Culture and Engineering in India


During the May session of 2015 I traveled to India for ten days. We touched down in Delhi and made our way to Agra and then to Jaipur before returning back to Delhi to complete what they call the “golden triangle” of north India. We had visited many different monuments such as the Qutub Minar, Taj Mahal, Amer Fort, and Jantar Mantar which were magnificent in their age, size, and beauty. In Jaipur we met with Dr. Jain who introduced us to the Jaipur foot –  a modular prosthetic leg made affordable to the average Indian. Dr. Jain enlightened us with the history behind the Jaipur foot, its development, and production process. Returning back to Delhi we completed a service project we had been working on the semester before. We visited an orphanage and lead in activities that were geared towards teaching the children.

Needless to say, experiences like these are transformational. Experiences like these involve entering into the unknown and learning how to see life from a different perspective. I think that this trip helped shaped the direction in which I my academic, professional, and personal life were going; towards a career in prosthetics and more adventure.

Before this trip I was entering into my junior year without any experience in the field I was pursuing – material science engineering. I was concentrating in biomaterials but did not know much about what that meant. On this trip the Jaipur foot helped open my eyes to the connection someone like me had to something like this in a place halfway around the world. This implant was something that was developed out of a problem that was all too often seen in India and from its inception has touched the lives of many across the world. I liked this idea of improving the lives of our neighbors and having that act grow into something able to improve the lives of strangers.


I suppose our visit to the orphanage in Delhi kept this idea flowing. We spent the day with these children and it taught me something. These kids just wanted to be loved. They wanted someone to play with, someone to give them attention, someone to appreciate their humor (no matter how silly they were). One girl had asked me my name and how to spell it. I looked at the page to see what she came up with and found in blue crayon the word “bhaiya” sitting next to my name. I later found out that bhaiya is Hindi for brother.


We have the power to change the world through love. All you gotta do is love the person next to you, treat him like your bhaiya (or didi if you want to say sister). Karma is a Hindu idea of how the sum of our actions and intents influences our future – what goes around comes around. Dr. Sethi was the man who invented the Jaipur foot and by the principle of karma brought me to India to learn how to move forward in his and my life. It didn’t take much, just a lust for adventure, a little luck, and an open mind, and things just seemed to connect.

This trip was beneficial to me because it gave me direction. It gave me some perspective into what a material science engineer is capable of and how they effect others. I am now have an intership pursuing research in tissue engineering to help myself, my neighbors, and people who I may never meet. The world is a big place but STEP has helped me realize that it’s much smaller than I think.




Study Abroad- Ireland

Paul Lang


Study Abroad- Ireland



  1. My STEP Signature Project involved a two-week study abroad trip to Ireland from December 27th, 2015 to January 10th, 2016. While there, I studied the behavior of human and animal interactions.
  2. My views of the world and myself have completely changed after this two-week experience. Not only did I learn a lot about a subject that I had no idea existed, but I enjoyed it. My background is business and this whole entire trip had to do with animals in a foreign nation. I became much more educated in the topic and not only that, but I learned a lot about myself. I did not know a single person when this trip first began. I learned that I can actually make friends quite easily and to be more outgoing. Some of the people on the trip made me realize how narrow-minded I have been. Now most of them are my very good friends, some I would even consider great friends. The world is a much bigger and more beautiful place than I ever imagined. I am so small compared to everything that this Earth has to offer: from the food to the people to the land. This whole entire experience has changed my understanding of life and it was for the better.
  3. A lot of the change and transformation that developed over this trip has to be retraced to two relationships I made, a couple of events, and the place that I traveled. I owe everything that I gained from that trip to those 3 broad categories. As mentioned before, this was a trip of a lifetime.


Before the trip, I knew not a single person, but after I came out with 48 friends. There are two relationships in particular that really helped me develop and learn each and every day. I met two girls, named Kelly McCurry and Allison Hernandez, and they both really taught me a lot. Each of them has an animal based background and me being an accounting major had a lot to learn. Any time I had a question or needed help with something, these two were always there. I honestly consider them a couple of my best friends now and will continue to see them as time goes on. Without them, I wouldn’t have transformed as much as I possibly could have.


Two events stick out in particular that really opened up my eyes to see the world in a totally new way. While abroad, we visited the Giant’s Causeway and the Cliffs of Moher. These are two of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my entire life and I will always remember them. It was a different kind of beauty, something I had never witnessed before. The world is a giant place and these places reminded me how much I have yet to see. It was humbling to see such enormous landmarks and inspiring because now I want to see everything.


I think the thing that changed me most of all was Ireland itself. My heritage is Irish and it was beyond interesting to go back to my roots. I got to learn about things first hand. Without STEP providing this funding and OSU providing an opportunity, I would have never had such quality access to my history. There is something about learning from a textbook and there is something about learning in person. I could actually see and take in the sites that I was learning about instead of just reading about them. The experiences and knowledge that Ireland gave to me is something that can never be taken back.

  1. This transformation is priceless. The trip to Ireland is something I could never put a value on. I will take it with me for the rest of my life and tell my kids and their kids about how traveling abroad was the best choice I have ever made in my 21 years of existence. I do not have one negative outcome from it. I have grown as a person and realized there is a lot more out there for me to learn. I have met a lot of new people that eventually could even be useful in the business world. My background has just expanded and for my future plans, I want it to expand as much as possible.

Maymester in Cuenca, Ecuador

For my STEP experience, I went on a university sponsored study abroad trip to Cuenca, Ecuador. I was there for 2 weeks learning about the culture and education system. We went to a elementary school in the Canar region to collaborate with the students and staff, and to learn about their education system and culture. I lived with a host family to enhance my Spanish, and got to see lots of different parts of the city.

After going on my trip I am more understanding of the world. I was able to experience a different way of life, and a different culture. Before going on this trip  I would view people from other countries as underprivileged, and I thought they needed me to come in and help them. After going I now understand that they are are not the poor, helpless people that I used to think they were. I now understand that they are people just like me, and they might live their lives differently than I live mine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are in need. I also now see the flaws in my own society as well.

Going to the school and working with the teachers and students transformed my world. I saw a lot of the same problems that American schools have in their schools. They faced under-funding, state standards, and disruptive students. I have seen all of these things in schools in the US as well. Also working with the students helped me see how kids are actually very similar everywhere. Some of the students there reminded me of students I have worked with there.

My host mom also helped to change my viewpoint. She was such a great hostess, and actually cared about me and the other girl that were staying with her. Every night she would make us dinner and talk to us about different things. She taught us a lot of Cuenca, and the culture in Cuenca. It was so nice to have someplace to go that was so homey after long days.

The girl that I did my home stay with also taught me a lot about myself and the world. She was very different from me, and showed me that I can get along with people who are very different. She had gone through some struggles in her life, and was very open and honest with me about them. She taught me a lot about the problems we have here in America, and we never would have met if we hadn’t gone to Ecuador together.

This was a very valuable experience for me because I was able to see a different way of life and learn more about other cultures. This will benefit me when I am a teacher because it taught me to be more understanding of the different cultures of my students. I also learned a lot of Spanish while I was there, and that will also help my with any students I have that speak Spanish.

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A Month in Japan

Raphael Melke

Study Abroad: Public Health Initiatives – Japan


Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

My STEP Signature Project entailed flying to Japan, a country that I’ve always dreamed of visiting, and learning about public health through the lens of Japan. This trip allowed me to gain a better understanding of not only the public health system of Japan, but it also helped me grow personally and professionally.


What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

I assumed that the Japanese would be racist. I thought they would treat me differently, act differently around me, laugh at me, not help me when I needed assistance, and everything in between. But none of those things ever happened, well at least not to my knowledge, and actually the opposite was true. Whether I was in the city or a rural area, the Japanese were extremely helpful and kind. The very first day, my friend and I were in a train station staring with big wide eyes at a map of all the trains and their routes. We had absolutely no idea which trains we needed to take in order to reach our destination. A Japanese man saw the lost look in our faces, walks up to us, and graciously points out to us the route we should take. We thank him with the very limited Japanese we know, and move on. At the time, I remember thinking that what he did was nice of him to do, but I was still skeptical of the attitudes on race held by the country. That belief, however, would soon change. Time and time again, Japanese would continue to help me navigate, help me learn about their culture, and help me understand their way of life. There were very few negative experiences throughout the trip. One restaurant definitely over charged me, but that doesn’t mean they did that because I was black. They did that because me and the other students who ate there were all obviously foreign travellers, who could easily be taken advantage of. I must also add that I only knew a couple of words in Japanese, so if the Japanese ever talked about me, I would have never known. For all I know, the Japanese people I interacted with could have said some nasty things about me behind my back, but that kind of thinking is truly unfair. I was wrong to profile the Japanese people, and moving forward I will look back upon this experience to help prevent that kind of thinking.

My view of World War II definitely changed after visiting Japan. Looking back to when I learned about World War II, Japan, and the atomic bomb, some things, I feel, that were emphasized were that:

  1. The Americans had two decisions: engage in a land invasion of Japan or detonate atomic bombs. The latter was favored.
  2. The United States needed to send a message to world
  3. It marked the beginning of the Cold War
  4. A lot of people died

I’m not going to pretend that we didn’t have some discussion about the tragic effects of the bomb, because we definitively did, but my thinking of it was that it was sad and unfortunate event in history. This was even more deeply rooted when I visited Hiroshima, which had an Atomic Bomb Museum that left me in chills, and appalled at the destructive force humans inflict upon one another. The event was so devastating that there’s actually no official death toll, just an estimation. No one foresaw the attack, so no one was prepared for the nightmare that would be unleashed upon him or her. Adults and children began their day, just like any other, but were then subject to an immaculate white light that momentarily suspended a person in awe and confusion, but soon and long after trapped them in a state of terror. Some perished immediately, some gradually burned and melted to death, while most others periled slower, by the ruthless reach of the radiation. The tattered clothes, dead skin, burned and destroyed infrastructure, and more on display at the museum echo stories of a tragic past. In the classroom, there are limits to the amount of info you can learn about a topic. In order to fully understand and grasp an experience, there has to be an active part to that learning. At the museum, I could feel the tension and pain of those who past away long ago, but could also feel the determination of those who have survived them, to ensure this doesn’t repeat itself in the future. By touching, smelling, and seeing with my own eyes a historical piece of history, I was able to be an active participant in my own learning. There were multiple moments like this throughout the span of the trip that really provided a concrete application to the ideas learned in the classroom.

Part of the reason I went on this trip was to figure out my professional goals, specifically if I wanted to become a health care professional. After returning from my trip and reflecting on it, I ultimately decided it was not a path I wanted to take,; it was relieving coming to that decision. I think like so many of my fellow peers, I felt a never-ending nudge or pressure from other people towards that professional field; the pressure was multi-faceted. I had people telling me that it was “the way to go” and “that’s where the money is”, it was annoying to hear the same messages over and over again. Before attending the trip, I actually pretty much concluded I didn’t want to be a health care professional; this trip rather, cemented my belief. The trip served more as a final attempt to reverse my choice, before moving on to other ideas. And in the end, it didn’t sway me back into the professional field I fooled myself into believing was for me. The info I learned about public health was definitely interesting and cool to learn about, but it simply doesn’t push me to make it a focus.

I’m beyond ecstatic that I was able to travel to Japan and have it part of my Ohio State experience. I fulfilled a childhood dream, learned about a different culture, visited historical important places, and met awesome people. The trip has motivated to go and visit other countries around the world! The only problem is choosing which country I should visit next.