizen. Although we may identify with specific nationalities, we are all citizens of the world. My time in India was an eye-opening experience that allowed me to learn about a culture very different from my own. Through my interactions with the individuals I met, I also had an opportunity to teach others about my own country and culture. As global citizens, we must be open to new experiences and cultures, but we must also be willing to teach others about our own. We also have a responsibility to advocate for the health and well-being of all people and support the development of new innovations that are beneficial to everyone.

As part of the class component of the study abroad program, we went on daily field trips to various locations in order to learn more about the Indian healthcare system. Some of the places we visited included health clinics, a hospital, a water treatment plant, and an impoverished neighborhood. During these field visits, we learned about public health efforts currently underway in India and made comparisons to the United States. I was amazed at the various programs that have been implemented in India to improve health. Not only are public health professionals working to treat various diseases, but they are also actively working to educate individuals and prevent the spread of chronic and infections diseases. We also had the opportunity to meet and interact with different individuals during these field visits. Their national pride and willingness to help one another was truly inspiring and showed the importance of working together to improve life for all.

In addition to the daily field visits, we also had the opportunity to explore the area where we stayed and immerse ourselves in the culture. 20160529_185753One day, we visited an ancient Jain Temple and I can remember being amazed not only by the architecture of the temple, but also by the view from atop the mountain. Another day, we visited a beautiful white sand beach and danced with locals while riding the bus back to the university. We also shopped in the city, attended the circus, and went on a train ride through a more rural part of the country. These trips allowed me to see another side of India that is often not seen in the media and gave me a far greater appreciation for the country’s beauty and culture.

On our final night in Manipal, we attended a banquet hosted for our group by Manipal University. Faculty and students from the university were in attendance at the event, which featured traditional Indian performances, local cuisine, and presentations by two members of our group on their experiences in India. img_4177For me, the most memorable aspect of the banquet was the presentations by the two other members or my group. It was amazing to hear what my group members’ favorite experiences and how the trip had changed their lives. One of my group members described how her experience in India helped her recognize her role as a global citizen; and, this really resonated with me. The banquet was a perfect way to end our time in India and helped me reflect on my experiences. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to travel to another country and spend over three weeks with an incredible group of people.

This study aboard program and the experiences I have gained are very relevant to my future. The program allowed me to improve my knowledge of public health and connect my classroom experiences with real-world experiences. For much of the program, we explored sociological issues as they relate to health, a field I hope to further explore in the future. Furthermore, my experience in India reaffirmed my desire to pursue my Masters in Public Health following graduation. Beyond my academic goals, the program also served as a starting point for my personal goal to explore new places and learn about new cultures. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to study abroad in India and for the STEP program that made the trip possible.

Panama Study Abroad, May 2016

In my project, I travelled to Panama for two weeks with a group of undergraduates enrolled in EEOB 4420: Tropical Field Studies. Our day-to-day activities included hiking through nature, observing the biodiversity, attending research seminars with Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute affiliates, as well as learning about the culture, subcultures, and history of Panama.

Until completing this project, I had never travelled anywhere outside the United States, let alone to a developing country. Even though parts of Panama are heavily Americanized due to the construction of the canal, my experience in Panama was my first time in an environment where my native language, skin color, and mannerisms made me a minority. In addition, Panama is home to some of the greatest biodiversity in the world due to its geographic location. Thus, the truly transformative aspect of this experience for me was being immersed in this environment where everything surrounding me was unfamiliar.

One notable aspect of this experience was having to adjust to English not being the primary language spoken in Panama. Often we take for granted the luxury of residing in a country where our native language is the normal, accepted language. However, when non-English speakers travel to America, they have the extra step of translating what they want to say before they speak, rather than being able to just speak the language fluently. For the first time, I was able to understand what that was like. While most of the STRI staff and researchers spoke English as well as Spanish, whenever we were not interacting with researchers, we had to call upon our basic knowledge of Spanish, and have the extra step of mentally translating our sentences before we spoke. Thus, this experience was transformative in that I knew for the first time what it is like to be in a country where the primary language spoken is not my native language.

Another key aspect of this experience was being able to conduct field-based scientific research. I currently work in lab with the department of EEOB, and my experience working there has been very valuable. However, my day-to-day activities in the lab cover only one side of the biological research coin: bench work, with the other side being field work. As a requirement of Tropical Field Studies, we had to divide ourselves into groups, choose a study species easily found in Panama, and form a hypothesis that we could easily test in our time at Panama. My group studied the behavior of leaf-cutter ants, which, as the name suggests, cut leaves for farming purposes. We were interested in the relationship between the toughness of leaves cut by the ants and the sizes of the cuts, and while our results were inconclusive, we still had the experience of going through the scientific process in the field

As mentioned before, Panama is home to some of the greatest biodiversity in the continent. The reason for that is not only due to the fairly constant year-round temperatures, but also the formation of the isthmus of Panama which joined North and South America. The two continents already had a fair amount of biodiversity, but when you combine the species richness of both continents, the potential for migration, coevolution, and divergence skyrockets, with Panama being the literal hotspot for it. The point is, being in Panama exposed me to a wide array of biodiversity that I would not have been exposed to if I had not traveled there, from the aforementioned leaf-cutter ants, to the many species of toucans and humming birds, as well as howler monkeys. Therefore, my experience in Panama was transformative in that I was able to see with my own eyes the results of evolution in the tropics.

Overall, my STEP experience has helped me grow as a scientist and a citizen of the world. I got to be immersed in another nation’s culture for the first time in my life, as well as examine unfamiliar biodiversity. I also was given the opportunity to conduct field research, which will help me in my life, as I intend to continue doing research throughout my life. All in all, being in Panama for two weeks is an experience I will hold onto throughout my life, as I have never had a comparable experience. Needless to say, I can’t wait to go back.

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