Global May Britain

Name: Emily Wander

Type of Project: Study Abroad

For my step experience, I studied abroad in Great Britain for four weeks. We spent most of our time in London where we had class four days a week usually to learn about the politics, culture, and history of Great Britain. After class, we went on different trips to actually see what we were learning about and experience it firsthand. We also took a weekend trip to Edinburgh, Scotland to learn about their history and how different Scotland was from England even though they are both a part of Great Britain. We usually got evenings off and some Fridays and weekends to do with as we pleased. I used my time to explore all the different parts of London and see what laid outside the central of London.

From my time in Great Britain, I learned so much about myself. It was my first time overseas and my first time traveling with family or someone I knew so I was really nervous and had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know if I would be able to adapt to living in such a large city like London. But I ended up doing so well and adapting and learning so much about myself. I found a new level of confidence in myself and gained a new sense of independence. I also got a new view of the world and got to experience so many different cultures while abroad. Even though most of my time was spent in London, there were so many different people from all over the world living there. Before my trip, I never really thought about how much history is out there for me to learn about. It was amazing learning about the good and bad of Great Britain’s history and how far it goes back in comparison to the US.

The very beginning of my trip was a new challenge for me. My program didn’t have a group flight so we had to book our own flights to London and get there ourselves. I ended up flying there with three other OSU students in my program which helped a lot. When we got off the plane at Heathrow in London, one of the biggest air ports in the world, we had no idea where we were or what to do exactly. We had all of our luggage and get to our apartment by ourselves. We ended up taking our suitcases on the packed underground, which the others on the underground didn’t appreciate very much. But we ended up making it to our apartments with very little drama. We were really thrown head first into the experience of London.

It also helped me a lot that I took some time to do a few things by myself and really depend on myself while in Great Britain. Traveling outside the center of London and exploring really taught me to be self-sufficient. If something went wrong it was on me and I didn’t have any means of communication unless I could get Wi-Fi, which wasn’t very often. So when I decided to go to Kew Gardens, which was outside the city, I had to make sure I knew what I was doing. It was okay if I got a little lost because I got to discover new things that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It helped me be okay with everything not always going as planned and being able to roll with it and figure out a new plan.

There were so many instances where I was able to learn about different cultures in Great Britain, other than English and Scottish cultures. London was a very international city, there were so many different types of people other than the English. Just sitting on a bench in the city I would hear so many different languages and see looking around I would see so many different shops and restaurants from different cultures. At lunch on day I was able to talk to one of the waiters for a little while and learned that she actually lived really close to where we were staying and that she was originally from France. It was so amazing to hear about another person’s experiences in a foreign country and how they saw things from different perspectives than I did as an American student.

My trip abroad was so valuable to me in so many ways and would not trade it for anything. It really taught me to be confident in myself and know that I’m capable of doing so much more than I can think I can do. My time aboard has really made me want to get out and travel more. There are so many places I know nothing about that would be amazing to go experience and learn about. I’m now thinking about looking for jobs or internships abroad and see how I can apply what I have learned here at Ohio State and in the US to help me become more successful abroad and take what I have learned abroad and apply it here at home. I am always looking for a way to go abroad again.  IMG_1849IMG_0948IMG_2293

STEP Reflection – City Planning and Urban Design Abroad

I studied abroad for my STEP experience in the Fall 2015 semester. My main objective with this project was to supplement my major of City and Regional Planning with real world examples of fantastic aaaaand easily implementable design. This was not just a cultural experience abroad, but one where I observed many design practices that pave the way for the future of many cities, including ones domestically in the United States. 

One hallmark of not just America, but of many first world countries, is the way people travel in their daily lives. While much of Europe relies on public transport and to a certain extent some American cities, the bicycle as a form of major transportation is almost unheard of. In major Northeastern cities with the bones of their colonial pa

A street of Vesterbro, Copenhagen

A street of Vesterbro, Copenhagen

st and subsequent expansion in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the streets and cities are still laid out cater entirely towards public transport and cars. The avenues are wide and overbearing, with the suburbs generally geared mostly towards car transit. European cities are generally different, with a far greater reliance on walking and public transport as a general mode of transportation. Copenhagen, however, blew away the typical norm of cities. Even traveling just a little farther south to Germany saw an entirely different outlook on how cities should be governed and on a smaller scale the streets. The streets of Copenhagen, in opposition to their European and American counterparts, were rife with cyclists jockeying for position on wide, raised lanes, aided by bright painted street symbols and a logical system of maneuvering on these lanes that closely mimics just taking a car along the streets. It does not seem much of change until arrival within the city. It is just such a drastic and refreshing change from what many cities, supported by their inhabitants, believe their streets should be used for. My assumptions of how cities can and should operate changed during this trip. I saw a lifestyle that is one that should be envied and copied. One where everyone have access to the city by safe means on the cheapest vehicle – the bike.


Section Cut Model – Urban Design Project

Moving about during daily life was one component of this experience that helped form an engaging learning opportunity and one that opened me up to new ideas. Another was the travel involved. We were taken on trips to Germany, Austria and Switzerland to see new architectural concepts and urban design plans that are shaping how cities are built in the future. Copenhagen and other cities that included Freiburg, Vals, and Aarhus became interesting experiments on a class level that showed how the including the environment in the planning of new neighborhoods could boost the livability of these areas. All of these new places formed a catalog to draw from in the future that can shape how I handle my studies and future work.

This study abroad experience exposed me to so many new places, people, and events. From small mountainous towns in Switzerland to the bustling metropolis of London. I met a ton of different people from all over the world who all added to a new perspective I gained over my semester.

Reflection on STEP Study Abroad- Bias & Racism Around the World

For my STEP project, I decided to study abroad in Toledo, Spain. While in Spain, I took classes in Spanish at La Fundación de José Ortega y Gasset during the week and traveled by train and bus to various cities on the weekends.

Something that really struck me from my cultural experience was the difference in the Spanish attitude about race compared to that of Americans.  While there is not a contemporary story of the enslavement of a particular race of people in Spain, as is in the United States, there is a strong tension toward the gypsy race. My host mom and conversation partner, namely, did not consider their attitudes towards gypsies to be racist. They made the assumption that gypsies were uneducated criminals. While my host mom a

Picture of Host Mom and Dad in Toledo, Spain

Host Mom (Right) and Dad (Left) in Toledo, Spain

nd conversation partner are not to blame for being a product of their environment, the issue of racism toward gypsies cannot be understated. While I was in Spain, there were a lot of race riots going on in the United States. The constant images of the riots on the news gave the Spaniards who I interacted with an increasingly negative attitude toward the United States. I think that my host mom’s comments about most Americans being racist made me hypersensitive to the issues of racism not being a uniquely American experience.  People all around the world shun the United States for being extremely racist, part of our Nation’s story that the vast majority of us are ashamed of. All nations, however, are guilty of racism or oppression of some sort. The first step to eradicating racism is recognizing that it exists. There are people in Spain, I am sure, who are aware of the issue of racism toward gypsies, but for the most part, the Spanish public seems to be accepting a generally racist view of gypsies as truth. One of the most impactful things that I learned on my trip was that racism is an issue that every corner of the world faces.

There are several instances in which I remember thinking about the discrimination that gypsies face in Spain. While in Toledo, I went several times to the public pool with my conversation partner. There was one instance in which a gypsy boy, of probably 14 years old, called out to me in the little bit of English that he knew. The boy was being immature, trying to get the attention of two older girls. Instead of reacting to the boy in a negative way regarding his treatment of women, my conversation partner explained to me that the boy was acting that way because he was a gypsy. She told me that he could not speak English, let alone Spanish. My friend attributed this boy’s rudeness entirely to his race. She made a sour face, ignoring the boy entirely.

Also noteworthy was the fact that before going to any new city, my host parents would advise me to stay away from the gypsies who sell things at tourist attractions. They explained to me that gypsies are notoriously thieves and should not be trusted. Although I was raised to never trust anyone who is trying to sell me something, I found it strange that I should trust one merchant over another based on something as superficial as race. I know, however, that the fact that gypsies are more often associated with crime can be attributed to the fact that they have been largely stuck in poverty traps. One must not remain oblivious to the implications of race as it relates to class and privilege, but one must not let this knowledge perpetuate stereotypes.


I remember seeing a group of gypsies selling trinkets when I was getting off the bus to view La Alhambra in Granada. As I confronted them, all the negative comments that my host parents and conversation partner had made were floating around in my head. In spite of this, I did not feel any particular feeling of fear or animosity toward the gypsies outside La Alhambra, because I had not internalized their biases. I noted, too, that the administrators from La Fundación had not made any derogatory “warning” statements about the gypsies. I do not know if they were holding back their biases or if they simply did not have them, but it was refreshing to be given the opportunity to interpret my surroundings unfettered from the Spanish perspective.

Picture of La Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Inside La Alhambra in Granada, Spain

In all, the interactions that I had with Spaniards regarding the gypsy population demonstrated that there is a pervasive racist sentiment toward gypsies in Spain. Although there are many Spaniards who do not make sweeping generalizations about the gypsy population, I encountered many more who do.

This observation has made me pay more attention to where the biases that I hold stem from. I have tried to put into question more of my beliefs—I have been able to view my perceptions for what they are, opinions. While I remain an opinionated person, I am more aware than ever before of the fact that the ideas I express are framed by the context of my life. As my host mom and conversation partner in Toledo hold biases about gypsies that they view as facts, I hold biases about numerous other groups of people that I view as fact. I do not look down on the Spaniards who hold these harmful opinions, I just hope that society becomes increasingly self-aware.

Picture of Me at La Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Me at La Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Engineering Service Learning in Ghana

Josh Fuchs

For my step experience, I worked with a group of Ohio State engineering students throughout a semester preparing for our two-week trip to Akumadan, Ghana. After hearing some feedback from the University’s partners in Ghana, our team researched and designed a BioSand filter to help provide a way for families to obtain clean drinking water, which is a problem throughout many communities in Africa.

How my life perspective has changed through this experience

Before my trip to Ghana I had never been out of the United States before. I recall excitedly walking from the airport after our arrival and wondering what we would experience in the next two weeks. I expected Ghana to be very different from the U.S., and being there first-hand went beyond what I imagined. Immediately I started to see many things that I have always taken for granted. One of the largest is how mindlessly I use water, which is available at any home or almost any public place I go. I’ve learned to really contemplate on my simple access to a kitchen sink to drink water from, wash my hands, clean dishes, and help with cooking food every day. I got a glimpse of life without operating bathrooms, or somewhere to take a daily shower. Instead of department and grocery stores like I’m accustomed to, these streets of Ghana were filled with smaller shops and markets—and although thriving with energy and smiling people, it is not so simple for people to access the things they want or need. Many families there live without many of the things that I feel I could never go without, including electricity or internet access. Although I felt very safe in Ghana, there was no quick trip to the doctor’s or even a reliable police or fire station to turn to in emergencies.

Another thing really stood out though. People there were happy. They were also very friendly with us and with each other. From conversations with locals, I learned they are very grateful and do not worry about what they don’t have. Sitting here now reflecting on my experience, it takes a real effort to appreciate using a computer in a spacious University lab, streaming music from the internet, drinking water from the fountain down the hall, and checking an occasional message on my smartphone. I don’t have to worry about what I will eat tonight, how I’ll get home, whether I’ll sleep well, or if a might get sick tomorrow. These experiences in Ghana are what drives a different understanding of my life and how much I’ve been privileged with. I realize that the feats I face in my life right now, like final exams approaching soon, are in reality small problems. Come to think of it, obtaining a college degree for a future engineering career is quite a blessing.  After experiencing another drastically different way of life in my short time in Ghana, I can begin to have a better perspective of my life and everything surrounding me. I think of how great it would be to share the life outlook I experienced in Ghana, and what it would be to live my life gratefully as they do.

Experiences in Ghana that led to my changed perspective

While developing our projects for Ghana in the weeks leading up to our trip, my team had an abundance of resources to work with. We had instant access to studies around the world for sustainable water filters in communities similar to those we were designing one for. A quick trip to Lowes allowed us to get all the materials we needed for our project, rather than a whole trip of finding supplies like we did in Ghana. Engineering in Ghana involves many more challenges, and requires extremely intelligent and innovative people. Luckily we worked with talented engineers like these with our partner governmental group, the Offinso North District Assembly. We saw engineers there make use of things in ways we would never think of, and make important design changes to our filter, which would not have been a success without them. In Ghana I was able to experience another important layer of engineering, one that is more than a science, but also an art.

In addition to what I’ve learned about engineering and what this is like in Ghana, I got to experience a very unique culture here. We were warmly welcomed and greeted wherever we went, not just where we lived or in the villages we visited, but even from people just passing by on the street. It was quite different from the way that Americans might act towards random or new people. On one occasion, I approached a man at a shop to simply buy a bottle of water, and he was so welcoming he invited me to sit with him and share his dinner. We also had random children come up and help us with our projects, working with us to wash sand in a river for our filter. I found a culture of people who really cared for those around them, and who knew how to celebrate life communally and really enjoy it. I’m very thankful to have been so highly welcomed into their lives and culture. I enjoyed learning to speak the native language of Twi, and having fun dance music at every dinner while I enjoyed new food. One thing that was difficult however was moving beyond some of the material things and amenities that I’m used to in the U.S.  I hope that I can learn to be less preoccupied by these basic types of worries, and at the very least just be more thankful for them.

One of the most impactful experiences of my trip was when my team delivered our filter to the village we had been building it for. After a bumpy hour-long drive on a dirt road that was damaged by pot holes and erosion all the way, we arrived at the homes of maybe 30 families known to be suffering from Typhoid and E. Coli in their water. Most of the homes here appeared to be made out of dried mud and sticks, there was no electricity, and I did not see any cell phones for outside communication. All of the people we had previously seen in Ghana had access to water through small vendors, nearby wells, or surface water from a river or stream. Whereas many these sources were known to us to make people sick, here in this village they did not even have this nearby water at all. It was incredibly sad to walk with some of the villagers down the side of a near mountain to collect water from a small stream that was contaminated, off-colored, and filled with bugs and an odor. However, it was the tiring walk back up the hill that really hit me. We walked alongside small children who carried heavy jugs of this contaminated water, realizing that they had to do this multiple times a day, every day. Then in a village that does not have an easy ability to boil water, it was evident that this water was making people sick—as we could see how many kids had bloated stomachs to go along with their open sores and lack of shoes. It was incredibly sad to deliver one family-intended filter to this entire village, desperately wishing more could be done to help. It is this experience especially that I will never forget, and will help me recognize how easy I have it. Looking to my future, I am considering options working with people in areas like this to try to improve the health of their communities, and I hope to find a way to make this kind of positive impact.

Why these experiences have been valuable in my life

This trip to Ghana has overall been a very transformative experience for me. From an engineering perspective, it gave me a chance to collaborate with engineers at Ohio State and across the globe with the valuable goal of clean water access. I learned to work and live in a new environment and how to adapt when things did not go as planned. From a personal standpoint, this experience has opened my eyes to many of the daily things that I take for granted and don’t have enough appreciation for. I hope in my future that I will continue to work with developing communities such as these, and make use of all of the resources that I am lucky to have in my life. Travelling to Ghana and meeting so many people there was such an enjoyable and rewarding experience, and I am so thankful to have had this opportunity.


My team made a video as a final report for our project. It is more of a technical project video but worth seeing. Click here to view it.

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STEP Study Abroad in Valencia, Spain

Mark Kolat
Study Abroad

My STEP Signature Project consisted of a six-week-long study abroad program to Valencia, Spain with eleven other students. While abroad we lived in home-stays, took two classes at the Universitat de València, and traveled around Spain and throughout Europe together. We began our journey in Madrid, spending two days there getting to know the city, as well as each other, before we left for Toledo. We then spent one day in Toledo, walking through the old quarter of the city and busing up the mountainside. After this we proceeded to our more permanent destination: Valencia. There were pre-planned activities for the group on weekends, some of which included trips to Barcelona and Gandía, visits to Oceanogràfic, La Albufera and Sagunto, as well as an additional trip to Amsterdam with myself and two others. After the program, I spent the next two weeks independently traveling along the coast of the Mediterranean, visiting Montpellier, France and the cities of Milan and Pisa, Italy.

Before participating in this trip to Europe I had never before left the United States, let alone been on a plane! My world-view was shaped by American society, culture, and media, even though I had spent many years studying other cultures and languages. I felt that I had a pretty well-educated understanding of what Europe would be like, but tried not to go into the program with any preconceived assumptions or expectations. I did know, however, that this experience was going to be completely unique from anything I had ever done before.

As I mentioned above, my general understanding of the world and travel had been based off of classroom studies or hearing stories from others that had gone abroad before me. While this did give me some perspective of what I was going into, actually being there and living the “European lifestyle” is what helped to transform my understanding and build my personal connections with the people and places that I visited. I would say that the most important aspect that I brought back with me after my trip was that of reflection upon how small the world really is. Before participating in this program I thought of other countries as these far-off places that would be so distinct from anything that I had ever known. After traveling around Europe by train, alone, meeting people along the way and learning about their lives and how they perceived the United States, this perspective completely changed as I finally began to understand how connected and similar we all really are. This was also accomplished and reinforced by being with my program group, experiencing the different parts of Spain and Northern Europe together. However, I can say that the real learning takes place when you are on your own, without anyone else to rely on, and are able to fully realize what you are capable of doing.

The classroom experience is great and all, but when I was walking through the streets in Spain, the Netherlands, France, and Italy, the history that they contained came to life. Being able to be in the presence of a Roman pillar, climb the tower of an ancient city wall, walk through ruins overlooking the Sea, and build relationships with people from all these areas truly showed me the impact that being abroad can have. When I think about the world and all that it has to offer after participating in the program, my personal interactions with people that do not speak my native language and that have lived lives that are similar yet so different from my own, the memories of my independent travels that were nerve-wracking, yet eye-opening, and the feeling of being so far away from my home, yet feeling that I now, in some respect, have another, are what I refer to in order to fully grasp the amount that I learned from being abroad. Confidence, self-reliance, patience, understanding, and respect are all traits that I can connect with on another level after having participated in my STEP Project that would not have been challenged or strengthened in the same way had I stayed domestic.

From my experience, I can say that travel gives a person a sense of a new beginning. I left everything that I had ever known behind and jumped right into a new environment with new people and new ways of living. While Europe surely is not the most diverse place when comparing it to the United States, the change was noticeable enough to make an impact. This change, though, did not happen at any specific point, rather is something that I now understand after having experienced it and having had time to reflect on it. I remember when we first arrived in Valencia and met our host families: we were on our bus waiting for them to pick us up and, as soon as they arrived, we got off the bus, grabbed our luggage, did short introductions with the people with whom we would be living for the next few weeks, got into their car, and left with them. Isn’t that just a weird thing to do? Go into someone’s home and make it your own without ever knowing them beforehand? Well, that’s what I thought, at least. The truth is, although, that it wasn’t all that strange when I was in the situation. This definitely put me outside of my comfort zone, but building a familial connection with these new people was one of the main aspects of the trip that helped me grow as a traveler. Listening to stories about their lives, learning how to cook traditional Spanish foods and enjoying them together, and going out to explore the city with them really formed my outlook of how much there was that I had never experienced.

This home-stay and sense of complete independence was very helpful when it came to our weekend excursions and, especially, my two-week post-program trip around southern Europe. Interacting and building relationships with people that had very different life experiences was a skill that I was able to develop while living in a home-stay and traveling in general, and aided greatly in my transformation. Each person that I talked to, every unique story that I heard, and every place that I visited was like opening a new chapter in a book of memories that I now look back on. I vividly remember my favorite place that we visited together while in Spain: Sagunto. This is a smaller city up the coast a little ways from Valencia, and it offered some of the most beautiful sights that I have ever seen. After climbing to the top of the mountain to the ancient Islamic ruins and looking out at the city below, the sea in the distance, and even more city and mountains behind me, I really understood how far I had come and how much I had learned.

A final aspect, and one that I have mentioned already but think is worth mentioning again, is that of independent travel. Had I not done this at the end of my program, I think that I would have returned to the United States with a similar changed attitude, but would have not acquired that same skills that I did as a result of doing it. Being alone, thousands of miles away from home, was definitely a scary thing to think about, but that is not something that one should dwell on in the moment. I was able to build and experience an enormous amount of self-reliance, confidence, and independence that made this feat seem a lot more low-key than, in retrospect, it actually was. Navigating train stations, asking random people on the side of the street for help (which is something to be careful about doing), and having back-up plans in case anything did not go as planned truly forced me to become a different person than I had ever had to be before. I feel that this type of experience is one that everyone should have at some point in order to really discover what they are made of and how much they can truly undertake. I can now look through my friends list on Facebook and see the people I met, remembering all the adventures we went on together and how much we learned from each other while on our trip.

Having this experience to look back on as I complete my undergraduate studies and begin to plan my graduate ones, I am able to realize how important travel is when pursuing an international academic and professional career, as I plan to do. I can now go into situations with a unique sense of confidence and independence as a result of going abroad, allowing me to have opportunities that I either would not be offered or that I would not feel well-prepared enough to have if I had not participated in this transformational experience. I now better understand how interconnected people are, no matter how far away they are from each other, and can use this to apply for other similar international excursions in the future. I think, though, that it is even more important for those whom are not pursuing a direct international career to experience this sort of transformation so as to not forget that it does indeed exist. To Whom It May Concern, these strategies and world views can only help you, and probably provide you with many more opportunities than you would have without going abroad.

It is quite convenient that I was able to take part in this trip to a place that is more similar to the United States than others for my first time out of the country, as I will be spending this autumn semester, 2016, in Senegal, West Africa, studying French, Community Development, and Wolof in both urban and rural environments. As this region of the world will pose new challenges to me, the adaptation strategies that I was able to develop in Europe will be essential in taking on the new people, cultures, and situations with which I will be faced in Senegal, allowing me to further build upon this transformational STEP experience in a way that will add more layers to my world-view and understanding of where I fit in.

¡Hasta la próxima! À la prochaine! Alla prossima!


Mark Kolat-Sagunto 1 Mark Kolat-Sagunto 2

Study Abroad Experience in London

Name: Michelle Noethen

Type of Project: Study Abroad


I chose to study abroad in London in May 2015 for my STEP experience. I studied British culture and history through reading British Literature in class and going on field trips. We lived in flats in central London for a month and got to experience what it was like to live in a major international city.

The STEP experience completely changed my life. I had never been out of the country before, nor had I ever been outside of the state of Ohio, away from my parents for this long. Living and working outside of the U.S. is something I want to pursue someday, so this was a great opportunity for me to see how I would react. I was surprised how comfortable I was living so far away from home for an extended period of time. I learned so much more about myself and matured in the process. I have made friends for life, not only from Ohio State but from all over the world that I still keep in contact with today.

One of the things I love about traveling is that you get to throw yourself in a completely different world that you are not familiar with and then have to learn how to live in it. It almost feels like trying to navigate out of corn maze. Every day in London was such a challenge because we would have ideas for places we wanted to visit after our classes and field trips ended each day, and we would have to find a way to get to them in the least amount of time with the lowest cost.

I learned that I am much more capable and mature than I thought I was. I was 20 when I went so I still felt I was in that weird transition from teen to adult. Being in London on my own helped me to move to a point where I feel like I can say, “I’m an adult.” It has always been my dream to travel outside of the US and learn more about the world. I had assumed going into London that the city consisted of mostly British people but that was definitely not the case. Like New York, there are people there from all over the world.

The one down to this experience is that we didn’t get the opportunity to take classes with students from different parts of the world. Everyone in our class was from OSU. But this didn’t stop me from meeting new people from all over the globe. I was always trying to interact with people who I didn’t know, particularly on the tubes. For example, I met a woman on the tube who was 15 during the Blitz. She was sent out of London during it which has resulted to her living in over 40 different cities around the world. It’s people like her who I meet and am just so happy I was able to talk to someone like that. These types of interactions you are not likely to have in Ohio so I definitely tried to make the most of being in London.

My experience in London is definitely valuable in my life. Something that I know OSU strives for, is for their students to be well-rounded. I felt like being in another country and meeting people not only from the UK, but from all over the world, got me very accustomed to being able to talk to people who are different than those I meet in the U.S. This will be very helpful to me in the business world.

My time spent abroad has definitely enriched my academic experience. I have learned so much about British literature, history, and culture. This is very different than what I am currently studying as an Accounting major, so it was refreshing and only enhanced my leaning. Part of the STEP project was to create a budget. This is definitely something that I can apply to my major and just to my life in general. Creating a budget was very helpful in knowing how to manage my money abroad.

Big Ben!



Windsor Castle!


Buckeye in Britain

During the fall 2015 semester I studied abroad in London, England. I went through the third party provider, The American Institute for Foreign Study, and studied at Richmond The American International University in London. I called London, specifically the Royal Borough of Kensington, home from September 1, 2015 thru December 19, 2015.  While London was my home I had the opportunity to travel and made use of this time. In the few months I was there I traveled to 7 countries and saw 14 different cities. I was able to travel with people that I had just met as well as a long time friend. Having someone there who was my base was so nice and made me feel very comfortable, but I also loved having the opportunity to branch out and meet so many new people.

During my time abroad a lot of what I learned is about how to embrace new situations. So often in life we try to fit new experiences and new information into context of what we know. We try to think of how new information fits into the ideas we already have, or how the experiences are similar to experiences we have already had. While abroad I learned how to not take part in this mental grouping; I would treat every new experience, every new food, every new culture as its own entity. The United States is such a unique country different from every other, so how could I expect situations to be similar to situations here–the answer is I cannot. I made the effort and learned to embrace every culture and place for what it is; doing this caused me to not only appreciate these places and experiences more but also to appreciate the United States more as well.

My favorite part of the experience was being able to really feel like a local in London. I loved being able to go on the tube and easily get myself around the city (especially when crossing the road and finally looking in the proper direction).  I liked that I was able to go to local restaurants and pubs and blend in because I was able to adapt to the culture rather than being stereotypically American. So overall my favorite part of studying abroad in London was that I felt like I belonged in London. I was there long enough that I became someone who lived in the city not just someone visiting it. Now I am proud to say that I have officially lived in 3 places: New Jersey, Ohio, and London.

My trip impacted me personally, because it afforded me the opportunity to grow as a person. I learned a lot about myself and am happy about the strengths that I was able to demonstrate. While abroad people looked to me to lead, whether we were in a country where English was not the first language or just trying to wrangle everyone together to go explore London. Also I learned that I am a person that people really trust, people felt confident in my decisions and knew that I was reliable and would ensure that everyone was safe and accounted for. I really grew in my leadership skills because of this and I am more confident using my voice in every day life. I also discovered that I enjoy throwing myself into new experiences and learning as I go. I am someone that usually plans a lot of their life out but being abroad it is difficult to have control when you are in new places and situations. That uncertainty was something I originally feared but by the end of the semester it became something I really enjoyed. I now personally look to throw myself into new situations that will force me to not have control over every detail so that I can enjoy the experience and take everything in.

Going forward I want to be able to prioritize traveling in my life. I think that traveling is a great way for me to connect not only more with myself and who I am traveling with but also with different places in this country or the world. I think it is so important to recognize that not everyone’s life is like yours and not all places are similar to the one you live in. I want to travel so that I can be reminded about this and expand my understanding of myself and myself in a global context. Another idea that I have, that I didn’t previously, is that I am a lot more interested in the idea of working abroad at some point while I am young. I think that it would be an amazing experience to work in another part of the world, it would help in my understanding of different work cultures, which is useful when you are part of a global business and will be working with people from other countries.

Studying abroad was one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life. I am very happy that I chose to take the risk and go for the entire semester, I feel this lead to a more rewarding experience. I may be gone for now but I’ll return because London’s Calling.

This is me infront of the Eiffel Tower

This is me in front of the Eiffel Tower in September

I took this photo when walking on Millennial Bridge. I just love the connection between the new and the old in the city of London and this is a perfect example.

I took this photo when walking on Millennial Bridge. I just love the connection between the new and the old in the city of London and this is a perfect example. (The prominent building is St.Paul’s Cathedral). 

This is me infront of the house that was in the movie Parent Trap.

This is me in front of the house that was in the movie Parent Trap. Parent Trap is my favorite movie so it was a goal of mine to see this 

London Summer 2015 Study Abroad

My STEP signature project was a study abroad trip over the summer 2015 to London, England for nine weeks. I also had the opportunity to have two weekends trips as well to Ireland and Paris, France.

My view on the world has transformed tremendously since my STEP study abroad trip. I am very eager to get back to Europe and other countries to travel around. You hear all these stories that make you somewhat afraid to travel in a foreign country but as long as your smart and aware of your surroundings, its amazing, addicting, and very exciting. This opportunity has created a dream for me to explore the world.

My STEP study abroad trip was based in London for the summer. But while I was there I had the opportunity to also travel to Ireland and Paris, France for two weekends. There were also day trips to difference places in England such as Windsor castle, Stonehenge, Bath, and Brighton.

The trips to Ireland and Paris, France really enhanced my thirst for travel. The Ireland trip was self planned with friends I had met abroad. After the success of the trip it gave me great confidence in my ability to plan my own trip, successfully travel on my own, and be on my own without supervision. Next weekend trip was to Paris, France. This trip was planned by the school I was enrolled in so this trip was semi supervised. The trip showed me that travel between countries can be as simple as a two-hour train ride. As well as the fact that the fact that the trip was semi supervised so we had a Residence Advisor with us to contact if there was an emergency but we were left to explore the city however we wanted. I gained the confidence to navigate myself around a city that spoke a different language.

The day trips were a difference kind of adventure. I got to explore different parts of England and see how easy to navigate the railway systems that are a huge part of European culture. In a matter of a few hours I can visit someplace completely different from London and then go back that same night. Some of the day trips were provided by the school but others were planned by myself and a few friends.

My STEP study abroad experience has changed my life for the better and now I can easily adjust to new cultures because I have the experience. It has brought me wondrous memories and relationships with people all over the world. If I had the opportunity, I would 110% do it all over again.IMG_7128 IMG_6893

Global May – Hungary 2015

With the help of the STEP program I was able to use my funding to study abroad in Hungary, as well as visit other countries such as Austria and Poland. I spent a total of four weeks abroad. Three of those weeks were spent in Budapest while the remainder of time was spent between Vienna, Austria and Warsaw, Poland. During my time there I wanted to observe how they spent their leisure time, specifically in regards to recreational activities. My goal was to analyze how they participated in recreational activities on a day to day basis and in doing so better understand their attraction to sports related activities. I was also interested in the safety/medical aspects of those activities and compare it to that of the United States.

My experience was life changing; and definitely one I will never forget. The trip as a whole exceeded my expectations by far. I had gone into the trip with a set idea of what I might learn based on my own research and hearing about other study abroad programs from other students but none of that could quite explain it enough. I learned a lot about the culture of the countries and small social interactions, which in turn changed me as a person. There were life lessons that you often hear about or some times even go unspoken but it was a whole different experience living through it. If I could have increased the length of my time spent there I would have in a heartbeat.

One of the biggest lessons I learned was being content with what you have and to enjoy the little things in life. Many people do not have the same privileges as others yet they seem to still be much happier with less and make it go a long way. I have a better appreciation of what I do, have, and learn. The opportunities are endless and should not go to waste. I learned so much about myself in that short four-week span of time being out of the country than I had anticipated. I still apply what I learned and notice the subtle differences between the people in Europe and here at home.

My best experiences came from learning about the history of each country and seeing how it affected the people today. The walking tours were my favorite part and stood out to me the most. I saw places that housed the wealthy and areas that were occupied by the less fortunate. The differences were quite fascinating to me and being able to interact with both sides of the spectrum was memorable. I gained an appreciation for the day-to-day activities of the people there and how they were able to manage their situation, no matter good or bad.

Outside of scheduled programs when I was able to spend my free time how I chose, I was able to even further immerse myself in the culture and explore the streets and shops that were outside of the tourist areas. Participating in the Escape Rooms and listening to owners talk about how much they love what they do and their fascination with the popular trend that is sweeping across the world was amazing. Some talked about how much of their own money and efforts they spent into their businesses and making sure the customers were satisfied. Not just the Escape Rooms but also barbershops, bars, clothing stores, markets, and many other businesses had similar stories about how they do it because it is what they love and they enjoy seeing the smiles on people’s faces.

There is not just one experience that I could say was the single factor that changed my point of view, rather it was the accumulation of events that had an impact on me. The more time I spent there the more I learned and the more I took away from it. I went into the program thinking I was going to solely learn about the leisure and recreational activities and focus much of time on that but as my time there progressed I reconsidered what I wanted to take away from the trip. It was more so of learning about the cultures as a whole than just the recreational aspect.

I am glad that all of my expectations were shattered after my trip. I took away much more than I had anticipated. I was expecting one thing to happen while I was there but it took a different turn that I am grateful for. It can be equated to life such that you may have thought you have your whole life planned out moment by moment when in reality a change of events can prove to be more beneficial and satisfying for you in the end. My trip to Budapest Hungary will also be one I will cherish.