STEP Reflection

My STEP project consisted of a study abroad program through International Studies Abroad (ISA) in Granada, Spain during fall semester 2017. It mainly consisted of living with a host family and taking core classes for my major in Spanish at El Centro de Lenguas Modernas at La Universidad de Granada.

I feel that through my experience in Granada, my view of the world changed in many positive ways. One thing that changed my view is that I realized just how profound of an effect the Spanish have had on the world throughout history, especially with the conquest and the discovery of the Americas. Also, my understanding of their culture became much more advanced because I got to learn about their culture and history in their own country which is still saturated with remains of numerous historic cultures and religions, and this allows people to see very accurately how they interacted with each other and influenced what is now Spain centuries later.

A key experience that I had over the course of the semester was that I was able to live with a host family. This really allowed me to get an intimate feel for what everyday life in Andalucía (the southern, more traditional region of Spain where Granada is located) is like. My host family consisted of my host mom and dad, and I lived with another student in the program who is from Pennsylvania. Additionally, since my host parents didn’t have kids, their brothers and nieces and nephews would come to visit rather frequently and have lunch with us a few days out of the week, so I got to know their relatives as well (lunch is the bigger, more important meal of the day for Spaniards; most comparable to how we view dinner in the United States). Spanish families are very close knit and affectionate, so it was quite comforting for me because my own family is this way and it helped me feel a sense of belonging.

Additionally, I was able to travel to various other key cities within Spain on the excursions that were included in the program. One that stuck out to me a lot, however, was when I went to Sevilla and Córdoba. These two cities are extremely important in Spanish history and culture. In Sevilla, I learned that it was the main entry point for all of the crops and goods, especially precious stones and metals, that were brought back to Spain from the Americas during Columbus’ expeditions. Given its inland location on the Guadalquivir River, it provided a highly secure place to keep all of these materials safe from being attacked by other European powers of the time. On the other hand, Córdoba has an ancient mosque that still stands today from the Arabs that once ruled the Iberian peninsula (the other popular tourist attraction is the Alhambra in Granada, which is an old muslim palace from when the muslims ruled the peninsula). However, this mosque was eventually taken over and added onto by Christians, so this structure is very captivating for historians because you could clearly see all of the blending of ideas and beliefs from the two religions. It was also interesting because my professor talked about this mosque in my Islamic Culture in Spain class. Although, in essentially every major city in Spain, there are still well preserved remains from the times of the conflicts between Jews, Muslims and Christians that had all been on the Iberian Peninsula.

Lastly, an experience that I had that helped me learn more about the different cultural backgrounds in Spain was my independent trip to Barcelona that I took. Barcelona is one of Spain’s largest cities and it is also in the region of Cataluña, the northeastern part of Spain. As has been in the news lately, there has been a political referendum in Cataluña because there is a distinct cultural group living there called the Catalans, who have their own language and identity, in addition to being Spanish. During my time in Barcelona, I was able to see first-hand how Catalan is different than the Spanish language, even though they are strikingly similar as they are both romance languages. Additionally, I was able to see the Sagrada Familia, a very famous basilica in the city of Barcelona designed by Antoni Gaudí, a famous architect from Cataluña who had numerous projects around Barcelona. I learned that Gaudí designed the Sagrada Familia to be very symbolic of the Catholic faith, and this is significant to Spanish and Catalan culture because the grand majority of people in Spain are of this faith.

Over all, the transformation that I experienced of my world view is valuable for my life because I can use it to benefit in my future goals. It is beneficial for me because I am also studying International Relations in addition to Spanish, and I hope to work for the government and maintain the great relationship that the U.S. has with Spain, so having this cultural experience will allow me to be more effective in this. I find my experience to be quite valuable for me since I would one day like to be a Spanish teacher, and the experience of studying abroad in Spain will allow me to be a better teacher because I will be able to use all of my experiences and interactions that I had in Spain to teach my future students more accurately about the country and paint them a better picture of how diverse the culture is and how it is different from Latin American countries even though they all share a common language.

Semester Exchange in Madrid

For my STEP Signature project, I did a semester-long exchange program in Madrid, Spain. I lived in an apartment in the city and took classes at La Universidad Pontificia de Comillas.

I was not quite sure what to expect when I began my study abroad journey. I had been to Europe twice before, so I was familiar with some aspects of the cultures that existed within the EU, but Spain was a bit more of a mystery to me. As a Spanish student in the US, we are often taught more about Latin America than Spain, which is tough for someone who is going to be studying in Spain. Once I got to Spain, I began to understand how different the culture was from anything I had experienced. I think sometimes European countries are lumped together but after studying in Spain and having the opportunity to travel to 9 countries through the semester, I have now realized that the cultures are in fact quite different. Before I went abroad, I genuinely thought that I was going to be one of the people that became enchanted by Europe and would want to live there after I graduated college. I have since adjusted my views, and I have realized a lot about what I want from a place that I call home.


While in Madrid, I met a lot of people from around the world on exchange, and my interactions with those people helped me learn a lot about how other people view the world, and why they view it that way. I lived with a French girl, and throughout the semester she had several friends visit. I found that many stereotypes of French people that Americans have are in fact somewhat accurate, but I also found why French people act and do some of these things. It was interesting to see what fellow Americans felt about other countries and other people, but it was even more interesting to see what other Europeans thought about these subjects. I gained an immense sense of cultural understanding and I realized that I don’t necessarily have to like a culture to respect it. I also realized that language has a huge impact on culture and knowing Spanish made me understand the culture of Spain so much more.

Spanish culture for me was a particularly frustrating experience at times. I am from the mid-Atlantic and enjoy efficiency and a faster pace of life. Spain beats to a very different drum, and I very often found shops closed when they said they were open online, customer service lackluster at best, and it seems like any request made to a Spanish person takes forever. I eventually adjusted more to the “go with the flow” lifestyle: eating dinner at 10 pm, and going into things without a plan, but I also realized that I would not want to live in Spain when I was older. This was a disappointing and enlightening realization because I really wanted to love Spain so much that I would want to live there, but the fact is that my personality just did not mesh well with the culture. That being said, through my travels around Europe I realized which cultures would mesh well with my personality. I found that southern European countries mostly those on the Mediterranean didn’t seem like the best places for me to live, Scandinavian countries and  The Netherlands and Germany however, seemed much more appealing. I think one of my biggest takeaways from the semester is that sometimes things don’t live up to your expectations, but if you learn things along the way it was worthwhile.

One of the strangest things for me while abroad was that for the first time in my life, I was completely on my own. Any question or problem I faced was something I was going to have to figure out myself. I think the language barrier was one of the first challenges that I faced. I have studied Spanish for a long time, but being in Spain was the first time that I completely emersed in it. Madrid has a lot of people that speak English, but I decided that I would try to speak Spanish to everyone when possible. Often times listening to other people speak in a different language causes me to zone out their conversation, but for the first time, I found Spanish to be familiar. I didn’t realize the progress I had made in my Spanish until the end of the semester when I thought about all the things I used to struggle with. My main goal in studying abroad was to become fluent in Spanish and I feel like I have successfully accomplished that.

Since I was in high school, I have wanted to become fluent in Spanish. I knew that if I didn’t live somewhere that spoke it, I would have a lot of trouble achieving fluency. My decision to study in Spain was simple, they spoke Spanish and it was close to a lot of other countries that I wanted to visit. Now that I feel comfortable with Spanish, I am eager to explore South America and more of Central America. Knowing that I do not have to rely on English makes me feel much more cultured and I am happy that I have spent the time to understand the second most spoken language in the world. I am also inspired to learn more of some other languages such as French and German, because through my travels I realized how difficult it is to be somewhere and not understand anything that is going on around you. I am extremely grateful for the experience to study abroad and overwhelmingly happy that I went through with it.



Palacio de Cristal, Madrid


Generalife, Granada

Park Güell, Barcelona

Strasbourg Reflection

My STEP Signature Project was to travel abroad for my Spring 2018 semester through the Fisher Student Exchange Program. I studied in Strasbourg, France at the business school there: EM Strasbourg. I went abroad to be able to learn about other cultures, to learn about myself, to challenge myself, and to be in a new environment. My project entailed all of that, and more. I became friends with students from all over the world: Finland, Germany, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Australia, India, Asia, and many more places. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity.

While abroad, I feel like I grew so much as a person. To start, I will talk about myself. When I left for abroad, I thought that I was going to (in my own words from my application): “learn about new ways of life, expand my educational and cultural horizons, and learn everyday in a community where I can engage and absorb in their rich history”. I did this of course, but something I did not imagine was learning about myself and my own culture in the process. I realized this first when I watched a Ted Talk by Julia Middleton in my International Marketing Strategies class. I wrote a blog post about it for Fisher if you would like to know more in depth about my experience, but in short she talked about how to have “cultural intelligence” or “CQ”. Julia mentioned how a huge part of acquiring CQ is understanding your own culture first. While abroad I found out so much about myself, and something I worked hard at pin-pointing were parts of me that could use improvement. The three main points I came back with a focus to work on are 1) my emotional resilience towards people and frustrating situations, 2) my stress level-I stress WAY too easily about things that require very little stress, and 3) I need to focus more on doing things for myself than going way out of my way to please other people. Coming to this conclusion was an extremely important revelation for me, and I have been very proud of myself for working on these things even in my last couple of days being back in the U.S.

Besides learning about myself and my culture, I learned so much I didn’t know about European culture, traveling, and life. While abroad I had the opportunity to speak to so many Europeans; we talked about their lives at home, their school systems, their friends and family, their political views. It was truly amazing to hear things and view points that I don’t normally get exposed to. My two Finnish friends were some of the best people I met abroad, and they taught me so much about life in general. One specific moment to describe a transformation I had was when I traveled to Berlin with my Finnish friends. We went to the Brandenburg Gate, and there happened to be a women’s march going on. We stood and listened to the speaker for a moment, and I heard her talking about Trump. My first reaction was anger. ‘Trump is OUR problem’ I thought to myself. It actually brought me to tears, thinking about how I felt waking up in a sorority house of 37 girls, finding out that Donald Trump was our President, and thinking how could it possibly be as bad for these people in Germany, when he isn’t their problem to deal with. My second reaction was immediately realizing how naive I was being, and how much America’s actions affect every other country. This all happened in about a three minute period. It was a breathtaking and growing moment for me.

There were a lot of events, relationships, and interactions that led to my own personal growth and transformation. One of them was what I discussed in the previous paragraph, but there were other times that stand out as well. I think what is significant about my Berlin, Germany story is that sometimes it is so easy for us to live in our own little bubble. I was under the assumption and mindset that what happened in America, mainly affected Americans. When I was standing there, listening to the speakers at the women’s march talk about women’s rights and Donald Trump, I realized that this was not the case. This was a huge recognition for me, and affected me greatly. I stood there at the women’s march in Berlin, with my two Finnish friends by my side, listening attentively to the feelings of these women. This moment made me grow and affected me by allowing me to see how important the actions of America are, and how careful we need to be in the future regarding other countries and our affect on them.

In February, I took an intensive Organizational Behavior course. I needed this course in order to get credit at OSU, but the international version of the class was full, so Strasbourg put me in an English speaking class with the French students. On the first day, I was so incredibly nervous. I walked in, was the only non-French person among about 20 other girls, and sat alone in the first row. When the teacher walked in, it was a huge relief for me to find out she was a professor from Pennsylvania State University. The class went really well, and I was happy to be meeting some French students. However, we had a group paper due at the end of the month, and I had never written a paper as a “group” before, let alone with students who did not speak English as their first language. We did an activity where we chose from six different slips of colored paper to show what strengths we had (communication, research, English, organizational skills, etc) and you had to find group members that accounted for every skill. I was nervous because all of the girls knew each other, so I just went to the first group that offered me a spot with them. These two girls did NOT have the slip of paper for “English skills”, and therefore I could already predict that this would be a challenge. This proved to be true when we met to work on the paper, and it was extremely hard to understand each others’ point of view about what we should be doing. I persisted, and learned that to work with them I had to be extremely patient, and remember that English is not their first language, and it’s amazing that they could even take a class in English while I would never be able to sit through a class in French. It took a long time, but we managed to work together and complete the paper with a good grade. This experience helped to transform me into a more patient person, and a person who can work effectively with students of other nationalities. This project was a huge challenge, but I believe it shaped me into a better student, a better team player, and a better business person.

There are so many occurrences that I feel like shaped me into a better person while I was abroad, but if I had to pick one more I would say that traveling around and meeting people of other cultures and nationalities really affected me. There were so many instances where things did not go perfectly as planned, and we had to all work together to figure out the best solution. These instances are what made me realize that I need to work on my emotional resilience and stress level! There are so many images of myself that pop into my head where I think that if I had stepped back and taken a deep breath, I could have handled things differently. One person who specifically impacted me was my friend Rebecca from Toronto. We learned very quickly that traveling was no piece of cake; it takes a lot of planning, it can be extremely stressful, and nothing ever goes according to plan. We had a mishap when traveling to Greece, where our flight on one of those budget airlines changed an entire day without telling us of the change. We had missed the flight, and I was up until 3:00 am the night before we were supposed to leave trying to deal with the airline. They finally put us on a flight we wanted the next morning, and we were set to take a FlixBus to Basel, Switzerland’s airport at 10:00 am to catch the flight. In the morning, we showed up to the FlixBus station, and the bus simply just didn’t show up. We waited an hour. At this point, I was freaking out inside. I could tell that I was about to start crying—I had gotten no sleep and was completely stressed that we would miss our flight. Somehow Rebecca remained calm the ENTIRE time. She found a train for us to take, got us on it, and we made the flight right as it was boarding. This is just one instance out of the many instances where traveling did NOT go according to plan, but one of the ones that stood out to me the most. I was SO incredibly stressed, that I felt stressed the entire weekend. Rebecca remained calm, collected, and says that that weekend was one of her favorite weekends from abroad. Rebecca taught me that I need to take a step back, and realize what’s important in the moment, and that way I will be able to find a clearer solution to any given problem.

All of these realizations, transformations, and changes that I experienced will reflect in my every day life from now on. I am so incredibly grateful for the time I spent abroad, and there will never be a way to actually express how much this semester meant to me. I was in Europe for 4.5 months, and yet I feel as though I grew 3 years older. The knowledge and life experience I gained while abroad is so important and is something I will remember and continue to grow from forever. I feel like I have had so many new experiences that will help me in all of my goals, personal, academic, and professional. As for personal goals, like I mentioned in a previous paragraph I was able to pinpoint three of my major weaknesses that I really want to tone in on and work at now that I am home. I think working a little bit each day by reminding myself of these three things will help me grow into a better person and allow me to reach my personal goals. While abroad I participated in many group projects with people of many different nationalities, and I think this taught me so much about being a team player, because I had to really work on sitting back and listening to every persons’ ideas before we decided on a game plan. When working with Americans, it is very easy for one person to take charge and be the delegator. Abroad, I learned to not take charge, to share my ideas without forcing them onto people, and to work as a team with students from different backgrounds. This is such an amazing experience that I had, and I think it will help greatly in my academic and professional life. It was extremely challenging and frustrating at points, but I think it is something that turned me into a better person.

To conclude, going abroad through Fisher was the best decision I could have made. Had I gone through a third party organizer, I would not have been able to meet students from all over the world and would not have been pushed outside of my comfort zone. My development abroad has affected my future plans by solidifying the fact that traveling isn’t just a hobby of mine, it’s something that is a part of me. I know that I need to have a job position that allows me free range to travel and explore what the world has to offer, and I think that this project was just the first step to growing into the person that I aim to be. I am forever grateful for this past semester, and I would not trade it for anything in the world.

New country, new friends!

10 Galentines, 5 Nationalities!

London, Europe, and More

For my STEP Signature Project, I studied abroad at City, University of London for the Spring 2018 term. Through this, I was able to explore London, as well as twelve other European countries! I also made many long-lasting relationships in the process.

In all honesty, my initial reaction to London was that it was similar to the US. There were many skyscrapers, a diverse crowd, everyone spoke English; it really felt like any other big US city. However, my first change in perception came in the classroom. On the first day of class, I interacted with my British classmates. They were very interested in the fact that I was American and wanted to learn much about me. I was then able to ask about them and their culture, and the exchange of information truly made me understand the differences in background that I had with them. Additionally, traveling to the other European countries and seeing unique things in each place made me experience this same thing.

The key aspects in my time abroad definitely are the relationships that I made with people. These are the people that I traveled around Europe with, spoke to, and spent time with. I was quite nervous my first week arriving to London. The first few people that I met were the people that were a part of my program. To be honest, I did not get close to them. I can recall hanging out with them on the first two days and things just didn’t seem to click. This made me frightened. I was scared that these were the people that I would be stuck with for the entire time.

After the first two days, the university that I attended hosted a welcome reception for all study abroad students. This meant that I had the chance to finally interact with students from different programs and not just my own. When I arrived to the reception, I was with the people in my program. We began talking in a circle, not interacting with anyone new. After a while, they decided to leave and I was about to leave with them, however, in that moment, I felt that if I had left, I would have let myself down. Therefore, I decided not to leave and told my group that I will be staying behind.

From there, that’s when I met three important people. These people are the ones that ultimately became the friends that I stuck with for the remainder of the study abroad. The ones that I clicked so well with, traveled around Europe with, and remained friends with. I am so thankful to have met them. The establishment of the relationship with them truly taught me to really go out of your comfort zone if you want something. Fortunately for me, I managed to do so and made long-lasting relationships.

As stated before, the aspect of this study abroad that I valued greatly were the relationships. Even though it has been three weeks since my study abroad ended, I am still regularly keeping in contact with the friends that I had made. Aside from that, I still think about Europe every day. When will I ever get the chance again to visit a new country every weekend? That was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am so glad that I was able to use it to my advantage.

Environmental Sustainability in Costa Rica – Last in-country Class

Today is the last class we have together before we all board our separate flights in a few days. We most likely won’t see each other (a whopping 8 students total) until Monday afternoon in San Jose, Costa Rica (not San Jose, California, as I found out after buying the wrong ticket the first time). The past five classes have been spent going over the geological formation of Costa Rica, what makes it ecologically unique, how Costa Rica promotes sustainability as a country, and how the United States compares to it. But that’s not what I’ve been thinking about.

This is my first time traveling out of the country, and while I’m going to be out of my comfort zone and away from routine, I’m beginning to realize that it’s actually going to happen. I’m actually going to Costa Rica. I’m going to be tasting coffee, fresh from a plantation, hiking through national parks, ziplining through the trees, horseback riding along trails, kayaking across Lake Arenal, and whitewater rafting along the Sarapiqui River.

And the only thing in my way is a seven hour plane trip – not even that bad, considering I’m leaving the continent.

…And packing.


A drawn map of our expected route, starting in Costa Rica.

Washington Academic Internship Program – Kate Clark

This semester, I had the opportunity to participate in the Washington Academic Internship Program (WAIP) through the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. This program enabled me to obtain a position as a Policy Fellow with Battelle Memorial Institute’s Office of Government Relations. Battelle is a non-profit organization that manages several of the national laboratories within the Department of Energy and the Department of Homeland Security. The organization’s mission is focused on using innovation to develop solutions for marginalized communities, and its philanthropic focus is on fostering STEM education initiatives. Interestingly, Battelle’s headquarters is based in Columbus, Ohio, which is my hometown. I enjoyed working in a government relations office and I am so appreciative of the opportunity. I learned so much this semester, not only regarding the subject matter of interest to Battelle, but also about my ability to work as a young professional.

Participating in this project enabled me to learn so much about myself and what my life after graduation will be like. I had time to rethink my commitment to going straight to law school after my time at Ohio State, and I made some amazing friends along the way. This semester showed me how many professional opportunities exist in the world, and that it is okay to be unsure of the correct path to take. This confusion led me to believe that I needed to stay in Washington DC again for the summer. So, I took a chance and put down a lump sum payment on an apartment for the summer before finding a job! Long story short, everything worked out and I ended up getting a summer position that is perfect for me. However, without my experience in the spring I never would have had the courage to bet on myself, and to believe in my own abilities and qualifications.

The relationships I made this semester greatly contributed to this transformation; I met some of the most amazing people in DC. Battelle’s Office of Government Relations is very small; I only had one supervisor who I reported to directly, and three other staff members that I worked with on a daily basis. This was great because I was able to learn from several people, especially since Battelle has such broad interests. Furthermore, I got to know the subject matter of each staffer in my office, which was fascinating. Getting to know my supervisor was phenomenal! He actually participated in WAIP a few years ago and was very understanding of my commitments and encouraged me to take every opportunity that came my way. He was also always sure to introduce me as his ‘colleague’ at events and made sure to give positive feedback when it was deserved. It is very clear that he wanted to help me this semester and I am really lucky to have had a supervisor who trusted me with important, independent work. Furthermore, WAIP gave me a mentor and a program manager who were integral to my success throughout spring semester.

The projects I was given at my internship were key to my learning that I needed to come back to Washington DC for the summer and that I wanted to put off law school after graduation to work DC again. I had the opportunity to do some really cool things through my internship with Battelle. Every day, I sent out daily news clips to the office. This sounds like a menial task, but it has actually enabled me to learn so much about the experiments and breakthroughs happening at the national labs. Reading daily google alerts also helped me to better define the role of Battelle in the Columbus community. My role has allowed me to research and monitor the effects of pending legislation on issue areas of interest to Battelle, and to draft succinct reports on congressional hearings covering subjects specific to my superiors’ projects. Working within a government relations office has underscored the importance of editing my own work; I have discovered just how important the ability to write well is in a professional setting. I was tasked with daily projects of reviewing transcripts, researching technologies, and writing reports on hearings and briefings. However, I also worked on more long-term assignments. I personally tracked the locations of the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Physics programs across the United States; let me tell you there are a TON. I compiled this information in relation to Congressional districts and members, and my work was used during Battelle’s Nuclear Physics Day. This lobbying day was planned before I began my internship, but my work was used in meetings with congressional members and their staffers. Additionally, as a non-profit organization, Battelle’s philanthropic mission is focused on increasing youth access to STEM education, and I was fortunate to be a part of a coalition meeting discussing Battelle’s continued advocacy under the current administration. These experiences made me much more confident in my ability to work in an office setting and let me know that the transferable skills of my degree at Ohio State will truly be of use to my future career.

I would not have had the same experience without participating in WAIP. I have lived in Columbus, Ohio for my entire life. Moving to DC for a semester, especially in the middle of the school year, was a huge commitment for me. I had to leave my family, friends, job, and student organizations (that I had grown so comfortable with) behind in my transition into interning in DC, and this was a scary process. However, knowing that 17 other Ohio State students were also participating in the same program and were feeling the same emotions really comforted me. I ended up having three other roommates and we became best friends. They each encouraged me to make the most out of each day in the district and helped me to get out of the apartment and explore the city. None of my accomplishments would have been possible without them. I am so thankful that STEP gave me the opportunity to make this experience possible.

This project enabled me to understand who I really am! I learned to open myself up to new experiences and I was also able to take a full course-load outside of my double major of International Studies and Chinese. The Public Policy classes gave me a platform to write my own policy recommendation on the ability of the federal government to lessen the effects of childhood hunger and enabled me to debate different issues with my classmates. I learned that I am actually interested in domestic affairs as well as international ones! This experience showed me that after graduation I want to return to DC to live and work, and I could not be more excited.

Education Abroad in Italy

Name: Evan Grootenhuis

Type of Project: Education Abroad

1. My STEP Signature Project entailed taking a class in the spring to prepare to travel to five cities across northern Italy (Padua, Venice, Turin, Verona, and Milan) through a program called the Industry Immersion Program. In Italy, I participated in company tours at Safilo, Pettenon, Rossimoda, Pasqua, Fiat, and YNAP, learning how these various companies minimize costs and utilize their facilities efficiently.  Also, I learned how these companies analyze the market and past figures to plan and strategize what to make and how much to make in the future.

2. My view of the world changed and was transformed while completing my STEP Signature Project because I was able to experience a different culture on the other side of the world and be immersed in to it. It was amazing to see the people and how they act differently in their simple day-to-day activities. We drove through the Italian countryside frequently and I was fortunate enough to see children playing. In this way, Italy is very similar to the USA, but in many other ways, they are different. I had amazing experiences that I will remember for a lifetime.

My understanding of myself was also transformed while completing my STEP Signature Project. This is because I went on this trip with people that I did not know prior to the class or trip. I had to go out of my comfort zone to experience everything I wanted to experience. Since the class was only second session, I didn’t get to know those going on the trip that well. But when in country, I got to know every single one of them and they are great people. I now have many new friends that I will continue to hang out with in the future thanks to this trip.

3. While in Padua, we toured the University of Padua and were able to talk to students and professors after. This was amazing to see the differences between the USA and Italy as far as education goes. I talked with one student, Marco, for the whole dinner and it was a great time. This affected me because it helped me to appreciate everything I have and how fortunate I am. Marco was in graduate school and working full-time while managing classes and I thought my schedule was busy. It was amazing to see the similarities and differences between me and him.

We were fortunate enough to tour a winery, Pasqua, while in Verona. This was amazing, it was awesome to see how the wine is made and put in to barrels and then put in to the bottles. The workers at the winery made sure we were happy with our wine while we taste tested and then we made our own wine after! This transformed me because it made me appreciate the simple things in life, and the atmosphere in the winery was so calm and enjoyable.

Another event is the fact that Italians don’t have water with meals, and there are no drinking fountains. If you want water, you have to pay for it and it is room temperature. This changed me because I never really appreciated the fact that I can get cold water for free anytime I want in the USA. This trip helped me to see how fortunate I am to have all the opportunities that I have in my life, and water is definitely included in that.

4. This change is significant to me because I am now more comfortable around strangers and people I just met. I now love meeting new people because I know how to give a good first impression. This matters and relates to my professional and personal goals because in a job interview, it is all about first impressions. I now know how to better interact with people I just met and to be somewhat reserved but to also tell them a good amount. Balance is the best way to give a good first impression and this will help me tremendously in my future.


With backpack: taken while on our walking tour in Venice.

With bottle of wine: taken after we made our own bottles of wine at the Pasqua winery in Verona.

10 Days in Bahia, Brazil


Taylor Lonas

Education Abroad

My STEP Signature Project reached culmination through an education abroad experience in Bahia, Brazil. I spent ten days engaging in educational enlightenment with a focus on higher education and the educational needs of low income and first-generation students. I visited several institutions of learning as well as historical and cultural sites in Brazil.

As an individual who possesses an avid love for traveling, Brazil has long been at the top of my list of places to visit. While living in Bahia, I was exposed to the rich culture that Afro Brazilians call their own. This educational excursion was truly an opportunity for me to experience growth. This trip allowed me to undergo significant mental growth. Being someone who is thoroughly invested in the progression of black culture and the black lives matter movement, it was intellectually stimulating to be able to discuss matters of international race and racism with Afro Brazilian collegiate students. Interacting with them enabled me to more fully understand how their society is divided into classes more so based on monetary wealth and characteristics of hair texture and the shade of chocolate of their skin versus our more simplistic division into black and white. The citizens that were poor where overwhelmingly darker in skin tone with coarser hair, while those who were more well off had lighter skin and curlier textures. The amount of money available for education within a household, determined whether or not the children would have higher or lower chances of being accepted into the coveted public universities which had a surplus of money, resources, and top-notch professors. While I found this trip to be very empowering and educational, I simultaneously discovered that racism is global, regardless of what form it takes.

Traveling to Bahia, Brazil with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion was a monumentally eye-opening experience! I genuinely enjoyed each aspect of the trip, from walking amidst the vividly painted neighborhoods and hiking up seemingly vertical hills, to interacting with the beautiful children of the city and getting the opportunity to know and love Clara (our tour guide). Every single day was an adventure and I am truly grateful that I was presented with the opportunity to learn more about the Afro Brazilian culture, which in turn, helped me discover more about myself. Our group (consisting of both OSU & UCONN students) came together to acquire a deeper understanding of a culture differing from our own.

As mentioned earlier, the visits to the educational institutions played a large role in providing me with insight and numerous opportunities to engage with Brazilian youth. These visits and interactions not only exposed me to the culture, language, traditions, and educational experiences of Afro Brazilians, but they allowed me to share a piece of myself (American culture, language, and traditions) with those with who I came in contact with as well. It was an evenly divided cultural exchange.

I found the language barrier to be one of the hardest and most trying barriers to overcome while in Bahia. While I have some minor experience with Spanish, Portuguese is a whole different ball game and needless to say, I struggled significantly. When I couldn’t find the right words to use, my hand gestures helped to vocalize my messages to civilians. While language interactions may not have been easy, I found both dance and sports to be a universal language. Performers who danced to the beats of drums in the middle of the streets where quickly applauded and encouraged by my traveling entourage. When our boys formed a team and played a game of street basketball against the Brazilian youth, the audience cheered on both teams as they ducked, dribbled, and dunked down the courts. We understood each other and celebrated as on one accord. All at once, my being was at peace and I felt an inner happiness that I had yet to experience in a long while. I was humbled to be in that place at that time. I was shocked to realize that the children revered us and considered us to be “rich Americans”. When I offered my $5 Forever 21 glasses to a high school girl as a gift, another girl fought her for them.  I realized just how privileged I am and wished I could have had more time to talk to the youth about their experiences and how they view Americans.

This transformation was substantially significant to my maturation as being. Traveling can give an individual a different perspective on life. As a current undergraduate pre-law student I hope to one day become employed by a firm and specialize in law pertaining to civil rights. I will focus on representing minorities as these are the people that generally lack quality representation in courts. My excursions have permitted me to learn firsthand about the multitude of injustices that cross the world many times over. I am very blessed to live in a country such as America, for there are many places where people are restricted from living with basic human rights and necessities. My journeys will eventually lend me the ability to remedy the injustices that I have observed through my career work as an attorney.


Scientific Roots in Europe – Spring 2018 – Chelsea Cancino

My STEP Signature Project involved a study abroad visiting London and Paris during the Spring ’18 Spring Break. This study abroad program was through the OSU Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology and consisted of a 3 credit hours course in which we were visited by many guest lecturers on topics like scientific revolutions, European scientists, and global cultures.

My goal during this project was to grow as a person by getting my foot in the door that is international travel. The world is a big place with many cultures and ideals I think should be explored as much as possible. I was tired of experiencing these things through movie screens and written words. I knew living the experience first hand would be inexplicably different, and I was right.

While abroad, I grew in my capacities for problem solving, adapting, and time management. The colors and feelings of life in both London and Paris were so vivid and complex. It was amazing, being able to see iconic places in real life without any filters. It made me feel small, yet special, to be part of such a world. I walked down streets that have existed longer than the US has been a country, that feeling is indescribable.

London gave me a good transition into international travel since everyone spoke English. It was almost like twilight zone, so many things were similar to our culture. The unpredictable weather almost exactly like Ohio, pop music playing, slang people used, classic metropolitan city feel we have here. Yet their accents were straight out of the movies, they had different types of food, and, of course, the currency was (unfortunately for my bank account) different.

Because we only had about 4 days in each city, planning was key to ensure we made the most of our time. This really helped me bond with my other classmates and it prepared us for what to expect while abroad. In London, I got to see the house Charles Darwin lived in, I went to pubs and drank (legal) pints of London Pride while talking to locals, I saw classic London theater, and visited their many famous markets.

Paris was mesmerizing yet more down to earth than I expected. The Eiffel Tower in real life, during the daytime, looks very industrial and slightly rusty. It’s definitely huge and impressive, but there is obvious wear from the volume of tourists visiting it. At night, however, it comes alive. I’ll never forget walking the streets of Paris with my friends and ending up on a beautiful pedestrian bridge right outside of the Eiffel Tower and watching it light up at midnight. The Notre Dame was definitely a spiritual experience with its architecture alone and I’ve never had such good, yet cheap food.

This trip is probably the most significant thing I’ve done while here. I know people go on study abroads all the time and I’ve definitely been part of many great organizations, but I was able to really be myself without any care while on this trip. I’ve formed wonderful connections with both my peers as well as my professors. Most importantly, I know that this trip was the first of many to come.

Here is the link to the blog I have for this trip, which includes pictures!