STEP Experience: Study Abroad
What? – A detailed description of what you did during your STEP experience.
I took the May Session Study Abroad Course entitled “Economics of Immigration” taught by Dr. Darcy Hartman. As part of the course, we spent the first two weeks of the term in the classroom learning about the various economic implications of immigration. During the third week, we (myself, 9 other students, Dr. Hartman, and Jocelyn Nevel, advisor in the Economics Department) traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, where we spent a week living in a complex outside the city. Every day we would travel to a work site where we worked with volunteers from the foundation hosting us as well as the family who lived there to help build the family a small house or “module.” In the afternoons and evenings, we would take other quasi-“field trips” to places of interest. These included a local professional baseball game, the beach, a local market, an all girls’ orphanage, a factory, a shelter for those men who had been deported recently or were attempting to cross the border into America, the border itself, etc. In the evenings we would gather as a class and discuss the events of the day, any significant conclusions we had drawn, our feelings, and other various items. At the end of the week, we returned to Columbus, and spent another week in the classroom where we gave a presentation on a paper we had written. The paper incorporated both what we had learned in the classroom as well as anecdotal evidence observed from our time in Mexico.
So What? – A personal response to your STEP experience, including feelings, thoughts, judgments, and what you have learned about yourself and your assumptions from what you did and how you reacted.
I am not even sure where to begin in answering this question. My STEP experience was unlike anything I had ever done in my life, and it was arguably the most rewarding academic experience in my life to this point. Over the course of just a week in Mexico, I formed lasting friendships with more than a few of my 9 classmates, and both Dr. Hartman and Ms. Nevel. I learned that Mexico has enough good food to last a lifetime, enough sun to last a summer, and enough love to last many generations. It was apparent in Mexico that an overwhelming majority of people there do not want to come to the U.S. They would love nothing more than to be able to remain in their homeland, with their family and friends, and carve out a living for themselves. Unfortunately, due to economic variables outside of their control, most Mexicans face no choice but to travel north to the States in hopes of finding a job that can provide them enough money to support themselves and their family back in Mexico. Jobs of that nature just are not available in Mexico currently. Beyond that, I learned so much about myself. I learned that I can dig a foundation, set up a foundation of a house, speak Spanish reasonably well, eat Mexican food reasonably well, and “survive” a week in a foreign land. Beneath the superficial stuff, though, I learned so much about who I am as a man, and who I want to continue to become. I will discuss these further in the next section.
Now What? – Discuss how the things you experienced and learned during your STEP experience will affect your academic, personal, and life goals moving forward.
First and foremost, I learned through my STEP experience that economics is truly a passion of mine. I had previously felt that way, but this experience only served to solidify that belief. Through my STEP experience, I learned how to balance hard work and having a good time, a skill that proves immensely valuable in all of life, but especially on the campus of a major university. I learned to be appreciative of what I have, not that I did not know how to already, but rather this experience reminded me of just how good I do have it. Seeing the happiness, joy, and outpouring of love and emotion of those who are less fortunate than myself in Mexico has inspired me to take every day as if it were the best day of my life. I have always been a cheery person, but now you will rarely, if ever, find me without a smile on my face. It could be 3 degrees and snowing sideways outside, and I will have a smile stretched across my face, just because I was able to experience something like that. My STEP experience also helped me to realize that I would be interested in serving others through some sort of volunteer work in either a short term or long term capacity in my future. I had not known the rewarding nature of service to others like I did on my study abroad trip. I genuinely loved helping others, and gained so much from it, that I would do it all over again without hesitation—even if it meant taking a cold, one-minute shower every day for 5 days a week. It was that special. Finally, my STEP experience further reinforced my goal of one day graduating from this great university, and working my hardest to attain a level of self-realization that will allow me to give back all that THE Ohio State University has given to me.