STEP Reflection – Study Abroad

Matthew Brichler

Short-term Study Abroad Program – Logistics Global Lab

 

 

Hello there! During the 2016 spring break, I chose to do something a little bit different than most college kids typically do for a spring break trip. Rather than relaxing on a beach somewhere or going back home for a visit, I traveled to Europe as a member of the Logistics Global Lab (or LGL) program thru the Fisher College of Business. This program consisted of an 8-day trip to Budapest, Hungary and Prague, the Czech Republic with 14 of my fellow Fisher students and a couple Fisher staff/faculty. LGL is a multi-purpose program designed to enhance students’ understanding of Central European cultures and foster our growth as young business professionals thru visits to several prominent companies operating in Central Europe and beyond.

 

Views of Budapest from Gellert Hill. One of my favorite gems of the trip

Views of Budapest from Gellert Hill. One of my favorite gems of the trip

 

Throughout my years at Ohio State, I have learned a lot about the world around me, but I’ve also learned a lot about myself. As a senior, I like to think I have a pretty good understanding of myself, who I am as a person, and what I stand for. I have been traveling the world since I was a baby, so I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing diverse cultures from all around the world and learning to appreciate people and traditions different from myself. I had visited Western Europe twice before the spring break of 2016, but I had never experienced Central/Eastern Europe. LGL enabled me to venture outside of my “European comfort zone” by taking me to Central/Eastern Europe.

 

In front of the Budapest Parliament building in Hungary

In front of the Budapest Parliament building in Hungary

 

Prior to the trip, I had a lot of assumptions, expectations, and visions about what that region of Europe was like. I pictured this region of the world as a product of the destruction that resulted from World War 2. I envisioned a region that was still trying to recover from the carnage of the war and one that is not very aesthetically appealing. I am so thankful for the opportunity to visit this region so that I could put my assumptions and expectations to rest. After exploring the area, I confirmed and rejected some of my assumptions. I realized that the region is a product of World War 2 and it is still recovering. I also learned, however, that Hungary and the Czech Republic maintained their rich and long histories throughout all of the turmoil of the 20th century, and the citizens of these countries are very proud of their history. This was surprising to me, but very reassuring and uplifting, as well. By the end of the trip, I rejected my assumption that Central/Eastern Europe is not aesthetically appealing. Sure, there were some rough parts in both Budapest and Prague. But you can find that in any city. I was most fascinated with the “gems” that these cities had to offer – these were some of the things that really transformed me throughout the trip. These gems were so special and unique to each city and it made me realize that no matter where you travel, there will always be these gems, hidden or not, that truly exemplify the culture of that region of the world. It inspired me to find the gems that every country has to offer!

This transformation was just one of many that I experienced as a result of the trip. These transformations were brought on by countless different aspects of the LGL program. One of the primary aspects of the trip that changed me was my experience in Prague, the Czech Republic. Prior to visiting Prague, I had less-than-average expectations for the city. I had heard great things from family friends that had visited, but for whatever reason I did not envision it as a spectacular city. After exploring the city for 4 days, I quickly realized that Prague is one of my top 3 favorite cities in the world, with the likes of Barcelona, Spain and Sydney, Australia. One of my favorite things about Prague is the way it blends the old with the new, its rich history with modern amenities. We stayed in a hotel just 5 minutes from Old Town Prague, which is a historic city square. In the square, there were tons of merchant carts selling various Prague treats and delicacies. I can still distinctly remember the sweet, savory, October-like smell in the square. But just 2 minutes from this old square, there is a 5-story mall called the Palladium Mall. It is modern, made of glass, and filled with all the stores anyone in the 21st century would want to shop at. The streets were primarily cobblestone and brick, but they blended into blacktop- and cement-paved roads as you ventured outside the city center. I had the pleasure of experiencing all of these things firsthand, and it was like nothing I’d experienced before. It was spectacular. This aspect of the trip enabled me to transform from someone who focuses a lot on expectations about future events and engagements to someone who tries not to focus too much on expectations or assumptions, but rather enjoy events and engagements as they happen and appreciate them for what they are.

Another phenomenal aspect of the trip was getting to travel abroad with 14 of my fellow Fisher students that I had never met before. I have traveled abroad with “strangers” before, so I felt somewhat comfortable traveling with students who I hadn’t met before. I got along really well with most of our group and I made some friendships that are still going strong today, 6 months after we returned to the U.S. It intrigues me how I meet some people in life, and the people I met thru LGL are no different. Several of my fellow LGL members were/are in my classes at Fisher. One of them is on the executive board of The Logistics Association (a student organization in Fisher) with me. Another was a friend of three of my roommates long before I met her. And the rest were strangers that I had never met before. LGL brought us all closer together and I am blessed to say that I had the opportunity to explore Budapest and Prague with these people. There are no friendships like the ones made while studying abroad. I think this experience with my fellow classmates transformed me into someone who is more willing to step out of my comfort zone and seek out situations in which I don’t know anyone. This trip transformed me in this way because I realize how much I gained from each person I met thru LGL. Everyone has something interesting or unique to offer that you probably didn’t know before meeting them.

 

The group - outside of Prague Castle

The group – outside of Prague Castle

 

There was one other dimension of the LGL program that transformed me as a business student and aspiring business professional. During the course of the week-long program, our group visited 6 different companies based in and operating throughout Europe. We visited companies such as Mondelez, Skoda, and Lego, among others. Through each of these unique visits, we had the amazing opportunity to network with executives from each company, discuss business problems and the business climate in Europe, and witness some real-life business operations in practice. These were a fantastic part of the LGL program because it opened my mind to business challenges and operations around the world that I had never seen before. This enabled me to transform my perspective as a young business professional to be more well-rounded and to have a global mindset when approaching business problems.

The transformations that I experienced as a result of LGL are tremendous. I am very blessed and appreciative of the opportunity to participate in such a great program. I believe that I have become a better individual, student, and professional as a result of my STEP Signature Project. The first transformation I talked about will help me to enjoy life to the fullest and live in the moment. I focus more on taking things at their face value and appreciating them as they occur, rather than getting bogged down on my expectations and assumptions. The second transformation I mentioned was about becoming more willing to step out of my comfort zone in social situations where I don’t know anyone. I believe this will open up my life to tons of new experiences and opportunities, simply because I’ll be more likely to engage with all different types of people even if I don’t know them. The last transformation I detailed was the transformation as a young business student and professional. The business operations exposure that I received in Hungary and the Czech Republic cannot be matched by any other program at a university. I had the pleasure of interacting with real executives that lead some of Europe’s largest companies. I was able to listen to them talk about the unique challenges (both in logistics and in general) that they face as a company operating primarily on the European continent. This experience will foster my growth as a business professional after graduation because it opened my eyes to challenges and different aspects of the business world (specifically logistics) that I had never considered before. In the modern business world, it is crucial to have a global mindset and that is exactly what this program provided me.

O-H-I-O! from Prague Castle

O-H-I-O! from Prague Castle

Studying Abroad in Thailand

During the Spring 2016 semester I traveled to Bangkok, Thailand to study at Thammasat University. Through the Fisher Student Exchange Program, I lived on my own and studied business while learning the national language, Thai.

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We took a class trip to see the Grand Palace, I am wearing my Thammasat Uniform

While in Thailand, I lived on my own in an entirely different country where very few people spoke English outside of the university. The people I met throughout this trip taught me many lessons, including to judge slowly, take chances and to know that everything will work out in the end.

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My Beginner’s Thai Class

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My Operation’s Management Group worked together to build an                                                   effective assembly line

Every person I met on this trip brought their own perspective of the world. Every student at Thammasat University knew at least two languages and had grown up very differently than I did in Ohio. Learning from them was incredibly rewarding and gave me a much broader perspective of the world. I learned about the customs of the Thai culture, how important the King is to the country, and how their daily life differentiates from the life I know from the US. Living in Thailand for five months allowed me to see the world, my country, and everyday life through a different lens.

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Me and other Thammasat exchange students at a rival soccer game

Preparing to go to Thailand challenged me in many ways and taught me many unexpected lessons. Getting to Thailand was an experience that tested my ability to stay calm during stressful situations, stay accountable, and become responsible for my own outcome. I had many visa issues getting to Thailand but thanks to the resilience of my program director, Kozue, I made it to Bangkok safely on time. I had to be responsible for my own future so by keeping in contact to make sure everything got done in time, I was able to control my journey to Thailand.

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We helped plant mangrove trees with other Thai students

This trip taught me that everything may not go as planned but it will always work out. I didn’t think that I would be getting my visa only two weeks before I left, but I made it to Bangkok on time. Sometimes we would get lost while traveling or in Bangkok but that only made the adventure more exciting. I really learned how to stay calm during times that may have stressed me out but everything always worked out.

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Hiking through the rice paddies in Sapa, Vietnam in the pouring rain

Traveling to Southeast Asia trip helped push me out of my comfort zone and made me less afraid to try new things. I began to take motorbikes to class everyday which meant speeding and weaving through busy Bangkok traffic, I tried foods including bird spit and many meats that I didn’t know what they were, and one day I took 4 types of transportation just to get a bagel because I was homesick for a good bagel.

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Riding on a motorbike through Bangkok traffic

I could not recommend studying abroad long-term because it really gives you the chance to integrate into a culture, learn customs and learn the language. It will give you a much broader view of the world and teach you about the other people who live in this world. Taking classes with a different point of view really helped me learn how others interact in groups and by themselves. This semester really prepared me for a global career, encouraged me to learn a new language and gave me memories that I will remember for a lifetime.

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If you would love to read up on my adventures in Thailand, I kept a blog while abroad: wanderlustinthailand.wordpress.com.

 

 

Global May Britain: A month in London

In May 2016, STEP gave me an amazing chance to study abroad in Great Britain. For four weeks, I lived in central London and studied British history, politics, and culture while taking the Arts and Sciences 2798.03 class Global May Britain. Four times a week, I and other thirty-nine students from the US had morning lectures at Anglo-American Educational Services Study Center and then afternoon excursions at various famous historical an20160509_164713d cultural sites in London. I also traveled to a couple of big British cities like Liverpool and Edinburgh and made a lot of new fiends.

This month abroad has changed my perception of diversity and European cultures a lot. Before going to London, I imagined Great Britain as a pretty conservative thousand-years-old country with strict etiquette and traditions represented by predominantly white nation. However, from the very first day British cities were impressing me with their huge diversity and proving that my images of old and wealthy European countries were outdated. I have realized that social and cultural diversity is more than just a feature of big American cities – this is the image of a perfect world recognized by many developed countries nowadays.

As soon as I arrived to Heathrow airport in London, I realized how wrong I was when imagining Britain as a predominantly white country. In the airport, in the underground, on the streets, and even in the supermarket, I was surrounded by people of all colors, clothes, and languages. Kilburn, where I lived in London, was a mostly Muslim area with busy street markets and friendly people. Our class had a walking tour around bright and vibrant Brixton – the home of thousands of Afro-Caribbean emigrants since early 20th century; and of course, London Chinatown located in Soho was my favorite place to walk, have food, and enjoy the busy night life. London and other big cities I visited during my stay in Britain turned out to be as bright and diverse as New York and other huge cities in the US.

I learned a lot about British history, politics, and culture at our lectures and excursions in London. We were talking about the rise of British Colonial Empire, the kings and queens, and development of quintessentially British traditions. However, we also discussed the multiple waves of emigration to London and all British Isles, the age of slavery, and racial riots in the 20th century. We read a lot of literature describing the life and struggles of separate ethnic groups in different periods of British history. At our classes, I have realized that Britain also has spent a lot of time and effort to build a diverse and harmonic society.

However, the greatest surprise for me was to learn at our excursion to London Tower that although all generations of kings and queens till today had pledged to protect the Anglican church, Prince Charles who was supposed to become the next British king was going to pledge to all churches and religions in Great Britain. For centuries, the monarch has been the head of Anglican church and this important tradition will be saved, but the twenty-first century monarchs realize the necessity to recognize other religions as well. It is fascinating to see how in Great Britain old traditions are mixed with new ideas to create a harmonic and diverse society.

When going to study abroad in London, I hoped to see a different life-style and immerse myself in a different culture bIMG1711839710ecause I thought this would help me better understand my patients especially foreigners when I become a doctor in the future. However, this trip to Great Britain has taught me much more than just to understand foreign cultures – it has created an absolutely new picture of a perfect world for me. Now I believe that every place can be bright, diverse, and welcoming for everyone while saving its unique traditions and features. In the future, where ever I go and whatever I do I want to create such environment around me and I believe that my new foreign friends will help me with this.

I also have a blog describing my adventures in London https://u.osu.edu/wiseadvicefromchristina/

Environmental Sustainability in Costa Rica

Gabrielle Ansberry

Study Abroad:  Environmental Sustainability in Costa Rica

My STEP Signature Project was a May Term course at Ohio State called Environmental Sustainability in Costa Rica.  It had a classroom portion and an in-country portion.  The classroom portion was about two weeks long and involved lectures about geography, biodiversity, natural resources, and sustainability.  Then, the entire class and the professor traveled to Costa Rica for two weeks to see firsthand many of the things we had learned about in lecture.  We were constantly moving during our time in Costa Rica, and we were fortunate enough to travel to several diverse regions throughout the country.

Our entire time abroad was spent visiting new locations and exploring national parks.  The longest stay we made in one location was only about 3 days long.  While exhausting, this constant on-the-go itinerary was also exciting.  Every day was a new adventure – literally.  We visited 3 different volcanoes:  Volcán Poás, Volcán Arenal, and Volcán Tenorio.  We also visited several waterfalls, most notably the Río Celeste Waterfall and La Fortuna Waterfall.  In addition, almost every day was spent hiking through a different elevation level than the previous day.  This allowed us to see how the landscape changed from region to region.  One particularly exciting hike was a night hike through the rainforest.  Reserva Santa Elena, a cloud forest that we got to visit, was also very interesting.  We saw several bodies of water too, including Lake Botos, Lake Arenal, and the Tarcoles River.  We came face-to-face with all kinds of wildlife, like crocodiles, monkeys, iguanas, sloths, and butterflies.  We got to see a hydroelectric dam, windmills, and geothermal hot springs.  Overall, the environmental aspects of this experience were unbelievable.  I could not even find any post cards to send to my family that accurately portrayed the beauty we saw in the landscapes and wildlife of Costa Rica.

Another important aspect of the Environmental Sustainability in Costa Rica program was learning about the people and culture of Costa Rica.  We got to stay in the capital city, San José, as well as several other cities, towns, and villages across the country.  These were all vastly different.  Some were lively, popular tourist sites, others were remote mountain communities.  At the beginning of the trip, we got to tour the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica.  Here, we learned a lot about the history and culture of the country – a great preface for the rest of our adventure.  In each region, we got to experience the unique cuisines, traditions, and daily lives of the people that lived there.  One of my favorite days was when we got to visit a tiny school that was up in one of the mountain villages we passed through.  The students performed some of Costa Rica’s traditional dances, and then we got to eat lunch and play soccer, or fútbol, with the children.  I tried speaking Spanish, the official language of Costa Rica, throughout our trip as well.  However, I was surprised by how many people spoke fluent English.

We also got to work on two different service projects – both of which were reforestation projects that benefitted the environment as well as the local community.  These projects, while challenging, were immensely rewarding.  It was amazing to see the integral roles that the environment played in each location and in the daily lives of each citizen.  It was also interesting how important the tourism industry was throughout Costa Rica.  The Ticos (Costa Rican people) took such great care to protect the environment because it was vital to their way of life and to the tourism industry – which supports a large part of their economy.

This trip taught me a lot about myself and the world around me.  Because each day was so jam packed full of activity and traveling, and because of all of the strenuous hiking we did, I was exhausted by the end of every day.  I became more self-aware and I learned that I am a lot tougher and stronger than I initially believed.  The obstacles and limitations that I originally saw before me transformed into new personal accomplishments as I conquered volcanos, mountains, and rainforests.  I also acquired a new love for hiking, and have ventured out to local forest preserves and state parks now that I am back in the United States.  This has shown me even more of the beauty that the environment has to offer, and has taught me even more about my surroundings.  I also became more adventurous in terms of food.  I used to be a very picky eater, but in Costa Rica, I tried all kinds of new and exotic fruits and dishes.  My experience in Costa Rica taught me that adventure is waiting around every corner, and taking advantage of each one is worthwhile.

My perspective of the world also changed dramatically.  While I already had a great appreciation for the environment (I am an Environmental Engineering major), this appreciation grew when I saw so many amazing aspects of the rich biodiversity in Costa Rica, and how vital they all are to the livelihood of so many Costa Ricans.  So many people made a living by sustainably taking advantage of their natural resources.  I was humbled by the modest way of the life that each Tico led.  Each person was so respectful not only of the environment, but of us as well.  Wherever we traveled, we were welcomed with open arms.  People shared their knowledge, food, and traditions with us, and I learned so much from each and every person I met while in Costa Rica.

Perhaps my favorite part of Costa Rica was the phrase “Pura Vida”.  Directly translated, this means “pure life”, but in Costa Rica, this phrase means so much more.  It can be used as a hello, good bye, and an expression of gratitude or excitement – its use is fitting in almost circumstance.  To the Ticos, it means “it’s all good”, and it signifies an eternal optimism and love for life.  Thus, “Pura Vida” was not just a saying, it was a way of life.  We met people in Costa Rica who had next to nothing, but they welcomed us and shared what they did have with genuine smiles on their faces.  Everyone was a friend.  Their humble love for life has inspired the same sentiments in me.  I want to represent the “Pura Vida” lifestyle through my life in the United States and as a student at Ohio State, because I think everyone has something to gain from the optimism and happiness it preaches.

After my STEP signature project, Environmental Sustainability in Costa Rica, I learned a lot of invaluable lessons about the environment, the international community, and myself.  By venturing into another country, I was able to take a hands on approach and immerse myself in a completely unique environment and culture.  I want to pass this knowledge on to my fellow Buckeyes and peers, and have continued my involvement with STEP as an ambassador so that I can do this and help other students design their own signature projects as well.  Thanks to my STEP experience, I was transformed into a stronger, more gracious, and more globally and environmentally aware student and participant in our international community.

 

 

 

Summertime in Shanghai

With the help of my STEP funding I spent the month of May studying abroad in Shanghai, China. From May 9th to June 6th I lived and studied at East China Normal University with eight other Ohio State students. At ECNU I took a “survival” Mandarin course as well as a class on the history and urban development of Shanghai.

Prior to my study abroad in Shanghai I had not studied any Chinese history, culture, or language. I chose to study abroad in Shanghai because I wanted to immerse myself in something entirely unfamiliar and challenge myself to embrace something new and adapt. After spending a month in Shanghai I learned that I am not only capable of adapting to new surroundings, but that I really enjoy experiencing new cultures, seeing new sites, and meeting new people. My experience in Shanghai gave me a lot of confidence because it showed me that I can live and endure anywhere. It’s freeing to realize that if I ever choose to, I can pack up my bags, settle somewhere entirely different, and still be perfectly content.
There were a lot of aspects about life in Shanghai that took some adjusting to, but by the end of the trip I felt very at home in Shanghai and in particular at ECNU. In the beginning however, the hardest thing to cope with was the language barrier. I had never studied Mandarin before, and knew absolutely nothing upon my arrival in Shanghai. Additionally, nearly all the food was very foreign and I was extremely wary about what I ate. I don’t like seafood and unfortunately, much of the food contained it. Lastly, the sheer number of people everywhere we went was overwhelming. Shanghai is the largest city proper in the entire world, with an estimated population of more than 23 million (more than 27 times larger than the population of Columbus)!

Despite these challenges, I was able to adjust and learn how to live comfortably in Shanghai. As I said, being unable to communicate and express myself was very challenging. In the beginning, whenever I went out in public I felt as though I was trapped inside my own head. Not only was I unable to ask simple questions like, “Where is the restroom?” but I couldn’t even articulate an apology if I bumped into someone. Thankfully, we were tested and placed into “survival” Chinese classes right away. I of course was put into a beginner class, along with two of my fellow students from Ohio State. Our teacher was incredibly patient and kind and we were able to start learning and using Mandarin right away. Our language acquisition was extremely accelerated because we were surrounded by people speaking Mandarin all the time. By the end of the trip I knew enough to say thank you, sorry, excuse me, what I like and don’t like, order food, and most importantly ask where a restroom is (along with much more). I was really excited about the progress I made and I loved being able to immediately go out and put what I had learned to good use.
Once I knew a little more about the language, I was able to start finding and trying food that I liked. I learned how to read enough characters to decipher some basic menu items and most importantly I learned how to ask if something had seafood in it. Once I was able to better control what I ate I felt free to try a lot of different foods. I discovered so many dishes that I love! Even today, one of the things I miss most about Shanghai is the food. Chinese food here is nothing like real Chinese food, and I wish it was possible to eat some of the wonderful things I had in Shanghai without traveling half way around the world.
Finally, I learned to go with the flow… literally. While at first the large population and the population density in areas like the metro station and shopping centers was overwhelming, eventually I grew to feel comfortable being part of an ever-present, ever-moving crowd. There are many great things about being surrounded by people: there’s always someone new to meet, there’s always someone to help, there’s always something exciting to watch, and you never feel alone! Shanghai is a city that never sleeps; there are enough people that you can find a friendly face at all hours of the day or night. Returning to my suburban hometown after the end of my time in Shanghai was quite jarring because even major roads were empty of cars by about 11PM. There are certainly things to be said for both settings, but I would argue that there’s no city as lively as Shanghai.

My time in Shanghai was really significant to my life because not only did I learn more about myself, but I got to learn about and experience a whole other culture and area of the world. I’ve known that I love traveling ever since my parents started taking my sisters and I on summer camping trips in northern Ontario when we were little girls. Since then my wanderlust has only grown. My love of traveling prompted me to major in International Studies, to minor in both French and German, to teach English as a Second Language, and to seize every opportunity that I can to see another part of the world. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to live somewhere so unfamiliar and make it familiar. The ability to adjust and adapt is priceless and I know that I’ll be honing and using those skills for the rest of my life, as I plan to continue picking up and setting down all over the world.

Studying Abroad Helped me Find my Home

Sara Owens

Study Abroad

         Over the past 6 months I have been attempting to put my passionate feelings into words that even begin to describe the adventure of a lifetime that took place in Budapest, Hungary this past summer. I’ve not wanted to accept that my STEP signature experience is over, but I have realized that one adventure must end before another can begin. One year ago, I began my STEP proposal by quoting John Green saying, “I am in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met”. As I reflect on this experience, I feel a pang in my heart as my soul has been touched by the places I’ve visited and the people I’ve met. I began this journey quoting the words of other travelers; now I am telling my own story.

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           My STEP Signature Project enabled me to set out on an adventure I had only dreamed of before. I participated in the 2015 Global May Hungary Program. This allowed me to live in Budapest for 4 weeks and challenged me to delve into an entirely new culture. Coursework included learning the history, culture, political views, economic conditions, and unique language of Hungary. Touring the city, learning innovative ways to utilize green spaces, studying the importance of famous monuments, meeting with political representatives, and reflecting on museum exhibitions were just a few ways we covered the course material. Our final project consisted of a video presentation of a prevalent topic of choice unique to Hungarian culture. I took this opportunity and ran with it as my group studied the progression of café culture within Budapest as well as central Europe. The Global May Hungary program also led us to Warsaw, Poland as well as Vienna, Austria to compare the history and culture of other major European cities.

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           I began this journey as ignorant as could be. While I knew I had never seen the world, I had not realized that I had not been living life to the fullest. My perspective shifted with each step that I took and I found more compassion in my heart with every person that I met. I did not know that I was capable of accomplishing the things that I did within these 4 short weeks that I lived in Budapest. My main goal of this experience was to transform into a traveler. At one point, this seemed unrealistic due to my utter lack of travel experience. I had never even been on an airplane before casually flying overseas. While writing my STEP proposal last year I was sure to include my personal philosophy of what a traveler ought to be. I came up with this: “A traveler is someone ambitious enough to capture the serenity of new places while welcoming the new culture to become a part of them. A traveler leaves nothing behind; only gains knowledge, acceptance, and perspective from new places. Less comparably, a tourist is one who may look at the world, but will never see it for what it truly is. Tourists travel merely for their own personal pleasure, while travelers seek to become a part of something larger than them.” As I copied these words onto paper I deeply felt that this was true. Something was driving me to become a well-seasoned traveler; I just wasn’t sure how I would achieve this.

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           Not only did I accomplish this, but I have also unleashed a new passion in life. I have discovered the priceless beauty of engaging as a global citizen. Our professor whom led us on this trip, Dr. Daniel Pratt, warned us that we would begin to attract the company of others whom have spent a significant amount of time abroad. I have found this to be incredibly true. Sine returning from Budapest, I have met people from all around the globe and it seems that they pick me out of a crowd. Whether I am at school, work, or simply out in public, I find it difficult to avoid travelers whom have great stories to tell. I feel that these people feel comfortable around me because of the new confidence and energy that I have gained from my STEP signature project.

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            Many do not understand how it is that I felt more understood than ever before in a country that did not speak my language nor practice my culture. The moment I arrived in Budapest, I felt welcomed by this new place; I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging. I quickly learned that this infinite feeling of bliss is what home feels like. My home is no longer a place. Home is where my heart is full, my mind is challenged, and my soul is happy. I’ve found the place that wakes my mind up and fills my heart with happiness. Finding this place has bought my new passion for traveling to light. This experience allowed me to openly challenge all I have ever known. Boarding my first ever flight to pursue my dreams of traveling the world was one of the greatest feelings I have ever experienced and I will never stop chasing adventure that provides me with this much energy and happiness. Being exposed to a new culture, a new language, a new currency, and a new lifestyle provided me with endless opportunities to learn. I had the amazing opportunity to take on Budapest and experience new things each and every day I was here. Being on the other side of the world, I had no choice but to adjust to my surroundings. I noticed how my personal values began to shift with each week I was here. I no longer depended on technology to stay connected, I began to trust my sense of direction more, and I realized the importance of creating unforgettable memories with 25 new friends whom I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life. I have gained a new appreciation for central Europe as a whole and cannot wait to explore more of Europe in the future. I have also begun to view America differently and have thus reevaluated our Country’s values. Most importantly, I have discovered the significance of traveling with purpose. I returned back to The United States as a more curious, intellectually stimulated, passionate, inspired, and determined individual who will never stop searching for the infinite feeling of bliss that I now call home.

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            No amount of coursework could ever exceed the amount of knowledge I gained from living like a local in a foreign country. Simply taking the right bus route to get to class, practicing effective communication, discovering new territories, and interacting with locals provided me with experience in all areas of productivity. Engaging in the world has a whole new meaning to me after investing so much of my time, energy, and passion into Budapest. This opportunity has genuinely increased my global literacy skills. Prior to this experience, my personal and professional expectations were limited. I now know how important it is to see the world and face new challenges. Throughout the course of this program, I became more susceptible to change. I quickly learned that the benefits you gain from pushing your limits and trying new things is an incredibly rewarding process. I have since decided that I want to travel with a deeper purpose. I want to leave my fingerprints around the world as I help those less fortunate than myself. I want to understand economic differences between thriving countries and underdeveloped nations so that I can better appreciate where I am from. Now that I have experienced traveling abroad, I know I must continue this leisure pursuit. I will continue to explore Honduras and Peru this coming summer and I cannot wait to explore new land, meet new people, and understand new cultures. I have also begun seeking future employers with international opportunities and am even considering international graduate school programs. I have also added serving in the Peace Corps for two years to my bucket list. Choosing to no longer be restricted by borders has opened up so many possibilities for my future and I cannot wait to see where I will end up. I am eternally grateful for the resources I am provided with, the people I have met, and the memories I have made along the way. Köszönöm, Budapest, for helping me find my new home.

 

Here is my group’s multimedia project about Café Culture

 

 

Agricultural Communications: United Kingdom

My study abroad program was a 2 week long trip to England and Scotland studying agricultural communications.  We traveled from London, England up to Edinburgh, Scotland, stopping along the way to visit agriculture related publishers and even farms.  We learned about issues facing the agriculture sector in the United Kingdom and how they differed from the issues facing agriculture in the United States.

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The above picture is one of the farms we visited.  This picture was taken at one of the learning field at Writtle College in England. It is a picture of rape seed.  This is called canola in the States.  It looked almost like a postcard it was so perfect.

My trip was the first time traveling outside of the United States.  I went to a country where the main language was English.  I still felt how different I was from the people who lived there.  From the obvious things like the accents that were so heavy that I could not understand, to the more subtle things such as how people dressed every day.  Using the tube was a whole new learning experience.  Going into restaurants was also difficult.  In the United States, you wait to be seated.  In the United Kingdom, you mostly seat yourself.  It was crazy how many things I took for granted as normal in the United States that were so different in the United Kingdom.  I am much more aware of how “American” I am and how cultures can differ even in countries that are supposed to be extremely similar.  It was an eye-opening experience and I recommend that everyone travel overseas at least once in their life, even to countries that are “the same” as the United States.

I am from a city.  I never really experienced farms or how they worked.  I did not know about any of the issues facing agriculture.  I knew where my food came from but I always kind of assumed that it just showed up on grocery store shelves.  I did not put any further thought into it.  Food was always there.  I knew about farmers but I did not realize how much went into farming.  My experience gave me a whole new respect for those in agriculture.  I feel as though people in agriculture are taken for granted in today’s world.  I even used to be like that.  Turns out their jobs are hard.  Extremely hard.  Add the fact that the general public doesn’t really know or care about agriculture and you start to realize how exhausting it is to be in the agricultural sector.  I personally gained an entirely new respect for those working in agriculture and all they do to provide us with plenty of good and healthy food.  I am a medical dietetics major which means I will be working a lot with food.  My major is geared more towards nutrition therapy and health issues around food.  With the influence of this study aboard program, I am even now looking into jobs in the agriculture field instead of a strictly medical field.

One event that changed my views was in a restaurant.  I mentioned above how seating was different.  Another issue was how loud we were.  It is a well-known stereotype that Americans are loud and obnoxious.  I thought that I was not like that.  There is no way that rude stereotype applied to me.  Well, it did.  In the beginning, many of the places we went to, we were the loudest ones.  We were not trying to be loud.  Somehow, we just naturally talked louder than all of the other conversations.  It was a bit embarrassing at first, seeing others throw us dirty looks but we eventually learned how to tone it down.  We were not yelling or being rude, it just so happened that we were louder and more expressive than the other dinners.  The whole social setting was different.  Now, if we went to a pub this was not true since there were others being loud, but in most restaurants this was the case.  This helped me to see how “American” I was without even realizing or trying.  It was an eye-opening experience to see how I could be different than other cultures without even realizing it.

Like I mentioned earlier, I had no idea how farming worked.  Food just appeared in stores.  Almost everyone on the trip was in an agricultural related major or had grown up on a farm or in farming communities.  Talking to them opened my eyes to the struggles in farming and agriculture.  Visiting farms in England and Scotland helped me to realize how big of a process raising animals and harvesting fields is.  Visiting publishers helped me to realize simply how many issues there are facing agriculture and how the general public does not seem to have any idea about where their food comes from, like I used to be.  Seeing everything that has to happen to get the food from the farm to the table was crazy to me.  I was constantly learning on my trip and I loved it.  I loved learning about everything from the equipment to how difficult animals can be to raise.  I recommend that people should visit a farm or even talk to a farmer at the 4-H exhibits at county fairs.  There was so much more to growing food than I had ever imagined and it was an exciting time learning all I did.

Visiting the United Kingdom was one of the best experiences I have ever had.  Seeing buildings that were 1000s of years old was breathtaking.  The United States is a relatively new country and no buildings are as old as they are in Europe.  One of the places we visited was the Roman Baths in Bath, England.  That city was so full of history.  Walking through the baths and even the town was humbling.  We went on a tour of the city and learned what had happened in the city long long ago.  The whole town felt old but in a good way.  It reinforced the idea that the world is bigger and older than just me and my American ways.  It enforced the culture of the entire country.  I developed a kind of wanderlust because of this trip.  I want to travel all over and experience all of the cultures I possibly can.  Everywhere is different and I want to see as much as I can.

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One of the places we visited where I could almost feel the history, was at Stonehenge.

My major is medical dietetics.  I went on an agricultural trip.  I learned a monumental amount in my short two weeks.  I grew up in the city.  I had no idea how farms even worked.  Completely immersing myself in an agricultural program gave me an amazing perspective on where our food comes from.  Being in a major that’s focused on what and how you eat, seeing where it all begins and the issues around it was a great learning experience.  I realized there is so much more to food than what I am learning in my program.  This trip opened me up to working in the agriculture sector.  It was something I had never considered.  Now, I love the idea and am actively looking into internships where my dietetics background can be useful in the agriculture field.

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-Lauren David

Medical Dietetics

STEP Study Abroad, Agricultural Communications

 

 

Culture and Life in India

For my STEP Project, I spent two weeks in Delhi, India with the Ohio State University International Affairs Scholars. Along the way, I learned about religion, family, education and overall, everyday life in India. I also worked on daily reflections and journal entries that allowed me to fully understand my experience.

My trip to India was my first time traveling outside North America and it allowed me to grow into a better student and member of the global community. Life in India is so different from life in America. Some of the wealthiest people in the world live there, as well as some of the poorest people. India is also one of the most populated countries in the world. During my time there, I saw slums and hunger everywhere I turned yet most of the people I met were joyful and polite. They were happy to teach us about our culture and welcomed us into their homes. Of course, this did not apply to everyone. Through these experiences, I learned that happiness is a choice. Though many families worked all day just to put food on their tables, they were still happy to be together and to show us how they live. My time in India taught me to be grateful for the things that I had and the opportunities I have been provided with. I also appreciate my education more now. Many children in India have to fight to go to school. School can be expensive and families must make it a priority in their homes.

During my time in India, I learned to be more understanding of others and their cultures. I have learned to keep an open mind and expect the unexpected. While there are many ideas in the west about what life in India is like, it is important to realize that these may be generalizations. The only way to truly understand India is to go and experience the culture and even then, one may still have things to learn. The trip showed me that while the idea of everyday life may seem simple, there are many things that influence life and culture.

Over the course of my trip, I visited locations for many of the major religions in the world. At each stop, people were very open to teaching and sharing about their beliefs. They allowed me to take part in their customs and made me feel welcome. I believe that this approach allowed me to better understand religion in India and showed me that religion does not need to divide us. Instead, the world should allow religion to make them stronger. After seeing people of all religions interact peacefully and happily, I know that it is possible. I also noticed that people on the streets were very welcoming and helpful. Numerous times, taxi drivers or shopkeepers would provide advice and even look out for the students well being. It showed me that mutual respect for each other can go a long way. One thing that was hard to experience was mothers and young children begin on the side of the roads. I wanted to help every person but I knew that it would not truly make a difference. This was a very hard idea for me to accept and I’m still not completely comfortable with it.

Education is very valued in India because it is the means to a better life, including more economic opportunities and job prospects. During my trip, I was able to talk to some parents about their families. I learned that education is a way to keep the children off the streets and to ensure they have a better life than their parents did. I also visited a school in a rural village and learned that the children love to learn and enjoy going to school. The village made the education of their children a priority and though there was work to be done on the farm, they all came together to ensure that the children could stay in school. It also helped that the village elder was educated and understood the value of educating the next generation. After seeing how hard these people worked to send their children to school, I learned how lucky I was to grow up in a place where education was provided for every child. I see now that much of my opportunities came just because I was lucky enough to be born in the United States. I will always remember this and be thankful.

Before this trip, I had never traveled outside of North America. My time in India opened my eyes to the infinite possibilities that other countries have to offer. I have learned so much about culture and life and I am looking forward to learning about other countries as well My time in India will be very helpful in the future as I would like to become more involved in global leadership and development. As a City and Regional Planning major, I am interested in how the developing world will grow and evolve. I would like to be involved in planning for a more sustainable future and India was a great place to go to see a developing country in the middle of becoming a global one. My trip taught me to be more understanding and open to others which will help if I travel to a different country to work after graduation.

Traditional cooking styles in a rural village.

Traditional cooking styles in a rural village.

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Foods of India

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Neemrana Fort Palace

 

Studying German Language and Culture in Dresden

This summer for the month of June I traveled to Dresden to study at the Goethe-Institute. I went to practice and develop my German language skills, as well as learn more about the culture of the nation where my grandparents emigrated from. The program allowed me to take classes every day for a month, but also gave me the freedom to travel around and experience the city and surrounding areas on my own. The skills I gained at the institute were put to test in an exam that determined a grade to be used for credit for my German minor.

This was not my first time abroad, nor was it my first time to Germany. My father had taken me there to see our family twice before in my life, both when I was younger. I also had no understanding of the language at the times that I went, relying on my father’s broken German to communicate, or just to enjoy their company without speaking. This time, however, I had two years of German under my belt that allowed me to really talk to my family and people who I met in many different places. Being able to do this gave me a unique perspective on the German people because I could now hear their stories, listen to their interactions, and understand what it is like to live there every day. This skill allowed me to meet many new and interesting people. For example, at a street festival in Dresden my friends and I began speaking with an immigrant from Poland whose parents were from Mozambique. We spoke for around an hour all in German. It was cool hearing his story and telling him mine; it was a conversation I won’t soon forget.

Being in Germany and speaking the language also taught me a lot about myself. Never before did I think I would start up conversations with complete strangers in a foreign tongue, but while I was there that is exactly what I was doing. I discovered a new found confidence and realized that I can succeed in situations that seemed daunting to me before.

The most important relationship that developed while I was in Germany was all the friends I made from Ohio State. It was incredibly helpful to be able to have these friends to rely on when the feeling of being in a foreign land got to be too much. We challenged each other to improve our skills, as well as went on adventures together to incredible places with great new friends.

It is also interesting to note that those studying at the institute came from all over the world. I met many students from numerous countries like Ireland, Spain, Egypt, Vietnam, Italy, and other schools in the US. It was fun for me to listen to what they thought of Americans and for us to tell them how we viewed them. We learned different perspectives on the world and listened to amazing stories. Its so cool that a common second-language can bring so different people together.

I was also able to travel around Germany before and after the program in order to visit some of relatives. Some of them I hadn’t seen for many years, others I had never met before. But for each family it was like I had known them my whole life. They were very welcoming and happy to show me around. I met fun cousins who introduced me to their friends and stayed up with talking into the late hours of the night. We keep in contact over Facebook and have already made plans for them to come to the US or for me to go back to Germany soon.

There were many places that I got to see and people I got to meet that had a profound impact on me. One event was sitting on the bank of the river Elbe in the heart of Dresden with other students from OSU the night before we all left for home. The combination of the beautiful view and the great friends made me realize how lucky I was to be right where I was sitting. I would never trade that night for anything else.

Acquiring the skills that I did in Germany will be immeasurable in my future endeavors. Firstly, my hopeful career in international relations will rely heavily on me having a deep understanding of different cultures and languages. I will be able to show my ability to learn a language in a short time and that I could thrive in a foreign city. Secondly, the program helped me further my education in German and gave me credit to be used at OSU that will go towards my German minor. This freed up a lot of space in my schedule so that I can take other interesting classes in my last two years that I may not have had time for before. Lastly, I have strengthened my relationship with family abroad, and the thanks to the program I will be able to return and use my language skills to strengthen it further.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to have traveled to a foreign land, developed my language skills, immersed myself in the culture, met incredible new people, and made lifetime friends.

 

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The program allowed for weekend trips. Some friends from OSU and I traveled to Prague (above) and to Berlin (below) during our free time.

 

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