Scientific Roots in Europe

Name: Kareem Zade

Type of Project: Education Abroad


For my STEP signature project, I went to both London and Paris over Spring break to learn about the major scientific events that have had a huge impact on the world. We visited famous scientists’ houses, while also exploring the different cultures and cities of London and Paris.

During this trip, I learned to appreciate science from a whole new perspective. It is a completely different experience to actually go visit the homes of scientists such as Charles Darwin, rather than just learning about them and their findings in class or through a text book. I also got the opportunity to experience the different cultures of both cities, broadening my views of the world and all the variety it has to offer. In addition, I was exposed to many other interesting aspects of history and science while touring the many different museums that our class went to.

One of the activities that really changed the way I viewed science was while visiting the house/village of Charles Darwin. His work, such as developing the Theory of Evolution, has placed him as one of the most influential scientists in the history of this world. His theories resulted in a huge paradigm shift in scientific knowledge that led to a whole new perspective on life on Earth. Knowing all of these things, it was truly a breathtaking experience to visit his house and walk into the exact study room in which much of his work was done. It gave me an appreciation for the scientist, as well as a sense of amazement that they were able to develop such accurate theories using the materials/instruments they had during their time.

I was also fortunate to have traveled on this trip with many amazing like-minded students. We were allowed a lot of free time to roam around both cities, and it really led to a formation of strong bonds between us. I learned a lot about their personal stories and dreams, and was able to connect them outside of just class-related topics and issues. We learned valuable leadership skills and confidence in navigating the streets of both cities on our own.

Other activities that led to this transformation would be going on a lot of site seeing trips to explore the culture of each city. We went to so many parts of each city, and were able to part-take in much of the local traditions and activities. I broadened my perspective on the cultures of each city by talking to the locals and even having had the opportunity to go to a soccer game in London. I tried new foods, met knew people, and explored new places!

This experience has a huge impact on improving myself for both personal and career aspirations. I learned how to have confidence in myself when getting lost in the cities, while also learning about each cities cultures and the people that live there. I hope to become a doctor in the future, and having an understanding of people who come from different cultures is extremely important. Visiting scientific sites and museums also increased my love for science, which is crucial for someone entering the healthcare field. I also formed a lot of strong friendships/relationships with the other students in my class, further showing me that every person has a story to tell.


Human and Animal Interactions: Ireland

Rhiann Travis

Education Abroad

I participated in the Human-Animal Interactions study abroad trip, which was a 10-day trip to Ireland focusing on the role of animals in our society and how history, government, geography and infrastructure can impact cultural development and the use of land and animals in different societies. While in Ireland, we visited Dublin Falconry, Dog’s Trust and Rehoming Centre, Shelbourne Greyhound Racetrack, Dublin Zoo, John Renehan’s family sheep farm, Moorepark Pig Facility, Fota Wildlife Park, Donkey Sanctuary, Sean Hayes’ beef farm, and Teagasc-Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre. Visiting these places enabled us to understand the broad scope of differences in the human-animal interactions between Ireland and the United States in a variety of aspects.

My understanding of myself was affected greatly on this trip. My mother’s whole family is Irish; her father was born in Ireland and lived there for a brief time until his family moved to America, and much of our extended family still lives in County Cork and County Kerry. My grandfather and I were very close when I was young, and he would tell me story after story about Ireland—stories about the people, the history, the folklore, the traditions, and the beauty of his family’s home. I had dreamed of visiting Ireland since I was only five years old, because I wanted to see and experience the things my grandfather told me about for myself. Fifteen years later, I was able to fulfill my childhood dream through my STEP project, and it was everything I had ever hoped it would be.

This project allowed me to experience firsthand the homeland of my family. Growing up in Texas is about as different from Ireland as one could get, so even though I knew much about Ireland, it was hard for me to fully wrap my head around our family history. Being able to see and experience Ireland for myself gave me a much better understanding and appreciation for my heritage. It also reinforced my sense of identity by immersing myself in the culture of my ancestral home.

There were a few specific experiences during my signature project that catalyzed my personal transformation. The first was visiting the Brazen Head, which is Ireland’s oldest pub. There we were regaled with stories from Irish folklore and traditional Irish music while we ate. Listening to these stories reminded me immensely of all the times that my grandfather told me the same kind of stories, but this time it had a much more profound effect, because I had experienced enough of the culture at that point to give me more context to the story and, therefore, better appreciation for it. This appreciation gained also helped to develop a better sense of connection to my family’s history.

Visiting the cities of Cork and Galway also had a hand in my personal transformation. During our afternoon of free time in Cork, I had the chance to explore the city that my grandfather’s family came from. Recognizing pubs and restaurants that my grandfather had told me about—places that to me had always been in a faraway land—was an amazing yet surreal experience. In Galway, we had an entire free day to see the city, which was astounding. I had the chance to experience more personal interactions with the people and culture of Ireland. Being able to visit the original shop that sold Claddagh rings was also eye opening, since I got to purchase one of these rings from the same store that my great-great grandfather had purchased my great-great grandmother’s Claddagh ring when they were newly married.

Being able to see Blarney Castle was another profound experience for me. I have always been a fan of old architecture and castles, but being able to tour Blarney Castle was one of the most impactful opportunities of this trip. I was able to personally see the structure and architecture and imagine the castle restored to its former brilliance. I was able to connect with a very famous piece of Irish history by kissing the Blarney Stone, and I gained a much more palpable mental image of my family’s history.

This personal transformation is valuable to me because it has fulfilled a piece of my identity and sense of self that I have always felt was missing. Being the only member of my extended family who had not visited Ireland and who was raised far from my family, I had always felt disconnected and separated from this part of myself. This was especially difficult because I heard all about our family and Ireland from my mother and felt that I should be more connected to this part of my family, but I wasn’t. Visiting Ireland has filled this missing piece of myself, and has given me more confidence and more connection with an important piece of my family history and heritage. It has also allowed me to accomplish my lifelong goal of visiting the Emerald Isle for myself. I am now making plans to visit again someday to reconnect with my family that lives in County Cork, further solidifying my connection with my family.

Human Animal Interactions: Ireland

The Human Animal Interactions trip to Ireland trip opened my eyes to how different environments and cultures influence what types of animals are kept there and how people treat them. I saw the same Irish specific problems and benefits throughout the trip. The places that we visited fell into three focuses, conservation, adoption or farming, based on the tradeoffs they had to deal with.
The Dublin Falconry, Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park focused on the conservation of animals. Ireland’s stable environment allowed most animals in conservation settings access to the outside for most of the year. This gives Ireland a welfare benefit (natural living) and they can save money on indoor facility investments. The giraffe facility in Fota was fairly small because Giraffes only use it for sleep. Ireland does struggle with space in comparison to America. Ireland’s size is comparable to Ohio and urban development limits the size of city zoos. Even when comparing rural conservation areas like Fota and the Wilds, there is an obvious size advantage that The Wilds has over Fota. Transparency seems to be a problem consistent between America and Ireland, most apparent at the Fota rhino exhibit. The rhino caretaker had found the best system of feed enrichment to be a large blue plastic tub filled with food. It improved rhino health by slowing their feeding rate and forcing them to take jogging breaks (allowing more guest-rhino interaction), they could enjoy banging it to naturally exercise their dominance, and plastic was the only material that could survive rhino hits. However, one of the higher ups did not like the idea because of its unnatural look, so they keep it hidden indoors. I think it’s a shame that something that a solution that works so well can’t be shown because it is not “natural”. I can sympathize a little with the higher-up because guest disapproval might mean less people going to Fota and funding conservation efforts, but I still think there should be more transparency. This could be a learning experience for guests into how zoos can simulate rhinos feeding in the wild (ironic because although it looks less natural, it might better simulate how food is takes longer to eat) and also to teach guests about rhinos making loud sounds to show off dominance for mating.
Dog’s Trust and Rehoming Centre, the Shelbourne Greyhound Racetrack and the Donkey Sanctuary all highlighted Ireland’s struggle with finding homes for their many homeless domesticated animals. Pets tend to be treated more like farm animals than as family members in Ireland. Dogs are expected to “work for their food” and many families there treat pets as more disposable or christmas gifts. Whether or not this is a right or wrong way of viewing animals, it has led to a large population of stray or neglected animals in Ireland. As a result, Dog’s Trust and the Donkey Sanctuary has stepped in to help relocate the animals.
John Renehan Sheep Farm, Sean Hayes’ Beef Farm and the Teagasc facilities for pork and sheep grazing gave me insight into how Ireland has different farming techniques. Rain seems to be their greatest resource and struggle. The rain combined with their stable environment allows grass to grow like crazy there, making grazing management their main way of feeding their animals. However, the large amount of rain also prevents them from keeping their larger animals outside so beef farms have to have much larger indoor facilities than in America so that the Cows do not destroy the muddy grasslands (something called pugging). Sheep farms do not have to deal with this because sheep are lighter and only cause superficial damage to their pastures. Politically, the threat of Brexit has caused a lot of stir there. I am still not an expert on it, but Ireland exports their food products heavily (for example, 90% of their beef is exported) and Britain is their greatest consumer of most of their product. Brexit is the threat of Britain leaving the EU, which means that they might place tariffs on food products coming into Britain, which would then threaten many of the markets, including the largest agricultural market in Ireland, beef.
It was interesting to see Ireland and learn about how their culture affects the way they treat animals. I think Ireland might have been the best choice for this trip since their culture is heavily intertwined within agriculture.

Siena Italian Studies — Reporting Back

Name: Sarah Robinson

Type of Project: Study Abroad

1.Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

I studied with the Siena Italian Studies program in Siena Italy, attending class 5 days a week and living with a host family. In my free time outside of classwork and studying, I traveled to a total of 7 other countries, experiencing as many different cultures as I could.

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

I gained a greater understanding of the English language through learning to speak Italian. As we were learning different grammatical rules, our professors would explain concepts in English when necessary, but one of our classmates is from Ecuador and her first language is Spanish. She described her experience very differently than we did, because while she was fluent in English, she was learning a new language through the lens of her second language. It gave me a greater appreciation for learning a second language as facilitated by my native language. 

Furthermore, my experience in teaching english unofficially to my host sister gave insight to how the English language is learned in comparison to how I started learning Italian. I learned just how complex and varied the English language is, with all the grammatical rules being broken half the time. All this, however, is to say that through my experience analyzing the learning processes for learning a new language, I realized a greater empathy for people who live in a society that speaks a language other than their first language. Even after years of practicing, there are things that evade you, or references that don’t make sense, and the native speakers of that language will certainly treat you different than their peers or those who grew up speaking their language.

3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

Living with a host family for three and a half months definitely affected my perspective on language and culture. The family had a lot of similarities to my own, and though they occasionally functioned in a different way than I have observed in the United States, there were far more similarities than differences, despite the use of a completely different language. Teaching my host sister English on occasion changed my perspective o

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n the language learning process— my interactions with her, a woman of roughly my same age, showed me the value of learning another language in a perspective I had not considered— she wanted to learn English so she could move to London to find work, because there are perceived more job opportunities there than the small Italian town in which my host sister lives.

The other students in the program with me also affected my cultural perspective on how non-Americans view Americans. To my surprise, there were a few girls in my program who felt very very strongly about the “superiority” of the US over all other countries, and who took offense whenever our country was the butt of a harmless joke. Their actions and attitudes towards others and towards the culture of life in Siena was appalling, and made me realize that people like that are the reason non-Americans dislike American tourists. It made me re-evaluate my own actions and attitudes, and I tried to be more cognizant of how my actions might affect the citizens of Siena and the other countries and cities to which I traveled. My belief is that I was a guest in the country, in the cities, and I should act as a good guest should; that is I should be gracious towards those who made accommodations for me, but should not expect every door to be held open and the red carpet rolled out before me. I felt I should try to experience the cultures in which I was, by trying new foods and drinks, by not infringing on private spaces for a photo, and by trying to learn what I could about the area.

Finally, my wide travels across the European continent affirmed my belief that in order to be a good citizen of the world, one should travel as widely as they can and experience as many different cultures as possible. There is so much of the world to see, so much history to learn and phenomenal people to encounter. I want to continue to travel and appreciate different parts of the world, from the ancient ruins to the modern installations. I also realized I would love to learn more languages and be able to communicate with people from not just English speaking nations.

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

As a student, I know after graduation I will have a job in which I will have to interact with people— all jobs have that to some extent of course. I do not know whether I will need to travel for work, or if I will stay at the same location. I do know, however, that the interpersonal skills and appreciation for culture that I developed while abroad will help me in my day to day interactions with coworkers and bosses, and will help me to build strong relationships in the company for which I will work. If I do travel for my future job, then I already have the necessary skills to keep calm and collected on my journey, and to be able to be a gracious guest of wherever my work will take me.

In my future life, I plan to travel more and experience as much of the world as I can. Now that I have good traveling skills, and the ability to independently solve problems and think on my feet, I feel much more able to do my own traveling, and to encourage others to do the same, to hopefully cultivate the same level of appreciation for other cultures that I have developed in my time abroad.

Human Animal Interactions

My STEP signature project was a study abroad focusing in Human and animal interactions in The Republic of Ireland. During the trip I visited many different farms and research areas to see the different management systems that were used due to the unique climate of Ireland. While at these places I also learned about how current political events were affecting these businesses.

The inter-relatedness of politics on the Ireland was very different compared to the United States. Also, the unique climate allows the farms on the Island to keep animals out longer and give a food source we don’t use much in the Unites States. However, the climate also raises several problems that we do not have here in the United States.

The Republic of Ireland has both its own rules for livestock and animal but also has to follows rules put in place by the European Union. One of the main topics that was reoccurring was Brexit. Many of the farmers were concerned about their supply chain and product prices since they freely traded with the United Kingdom. Several farmers were concerned about what kind of boarder would be installed because they took animals to processing plants in Northern Ireland and some processing plants in The Republic of Ireland harvested animals from Northern Ireland.


In the Republic of Ireland, the climate allows for them to grow grass almost all year. This lets the farmers have a longer grazing season than the United States and have a cheaper more abundant food source for their livestock. They actually had a research facility and worked with the farmers to have sustainable grassland management and livestock food supply.

The climate on the Island gives the farmers unique issues with their livestock. With the very wet and muddy environment the farmers have to run all hoofed animals through a foot bath with regularity. This prevents and treats infections in the hoof instead of using antibiotics right away since the European Union has strict laws on the use of antibiotics in animals.

The new outlook I have after this trip will be incredibly helpful in my current job and future career working in animal medicine. Working in a medical field will expose me to many cultures that are different then mine. I feel this experience has truly help me better other stand the complexity of other cultures and help me interact better in my future career.

Human & Animal Interactions Study Abroad 2018

1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.
I chose an education abroad as my STEP Signature Project. I went on a 10-day study abroad during winter break in various counties of Ireland, exploring human and animal interactions at different farms, agricultural settings, and other unique animal encounters.

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?     Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.
I am hoping to become a large animal veterinarian someday and thought it would be beneficial to work on becoming more globally minded and globally engaged in animal agriculture worldwide. This trip allowed me to experience animals from a different cultural perspective. I learned so much about Irish animal industry and how important agriculture is to the country. I gained a better understanding off the workings of different livestock industries and learned about the current “hot topics” in Irish animal news. Becoming more aware of the similarities and differences between US and Irish human and animal interactions will help me to become a better agricultural stewardess, and hopefully a better veterinarian as well.

3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.
The interactions that left the biggest impressions on me were ones that involved talking with local farmers about their animals and their time in that sector of animal agriculture. The two farm visits that stick out most to me are the ones where we talked to a beef farmer and a sheep farmer. In my opinion, there is no better way to learn about an industry than from someone who is in it for a living. These farmers cared an awful lot for their stock, and it showed in every word they spoke to us. They taught us about industry specifics, animal husbandry, and animal welfare topics.
These visits were most valuable to me because I share similar experiences with local farmers around home. These people are full of knowledge and wisdom that you can’t get from a lecture or just a tour of a facility. They were incredibly willing to share those things with us and were completely transparent in doing so.
I hope to apply the animal-related things to my career as a veterinarian. I also hope to apply the cultural-related things I’ve learned (such as open-mindedness, acceptance, adventure, and awareness) to myself as a person in general, a student, and an agricultural stewardess.

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.
This experience has been very transformational and valuable to me. I chose this education abroad to expand my understanding of human and animal interactions, animal agriculture, and cultural awareness, and this trip exceeded all of those expectations. I feel like through this trip I have grown as a person, having experienced a different country and its culture for an extended period of time. I feel more culturally aware and I think that as a student, that is a good thing to be. This allows you to be more open-minded and to thing about things in a bigger scope. With the goal of becoming a large/food animal veterinarian, I thought this trip would be a great opportunity to experience agriculture from a different point of view. From this trip, I have a better understanding of beef, sheep, and swine industries from a different perspective. I hope to apply the things that I’ve learned to my future endeavors as a student, person in society, person in agriculture, and as a future veterinarian. Overall, this was a great trip and I got a lot of really great things out of it.

Human and Animal Interactions Study Abroad Program

Kady Davis

Type of Project: Education Abroad

On the Human and Animal Interactions study abroad trip to Ireland, activities included visiting a wide variety of livestock farms and tourist locations such as the Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle. The experience also gave me the opportunity to dive into Irish culture through traditional food, music, and dance.

Visiting Ireland allowed me to learn about the country in a hands-on way and also understand just how diverse the world is. I went into this trip with an open mind and knew it was going to be very impactful. While in country, we learned a lot about why agriculture is such an important piece of their culture and way of life. I was also able to learn about current agriculture legislation and research that Ireland is working on. Learning Irish culture during the trip allowed me to dive deep into the lives of those who live there. Through the ten days of various learning opportunities in Ireland, I now have a broader understanding of the world and a greater appreciation for global agriculture. Going into the trip, I was a little hesitant because of the large number of students that were traveling, but it turned out to be a great advantage. I was able to form great friendships during the trip that allowed me to come out of my comfort zone and grow as an individual. This trip has transformed me into a more globally conscious citizen and agriculturalist.

There were many things that lead to my growth as an individual and global citizen, but a few visits that come to mind first are the sheep and beef farms, Blarney Castle, and the traditional Irish group dinners. Visiting a sheep and beef farm allowed me to see global agriculture first-hand and be able to compare Irish production practices to those in the United States. It was interesting to learn how Ireland’s climate plays a role in their production management and the programs they have in place to help improve farm efficiency. The interactions with each of the farmers were great as they were able to share their experiences and what they do on a daily basis. They were very open to answering any and all questions about their operations and why they do things the way they do. On these farms, it was interesting to hear their welfare practices and the legislation in place surrounding welfare issues. These farm visits allowed me to understand the diversity of agriculture and learn the challenges associated with production.

At Blarney Castle, I was able to learn about Irish culture and history through a tour of the castle and gardens as well as kiss the Blarney Stone. Kissing the Blarney Stone is said to give the gift of eloquence, or gab, although I haven’t seen that effect on me yet. The castle’s stonework and unique design were remarkable to see. Touring the castle and reading what each room was used for was a really fun way to learn about historic castles and their uses. In the gift shop, I was able to find an information card that included my family’s Irish history and heritage which was a really cool addition to the experience. Blarney Castle gave me a great appreciation for historic Irish architecture and culture.

The dinners that we attended as a group were some of my favorite experiences. Most included some kind of Irish folklore, singing, dancing, and all included traditional Irish food. The study abroad program had an agriculture focus, but it was nice to have a well-rounded experience of the country during our short time there. I was able to try foods that I normally wouldn’t order off of the menu, such as lamb stew, and was able to learn and sing traditional songs with local Irishmen. The group was told stories about fairy trees and the significance they play for landowners in Ireland. During our last night in country, we were able to watch Irish dancers perform which was a great experience. These group dinners and performances allowed me to experience Irish culture in a fun way and will be something I’ll never forget.

This international experience is very valuable to my academic, personal, and professional goals. Although it allowed me to receive academic credit, the experiences were so much more important than a receiving credit for a three-credit hour course. Personally, I have become more globally aware of current issues and also have a deeper understanding of global agriculture. I have been able to grow individually through experiencing Irish culture and traveling with 45 other students. I was able to come out of my comfort zone to take full advantage of the experience. This international experience has given me a broader perspective that will serve useful in my professional career and future plans. No matter where my future plans take me, I will constantly reflect on my experiences through this study abroad and use for my betterment as well as the betterment of others.


Human & Animal Interactions in Ireland

Study Abroad

By: Kaci Way

For my STEP signature project, I chose to travel to Ireland on a Human and Animal Interactions study abroad trip. As an animal science major, this trip not only sparked my interests in the unfamiliar field of animal welfare, but also was valuable in terms of enabling me to receive credit towards my major. The trip consisted of traveling to six major cities/towns within Ireland, along with visiting production farms throughout the country.

Before going on this study abroad my view of the world was pretty slim as I have never traveled out of the country before. Traveling to Ireland opened up the opportunity for me to learn about and compare cultures as well as agricultural practices and regulation. I have no doubt that this experience has allowed my viewpoints of the United States and other countries to grow and within that, so have I as an individual. I have been transformed from the perspective that I have experienced history, culture and developed new friendships with people I never would have met without this study abroad.

I have developed a few relationships through this trip that never would have occurred if I were not in Ireland. For example, I met a contact while in Ireland at the Swine Research Center that they have at Teagsac. This would not have been possible without this trip and it may lead to potential internship and career opportunities. The friends that I have made on this trip are irreplaceable and I am so thankful I had their guidance and friendship while exploring this foreign country. I also met an amazing friend that was my roommate while I was there. I could not have found a better person to live with for ten days.

A few certain places that I visited that were important to my development as an individual while abroad include the swine research facility, Blarney Castle and the Cliffs of Moher. At the swine research facility, I was intrigued by learning practices in Ireland. Some of these things included not castrating pigs, harvest age, and enrichment, as these are practices that really are not used in the United States. Blarney Castle was very interesting and I have always wanted to visit an ancient castle. This one was from the 1300s and I was surprised to find that it was much smaller than movies make them out to be. Nevertheless, it surpassed my expectations and it is now something I can check off my bucket list. The Cliffs of Moher were also a sight that I have always wanted to see. The fact that there are things this beautiful in our world boggles my mind each time I experience it. Looking off the top of a cliff into the ocean allowed me to experience feelings of freedom and being blessed in ways that I cannot describe on paper. But it was something entirely irreplaceable, and I hope that I can see them again someday.

Interactions with Irish culture are the final part to this adventure of transformation. Visits to countless pubs with locals, and interacting with farmers on their farms or sanctuaries are things that I will never be able to experience again in that same space. One of my favorite interactions, though, was during our time at our night with a man where he told us Folklore & Fairies in his pub. Learning of these stories truly allowed me to experience a background in what Irish culture is based on and if lead me to understanding the “why” behind the way some things are done in their culture and throughout their history. For example, some roads were built around trees because they were expected to be fairy trees. This made me begin to think of why we do certain things in America the way we do them. Why are we taught to believe that some things are only able to be done one way or that it is the best way? This interaction has truly transformed me in the way that I am questioning more things that we do, the way we do them, and why we do them. I am thankful for this analytical ability that I have been given, because without it, how are we ever really going to change for the better as a people? I guess this is the way we start. By exploring. By questioning. And by observing.

Finally, this trip has been truly valuable to me as an individual. Not only was I able to explore human and animal interactions within Ireland, but also as a pre-req, I was able to experience Zoos, The Wilds, Dog Shelters, and many more places through a viewpoint and unique opportunities that I would not have otherwise been given as a normal citizen. I now have a better appreciation for animal welfare, and all that it stands for, and I will do my best as a producer to carry out welfare practices to the best of my ability. With way agriculture is going and where consumers are pushing it to go, animal welfare will be important to my future, and since, a lot of what we do in agriculture reflects the U.K. this trip is an important snapshot of what our future may look like.

Following this trip, I hope to continue traveling, with my new goal of visiting at least 6 of the 7 continents over my life time. Sites like castles, the Cliffs of Moher, and sight-seeing while traveling on a bus throughout Ireland have only inspired me even more to see more places throughout our amazing world. But I want to make one thing clear, I have no intention of seeing just the touristy, pretty places, no. I also want to travel abroad on service trips and see the dirty, needy places, in order to work towards helping people, hunger, and living conditions, especially since all of these things revolve around my future, which is agriculture. Ireland was just my first stop. I have every intention of making an impact and as of know, I hope to be doing this through research upon completion of graduate school. After which, I will be working, traveling, and paving my own path in this amazing world.

STEP Reporting Back – Jacob Mountain

Jacob Mountain

Education Abroad


For my STEP signature project, I studied abroad in Dijon, France. My time in Dijon was spent at the Université de Bourgogne in the Centre International d’Études Françaises. This program was focused on acquisition of the French language through intensive language building study which included: oral expression, oral comprehension, written expression, written comprehension, and grammar.

The most transformative aspect of my STEP experience was being fully immersed in French culture. I have studied the French language for seven years now and it has been one of the most important parts of my life throughout that entire period. I first fell in love with the language and the process of language acquisition as a freshmen in high school and it is something that I carry with me today as I am currently a Romance Studies major with focuses in French, Spanish and Italian. It was a dream come true to finally have the chance to live and integrate myself among the French in Dijon and finally see how accurate all the culture I have learned in class was; and it all was completely accurate. In particular, I would say my conception of the world is the thing that changed the most while I was there.

In the United States, we are rather isolated from the world at large. Sure, we have two neighbors to the north and south, but how often are Americans going to Canada and Mexico if they are from the midwest? Not that often. However, while I was in France, I was only a train away from a plethora of countries and I think that is something that gives one an incredible sense of perception. It showed me how interconnected everything truly is and the ways in which we need to preserve that unity. It showed me that there is nothing to fear when you meet someone in Dijon from Germany, England, Russia, or even South Korea. It showed me that there is more that unites everyone in the world than there are things that divide us and it is our job to enable those uniting features within our daily lives. More importantly I would say even more transformative was finding the career path I want to follow. Living outside of your home country and reading the news and getting perspectives from people outside your country helps you to greatly critique and find the flaws o your country and you are able to see how other countries avoid these things and the way you can help enact them in your country. A universal problem, I found, was the influx of migrants and refugees, more pronounced in Europe than in the United States. Although there are those in Europe who are anti-immigrant, the majority of them accept people without hesitation and that willingness opened my eyes to what I want to do: be a refugee and immigration lawyer. I think that this is something I would be able to do well and it would be my way of unifying people rather than sowing divide.

One of the key events of my experience abroad was getting to travel as much as I did. Specifically the place I traveled to that changed my global perception the most was Istanbul, Turkey. While abroad it is almost assumed that one will travel in some capacity out of their host country. Typically, people like to stay in western Europe, where it is deemed “safe”. Imagine the surprise in my mom’s voice when I told her I had bought a ticket to Istanbul. When I landed in Istanbul, I was actually in Asia. After trying to figure out the bus systems, eventually giving up and calling a cab, I made the hour long drive from the airport to the city center. Immediately I thought that I may have bitten off a bit more than I could chew. After managing through the hustle and bustle of Taksim Square, I made it to my airbnb and called it a night. The next day, fearful after the craziness of the night before, I felt a little uneasy. I sat myself down and told myself that if you don’t put yourself in situations that challenge you then you will never grow as a person, and with that I set off for the day. I was surprised to find that not only did the vast majority of the Turkish people speak English they were all overwhelmingly hospitable and extremely helpful in helping me navigate their enormous city. I met a man in the Grand Bazaar who told me he was a refugee from Syria and has been living in Istanbul for the last five years. He told me about how horrifying it was to be in Syria when the war began and how difficult life has been for him in Istanbul due to legal reasons. It was this conversation, on my very first solo trip, that changed my entire perception of the world. It struck me as frustrating that this man, only wanting to better the lives of his family and children, had to jump through so many hoops just for temporary residence in a country he did not know. I realized that I needed to use the opportunity ad privilege I have been given in my life to help those in situations like his. It was extremely unfair, in my opinion that I was always in the same place my entire life, with no threat of forced migration.

Another extremely transformative event that happened to me while in Dijon were the Yellow Vest protests that occurred throughout France. As an American, protesting isn’t something we tend to do with a lot of vigor and force. That is not the French way at all. Instead, when the French dislike something in their society they set out and actually change that which they don’t like. I found that even if they had different politics, the French were still able to come together and find common ground the better their society in a constructive, mostly peaceful way. It showed me that everyone has the power to change the world around them whether they believe it or not. If someone wants to change something, all they have to do is use their voice; you’re bound to find someone who will agree with what your trying to accomplish.

These two events really helped me to clear up alot of the issues I felt in my life regarding my future plans and my career options. It showed me also that there is a lot more to the world than what we see on TV and that for us to understand the world around us we need to see the world around us.

I would say that is why this was such a transformative experience. I learned that I am capable of whatever I put my mind to and that I can continue to learn new things every day. It showed me the value of the education I am receiving and how I can use that education to positively impact the world around me. It showed me the value of language learning and how knowing multiple languages gives you a lens through which you can understand the struggles of persons or of a country. The time I spent in France and the friendships I made there will remain with me for a lifetime. I am so appreciative that this trip was able to occur with assistance from the STEP program.

Human-Animal Interaction in Ireland

For my STEP Project I attended an educational abroad program in Ireland. The subject was Human-Animal Interactions, a program specifically in my major. While in country we visited farms, zoos, animal sanctuaries, and even the University of Dublin.

This was only my second time abroad, but each time I grow as a person. It is very humbling and eye-opening to experience another culture, especially in terms of the subject I am studying. I realize how much there is to learn every time. Animals are extremely important to humans, not just here, but around the world. A lot of the things I assume are the norm because that’s what I see to be true here in the U.S., are not the same elsewhere. Even in another developed country like Ireland. But most importantly I realized that as a world we need to learn from each other. Why keep making the same mistakes when we can move forward together.

There are so many small and large interactions and moments while abroad that impacted me. The very first one though is the first hour after we exited the plane in Dublin. In that time, we saw our first interactions of the Irish, met our bus driver, and started to see the city. There was just a feeling that we were in a different place. But what struck me most was the history. Right off the bat we were seeing buildings and hearing stories of things several hundreds of years older that the U.S. That same night we had our first “real” interactions with the locals. It was interesting, to say the least, how they interpreted Americans. It made me escape my bubble and realize how the rest of the world feels. It really started to turn the critical thinking wheels in my brain.


My next impactful experience had to be the first farm we visited, which was a sheep farm. As someone with an interest in animal agriculture, this was the first time I was able to compare what I know about raising livestock with what they do. There were some differences that I didn’t like, mainly because they have very strict regulations, but also things I did. Some of the ideas the farmers implemented or are doing going forward, are things I would love to take back to the United States. Meanwhile there are some things I would love for them to try that we do.


Looking back, it is very hard to give one experience a higher value than another. Every moment there was worth something to me. Every little experience gave me a broader aspect on the world. But mostly, it just left me with a desire to do more. To travel more, and to learn more. If I could change that much in one week in one country, imagine how I could be impacted if I went all over the world.

The main reason I went on this trip was for personal goals to see the world. But it truly is so much more. As a professional I will be better able to understand the world of animal sciences. Especially because it opened my eyes as to how the industry changes from country to country. I hope that someday I can work with international colleagues, to bring out knowledge of the agriculture industry and veterinary medicine together.

Cliffs of Moher

Fota Wildlife Park