STEP Reflection

My STEP project was a leadership development program abroad. I went to Australia to learn and experience leadership utilizing an experiential leadership curriculum in an outdoor adventure setting. I spent three weeks there and traveled to Sydney, Alice Springs and Cairns.

Being in the western hemisphere my entire life and not traveling outside of the USA has limited my views of the world. I was always afraid of heights and have never flown on an airplane before so I was really nervous about how I was going to react considering the trip included multiple flights. When the plane took off, I was scared at first because I did not know what all the noise was. I also had a window seat and the wing of the plane certainly did not give me any comfort because it looked like it could fall off at any moment. By the end of the trip though, you could call me a flying expert. Adventuring to the other side of the world gave me a different perspective of the world. The biggest thing for me about the trip is that even though I traveled across the world, there were certainly differences but there were also a lot of similarities.

Just two days in and I experienced the first culture difference of the trip. The entire group was split into five teams of four. The objective of the day was to answer all the questions on the packet that was given to us. It was kind of like an Amazing Race type of activity. The teams spent the day sprinting to places, taking ferries and hopping on buses trying to be the fastest one to answer all the questions and get to the final destination, the Sydney Opera House. After everybody arrived at the opera house, we all realized that we were starving. Turns out, none of the groups stopped to grab something to eat throughout the “race” because they were so focused on being the first one to complete the race. Our vendor was confused on why we did not get something to eat. They then proceeded to tell us that there were time slots on the paper where we were to take our time and enjoy the scenery and grab a bite to eat. Lesson of the day was to take sometime to relax and enjoy the present instead of always rushing to get things done.

During the nighttime after the group has completed whatever activity was planned for the day, we would always have a group meeting. In those meetings, the group usually discussed how the day was and what we felt was good or bad. Halfway through the trip, the trip leader added a little wrinkle to out nightly discussions. Along with everything we usually discussed, every person had to also talk about his or her scars or highs and lows. If they picked scars, they would had to describe the most embarrassing scar on their body but also and emotional scar that they have. If they picked highs and lows, they had to talk about the highest and lowest moments of their lives. I am a judging person, I will judge a person from the first time of meeting them just on how they appear on the outside like the way they act and the way they dress. This activity impacted me because after hearing everyone’s stories it me realize that I should dig deeper and know a person better before I judge them or to not judge them at all. It also helped me personally because I am not a person to open up to people; I like to keep everything to myself so actually telling people about myself was a change for me.

A requirement of the trip was that every single person on the trip has to lead the entire group for the day; that was the whole leadership part of the trip. When it was my turn to lead the group I was really anxious because I have never been in any leadership roles in my life thus far. This was a really big step for me because I did not know how my day was going to go and if people would listen to me or not. In order to calm my nerves down, I wrote down everything I needed to do and what the activities were for the day on a piece of paper and just reviewed the paper over and over again to make sure I will not miss anything. There were a lot of last minute changes throughout the day but I calmly addressed the situation to the group and they just followed through. I am a very laidback person and like to crack a lot of jokes but when it was my turn to lead, the group told me that they appreciated that I was very serious about leading while still being loose and have fun. This was helpful to me because it showed me what I could do as a leader and how I am as a leader.

This trip was highly significant towards my future because it showed what I am as a person and a leader. Professionally, I learned from the trip that I could still be a good leader with my type of personality. I do not have to lead like how others lead; I can lead in my own laidback way. Personally, I think I have grown a little bit as a person. I am starting give people the opportunity to present them to me instead of immediately judging from the start. Also, this trip showed me that I could flip the switch from having fun to being serious which is significant towards my academics because it showed me that I could find the balance between and fun and focusing on my studies. The relationships formed and experiences gained are things that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

First Day

First Day – Bondi Beach

Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge

Global May Hungary 2015

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Hannah Williams

For my STEP Signature Project, I participated on a month-long Study Abroad trip to Europe. My fellow classmates and I took a class at BKF in Budapest, Hungary where we learned about the history, language, culture, economy, and politics of Hungary, Poland, and Austria. The program took place in Budapest, however, we took short trips to Warsaw, Poland and Vienna, Austria. Our final project was a video project displaying our knowledge and understanding of a topic of our choice relating to what we had learned in class and researched outside of class.

I think that I grew as a person and learned a lot through this STEP signature project. I have struggled with anxiety most of my life and it sometimes prevents me from being adventurous, trying new things, and stepping out of my comfort zone. The last thing I want is to have this anxiety rule my life so, although I was nervous, I applied and decided to go on this trip. It was definitely the best decision of my life. Even though the first few days were hard because I was nervous and a little homesick, overall the experience was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I learned a lot and have a better understanding about an area and culture that I previously knew nothing about. Through experiencing a new culture and getting out of my comfort zone through this program, I feel that I have grown as a person in many ways.

I think the idea of the trip in general led to the change I see in myself. I have always gotten homesick very easily and get scared about new experiences, so doing a month long study abroad trip halfway across the world was a huge deal for me. In simply applying and participating in the trip, I grew as a person by not letting my anxiety control my life. I had moments where I wanted to cancel the trip, call my mom crying, or lock myself in my room by myself. But I forced myself to calm down, put myself out there, and think about the bigger picture and ended up having the experience of a lifetime. I think I am a stronger person because of it and I think being more adventurous won’t be as scary now.

Another aspect of the program that helped me grow as a person was meeting and interacting with 25 new people. I went from not knowing any of the other participants to spending all day and night with them. At first, this was nerve-racking and a bit annoying. I went on the trip with my friend, Elizabeth and I easily could’ve just spent the trip with her and not gotten to know anyone else. Let’s face it, learning (and remembering) people’s names, making small talk, and constantly putting yourself out there can be exhausting and uncomfortable.  And although this seemed tempting at times, I knew that I had to get to know everyone. I’m so glad that I did. The other 25 students on this trip were absolutely incredible and I know they will be lifelong friends. Because of this aspect of the trip, I think I will more willingly try to get to know people because now I know how worthwhile that can be.

Finally, being able to experience a new culture firsthand has changed me as a person. I have a newfound understanding and appreciation for Central European culture. While in Hungary, Poland, and Austria, my classmates and I learned and practiced Hungarian and Polish, tried authentic foods, visited small villages, and learned from locals themselves. This was an intimidating thought at first, because I’ve been used to only one culture my whole life. However, I’ve always thought that traveling and learning about a country other than your own is really important in having a better grasp of diversity and the importance of different cultures. In getting to actually do this myself, I can confirm this belief. Experiencing the way other people live their lives is just another way that I ventured out of my comfort zone and grew as a person. And I discovered one of my new favorite foods, goulash, which I will most certainly be making at home.

This experience is significant for me because I’m at that stage in my life where I’m finding out who I am and discovering who I want to become. I’m a firm believer that we should always be working to become better versions of ourselves and I think that I successfully did this through Global May Hungary. I feel more open to people and experiences than I was before. And, I realized my love for travel and want to somehow incorporate that into my life. I have made true friendships and have unforgettable memories. As a marketing major, being educated about media is really important in our age of technology. The video project we did at the end of the program helped me feel more comfortable with media and I think I can use this knowledge in my future occupation. I think I made a great decision in studying abroad for my STEP signature project and I am so thankful for the personal benefits it has given me.





A Study of Multicultural Histories and Legacies in London and Paris

The students of the MUNDO London and Paris trip in front of the parliament building.

The students of the MUNDO London and Paris trip in front of the parliament building.

A memorial for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre

A memorial for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre

Every year MUNDO offers a study abroad to explore how a city’s histories and legacies affect how the people of that city are living today. We usually go to London and one other city. This year the second city was Paris, France. Our exploration of these cities involved going on a tour of the East end of London, visiting the British League of Muslims, going on a black history tour of the Luxembourg gardens, and and an immigration tour in the city of France along with participating in several other cultural experiences in these two cities.

This was my second year participating in the MUNDO London experience. The previous year I went on my first trip outside of the United States with MUNDO to London and Edinburgh. The experience was so enjoyable and eye opening that I wanted to participate again. I was fortunate enough to be able to partake in this experience again this year. This is the first year that MUNDO visited a city in mainland Europe. Going in I had no assumptions or perceptions of what this study abroad would be like or how it might change my life. I go into everything with an open mind. The entire point of traveling outside of the country is to broaden your horizons. Little did I realize how much my understanding of myself and the world around me would change. While abroad I gained a better understanding of race relations and international security in Europe as well as the ever changing culture abroad and at home here in the United States. I quickly realized that I am privileged as a white individual living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Some of the problems that we face here are multiplied tenfold in European countries.

I became a better person as a result of this trip. I want to be more involved in my community as a result of what I saw in London and Paris. I want to be a voice for the people and be an ally on the streets. I want to work on problems that will help this country heal and recover from tragedies and misplaced stereotypes. I want to be a friend. Naturally, I wanted to do all of this before but seeing the gruesome histories and present day issues in another country really encouraged me to actually take action and be that person that I wanted to be. I learned that I can make a difference even if it is a small difference. I am much more capable of making a change than I ever thought I was.

It is no surprise that other countries experience racial tension and horrible crimes of terror but seeing the effects and learning the history of these events is somewhat sobering for myself as an American. On TV I have seen the tensions in America between the police and African Americans, I have seen the news about mass shootings and terrorist attacks but I had never before had a discussion about any of these everyday news items and I did not expect to be having these conversations with foreigners in another country.

In the United Kingdom one of the most rewarding experiences I had was our group visit with the British League of Muslims. This discussion involved us students and our advisers as well as local police, administration and the league itself. We were able to ask questions of all these individuals. Most of the questions were directed to the police and the league. We wanted to know what it was like living in Britain as a Muslim. They told us that Britain is one of the best countries to be a Muslim in because it is one of the friendliest police wise, and citizen wise. There are some individuals that give them trouble but they say that they live relatively peaceful lives. The police were of particular interest because the policing system is completely different in the United Kingdom. Neither police or civilians are allowed to have guns. The officers found it interesting that we thought that their police department had it more together than most of our own departments in the United States. They believe that community policing is the best option when it comes to policing a city or a town. They try to work with people, not against them. They did say that if the public had guns then they would have guns too. Every country works a little differently when it comes to enforcing laws. The police in England have their problems as well with racial tension it’s just that we don’t see it because it is not the same as it is in the United States. I’m interested in how other countries can help us solve similar problems because different cultures have different ideas and beliefs that could benefit us as well.

My biggest takeaway from this trip did not come out of one of our tours or from one of our group events. It came from simple observation of my surroundings when we would be out and about. When we arrived in Paris it had only been a few months since the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. It just so happened that our hotel was only a few short blocks away from the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo where the attacks took place. As we were out and about we saw graffiti covering walls and historic monuments. There were memorials to the events that took place that day. I could not remember a time where I had felt so connected with an event on this magnitude. I was young when the 9/11 attacks took place here in the States. In Paris there are police guarding churches, schools, and important government buildings in case of another attack. There are daily protests throughout the city on a number of subjects. The French are not afraid to let their voices be heard. It is a way of life over there. It is one of the most intense cities that I have ever been too but it taught me about not being afraid to speak out and connect with others instead of sitting on the sidelines doing absolutely nothing. It’s a scary world but I feel that we sometimes forget about that here in the Midwestern States.

The tour that touched me the most in Paris was the immigration tour. We took a walk around the city and learned about how immigrants come into the country of France and how they live in a bustling European country. Our first stop on the tour was at the Gare du Nord, the train station where we came in from London. Josh our tour guide pointed out to us the fence that serves as the administrative border into the country of France. While most Europeans do not notice the fence at all there are some individuals that can’t even make it into the country without trying to sneak in. Immigrants are often the object of scrutiny and disdain. Areas in the city of France that have the highest levels of foreigners are also some of the most policed. There was even a tent town under a bridge in a neighborhood that was supposedly protected from police and attack. In this little town were several immigrants who all were trying to become naturalized citizens of France or trying to live in the country itself. After we left France we received an e-mail from our adviser telling us that this tent town had been dismantled. These immigrants now stood no chance of making it in this country.

Seeing all that I saw in these two countries led to my transformation. I am a better human being. I am more aware of issues in my own country now than I ever was before this trip. I have become a voice for the underdogs and a support system for those who need it. The transformation I have experienced is incredibly important in my life. College is a platform for some of the most intense learning we undertake in our lives. In order to utilize our schooling to its fullest potential we must keep our minds open. This trip has allowed me to do just that. Career wise I want to go into law enforcement. Now to some that sounds outrageous. How can you go into law enforcement and be such a caring individual? Aren’t most cops racist? The obvious answer is no but I believe that people like me could change that stereotype and work toward a more perfect union of citizens and officers. We don’t have to be at odds with each other but we have to find a solution to the problems we face. That too involves keeping an open mind. The best solutions can come from the most unexpected places. This trip was a perfect example of that. Just listening can solve most of our problems today.

I might not be planning to go abroad again anytime soon but my STEP signature project will stay with me forever. I am grateful that I was able to take this trip. When I look back I will not regret taking this trip to London and Paris. They are two of my favorite cities in the world and they taught me so much in just a short 18 days.