STEP Signature Project – Reflection

Name: Melinda Dang

Type of Project: Education 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.

For my STEP Signature Project, I participated in the Public Health Perspectives: Finland and Estonia education abroad program that took place from May 18th to June 1st, 2018. I explored these two countries’ health initiatives, health challenges, education systems, unique cultures, and rich histories. By traveling to six cities within Finland and Estonia, visiting various museums, and going to cultural landmarks, I gained a more comprehensive understanding of both nations.

The class took a group photo in front of the Helsinki Cathedral. What a striking shot.

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.

Having never traveled internationally before, I was unfamiliar with Europe and especially Eastern Europe. Finland and Estonia are countries I have heard of, but lacked knowledge about. Visiting these two countries expanded my knowledge of their history and health outcomes. Throughout the experience, I was curious and attentive, and I journaled each day to help me reflect on the day’s activities and what I learned. I aimed to be like a sponge and absorb all the information and sights, sounds, and senses around me. I especially enjoyed the excursion to the Finnish Institute for Health & Welfare, where I gained insight into current research and health challenges in Finland. I observed school lunches in a Finnish university and high school, and in both countries, I noticed cigarette sales and eating practices. This all informed me on how Americans can improve our own health outcomes. We can use more reusable utensils, offer more fresh food in schools and elsewhere, and make our cities healthier by having wide sidewalks and bike paths so that people can increase their physical activity.

Students actually want to eat their lunches in Finland; healthy, fresh options are offered!

I tested my capabilities of traveling internationally and independently. I explored on my own a few times, including taking flights alone, which all the more enhanced my self-efficacy skills. By booking my own flight and perusing tourist brochures to plan what to do during my free time, I learned about preparing for travel. Flexibility was a skill I often employed, whether it was adjusting to the extended amount of daylight abroad or the different style of bathrooms in Europe. In addition, I became familiar with taking various forms of transportation: ferries, trams, trains, taxis, and buses, so now I feel more confident in traveling. I engaged in intercultural exchange with tour guides, students, and everyday people; we shared our life stories and found commonalities and contrasts. This allowed me to strengthen my networking and interpersonal skills. Because of my experiences abroad, I evaluate my life and the rest of the world in a different light, and through different lenses.

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 the project that led to this change.

Interacting with not only my peers but also the people I encountered in Finland and Estonia contributed to my transformation into a more globally-aware Buckeye. I realized the vast interconnectedness among humans and the extent of America’s cultural influence; I saw McDonald’s and Burger King restaurants as well as Deadpool 2, Solo, and Black Panther showings. At Keuruu High School in Finland, student artwork showed references to TV shows like Adventure Time and Spongebob. The students discussed aspects of their daily life with us, including movies, Netflix, and memes. They even prepared presentations for us about Finnish cuisine, holidays, values, and music. I am grateful that they openly welcomed us. I learned that they ride bikes or scooters to school; they do not lock up their bikes because nobody steals items. It is no wonder that Finland is ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in the world. These conversations were enriching because I got first-hand narratives from people.

Sometimes I was approached by store clerks who began speaking in Estonian, and I was bemused that they thought I would understand; I only knew “Thank you” and “Hello.” When I received a manicure from a woman who only spoke Estonian, we still communicated through hand gestures. I never found myself frustrated when communicating with people; I just remained open-minded and respectful. Having patience and composure regardless of where I am will get me far.

With my group, I participated in a myriad of events and activities. I developed relationships with my peers by exploring these unfamiliar areas together and sharing insights into health issues for our class assignments. We went into grocery stores to see how cigarettes were sold and we walked around towns to evaluate how walkable the cities were. We stayed a few days in cottages at a farm in rural Petajavesi, Finland, where we had an authentic sauna experience to better understand the significance of saunas in Finnish culture. We went to museums to learn about the history of Estonia and how people lived centuries ago. We also went to a science center, an U.S. Embassy, and three college campuses.

Another facet of my transformation was that I strengthened my responsibility and money management skills. With countless opportunities to shop, I exerted self-control and strategically bought souvenirs for close to 20 people, and I was still under budget at the end of the program. I was fully funded for my STEP Project because I fervently applied to multiple scholarships and received some assistance from friends and family. I learned of how much effort and planning goes into study abroad. The entirety of this STEP project was a learning experience for me, and I aim to study abroad in the future to continue learning more about the world.

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
Write 1-2 paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

The transformative experience of studying abroad is significant to me in multiple ways. First, it fulfilled a personal goal of mine to travel. I enjoy learning about cultures, and this opportunity allowed me to study different walks of life. Secondly, as a budding public health professional, this study abroad experience encouraged me to blossom even more. I learned about how both Finland and Estonia designed cities to be sustainable and more people-friendly. Traffic lights and signs work well and are clearly marked. In Estonia, speed limits are even painted on streets. Both countries have tighter regulations on cigarette packaging and more graphic, emotion-evoking warning labels than on America’s cigarettes. From my observations, it is clear to me that Finland and Estonia invest more into their communities and are more concerned for the welfare of their people.

Our in-country homework assignments allowed me to analyze issues at home and abroad and synthesize them into Instagram posts, which I created using graphic design tools. By posting my homework online, I am communicating this health information with the rest of my network and beyond. Furthermore, I see social media as an essential tool for reaching populations, spreading awareness about health, and influencing behavior change. In the future, I hope to include this aspect of health communication and social media marketing into my career. In addition, I want to work hands-on with communities to improve their health. With a strong understanding of what it is like to live in those communities, I can effectively influence change so that people have access to transportation, healthy food, and more.

*** I encourage you to read my two-part blog post on my main Honors & Scholars e-portfolio page, where I describe my travels in greater detail. The link to my page is:

Public Health Abroad: Finland and Estonia – Part 2

I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

Day 7 marked the halfway point of our study abroad program. In the morning, we took a bus to the Estonian Open Air Museum, designed to resemble a real-life rural village in the 18th century! This was one of my favorite parts of the program. This museum included 14 different farms to show aspects of village life. I saw cottages, a teepee, a giant windmill, a church, and more. One path lead to the seashore where my peers collected seaglass and waded their feet in the water. I really enjoyed this opportunity to be immersed in nature.

Cottages were primarily made of wood and hay, both of which are extremely flammable!

The group had a guided walking tour of Old Town; Joosep was a wonderful human encyclopedia as he showed us to spots we had not been to before. He taught us what the colors of the flag of Estonia meant: blue for the sky, black for the dark forests and the dark times Estonians have been through, and white for purity and hope for a brighter future.
2018 marks a special year of celebration for Estonians because this is the 100th anniversary of their independence as their own republic, free from endless rule by different countries.

The symbol represents 100 years AND 20(18). Great design.

I boarded a tram by myself to a nearby cat cafe. I have never been to any cat cafe before, and I wanted to see if cat breeds differed in Estonia. When I went to Nurri Cat Cafe, only five other people were present, with about 10 cats in the room. I did not see any unfamiliar breeds. My time at the cat cafe was very therapeutic for me. Although I did not get to pet the cats much, I enjoyed eating my pesto pasta and watching the cats interact with one another. I even witnessed the cats at dinner time (6 pm) and they each pounced their tiny paws over to their own bowls to feast.

Two cats were perched on top of the table where I was sitting. It takes a while for cats to get accustome to you and be comfortable with you approaching them to pet them.

Day 8 meant traveling to another city. We hopped on board a train from Tallinn to Tartu! Tartu has 99,000 people as of this year. This sleek train got us there in less than two hours; I napped the majority of the time. After setting down our belongings, we had a quick walking tour and lunch.

The Town Hall is a landmark of Tartu. Bells ring from the hall each day. The fountain of kissing students is in the lefthand corner of the photo; the fountain was erected in 1998.

We spent an hour at the KGB Cells Museum, which showcases the basement of a building that was used to house prisoners! Men and women alike were put together in a cell. Cell walls were so thick that no noise could be heard between rooms. Rooms lacked lighting and ventilation, and often had as much as 30 to 40 people within such a confined space and with just four beds!

For the rest of the day, I browsed around souvenir shops in Tartu. We were conveniently located right across from a University of Tartu building, and right by the town square. Tartu sidewalks are very wide and can fit three to four people in a row. After popping into a small bookstore, we went to the Botanical Gardens, which was founded in 1803. It is such a beautiful place and I would have liked to see the greenhouses but we were running out of time. Nevertheless, the grounds were great and the garden included a pond. We saw people taking photos for graduation and weddings here. For dinner, the class ate at Meat Market, which does not solely serve meat.

A classmate took a beautiful portrait photo of me in the gardens.

Gardens are a valuable part of any city. People need green space for not just oxygen but for stress relief.

Day 9 was a free day for everyone. Two friends and a program coordinator/graduate student accompanied me to the Upside Down House that was about 30-45 minutes away on foot. We crossed the river and went into the outskirts of the city of Tartu. The house was built upside down AND on a slant, so it was disorienting and dizzying. The house included a sauna and that was neat!

This house stood out from its surroundings in remote Tartu. There was an abandoned aircraft hangar in proximity, and also a designated walking path among some trees. Buses do run along the street but not frequently.


This photo can confuse people at first glance! There are actually some Upside Down Houses around the world, such as Germany and America. (I had no idea they existed in my own country!)

Nearby was the Estonian National Museum, which is a tremendous facility where we spent a few hours looking at artifacts related to Estonian life. We paid 10 euros as a student discount and could access the entire building. We received cards encrypted with a technology that allowed us to swipe the card over a screen connected to an exhibit/piece. The screen would then automatically translate to English. This is so innovative and I hope that museums elsewhere in the world could incorporate this! I enjoyed viewing prehistoric and Metal Age tools. Estonia has been inhabited by people for the last 11,000 years! My favorite exhibit hall was the one featuring Uralic people, a people I had no knowledge about beforehand! They lived between Scandinavia and the Ural Mountains, so were primarily in the forests. They carved symbols into trees and their tales often involve bears and other woodland creatures. The exhibit showcased a people and facets of their lifestyle, but this was just one small sliver of Ugric studies. Also in the museum was an exhibit about 19th century clothing. Women’s clothing was preserved more because not only were they more beautiful and colorful than men’s clothing, but they also reflected diversity among different regions of Estonia. I learned about the usage of headpieces and necklaces. I am glad to have visited this museum! The facility was marvelous.

After our fun free day in Tartu, I worked on a homework assignment that addresses how walkable the city of Tartu is. Now that I have been to the more touristy areas of Tartu and the more remote parts, I was able to come up with a convincing argument for how well-designed the city is so that people can enjoy it whether they walk or use a wheelchair. Sidewalks have ample space and curbs/ramps have good inclines. When you get to the less-inhabited parts of town, some sidewalks are harder to tread on, but it still is pedestrian-friendly. After returning to the hotel, I got dinner and dessert with other friends and then about half of the class played games in one of our rooms.

(Please see my assignment on the walkability audit of Tartu here:

I was also able to complete another homework assignment comparing cigarette sales in America, Finland, and Estonia. Throughout the program, we were expected to observe how cigarettes were sold (where and for how much money) and what the packaging looked like, including what information or graphics were put on the warning labels.
(Please see my work here:

For Day 10, the class visited the Ahhaa Science Centre, which reminds me of COSI in Columbus! I love science centers and this one has four floors! The ground floor had a LEGO town of Tartu and exhibits related to water. It included tech spaces, a play area with giant building blocks, music/acoustic space, and tanks with real fish in them. In a dark room were lifelike animatronic aquatic creatures such as dinosaurs with fins and a whale shark. There are some steps leading up to a balcony that had ant farms and an incubator for chicks! This was the highlight of the science center for me. I love baby chickens. The chicks were either a day old or two days old, and some eggs were close to hatching!

FUN FACTS: Jellyfish have existed even before dinosaurs roamed the planet. A group of jellyfish is called a bloom.

FUN FACTS: Whale sharks are the largest fish. They are giant but gentle and eat plankton and small fish. Their skeletons are made of cartilage, not bone. Female whale sharks are actually larger in size than male sharks.

On the second floor of the science museum were glass jars containing human and animal body parts and embryos so visitors could learn about anatomy but also body anomalies. For example, there was a goat skull with four horns. The third floor had interactive activities testing health, from grip strength to memory to balance to processing speed. (I performed poorly on all of these, and despite appearing healthy, I have to make dramatic changes to my lifestyle and actually exercise in order to be fit).

When our group returned to our hotel, we met with another tour guide who took us around the University of Tartu. The different buildings are within walking distance; sometimes it seemed like a hike. She also led us to cathedral ruins. One interesting part of our tour was going into an attic of the main building of the university; this attic served as a lock-up for students who misbehaved and did not conform to student conduct. Students could be sent to this room for cheating or for disrespecting a woman on the street. Punishment could mean just a few days in the lock-up to a month! There was no supervision for the lock-ups, but students were still expected to serve their sentences and actually be in that space.

The attic can become humid and balmy in the summers but leave people trembling in the winters.

After our tour, we had another group dinner in a restaurant that looks like a wine cellar.

On Day 11, we traveled to Parnu, an even smaller city with 40,000 people. It is a summer resort town so it is more heavily populated during that season than others. It is located by the water so people frequent the beach. The water is shallow for an extended distance before it gets deep. Our hotel was a resort & spa in one, and we were able to use the sauna, pools, gym, and spa. I did not take advantage of these amenities but I did go outside to the beach to dip my toes in the water and step in the soft sand.

Our other completely free day was Day 12. I went to the mall by myself, and the trek was not scary as one might perceive. Parnu is tiny and quiet, and I do stick out as a foreigner among the mostly blond(e) Estonians, but I was safe. The walk from the hotel to the mall was about 20 minutes, and it was pleasant. The mall was actually a complex made up of about three tall buildings. One building had a grocery store and a few beauty stores. Another building had most of the clothing stores and restaurants. After making a few purchases, I headed back to the hotel and stopped at a woman’s home business, where she operated a beauty & hair salon. She offered manicures, pedicures, and hair styling. After getting a manicure, I had lunch at an eco-gourmet cafe with some friends.

On Day 13 (May 31), we had a short visit to the University of Tartu-Parnu to learn about their Spa & Wellness management program. The program director and a graduate student explained that the program is offered at a master’s level and it encompasses not just spa design, but also financial accounting, visual communication, and even the history of wellness.

The two-year program offers not only a strong theoretical foundation for students, but also opportunities to put the skills and knowledge into practice!

After the informative presentation, the group packed up and took a charter bus to Tallinn. From there, we boarded the ferry to return to Helsinki. Once we were all checked into our hotel, the program officially ended. Students were free to go back to the United States after the experience, or continue to explore Europe. Some of my peers stayed in Europe and traveled to multiple countries such as Germany, the Czech Republic, and England. My intention was to go straight home, but I had a stop in Iceland on my way to Cleveland. That 50-minute stop transformed into a 48-hour detainment in that country, but thankfully I finally made it home to America! What matters is that I am home safe and sound.

Our group had reserved seats that gave us up-close views of the Gulf of Finland!

I appreciate this opportunity of a lifetime because of the myriad of experiences and memories. I also am more well-informed about Finland and Estonia and am better prepared for future international travel. To my surprise, I was independently exploring and still survived.

I would like to thank the Office of International Affairs for executing this program, for providing me with a few scholarships, and for assisting me when I was temporarily stranded in Iceland for two days. I am glad that OIA has emergency hotline in place for students who find themselves in difficult situations. Thank you to @osuglobal for liking my photos and featuring one of our class photos on the Instagram page!

Thank you so much to Dr. Wallace and Amanda Jovanovich for coordinating the program’s activities and guiding us throughout Finland and Estonia. It was a wonderful class that had structure but still plenty of free time for us to explore. Thanks for showing us a part of the world that many people do not visit.

Thank you to the Office of Diversity & Inclusion for your scholarships and support for my study abroad. Thank you to my family and friends for your never-ending support as I navigated this adventure with equal amounts of trepidation and excitement.

Thank you to Finland and Estonia, for everything you have to offer to the world. Thank you to Iceland for also being a wonderful country. Everyone I met was friendly and willing to help.

If it were not for STEP and for the three other scholarships I received, in addition to some grants and gifts from loved ones, going abroad would not have been a possibility for me. I would not have fathomed the idea. I am forever grateful for this chance to take part in the Public Health Perspectives: Finland and Estonia program. I truly hope that other first-generation college students and first-time travelers such as me will have opportunities to study abroad as well. The Ohio State University’s education abroad office offers ample resources for interested students, so take the leap and venture into the unknown.

Go Bucks!

P.S. To see hundreds of photos taken along the journey, my comprehensive PowerPoint will suffice! It may take a while for it to load, and this could mean refreshing your page to view the entirety of it. It runs close to 300 slides!

P.P.S. Here are some photos of my stop in Iceland:
While I was there by myself for two nights and a day, I was not able to do much to lack of funds. I walked around to the seashore by my hotel and was captivated by the water. I saw some species of birds frolicking around. The Elder duck is common in the area. Although I wanted to step down and get closer to the water, I was wearing flats and also did not want to slip on a wet rock and get injured. I even saw a bright mustard-orange lighthouse that was used before and is now sitting stoically overlooking the horizons.

This was the plane I boarded from Helsinki Vantaa Airport to Reykyavik Keflavik Airport.


From my hotel room window, I saw a gorgeous sunset and could see edges of the water that surrounds the island of Iceland. Also, the country gets so much sunlight that the sun does not set until close to midnight.

This location was breathtaking and I am eager to return to Iceland.

Public Health Abroad: Finland and Estonia – Part 1

And then I realized adventure was the best way to learn.

For my first time traveling abroad, I participated in The Ohio State University’s College of Public Health’s Public Health Perspectives in Finland and Estonia! This education abroad program counted as my STEP project, which is a transformational experience done after my sophomore year of college. I explored the two countries of Finland and Estonia with the College of Public Health! In both places, I studied public health initiatives as well as the education systems and cultures. It was an informative ‘education vacation.’ I applied to the program in January and was informed of my acceptance a week later. Fifteen students participated in this year’s program, and we met twice during the school year in orientation sessions to prepare ourselves for travel.

Prior to travel, we also attended a week-long on-campus course called PUBHLTH 3189.04, which counts for three credits, and is graded A-F. This course was from May 9th to the 15th and provided us in-depth information about Finland and Estonia, from the history and cultures to the health challenges these countries have dealt with. I enjoyed this course because not only was I able to get to know my peers better, but I also gained considerable background knowledge before stepping foot into Europe for our field experiences. The class involved individual presentations as well as group presentations. We had an actual exam that was completely essay-format, so that we were not tested on memorization but on analysis and critical thinking. Right after our exam, I hurried to pack up my belongings and a classmate drove me home to Cleveland on her way back to Boston. I am touched by how I barely knew this classmate yet she offered a ride home (her route home involved passing through Cleveland, so it was not a trouble to her at all).

Just from what I witnessed in the class alone, I could tell that my peers are incredibly bright and passionate about health. Not all of us are public health majors; some are biology, biochemistry, and biomedical science. One is a data and analytical science major. The class is divided into two parts: the on-campus class (65% of our grade) and our in-country travels (35% of the grade). For Part 2, we need to pay attention on our field trips and create 10 Instagram posts in addition to completing five Instagram assignments.

During the couple of days back at home, I prepared for the trip. I packed one suitcase and stuffed my backpack until it puffed out to maximum capacity. On May 18th, 2018, my parents drove me to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. We went at 5 pm, after I scarfed down Chipotle, my last meal in America for a while. After baggage check, I exchanged $300 US dollars for euros, and this came to about 219 euros, I believe. The coins and paper money were shiny and colorful. My parents hugged me and left, and I proceeded through the security check. I was seated by my gate almost two hours early, so I began journaling. When I boarded, I did my best to sleep on the plane. There was a stop in Iceland, when I ran into another classmate who’s in the program with me. Then I was on my way to Helsinki! We arrived in Helsinki, Finland, at 1:50 pm. Everyone else except for one person had already made it to the city and were out exploring. After checking in, we took a bus into the actual city to look around as well.

Helsinki Cathedral was opened to the public in 1852 and is an evangelical Lutheran church! The public can walk around inside the lovely church, which is actually painted shades of gray, not white.

This square has so much space for pedestrians. It’s common for tour buses to line up all around the perimeter.

The sidewalks in Helsinki are much wider than American sidewalks, and there are also designated bike paths next to sidewalks. The bike paths are colored brick red. I also noticed a plethora of cultural restaurants such as Nepalese, Indian, Lebanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese restaurants. My friends and I explored the town square of Helsinki, including a cathedral and an outdoor marketplace, and then Stockmann mall. We took a train back to the airport, and I admire Helsinki’s train system. The train was very clean, modern, and efficient. Helsinki is the capital of Finland and it was indeed bustling, as I expected; the population is about 600,000.

The train system in Helsinki is well organized, just like the rest of their transportation.

After spending one night in Helsinki, our group went to Petajavesi for a few days and nights. Some of us played a Finnish card game called Musta Maija on the 2.5 hour bus ride to this rural municipality, which has a population of almost 4,000. We were in Central Finland. We stayed at Kumpunen Family Organic Farm, and it was very tranquil and beautiful there. The class was split up into different cottages and cabins on the farm. It was an experience unlike any other.

I especially liked the warm orange-red buildings on the farm. The building on the far right is called the barn and it was where we ate breakfast and dinner.

Here in Petajavesi it is mostly forest (Finland overall is covered by forests). We were by a lake and could swim and row boats in it. We also had access to a sauna; in Finland, saunas are ubiquitous and are part of people’s lifestyles. Finnish saunas are hotter than American saunas and people usually spend one to two hours in there. People can make it steamier and hotter by adding water onto the coals. People can warm up in this small house and then run into the cool lake, then repeat this. It is said to be good for the immune system and perhaps the metabolism too. I only lasted five to ten minutes in the sauna. I wore a tank top and leggings though, so that could be why I did not stay in the sauna for that long.


The food served at the farm is so fresh and healthy. I was eager to try Finnish food, and it was all buffet-style. Dinner included salad, pickles, onions, mashed potatoes, reindeer and elk meat, fish, breads and spread (always provided with each meal), and dessert. Dessert was rhubarb and potato powder topped with whipped cream. It was a fuchsia pink liquid and it was sweet but not overbearing. I tasted the beer and I still do not like any liquor or alcohol. I just like juices; the juices at the farm tasted great. For breakfast, the farm served us yogurt, oatmeal, berries, eggs, ham, cucumber, bread, apples, and bananas.

The farm staff members were all kind and encouraged us to eat up!

Just 15 minutes from the farm is a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Petajavesi Old Church! It was built from 1763 to 1765. This magnificent structure is gorgeous and we had a guide tell us about its history and its current usage for holiday services and tours. I am amazed at how well-preserved it is despite it being made out of wood!

On day three, we went to Jyvaskyla for the day. It is just 30 minutes from Petajavesi and holds about 140,000 people. The group walked up a hill to the University of Jyvaskyla. We had free time to explore the campus grounds and later we all had lunch together in their student union. The campus is walkable and includes trees. Part of it was like a mini-forest on the school grounds! There were some hills and stairs outside. The lunch here is very affordable and also buffet-style, and the cafeteria area was bright white with lots of natural sunlight filtering in from the windows.

Tuition at the university is affordable, even for international students!

Nine of the 15 students followed one of the program coordinators, Amanda, to the free observatory tower that looks over the city of Jyvaskyla! From our view, we could see over the red-roofed homes and see the interconnected lakes.

I never found out why some houses have extremely tall ladders extending from the roof to the ground. This could be for fire safety.

Back in Petajavesi, the group changed into nicer attire to eat dinner at Pappilan Pidot with students from Keuruu High School. The school is in Keuruu, which is also about a half-hour bus ride from Petajavesi. The restaurant was fancy and we had a wonderful, filling meal there. I especially liked the pork, potatoes and carrots. The students were eager as well as anxious to meet us, and vice versa. My two friends and I sat at a table with three young women. They were great to talk with, and I learned about their high school experiences as well as their own personal hobbies. We discussed how they see America and what they do for fun. I learned that 18 is the legal driving age in Finland, that the students have three years of high school (Class 1, 2, and 3), and that students begin learning English in the third grade. Finns are also instructed in Swedish. Being multilingual is such an important skill in an increasingly interconnected world. I believe that American students need to begin language instruction at earlier ages so that they can better retain not just the actual language itself, but to also instill more self-discipline and respect for different cultures.

A handdrawn map of Keuruu was blown up.

The morning of Day 4, the Buckeyes traveled to the town of Keuruu, which has about 10,000 Finns, and is very quiet and walkable. We met with the 15 Keuruu High School students who volunteered to have us shadow them. They were able to miss class in order to show us around. The school is clean and neat and comprises three floors; it includes a gymnasium and auditorium. High school students have metal racks they can use to hang their jackets and place their motorcycle helmets. Motorcycles/scooters are more prevalent here, and I was surprised to see teens use them, but they are allowed to drive these at an earlier age than driving cars. Outside were plenty of bike racks; nobody needs to lock bikes up since there is no threat of thefts.

We had lunch in their school cafeteria. They use trays, cups, and metal utensils which can all be washed and reused. The only items in the lunch room that are discarded are the napkins. The fact that Finnish schools are more environmental conscious than American counterparts does not surprise me. The school offers plenty of food options: lettuce, shredded carrots, steamed potatoes, meat sauce/gravy, fish balls, and bread and spread. The cafeteria always provides milk and water, both of which are dispensed by simply putting a cup underneath a spout and sometimes pressing a button.

Eating and conversing further with the students provided me with additional insight into the lives of Finnish youth and people. Another fact that stood out to me was that the students must decide on a major before applying to university; there is no option for those who are undecided! The students also have a wide array of subjects to study in high school, and are required to take some classes such as philosophy, psychology, English, math, and chemistry.

(See this PowerPoint for my assignment comparing American high school lunches overall and Keuruu High School lunches:

According to the students, the school day can start at different times for them. It could be 8, 9, or 10 am, depending on the student’s schedule, and school ends around three p.m. There are two lunch periods. Nextdoor to KHS is an elementary school; KHS actually contains grades 7 through 12, with a student body of about 200.

The Buckeyes were split up into groups and we rotated to different classrooms for different student-facilitated sessions on Finnish popular music, cuisine, holidays, and more. While walking through the hallways, I found it interesting that none of the classroom doors had windows. However, hung on the walls were student artwork, which were all impressive; some drawings were of Sponge Bob, Princess Belle, and Gunther the Penguin. This demonstrates the influence of American pop culture.


Overall the visit with the Keuruu High School students was a great intercultural exchange. Then we were on our way to Helsinki again; our bus ride was about three hours long. After we arrived, we had the rest of the night free, so some friends and I explored the city. We tried Finnish fast food chain Hesburger for the first time. To me, it tastes better and healthier than McDonald’s. My meal consisted of a cheeseburger, fries, and Coca-Cola. We walked around Helsinki and I fell even more in love with the architecture.


The morning of Day 5, we visited the Finnish National Institute for Health & Welfare (THL). This is like the Finnish version of the United States’ CDC, as this facility has a strong focus on research and provides communities with education and resources. We listened attentively to three presentations from researchers at the center. One was a Ph.D. student who was to defend her dissertation a week from our visit! These presentations provided me with much insight into the health challenges Finland faced in the past, and what they are currently trying to tackle. Some issues discussed were the rise in obesity and depression rates, and the fact that blood pressure levels are still not within target levels.

The class took a group photo in front of the Cathedral. What a striking shot.

We boarded a ferry from Helsinki, Finland to Tallinn, Estonia. The ferry ride took about two and a half hours as we sailed through the Gulf of Finland. This was my first time on a ferry! After our buffet dinner, two friends and I explored the ship. The ship has a gift shop; a shop with brand-name handbags, perfumes, and sunglasses; some restaurants and bars; and casino-like games. The sundeck was available for people to go on top of, but it was very windy and colder than I imagined it would be.

Tallinn is another beautiful city, and you can see evidence from history and medieval times all over the town. With 450,000 inhabitants, it is of moderate size. That night, everyone explored the Old Town area, which has roots from hundreds of years ago. Stepping lightly on the cobblestone streets, we hiked up to two lookout points to catch glimpses of the rest of Tallinn. The sights were simply unbelievable.

For day 6, we spent more time in Old Town. My friends and I went into an old pharmacy museum to see what an apothecary shop was like. I learned about medicinal practices from centuries ago: health professionals used dried up toads, hedgehogs, and bats for some treatments, in addition to using herbs. Apothecaries placed glass jugs filled with liquids to represent what specialties they addressed in their care. This shop displayed jugs with red liquid and blue liquid, which stood for blood and phlegm in accordance with Hippocrates’ humors theory.

Our group had a special visit to the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia. We spoke with two generalists and one specialist; these three folks were Americans like us and were happy to discuss their experiences with foreign service. It helped me clarify what embassies do and what the process is like for becoming involved.

Afterwards, we went to Hotel Viru for their KGB museum. Our tour guide explained to us what it was like under Soviet rule; in that hotel, the KGB spies set up secret microphones and cameras in certain rooms and areas. It was very eye-opening and we went into a room that was once the office for KGB officers. The door to that room had said “There is nothing to see here” and hotel guests apparently obeyed this saying. This tour gave me insight into history and I realized that this happened not too long ago. The tour guide told us that Estonians do not like talking about the KGB or remembering what else happened during Soviet rule.

The uniforms were left behind in the office when the KGB dismantled their headquarters literally overnight. The office was set up to recreate what it would have looked like leading up to 1971.

For dinner, we ate at MEKK, a classy restaurant serving modern Estonian cuisine. I finished clean every plate for all three courses! It was a very delicious meal. I am impressed by the quality of food we have been eating here. I never eat at such high-class settings in America, and abroad we have plenty of group dinners at fine establishments.

To be Continued in blog post Part II

Tips on How to Prepare for Travel

My carry-on was my backpack. The contents of the carry-on should include passport, emergency cards, insurance cards, cash, debit and credit cards, accommodation information, contact details of fellow students, any prescriptions you have, a change of clothing, and cell phone and chargers. I had one checked bag, which was my suitcase. Be aware of weight restrictions. See packing guidelines from OIA and also adhere to the rules and regulations set by specific airlines and by the TSA.

Helpful hints in terms of safety are to connect to secure sources of WiFi. Do not connect to free WiFi if you do not trust the source. Do not post your location haphazardly because someone could be following you as you travel around. They could catch up to you and do something. Post your photos at the end of the trip, once you return home.
Carry money wisely. Keep your wallet and passport on you at all times. Have emergency numbers written down too in case your phone dies. Use the buddy system and try not to go alone anywhere. Always be aware of your surroundings. Do not have your eyes fixated on your device. Wear comfortable shoes.

Going abroad for the first time was a worry of mine ever since I was accepted into the program. I felt unprepared and nervous that something would go wrong. Indeed, mistakes and mishaps occurred, but they were all learning experiences. They also make for interesting conversations with my loved ones now that I have returned home. Please do not hesitate to talk with peers and OIA staff about your feelings. They can help ease your tensions and fears.

My Experience at Equitas Health – April 2018

April 2nd –

  • Today, I was able to stay on campus instead of commuting to the Clintonville location of Equitas Health. As part of National Public Health Week (an entire week dedicated to my beloved major and field), the hotline did outreach! From morning to mid-afternoon, we had our own table; different Equitas Health departments each had their own tables. Our table in particular had an easy guessing game. We had two containers filled with condoms; people had to guess how many condoms were in the container and they could choose to guess one or both. We provided hints for each container. The larger box had 750 and the smaller one had 300. Only a few people had close-enough answers! We handed out prizes to those who came close to the actual amounts.
  • There were hundreds of students who passed by us; we were stationed not too far from Thompson. Some people did avoid us but that was fine. We provided condoms and other free items to people. I appreciated the students and community members who participated in the different activities we offered!

    I continue to put myself outside of my comfort zone and interact with people in person. It is a skill I am continuously improving. I enjoyed helping out for NPHW 2018 at OSU!

    Public health is everywhere!

April 9th –

  • Snapengage, Adam4Adam, and Canva – this is the trifecta that I open up on my laptop when I get seated at the office.
  • I made several Canva posts for upcoming holidays. One that was actually used was for Equal Pay Day.

    Equal work deserves equal pay, but sadly this is not the case, especially not in America! This post aims to raise awareness at wage gaps not just for women, but for certain subgroups.

  • With the warmer weather approaching, I wanted to ensure that people knew how to properly store condoms!

    Proper storage of condoms is key! Otherwise, condoms will be wasted.

April 16th –

  • Today was a busy day for Snapengage. I had chats to answer from people from China, New York, London, Greece, Ireland, and India, in addition to just America! It is interesting to encounter visitors to the hotline from around the world. Even though we are based in Ohio, we serve anyone who comes across our site and want to know more about sexual health.
  • I posted on social media about Orchid Day and how I related it to vaginal health and pH.

    Vaginas are not supposed to smell like flowers; it’s not natural. This idea can be harmful to people with vaginas because it is an unrealistic expectation.


  • I did the usual protocol of answering online messages.
  • I worked on future Canva posts, and this is one of my favorite parts of working at the hotline.

    An astounding 1 billion people worldwide (that’s about 1 in 7 people) get involved in some capacity for Earth Day. We only have one home, so we all should take better care of it.

    Showers should be around five minutes or less. The average length of showers is eight minutes, which is approximately the length of two songs. I enjoyed finding out what can be sustainable as people engage in pleasure.

April 23rd –

  • In the morning, I answered several messages and continued to work on Canva posts!
  • I can even schedule posts ahead of time on Facebook, which is a handy feature for anyone with a page.
  • Sexting can be safe, but people must take precautions and think smart!


  • This post was made for Sexual Assault Awareness Prevention Month. I wanted people to remember these resources in case sexual assault occurs, to them or someone else they know. It is actually a common issue and must be addressed.


April 30th –

  • I expected this to be my last day at the hotline for a while, but found out that I can return for just a few hours in May to continue to help out!
  • Besides online outreach, I again worked on Canva.
  • On this day, I wanted to mention testicular health. This is an aspect of men’s health and although it can be uncomfortable to talk about (how does one have a conversation about testicles?), it is necessary! All ages of men should get involved and take care of themselves down there. Experts suggest doing a self exam after a shower or bath because that is when the testes are relaxed!

    This is another favorite post of mine! I love bubble tea and I love educating others.

  • I ended my shift by looking up future holidays for May and brainstorming what I could possibly do to promote sexual health even more.
  • This month has been eventful and really fruitful for me in terms of what I produced and contributed to the hotline! Volunteering has provided me with insight into what I can do in the future for my public health career.

My Experience at Equitas Health – March 2018

March 5th –

  • I logged into Adam4Adam and answered messages throughout the day; I log inquiries on data sheets. As I interact with people, I learn more about sexual health myself because I must dig deeper into research to find the answers to their questions. I have learned more about how to find PrEP and finance it; copays can get expensive, but there is assistance to reduce costs!
  • There were more Canva posts to be made for the rest of the month! I made a post for International Women’s Day, National Napping Day, as well as one for National Jewel Day.
  • Our Facebook caption said: “We will be dedicating all of our posts today to women who are changing the standards of beauty, sexuality, gender roles, etc.
    We want our followers to participate with us today in recognizing today’s brilliant, powHERful, women! Send us a message including a picture of a woman you admire and a quote that has really empowered you in your fight for gender equality and we’ll share it on our social media pages. “

  • This is one of my favorite Canva creations. I am ecstatic to challenge my creativity in connecting holidays to sexual health concepts.

  • People are like jewels. We are precious and it takes time for us to develop and fully form. We at the hotline wanted to highlight mental health and how that cannot be neglected. We connect hotline visitors to resources if they are experiencing a crisis or are just feeling down. We care about the overall health of people.


  • Another post I enjoyed making was about National Puppy Day.

    Older and elderly people have sex too; I wanted the hotline to have some inclusive posts about this group! We serve all ages, from teenage to older age.

  • The hotline does Myth Mondays, and I created this one.
    Toilets are often seen as harbors for harmful germs, but contrary to popular belief, they aren’t common places for contracting STIs. If you have any questions, dirty or clean, give us a call at 800.332.2437! #myth #monday #mythmonday #lgbtq #hiv #education #knowthefacts


  • I tallied up data for calls versus chats for the hotline; for February, we had 67 online chats and 41 calls.
  • Since it was the first Monday of the month, we packed condoms and enjoyed pizza.

March 19th –

  • After I returned to Columbus from my eventful and enlightening spring break, I was back at the hotline to continue doing meaningful work! I did Snapengage and worked on Canva posts. I opened Adam4Adam.
  • I assembled condom packs; since we operate the Free Condom Project, this is an essential part of what we do. Without volunteers and work-study students, the project would not be successful! I finished the mini condom packs, which contained two condoms, a tiny tube of lubricant, and a hotline business card.
  • I also researched tech apps related to sexual health. The hotline does Tech Tuesdays, usually twice a month, highlighting online apps or websites the public can use!

March 26th –

  • I opened up the websites needed for the day, and then worked on determining what Canva posts could be made for April.
  • I found out that provides lists of LGBTQ friendly providers! This is a helpful resource to direct people to. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association Healthcare Provider Directory (GLMA Provider Directory) are free resources too.

This month, I was proud that I developed a stronger skill for answering messages and creating social media posts! Each day is a learning experience, and I am growing as a future professional in the field of health education & promotion.

My Experience at Equitas Health – February 2018

February 5th, 2018 – Third Day of Volunteering

  • I logged onto Snapengage to be available to chat with any visitor to our hotline.
  • I opened up the site Adam4adam to answer messages from people and to do more outreach work.
  • From noon to five p.m., we had a condom packing party, so we packed plastic bags with condoms and our business cards while we ate pizza and watched movies.
  • I created Canva social media posts for future holidays. For example, I created a post for National Nutella Day. This graphic was posted to our Facebook.

    It is estimated that 9,000 jars of Nutella are sold per hour. It is also estimated that there are over 22,000 new STI infections per hour in the US each year.
    Spread love! Get tested regularly, talk to your partners, and use protection!
    For more information on HIV/STI transmission give the hotline a call at 800.332.2437, chat with online at or send us a text at 614.859.6448

February 12th, 2018

  • The first task is always opening Snapengage to chat with people.
  • I opened Adam4adam next to click through profiles and to answer messages.
  • I worked on finding national holidays for each month, so that we can create social media posts related to these holidays and find ways to connect sexual health to that day. I found holidays for February through December 2018 for us to use.
  • I created a post for National Freedom to Marry Day, which was established by Lambda Legal, a gay rights advocacy law firm to end sex discrimination in marriage. Marriage should be a personal decision between those in love.

    The holiday was founded in 1999!

  • I answered more messages on our various platforms and gained more experience answering various types of questions and comments. Some wanted to learn about better protection/prevention, whereas others simply message us to thank us for our service, which I appreciate very much!

February 27th, 2018

  • I worked from home and spent a few hours on Adam4adam answering messages and clicking through profiles. Additionally, I made two Canva posts. I had chats open but there were no visitors.


Civil Rights, Citizenship & Southern Legacies – Spring Break 2018

Sometimes people completely relax and let loose for their spring breaks. For mine, I took an “education vacation,” as one of my friends Debbie calls it.

Seven months’ worth of planning led to MUNDO’s spring break 2018 experience! This was my first time partaking in extensively planning a trip. Our action team had a great deal of autonomy over the itinerary and creating an agenda that answered our big questions of the year and addressed major themes and issues. Julius and our other staff mentors guided us! For most of us, this was our first time being on an Action Team too, except for Danny, our current President. We had a few mandatory events to attend before people could go on this trip.

A promotional poster for the experience, made by me


A reminder flyer for people to apply

In total, 22 students participated in the experience, four of whom were part of the ACTION Team (Melinda, Celine, Danny, Nick) and along came three staff mentors (Julius, Ana, and Alex), for a total of 25 people in our group. One person on the ACTION team could not attend the experience.

MUNDO explored three of the most dynamic cities in the Southern region of the United States in order to take a powerful look at just how far the United States has come in terms of race relations, Civil Rights, and social justice in this part of the country.

We encouraged students to think about the following questions:
● Do boycotts work? (Are they freedom of speech?)
● What do we do when people refuse to admit that they are wrong?
● What is freedom?
● What is automatic citizenship?

Julius also provided an Insider’s Guide packet about the experience and what to expect. He wrote that in the South, conversations may be more in-depth than just “How are you?” Activities begin and end at flexible times, as things appear to be less structured in the South. People don’t have urgent needs to be somewhere. He also wrote that there may be an emphasis on saying hello, good morning, and good evening to people who we pass by on the street.

Saturday, March 10th, 2018 – “Orientation”

“There is no such force in the world as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained.” – W.E.B. DuBois

I stayed up the entire day and night until the spring break experience participants boarded the Cardinal bus at 3:15 AM. Coincidentally, Buck-i-Serv was at the same stop as us and we waited together. A few of our participants actually initially boarded the wrong bus (the Buck-i-Serv bus!).  By 4 AM, we were all on the road! Around 11 AM, we stopped in Jackson, TN for food. I already noticed a difference in the types of trees that dotted the lengths of the highways.

1:30 PM – MUNDO arrived at our hotel in Memphis and we unpacked. We all took a short respite. People were sleeping three to a room, which was comfortable; one person had to sleep on the pull-out bed from the couch.

3 PM – 4:30 PM – Walking and Bus Tour with Sweet Magnolia Tours
We first boarded the bus and our tour guide, Dick, provided us some facts and background on Memphis. We went to Big River Crossing, where we viewed the river and saw the intersection of Tennessee and Alabama!
A pastel blue truck, a tad smaller than the size of an ice cream truck, was parked in the lot where our bus was. I was extremely compelled to purchase a Mempop, a popsicle full of flavor; mine was mint lemonade, which was tasty. In hindsight, I would have chosen pineapple coconut or another flavor. Mempops are local, hand crafted, all natural pops (

4:30 PM – We strolled into the Peabody Hotel and made our way to the second level. A popular tourist attraction are the Peabody Ducks; five North American mallards arrive and leave the hotel fountain, a grand procession complete with red carpet, official introduction, and visiting paparazzi. This event is open to the public and occurs at 11 AM and 5 PM each day. Due to the amount of people, I could barely see what happened, but it was still pleasant to be in a nice hotel.

Photo credit:

My friend group walked around, looking at art murals displayed along the streets, until we reached “99 cent Soul Food Express,” which is a great restaurant!

The photo could not capture the entirety of the mural. I was pointing to the Black Lives Matter written on the mural.

Not everything at the establishment is 99 cents, but most of the sides are, and the rest of the food is all incredibly affordable. I was very impressed with the restaurant. Here, you will find chicken, mac and cheese, greens, corn bread, peach cobbler, and other foods. (

We then walked to Beale Street, a lively street bursting with color (especially blues, purples, and greens) and music. People were all over the street, which was closed down for foot traffic. We simply walked around, listening to bands playing.

I had never heard of the “I am a man” movement before this experience.

I have never seen anything like Beale Street before! What a sight.

While we were doing this signature tradition, part of the MUNDO group saw this and shouted “O-H” at us! We reunited.

Beale Street runs from the Mississippi River to East Street, which is about 1.8 miles, and this street is a significant place in Memphis history and blues history. Festivals and outdoor concerts occur from time to time (Wikipedia).

Reflection Questions:
1. What do you know about Memphis? What was one thing you learned today?
I know nothing about Memphis except for it being in Tennessee! I have limited knowledge of the South, and have never been to this state. While I was aware that there were strong roots to music, I could not recall specifics prior the trip. I also learned that there was a strong cotton growing industry here in Memphis! Mules would be used for labor to pull barges.

2. What are you expecting the South to be like compared to the Midwest?
Coming to the South, I expect people I encounter to be more racist than the Midwest. Based on what I have learned about in school and heard online, the Southern states have poorer education than other states. People are more likely to live in poverty in the lower states. Because of the various conditions of the South, especially its history, I have felt a tinge of nervousness thinking about how I would be treated by the Southerners.

3. What is something you are eager to learn about or see on this trip?
I am eager to experience new cultures and taste authentic Southern food! Having never traveled to the South, there is much to see and do.

Sunday, March 11th, 2018 – Getting Started
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

7 AM – I woke up and went downstairs to get breakfast, which was buffet style. After eating scrambled eggs, sausage, and a biscuit, and drinking milk, I prepared myself hot cocoa to stay awake.

8:30 AM – The group walked over to the Lorraine Motel, which is now the National Civil Rights Museum (450 Mulberry St, Memphis, TN 38103). This is a powerful place to visit, and I learned so much from the museum, which details history of civil rights from the 17th century to present day.

Because of people like Dr. King, we are here today.

Being in Memphis is also particularly special because this year, 2018, marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. It was so surreal to be standing in front of the motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. A young man, perhaps college-age like us, talked to us about how the museum came to be. He asked us what a sculpture in the lobby meant, and we realized that the bronze artwork depicted African people scrambling over each other, and they were placed in a shape to resemble the United States of America. None of the people had made it to the top. This was symbolic and means that African people, to this day, are experiencing struggles and have not ‘reached the mountaintop.’ We had a self-guided tour of the museum, which began with slavery, and then transported us through time. We learned about topics such as inequality in jobs, education, service, and more. There were exhibits on the Freedom Riders, Rosa Parks, and more.
For more information:

A crucial component of the Civil Rights Movement was sit-ins at diners. People of color were not served at diners that were intended to be for white-only patrons. People of color were ignored. There is much more to this piece of history, so I encourage you to read more on sit-ins!

Overall, the experience was unbelievable because of how much my knowledge of American history and the Civil Rights Movement expanded. Every year during elementary/middle school, my media arts/library teacher would spend several lessons on Dr. King and play the same films, such as Our Friend, Martin. I am now understanding more of the importance behind that. I learned more from the museum about the narrative of the Civil Rights Movement, including details of people I did not know were involved with the movement!

12:30 PM – After the informational and insightful museum, which has two parts to it, two friends and I went to Central BBQ, just two minutes from the museum! I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of the restaurant. I wanted to see what Memphis BBQ was all about; my meal consisted of sweet tea, a pulled pork sandwich, and mac and cheese. My friends bought similar meals, but one had potato salad while the other had baked beans, and we shared the sides with one another. This meal was so filling, that I did not eat until eight hours later.

Photo credit:

2 PM – We took a self-guided tour of the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum (191 Beale St, Memphis, TN 38103). This tour, which is conducted by slipping on headphones that the museum provided, and pressing in the number listed for each specific exhibit, complemented my knowledge of blues and rock music from a class called “Roots of Rock & Soul” that I took at Cleveland State University during eleventh grade. I enjoyed seeing how rock was formed, and other contributions to music made by African-Americans. Out of the numerous artifacts, my favorite was a jukebox that had swirling, changing colors.

Photo credit:

7 PM – For dinner, a group of 14 of us went to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken! They have multiple locations around the United States, but are most concentrated in the Southern states. After walking for perhaps 20 minutes and then waiting in line for 40 minutes, we were seated! It was worth the wait. The restaurant is quirky and cozy, with chicken-related paraphernalia around the room, on the walls, tucked into corners by the ceiling, and by the cash register. Our server was so friendly and funny; she will be going to med school later this year! She wondered how we all knew each other. It was a great way to wrap up our time in Memphis. The food was good, and the chicken slightly spicy, which can be fixed by drinking water. I would have opted for more sweet tea, but that is loaded with sugar.

Cheap eats at Gus’s! We thank them for accommodating our group of 14.

Reflection Question:
How does music tell stories and shape the world around us?
Music tells stories of hardship and gives people an outlet when they do not have other options to confront their problems. Songs can be like narratives of people’s lives. Music is a part of art and unites people; it can inspire people as well. To me, music is universal; even if a song is in a language I do not understand, I can still appreciate it. To some people, including myself, music is important to our lives and speaks volumes.

Monday, March 12th, 2018 – Journey to the Crescent City

“In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” – Thurgood Marshall

8:30 AM – Breakfast

9 AM – My two friends and I depart to see art murals around the area. We see some murals as well as walk down South Main Street for two miles. Many shops either did not open until 11 AM or were not open Mondays at all, so it was very quiet. To get back to the hotel, we took a trolley! It normally costs $1 per person per one-way trip, but the driver was kind and let us ride the trolley for free.

One of the m’s in Memphis is for Music.

10:30 AM – We went back to the hotel and I researched courses to enroll in for Autumn 2018. I scrambled to pack.

11:45 AM – MUNDO members boarded the bus to prepare for the journey to New Orleans! We discussed with our bus buddies what we thought about Memphis compared to our expectations. Other questions our program coordinator Julius asked were, “Does civil disobedience work?” and “What do you think Memphis will be like compared to New Orleans?” While on the bus, I read over a hundred pages of a book for my Violence class.

7 PM – We arrived in New Orleans (NOLA!) and settled into our rooms. The hotel was in a great location to restaurants and stores. We were a 20-30 min walk from the French Quarter, but this was not bad at all. I was so pleased of our proximity as well as the general layout of the city. With the food we were eating, it was a tradeoff to have our hotel distanced away from all the action.

8 PM – Deciding where to go for dinner, I searched for “cheap eats, New Orleans” in the Google search engine. Others went to Flamingo a-Go-Go, while I suggested Barcadia, a restaurant and bar that also has arcade machines and board games, including a giant human-sized Connect Four. I tried jambalaya and fried oreos for the first time here. (

Jambalaya, influenced by Spanish and the French, often includes sausage and rice.

10 PM – Four friends and I watched Princess and the Frog, a wonderful, whimsical Disney movie that provided us some New Orleans scenery. The movie also helped encourage us to be even more excited than we already were for our adventures. It served as a precursor for certain topics we would cover over the next few days: voodoo, jazz music, a swamp tour, and beignets, among others.

Image from

Reflection Questions:
1. What do you know about the cultural diversity of New Orleans?
2. What makes New Orleans unique?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018 – Orientation for New Orleans

“It is impossible to struggle for civil rights, equal rights for blacks, without including whites. Because equal rights, fair play, justice, are all like the air – we all have it, or none of us has it. That is the truth of it.” – Maya Angelou

7 AM – Breakfast

8:15 AM – We met in the lobby to depart as a group to walk to Jackson Square, dedicated to President Andrew Jackson. There is plenty of green space to sprawl on and nap. People were taking photos by the pretty flowers and bushes, in front of the fountain, and in front of the massive St. Louis Cathedral.

9 AM – 11:30 AM – We engaged in a walking tour of this section of New Orleans and received a gracious introduction to the Crescent City. Our guide is a native of NOLA and was extremely knowledgeable. She wants to go back to school to get a degree in Social Work. She told us about the general layout of the city and how to get around. For example, Street names are pronounced like how they look. I learned so much of the history and how NOLA’s administration has switched hands so many times.

11:30 AM – 1 PM – The French Market is a historic market area with over three centuries of history, and is six blocks long. This market includes restaurants, stores, snacks, and souvenirs a-plenty. This is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm. I tried a New Orleans-style burger, called a N’awlins Burger, at one of the stands. I also explored the flea market/artisan section nearby. I was amazed at all the items offered: Caribbean-style maxi dresses, golden trinkets, typical New Orleans tourist clothing and hats, purses, bracelets, and more.

2:45 PM – We took a swamp tour with Cajun Encounters, in Slidell, LA. I suggest dressing warmly in layers for the tour; as the boat speeded on the waters, the wind made it really chilly. I kept on my winter coat, and shielded myself from the incoming water drops that sprayed on me. Since I sat at one end of the boat, opposite from the captain, I got most of the water on me. Still, the swamp tour was one of my favorite parts of the entire spring break trip. The captain was humorous and amicable; he provided facts about alligators and told jokes.

We got up-close shots of alligators!

9 PM – MUNDO had a group late night snack at Café Du Monde!

Bourbon Street is in the French Quarter, and a street full of restaurants and bars – 13 blocks’ worth. It is primarily for those over age 21.  I still walked this street with my friends to see what it was like. People danced in the street and onlookers from above on the balconies or galleries would throw bead necklaces to people on the ground if their dancing was good. Music permeates the air.

We stopped at an outdoor market that sold mostly art.

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018 – “Ghosts, Vampires, Voodoo, Oh My!”

“Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” – Coretta Scott King

9 AM – On Wednesday, the halfway point of our experience, the group served at the Sculpture Gardens (1 Collins Diboll Cir, New Orleans, LA). Many assisted with weeding around the pond.

We aimed to be as mindful as we could to avoid falling into the pond.


Ana played music to keep up morale and make the time fly by. People sung along to some songs.

12:45 – After lunch in the French Quarter, we gathered to go on a Voodoo Tour, offered by Free Tours on Foot. Our guide, Michelle, was great and we learned a lot from her. She practices voodoo. She first took us to Armstrong Park to inform us of the history of the area. I enjoyed most her stories about a voodoo priestess, Madame Laveau! The tour helped dispel common myths regarding voodoo.

Armstrong Park’s history involves enslaved people gathering on the grounds for rituals and relaxation. They could catch up with people here. One tree here is nicknamed Grandfather tree, for it has been around for 300 years.

7 PM – We had free time until the Ghosts Tour. We met at St. Louis Cathedral’s front steps, and our guide Elizabeth shared several stories as we visited locations around the French Quarter.

Thursday, March 15th, 2018 – “Plantation and Presbytere”

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

This day could have been summarized by the 3 P’s: Plantation, Presbytere, and Praline Connection.

8:45 AM – We met in the lobby to leave for the plantation. In the morning, MUNDO visited Whitney Plantation, the only plantation museum in the state of Louisiana that emphasizes slavery (other plantations focused on the architecture of buildings or other aspects of slavery, instead of the people that suffered from this atrocity). The Whitney was originally known as the Habitation Haydel, after the Haydel family of German immigrants who owned the plantation and the slaves. It was only in 2014, a few years ago, that this place opened, and since then, the public has explored its 262 years of history and suffering. Some original buildings were restored, like a church and slave quarters. The master’s mansion was massive and we were able to walk around inside that as well; the furniture inside was preserved. I learned a great amount of information from this trip, and this site will remain in my memory for a long time. Our tour guide was extremely passionate and vocal about the truths of slavery. Slavery should be a part of American history that is never forgotten.

* The term “enslaved peoples” is more humane than “slaves.” These were people too, yet were not treated as such.

2 PM – During lunch, I bought a crepe from a crepe cart in the French Market. It was delicious!

My crepe had Nutella, banana, and strawberries. It was about $10 and it filled me up.

2:45 PM – For the Presbytere museum (751 Chartres St., Jackson Square, NOLA, 70116), we had self-guided tours. Admission to this museum is very cheap! The first floor covers Hurricane Katrina whereas the rest of the museum showcases a vast array of elaborate and exquisite Mardi Gras artifacts. The collections show how Mardi Gras began as a tradition in NOLA, from its ancient origins to the 19th century parades and balls in the city to what the tradition is like today. Millions of visitors come to New Orleans each year just to witness the spectacular festivities.

After the museum, we again had free time. My friends and I remained in the area because we did not want to return to the hotel that was 20-30 minutes away.

6 PM – Dinner was on MUNDO; the 25 of us ate at the Praline Connection (542 Frenchmen St., New Orleans, LA 70116), and we are thankful for the delicious meals.

Malik, Debbie, Lovette, and Rozavine smile for the camera!

Reflection Question:
How do the places we visited today connect to our trip themes of citizenship, legacies of the south, and ‘what is freedom?’

Friday, March 16th, 2018 – “Exploration of the Big Easy”

“If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” – Malcolm X

Today was a free day for participants to check out whatever they wanted and go to places that they did not get to yet. After packing up our belongings to store for the day, we embarked on our own. Some went to the library to do work, while my friend Eliza and I first went back to the French Quarter for more boutique-shopping before studying. We stopped in a book store, which was dusty but filled with many books; the third floor/attic had records! It was a humid day, but I wore a thick dress and carried a heavy backpack around, which made me feel hotter than the 70 degree temperature. I did not buy anything at the stores, but I enjoyed exploring and seeing what wares people were selling. If I had the money to splurge, I would buy a $200 dress that was made in Italy, or indulge in luxury soaps.

It was memorable that I visited NOLA as it turns 300 years old this year!

My afternoon was spent in a Starbucks on Canal Street, sipping a Pink Drink and reading a huge chunk of a book for my sociology class on Violence. This Starbucks was similar to Starbucks back in Ohio, so no dramatic difference. In the evening, I worked on applying for MUNDO’s ODNUM, which is our executive board. Café Envie ( is open late, so it was a perfect spot for getting work done. It was courtesy to purchase something if you stay there, so I got tea. I continued to read a book for my Violence class. For dinner, I came across a Vietnamese restaurant called Nine Roses ( The menu on the wall outside provided a vast array of options; many dishes were familiar to me, because of my mother’s upbringing in Vietnam. Therefore, I ordered my favorite dish that my mom makes: vermicelli with egg rolls. While Nine Roses’ vermicelli was delicious, I still favor my mother’s version. We returned to the café to finish doing work, and I purchased milk. The barista was very friendly. A mini St. Patrick’s Day parade went by on the street; people tossed necklaces and flowers. It was a new sight for me to see the floats and people on bikes. Some people on the bikes had paper-mache animals At midnight, when the café closed, Eliza and I made the return to the hotel. Some of our peers were sleeping in the common area, and some were on their laptops. We all had good days and sleepily boarded the bus.

There was a mini St. Patrick’s Day parade on Decatur Street, in front of the café I was at. People tossed necklaces from their floats! Other people threw out faux roses.

Saturday, March 17th, 2018 – “Bringing it to Birmingham”

“The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” – Rosa Parks

Leaving a bit after midnight for Birmingham, everyone in MUNDO was weary. We arrived in the Magic City around 6:30 am, with some time for breakfast and a quick nap. I was amazed that some of my peers could sleep on a floor. I could not nap, but still shut my eyes for a brief period.

10 AM – We had a tour of the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four young girls were killed by a bomb placed by a Ku Klux Klan member in 1963. It was chilling to be in that church. We sat through a documentary of the church’s origins and how the church and Birmingham community reacted and persevered in spite of a horrible hate crime. This site was so powerful, and I cannot believe that the church is still operating! People still attend its services and the church stands strong today.

11 AM – We had free time around the Kelly Ingram Park area. The park itself has been a place where numerous historic events happened. Children protested by the thousands, and hundreds of them were arrested. It is unimaginable that youth protested and were so brave enough to be jailed in order to fight for rights. If I were in a similar situation, I am sure that I would not have been the one on the frontlines; I am so introverted that I would only be able to provide support behind-the-scenes. It just amazes me at the bravery of children from the past, and children today. Often, children’s roles in movements are neglected or barely mentioned, but they certainly played a part in the Civil Rights Movement.

These four girls are gone but they are never forgotten. Their names were Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair.

I do not know why I became emotional when my friends and I were exploring the park and encountered a grandmother with her three granddaughters. They were looking at sculptures at the park. The oldest granddaughter was around 7 or 8 and could perfectly read the inscription on a sculpture. It is crucial to teach youth about history; the earlier, the better. I may have gotten emotional because I was touched by what the grandmother was doing, and at how bright and brilliant the granddaughters were.

1 PM – We had a self-guided tour of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (, another phenomenal museum. The facility has a Human Rights gallery, Movement gallery, Confrontation gallery, and Barriers gallery. It provided me with even more information about the Civil Rights Movement and its timeline. Near the end of my time here, I found a station of computers/kiosks where I could watch previous visitors’ clips of them answering questions. The question I chose to answer and record for other people to hear was “Describe a time when you stood up for something.” I disclosed my past history of enduring racism, sexual harassment, and other experiences, and how I have learned to speak up for myself and speak out against injustices. I mentioned how the Internet is a platform for my voice and reaching an audience; I specifically use Facebook. I highly recommend this museum/institute for anyone going to the South.

My friend Kayla and I were lost walking back to our hotel, but we eventually found our way. (We asked Eliza for the address after another peer gave us the wrong address.) Kayla and I had a wonderful conversation the walk back. We processed parts of the spring break trip that resonated with us the most, and how our different identities influenced how we are. One of her majors is Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, while I have that study as one of my minors. Our conversation was aided by concepts we have learned about in WGSS.

Changing. colorful lights line the ceiling of passageways in Memphis.

Through trial and error, we made it to Residence Inn. I rested momentarily before meeting the ACTION Team in the lobby. To me, Birmingham was quiet compared to other cities we have been to. I also was cat-called while I was walking with Kayla, and sexual harassment is pervasive everywhere. I am unsure if it happens more often in the South, because the weather is warmer and because there tends to be less education there.

6 PM – For our ACTION Team Dinner, we walked a short 10 minutes to Jim ‘n’ Nick’s BBQ ( I did not try any BBQ here, but got a sandwich and fruit instead to try to be healthy. There, we discussed highs and lows of the trip, and what people have told us in terms of what we can improve. One ACTION Team Member brought up that several people had mentioned suggestions to them, and I got the feeling that people could not approach me to discuss issues, for whatever reason. Looking back on this experience, I would have talked more with other participants. I did get to befriend some people, but there were a handful that I did not hold full conversations with. If I was more proactive about meeting people, perhaps that would have increased group unity. Nevertheless, people seemed to enjoy the experience. People commented on how much they learned and how they were able to talk to others about their life experiences, and how the trip has helped them frame their experiences.

We all got slices of pie for dessert to-go. I am so proud of the work we put in to make this experience a reality. Photo credit: Julius Mayo

Sunday, March 18th, 2018 – “Back to Buckeye Country”

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker

We spent the day traveling from the South back up North. My time on the bus was spent reading, except for the times when I engaged in conversations with friends. We chatted for hours about race and ethnicity still, and it was great that even after the experience, we shared ideas and experiences and connected them with broader sociology forces and historical contexts. There was a stop in Elizabethtown, Kentucky for lunch and I tried Culver’s for the first time. We were back at OSU around 6:30-7 pm, and I was saddened to have had the experience end, but it was time to resume academics. However, I did not try any grits while down South, so I need to return sometime to do so.

Attached is a PowerPoint for readers to view!

I hope to continue engaging in experiences like this one, where it was eye-opening and enlightening. I believe I personally developed because I gained greater knowledge about American history and social justice. I found myself slowly becoming more comfortable with having discussions regarding difficult topics like racism. For 2018-2019, it is a goal of mine to plan, and participate in, at least one of MUNDO’s alternative break experiences.

We all have the power in each of us to make change. We can get discouraged, but we must never quit pursuing what we believe is right and just.

Health Science Scholars 2nd Year Major Service Project

For my second year major service project as part of my Health Science Scholars program, I volunteered in the field of HIV prevention. I was able to use my volunteer hours from summer 2017 for this project. Attached is the PowerPoint slide I used; to save on paper, we used electronic posters. Freshman Scholars walked around the MLK Lounge of Hale Hall and talked to us if they were interested in learning more.


In addition to this service project, I had to attend events each semester to meet Health Science Scholars program requirements.

Autumn 2017:

  • At the September month meeting, Gail welcomed us back to campus and we ate pizza while socializing. She provided us with an overview of how the year would go.
  • 9/18 – HSS provided free headshots for the first 100 people. I was one of them, and a headshot is crucial for LinkedIn and other social media!
  • 11/02 – Bring your own bowl Mashed Potato Bar
  • 11/30 – Student Leadership Advocates presents Stress & Time Management

Spring 2018:

  • 1/25 – Personal Statements
  • 1/25 – Bring Your Own Bowl – Soup
  • 2/27 – Presenting a Scientific Research Poster
  • 3/20 – Research Mix & Mingle, hosted by Global Health Initiative (I planned and executed this event!)
  • 3/28 – Mock Interviews
  • 4/10 – Bring Your Own Bowl – Breakfast Cereal
  • 4/19 – Health Science Scholars Second-Year Symposium

    Overall, I have enjoyed my time as a part of Health Science Scholars. I have met amazing, passionate peers and developed myself academically, personally, and professionally from these two years. Regardless of a student’s major, if they are interested in various facets of health, they should consider HSS! Being in Scholars in general is not a tremendous time commitment. This school year, we had so much flexibility and options for what meetings and events to attend. We had much more responsibility and confidence. Since I am now a rising junior (and entering the upperclass stage of my undergraduate career), I am more likely to attend events that will contribute to bettering myself! The events that I enjoyed especially were the “Presenting a Scientific Research Poster” and “Personal Statements” because of how much information I gained. This summer, I will be utilizing the skills and tips from the research poster session when I present research at a symposium at the University of Iowa. I am one of the 25 students they are hosting for their 2018 Summer Research Opportunities Program and at the end of the eight weeks, I will present a poster! There will be hundreds of students total from different research programs, and I am excited to apply what I learned to this real-life scenario! Thank you Health Science Scholars for the opportunities you have provided!

My Experience at Equitas Health – January 2018

This spring semester, I began my volunteer position at Equitas Health, a community-based healthcare system serving over 67,000 people in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky. It is one of the nation’s largest organizations serving communities for people who have HIV/AIDs and those who identify with LGBTQ+. Equitas also provides mental/behavioral, primary care, and dental care in addition to other health initiatives. Equitas Health also produces Prizm magazine. They are very comprehensive as well as inclusive! When interviewing originally for a work-study position with Equitas last August, I learned that Equitas  receives the same grants from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as Care Alliance Health Center, the health center I interned with before back home in Cleveland. During summer of 2017, I worked with Care Alliance on their prevention initiative called Safe on the Scene and a program within that called D-up Lounge. Meanwhile, Equitas has Project Ink and Promise that focuses on men who have sex with men and are of color.

Care for All is their mission. 

I met my future supervisor, Shae. She is the head of the Ohio HIV/STI Hotline department and graduated from Ohio University with an International Relations major and nonprofit focus. She hopes to get her Master’s in Public Policy. I deferred the position to focus more on my studies during autumn semester. However, due to my scholarships overpowering work-study, I ended up having to terminate work-study. I still wanted to be involved with Equitas in some way, so I am volunteering with them because of the valuable experience I gain!

The hotline serves people in Ohio, but it’s not unusual to encounter people from outside the state. We have had people from Michigan and even India!

January 8th, 2018 – First Day of Volunteering

Taking the #2 COTA bus to work was a straight line down High Street to the Clintonville neighborhood of Greater Columbus! I wore a nice dress, leggings, and Hunter boots and my backpack was packed with a binder, notebook, sticky notes, and pencil pouch. My supervisor Shae told me to bring my laptop and headphones for my training. While waiting for her to arrive, I decided to take home copies of the magazines displayed along the walls and tables, including several issues of Prizm, Ohio’s LGBTQ community magazine focused on current events, health, arts & culture, fashion, politics, news, travel and entertainment. Shae arrived, and I set my things onto a desk in her office. She proceeded with an office tour and introductions to the other staff here, who work on various projects. I will work with Shae every day, as well as Mykalah (OSU College of Public Health – Class of 2017)!

After receiving a welcome folder containing information sheets, I finished a questionnaire that asked what I wanted in a supervisor, the one skill I wanted to learn the most, and other valuable questions pertaining to work. I also completed an About Me paper, which obtained my birthday, favorite candy, etc. Afterwards, I spent a while working on my training (the first module to tackle was about STIs). From noon to five, we were having a condom packing party! Shae called this the “party day”, as the first Monday of the month is spent packaging condoms into tiny plastic bags for the Free Condom Project! For the Condom Packing Party, we enjoyed Papa John’s pizza and Krispy Kreme donuts before immersing ourselves into assembling the bags! Shae put on the movie “And the Band Played On“; the summary is:

The book [and the docudrama based off of it] chronicles the discovery and spread of the human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome with a special emphasis on government indifference and political infighting—specifically in the United States—to what was then perceived as a specifically gay disease. Shilts’ premise is that AIDS was allowed to happen: while the disease is caused by a biological agent, incompetence and apathy toward those initially affected allowed its spread to become much worse.

This was my first time watching this movie; it does a great job at depicting how AIDs became an epidemic and the history of the actors involved in this issue.

While we watched the movie, each of us were part of an assembly-line operation for efficiency! One person put a postcard advertising the hotline into the bag, then another placed some condoms of a particular brand, then another person did another brand’s condoms, and so on and so forth. I was at the end of the line and in charge of placing some condoms as well as sealing the bags and placing them into containers. Although counting the condom packs were not necessary, I did so for one of the containers, and it contained approximately 74 packs! Therefore, I know that we packed over 100 packages that afternoon!

Overall, it was an extremely great day that was productive and fun. After we watched “And the Band Played On“, we watched “Ancient Aliens“, at the suggestion of a staff member named Charles. That was also very interesting but I was more impacted by the docudrama because it offered me insight into what happened in the 20th century and specifically with the AIDs outbreak. It helped me become more knowledgeable about the timeline of events. At the end of the day, I even had questions written down in my notebook to ask Shae: What are your goals for January? For 2018 in general? (To get out into the community and do more outreach.) How will I be evaluated and how often? Do you want me to update you every day on what I accomplish?

After my first day, I spent a weekend finishing my training about STIs, health equity for LGBTQ+ people, and a refresher video on PrEP and PEP.

Photo from Text GETPREP to 69866. It is safe and effective (92-99%) when used consistently at the same time each day. It does not reduce the effectiveness of birth control.


January 22nd, 2018 – Second Day of Volunteering

I came to Equitas early to get situated; I put my lunch bag in the fridge and a new employee introduced himself to me. He helped prepare coffee since I do not know how to use a coffee machine! I love how Equitas’ environment is so welcoming and accepting. It feels like your coworkers/peers are your friends, even though there is still obviously a limit to how friendly you can be! I felt comfortable asking any questions I had as well as requesting people to look over my work to ensure that I did it correctly.

I spent time writing quick facts about the hotline in my notebook to refer to it while working. This day, I was introduced to the dating site Adam4Adam – the hotline has an account on this site to do outreach. We have a profile of a fictional character on here and we click on other users’ profiles; this shows up on their own webpages. They see us and are then able to click on our profile. Our bio basically informs any reader that we are a health counselor and able to answer any questions related to sexual health, including STIs and PrEP/PEP!
In addition to answering messages in my Inbox on the site, I also click on profiles of all the members online who are in Columbus, Ohio at the moment. I simply click through them, and there are usually hundreds in the area at any given time on the site. When I answer people’s messages, I am also required to log the conversation on a data sheet, even if it is for a message saying something like “Hello, I am with the Ohio HIV/STI Hotline. We are here if you want to talk about sexual health :)”

Another task is creating social media posts for the hotline’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! The goal is to post at least twice or thrice a week. I made a graphic using the design site Canva to acknowledge the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The hotline has a list of what to post:
#MythMonday tackles a common myth regarding sexual health and presents the facts.
#TechTuesday is a video about a new app regarding sexual health; this is done on the first and last Tuesday of each month.
#WisdomWednesday involves a wise quote or phrase
Sometimes Wednesdays are for defining a Word of the Day
#Throwback Thursday or #TransHealth Thursday
#PublicFigureFriday or #FeminismFriday
These various post categories all excite me and I cannot wait to create posts about them!

This graphic celebrates the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

I did not volunteer on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day because it is a federal holiday. I do not recall the number of hours I spent for training but it was around 4-6 hours, I believe. Furthermore, I was absent on the 29th due to a dentist appointment. Although I only volunteered two days in January, I earned about 20 hours of service for Equitas.

JANUARY = ~20 hours

My experience so far has been positive and there is plenty to learn! Please follow my posts as I grow personally and professionally at Equitas this spring!

New York City 2017

I finally visited the Big Apple for the first time the week after OSU finals ended! MUNDO’s one-week winter break experience was in New York City. This blog post will record my experiences and perspectives.

This experience will challenge each individual with a new way of viewing our vast world through experiencing different cultures and learning about the history and legacies of one of the most dynamic cities in the world.

We will focus on immigration  and its impact on the development of NYC and the Latin communities specifically in the context of NYC. The role of theatre in conveying a message and creating empathy will also be examined through two Broadway shows!

Photo from

“Travel Day”

  • On the road by 5:30 am
    • I slept on the long bus ride, as did virtually everyone else. With our suitcases in the cargo area of the bus and lights turned off and curtain blinds pulled down, it was a quiet and peaceful ride.

      Our bus driver Matt has been with us for many MUNDO travel experiences.

  • 11:30 am – Lunch break on the road in Pennsylvania
  • 1:20 pm – Continue on journey
  • 4:00 pm – Arrive in NYC/check into hostel/orientation to the area with dinner on our own
    • We stayed at Hostelling International, which is on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, for the duration of our trip. This hostel is like a hybrid of a hotel and a university dorm.  Staying here is pretty cheap compared to the other housing options in the city. I highly recommend this hostel! They provide breakfast and linens, towels, and pillows, but I suggest bringing your own as well. The building had plenty of spaces for people to lounge; it even had a café, a billiards table, living room space, a theater, a downstairs kitchen for people to cook and store food, a ballroom, and a laundry room. Around the same time we arrived, Buck-I-Serv also reached New York.
      See for more information!
    • Before entering the city, we had to pass through a number of toll booths. Each person tipped the driver Matt $5.
  • 5:30 pm – (optional) visit Times Square at night
    • Since I was about eight, I have watched the ball drop for New Year’s. Times Square is lit up 24/7 and never stops shining with all the TV screens constantly flickering and traffic weaving in and out of narrow spaces on the streets. I could not believe that I was able to stand in Times Square. Julius, MUNDO program coordinator/advisor, took a small group of students to this area.
    • Times Square receives over 50 million visitors each year! We had to show off our Buckeye pride at this spot.

      This is me posing in Times Square!

  • Evening – Free Time
    • The group I was with decided to go to Tom’s Restaurant for dinner. This restaurant was the diner frequented by the characters in the TV series Seinfeld! Afterwards, we visited Columbia University, including a quick stop in their bookstore to see what it was like, and then roaming around their campus for 10-15 minutes. The students there were busy prepping for finals. Their campus is beautiful, especially the libraries from what I could see from outside. They also had holiday lights wrapping around an entire aisle full of trees, similar to how OSU has lights on North Campus.
    • We were all provided Metropasses to take the public transportation system an unlimited amount of times for the entire week. However, the transit system is confusing for first-timers such as myself. A MUNDO tip is to never venture out alone; bring a buddy or two. I always went with a group of at least four people because often during the day, people’s phone batteries die so we had to rely on multiple people to use their phones to navigate. Google Maps was incredibly helpful too. I am also grateful that in the MUNDO drawstring bags everyone was given was a power charger for on-the-go charging!Please see: when planning your routes!

“Washington Heights”

  • Breakfast at hostel
  • Operation Exodus
    • In the Washington Heights neighborhood is Operation Exodus, where we spent the entire morning volunteering with the organization’s annual holiday party.
    • Operation Exodus is a faith-based organization that believes zip code should never dictate the quality of education a child receives.For over 26 years, they have made a tremendous impact on inner-city children through after-school achievement like reading and math help and programs for middle-school and high-school students like mentoring and clubs including digital media, theater arts, and more. Operation Exodus also offers empowering parenting workshops (adult literacy, scholarship/financial education, job training, etc.).We were honored to join them for a morning and volunteer with their annual Holiday Party. We helped set up tables around the room. We played basketball with the boys and constructed gingerbread houses and colored with other children. Bagels and orange juice were provided. Afterwards, children went to different classes; they were separated by gender and by grade in school (e.g. first grade boys). While they learned and hosted a holiday performance somewhere else in the building, MUNDO went to work decorating the space with streamers and lights. Tablecloths were put on each table to make cleanup easier. Dozens of people strolled into the kitchen to drop off home-cooked dishes for the holiday meal. We set up dishes at each table. The feast involved a great slew of items: chicken, chicken nuggets, spaghetti, mac and cheese, cake, and more! Operation Exodus had so much food that they invited us to stay to enjoy it.

      Thank you Operation Exodus for all that you do; please visit to see more of their work and impact.

      This organization is a valuable resource for adolescents and parents as well as other members of the community like their passionate volunteers.

  • Central Park
    • We walked through the park to get to the Met. We stopped a few times to take photos! I was surprised to discover from Julius that this park is man-made; city officials realized that health is vital and created this ‘natural’ environment for citizens to enjoy. Another fun fact is that one of the architects of the park also helped design the Oval on OSU’s campus!

      Tip: Do not go to Central Park after dark.
      During the day, it is very lovely.

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Avenue)
    • It felt like an honor to be able to step foot in the Met, which has 5,000 years’ worth of art. This was the largest art museum I have ever visited. I enjoyed looking at the different exhibits.
      The site has what you need if you want to visit this museum!
  • Explore The Met
  • Free time
  • Meet at Studio 54 (354 W. 54th St)
  • 8 pm – View performance of “Latin History for Morons” starring John Leguizamo
    • Our first Broadway show in New York was a hilarious one-man-show. You may find John Leguizamo’s voice oddly familiar; he is the voice actor for Sid the Sloth in the Ice Age movies! I did not know what to expect from the show except to learn a bit more about Latin history. John really got into the characters he was portraying, and the ending was the most touching. He drew my attention from beginning to end.

      John used a blackboard to write and draw diagrams and pictures that helped the audience understand the material. He had wigs and other props too!

    • Here is a synopsis of the show:
      When his son gets a school assignment on heroes, John Leguizamo seizes the chance to teach him all about the great minds of the Latino world. But once he sets out on his irreverent crash course across three continents and 3000 years of history—from conquistadores to cumbia, Montezuma to Menudo, and taking on the characters in all of it—he uncovers provocative truths that shock even him.
    • Visit,616 for more information.

“Lady Liberty”

  • Breakfast at hostel
  • Take subway to Battery Park, then take the ferry.
    • The ferry was a good experience; there are multiple levels. You can feel the crisp, cool air and see birds perched right by you. The view is also spectacular.

  • Statue of Liberty
    • The statue was a gift to celebrate America’s Centennial by master sculptor Fredric Auguste Bartholdi! Whenever I think of New York, I think of this statue.

      She is a beauty.

      Part of the MUNDO group posed in front of the Manhattan skyline.

  • Ellis Island
    • From the statue, the ferry takes you to Ellis Island, where about 15 million immigrants passed through as they found their new home in America. I liked the museum very much and learned more about immigration, including the process that people faced hundreds of years ago, from entering the baggage room to getting medical examinations.
  • Free time
  • Salsa class
    • MUNDO had a private dance class by a wonderful instructor named Nancy, who wore tall and narrow high heels. The hour-long session was productive; I liked her teaching style. Soon the students went from simple steps to complex moves. Music filled the room and people were evidently having fun swinging around and doing fancy footwork. I did not participate in the dancing; I read a book but later joined for a few minutes. Dancing is something that I have never done in my life and even being in a class was an experience that I was not ready for.  Nevertheless, my peers enjoyed dancing!

      Nearly all of the trip participants also elected to take this salsa class! Even after it ended, people ended up staying a half hour to an hour to continue dancing.

  • Free time

“Melting Pot vs. Cultural Pluralism”

  • Breakfast at hostel
  • Depart for Tenement Museum
  • Tour of Tenement Museum
    • Our specific tour focused on hardships of two families who grew up in the tenement in the early 1900s. This museum preserves NYC immigrant stories; some people did not wish to have their family’s histories be discussed by the museum, so the museum honored this. I was disappointed when the tour ended but was thankful to hear about people’s experiences because it opened my eyes to what the conditions were like. The area we were in is called the Garment District because many people’s lives revolved around making clothing. Entire families would work together to sew and embroider clothes to sell to department stores; they did this in their homes as opposed to working in factories.

      Our guide Jakub provided us a great description of life in the early 20th century in the Garment District/Lower East Side.

  • Lunch on own in area
  • Take subway to Lower Manhattan (Essex St. Station, take J or Z downtown to Broad St. Station)
  • Tour of Wall Street, then walking to 9/11 Memorial
    • After walking around Wall Street and the Financial District, we saw the Raging Bull and Fearless Girl. The bull market means that the market is doing well; a bear market is what stockbrokers and financial investors do not want to see because it means stocks are going down.
    • I was interested in Fearless Girl much more.

      A staff mentor and former MUNDO student coordinator during her undergrad years poses with Fearless Girl!

      To me, Fearless Girl means that girls can do things that boys can do too. Females should be given the same opportunities as men, including equal pay.

  • Subway to Chinatown
  • Walking tour of Chinatown and treat in Little Italy
    • We walked around Chinatown, which was a massive neighborhood. My friends and I were only able to visit a few stores and did not see how massive this town truly was.

      This colorful mural caught my eye and I had to pose by it. Bubble tea, one of my favorite drinks, originated in Taiwan and is now popular among Asian and Asian-American people, especially millennials.

    • Julius treated us to cannolis when we finished a quick exploration of these two ethnic enclaves.
  • Depart for Washington Square Park
    • This public park is in the Greenwich Village of New York’s Lower Manhattan area. Not only will you see NYU students but also joggers, people with their pets, couples, and street musicians.


  • Dinner with Buckeye alumni meet-up at NYU
    • I was surprised to see Bernie Saverese greet us as we entered a building. Bernie went to school at OSU for his B.A. in Political Science. He also earned his Master’s of Business Administration here. He was the Director for University Orientation and First Year Experience and is now at NYU as the Assistant Vice President for Student Success.
    • According to Bernie, NYU and OSU have some similarities and differences; OSU is one of the largest public universities and NYU is one of the largest private colleges. Two-thirds of Buckeyes are from Ohio while two-thirds of NYU students are from out-of-state, with 1/4 being international students. At NYU, 1 in 4 students are Pell-eligible. An alumna who graduated from OSU in spring 2017 also talked to us; she works at Google! The third representative was a male who attended OSU for graduate school and has worked at NYU for over 2 decades now.

      Bernie often spoke at freshmen orientations! He spoke at mine and used corny jokes such as “What do you call a lazy baby kangaroo? A pouch potato!”

  • I visited a bookstore called The Strand, and then headed over to Bryant Park, where there was a holiday market, with dozens of vendors selling artisan crafts, foods, T-shirts, jewelry, and more. This week, I was able to explore so much of New York, from the common tourist destinations to lesser-known gems.

“Once on this Island”

  • Breakfast
  • Top of the Rock
    • From left to right: Our Outstanding MUNDO member of fall semester, a Newark Buckeye, and Park-Stradley Assistant Hall Director!


      The Top of the Rock tour allowed me to view the vastness of New York.

  • Recreating Rockefeller Photo for MUNDO’s 20th Birthday
    • This day was extremely special for Julius Mayo, our program advisor who co-founded MUNDO in 1997. It was 20 years ago that the MUNDO group visited New York and took a photo at Rockefeller Center.
    • Happy 20th, MUNDO!

      MUNDO has been Buckeye Strong for two decades. We Serve, Learn, and Lead no matter where we are.


  • Grand Central Station/Grand Central Terminal
    • Located on 42nd St and Park Ave, Grand Central is one of the busiest train stations in the world, and serves nearly 200,000 NYC commuters every day.
    • MUNDO stopped here for lunch. At this time, there was a Holiday Market where artisans set up pop-up shops to sell goods.
  • United Nations Headquarters

    Photo credit:

    • We received a guided tour of the United Nations building. As we were proceeding into the security check, delegates were exiting the gates. After making it out of the security check building, I saw a sculpture of a gun with its barrel twisted into a knot. This is the non-violence sculpture, also called Knotted Gun. I stand with non-violence.
    • MUNDO was split into two groups because of our size. The tour was incredibly informational, and I learned about the three pillars of the UN: human rights, development, and peace & security. The UN was created after World War II, in 1945. There are currently 193 member states in the UN, with Palestine and South Sudan not yet joined. I learned about the chambers of the UN, like the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. We were able to go into these different rooms since there were no meetings being held at the time.
    • We also learned about UNICEF’s School-in-a-Box operation for worldwide use within 72 hours of an emergency so that students can still learn wherever they are, whether they have a physical school building to attend or not. We saw this resource in person and I am impressed that we have something like this available. The kit contains exercise books, pencils, number tables, a wooden clock, and more, for up to 40 students to use. The lid of the metal box can be painted using special blackboard paint so that teachers can write in chalk on them. The only suggestion that immediately popped into my head was that the box can be heavy to carry, especially for tinier teachers like women. Perhaps in the future, the boxes could have wheels on them for easier transport!
    • The Tour Guides, or UN Ambassadors, interact with millions of visitors. They actually are debriefed every morning so that they are well-informed about international events prior to their tours. Our tour was about an hour long, so it went by quickly. We saw conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction, including a statue that suffered from one of the major bombs during World War II. It was surreal to see these artifacts.
    • One of my favorite parts of the UN Headquarters was the #DreamBigPrincess Exhibit on the ground floor. As a female myself, this exhibit was pleasant to view, and I saw how girls worldwide are making differences, in STEM fields, by surviving cancer, etc.
    • Facts:
      • Although the complex is geographically a part of New York, it is under the sole jurisdiction of the United Nations, not the U.S. government.
      • The complex opened October 9, 1952.
      • After much debate over the location, the Manhattan site was purchased for the United Nations by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. as a donation. The land was $8.5 million (estimated to be approximately $83.4 million adjusted for modern inflation.)
      • The flags out front are the flags of the 193 member nations in alphabetical order.
    • On a wall was the quote: “The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded” – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
      This quote spoke volumes to me because it is true. I feel like countries should not be so concerned with accumulating weapons to defend themselves and spend more time communicating with other nations to address conflicts.
  • Circle in the Square – “Once on this Island” Broadway Musical
    • This was a breathtaking musical and was well-executed with brilliant, talented cast who all have powerful vocals. As we sat and waited for the musical to start, the floor of the ‘stage’ was covered with sand. Actual live chickens and a goat were present. The cast interacted with one another and got into character. This musical will remain in my heart and mind as a reminder to fight for what I want despite the odds.
    • This is the sweeping theatrical power of Once On This Island—the universal tale of Ti Moune, a fearless peasant girl in search of her place in the world, and ready to risk it all for love. Guided by the mighty island gods (played by Tony Award winner Lea Salonga, Alex Newell, Merle Dandridge, and Quentin Earl Darrington), Ti Moune sets out on a remarkable journey to reunite with the man who has captured her heart. The groundbreaking vision of Tony Award-nominated director Michael Arden and acclaimed choreographer Camille A. Brown conjures up “a place where magic is possible and beauty is apparent for all to see!” (The Huffington Post).

    • Some MUNDO members remained after the show; we lingered by a fence to wait for some cast members to come out and talk with us! Only about 30 people were outside, and nearly all of the cast actually came out!

      Hailey Kilgore, who plays Ti Moune, was very gracious and took the time to thank us for coming to see the musical. Her performance was splendid and magical; you can hear the emotion in her voice and see it in her actions. You are a bright shining star!

      Lea Salonga provided her lovely vocals for Princess Jasmine and Princess Mulan in the Disney animations.

      Isaac Powell, who plays Daniel, is a 2017 graduate of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He had a great performance!

WEDNESDAY, December 20th, 2017
(This was a day where students could roam around NY; there was no set agenda. This is what my friends and I did.)

  • Breakfast, store bags in hostel storage room
  • Bronx Zoo
    • We spent two hours here, looking at rhinos, sea lions, reptiles, birds, and snow leopards. Peacocks freely roamed the grounds.
  • American Museum of Natural History
    • This is the setting of the “Night at the Museum” movies. I did not get to see the third and fourth floors of the museum, but the floors that I did get to explore were incredibly fascinating! I loved the cultural exhibits and the scientific exhibits related to human population and health. The ecosystems/biomes were wonderful as well. What I especially appreciated was how the dioramas give a lot of perspective and look very realistic; when I look into an exhibit, its like I am looking into a different world. I hope to return here sometime to venture into the areas I was not able to see due to time constraints.
  • Greenwich Village
  • Brooklyn Bridge
    • I loved the skyline of Brooklyn. When my friends and I were in the area, few people were around. It was quiet and we ate dinner at Shake Shack; they have my favorite burgers and fries.

  • Times Square
    • We visited the Disney store and it was gorgeous! The walls lining the escalator are painted to resemble scenes from Tangled, the movie about Rapunzel.
  • Return to hostel for a short respite
  • Make journey back to OSU (our bus left around midnight)
  • We reached OSU around 9 am on Thursday, December 21st!

This trip felt unreal to me at some points – all the lights, the diverse people, the stimulating streets, etc.
I overheard a wide range of languages spoken around me; even with the people walking their dogs, I saw a variety of dogs (at least 20 different breeds). I gave my extra snacks and drinks to homeless people and people that were collecting food or money for the needy. Although NYC is a great city, there is a lot of inequality and I felt hurt with homeless people shivering on the ground as they slept their hunger away. Another thing I encountered was a rude man who cursed at another person in line; this seemed unnecessary to me. Also, I overheard two young boys, perhaps around age 7, speaking gibberish as if they were mocking another language. This bothered me too, and this is probably because of how NY is divided and how people, even in a diverse city, can be ignorant to other cultures.

Additionally, I noticed things in America’s most populous city that I have not seen elsewhere: heaps of trash bags piled together on the sidewalk, which is a public health issue. I took note of sodium signs displayed on menus; they are triangular symbols with a salt shaker in the center, indicating that the food item is high in sodium, and this also relates to public health. This should be in place throughout the country! Restaurants had signs for the Heimlich maneuver for people who are choking. Furthermore, food stands/stalls were everywhere; most of these offered hot dogs, fries, donuts, bagels, and other fare that is usually unhealthy. I did see one bubble tea stand, which was interesting. All, or at least most of these stands, require cash.

In conclusion, New York was a unique experience for me. I gained perspectives about immigration from different ethnic groups through time. I learned about important resources like United Nations and Operation Exodus, which work to improve the world on different levels. I had to think quickly when using the transit system and to plan ahead for my outings (from my Internet research, I found out that the Bronx Zoo had free admission on Wednesday, which happened to be MUNDO’s free day). New York is not a place I expect to live in but it is a city I enjoyed visiting. I plan to return during a spring or summer to see what it is like during the warmer seasons. There is still plenty of food that I did not get to try. I also want to keep learning about New York’s history and the millions of people that make up the Big Apple.

For a more thorough compilation of photos, please see my PowerPoint! It has over 100 slides that can help provide a better picture of the trip.

Thank you to the NY Action Team for planning this informational and interesting experience. Not pictured are Emma, Tyler, and Ryan.

This is my last post for 2017. Going into 2018, I hope to learn more about our multicultural world with MUNDO.

Our wonderful NY Action Team had an end-of-the-week lunch with Julius!