STEP Reflection – Study Abroad

Matthew Brichler

Short-term Study Abroad Program – Logistics Global Lab

 

 

Hello there! During the 2016 spring break, I chose to do something a little bit different than most college kids typically do for a spring break trip. Rather than relaxing on a beach somewhere or going back home for a visit, I traveled to Europe as a member of the Logistics Global Lab (or LGL) program thru the Fisher College of Business. This program consisted of an 8-day trip to Budapest, Hungary and Prague, the Czech Republic with 14 of my fellow Fisher students and a couple Fisher staff/faculty. LGL is a multi-purpose program designed to enhance students’ understanding of Central European cultures and foster our growth as young business professionals thru visits to several prominent companies operating in Central Europe and beyond.

 

Views of Budapest from Gellert Hill. One of my favorite gems of the trip

Views of Budapest from Gellert Hill. One of my favorite gems of the trip

 

Throughout my years at Ohio State, I have learned a lot about the world around me, but I’ve also learned a lot about myself. As a senior, I like to think I have a pretty good understanding of myself, who I am as a person, and what I stand for. I have been traveling the world since I was a baby, so I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing diverse cultures from all around the world and learning to appreciate people and traditions different from myself. I had visited Western Europe twice before the spring break of 2016, but I had never experienced Central/Eastern Europe. LGL enabled me to venture outside of my “European comfort zone” by taking me to Central/Eastern Europe.

 

In front of the Budapest Parliament building in Hungary

In front of the Budapest Parliament building in Hungary

 

Prior to the trip, I had a lot of assumptions, expectations, and visions about what that region of Europe was like. I pictured this region of the world as a product of the destruction that resulted from World War 2. I envisioned a region that was still trying to recover from the carnage of the war and one that is not very aesthetically appealing. I am so thankful for the opportunity to visit this region so that I could put my assumptions and expectations to rest. After exploring the area, I confirmed and rejected some of my assumptions. I realized that the region is a product of World War 2 and it is still recovering. I also learned, however, that Hungary and the Czech Republic maintained their rich and long histories throughout all of the turmoil of the 20th century, and the citizens of these countries are very proud of their history. This was surprising to me, but very reassuring and uplifting, as well. By the end of the trip, I rejected my assumption that Central/Eastern Europe is not aesthetically appealing. Sure, there were some rough parts in both Budapest and Prague. But you can find that in any city. I was most fascinated with the “gems” that these cities had to offer – these were some of the things that really transformed me throughout the trip. These gems were so special and unique to each city and it made me realize that no matter where you travel, there will always be these gems, hidden or not, that truly exemplify the culture of that region of the world. It inspired me to find the gems that every country has to offer!

This transformation was just one of many that I experienced as a result of the trip. These transformations were brought on by countless different aspects of the LGL program. One of the primary aspects of the trip that changed me was my experience in Prague, the Czech Republic. Prior to visiting Prague, I had less-than-average expectations for the city. I had heard great things from family friends that had visited, but for whatever reason I did not envision it as a spectacular city. After exploring the city for 4 days, I quickly realized that Prague is one of my top 3 favorite cities in the world, with the likes of Barcelona, Spain and Sydney, Australia. One of my favorite things about Prague is the way it blends the old with the new, its rich history with modern amenities. We stayed in a hotel just 5 minutes from Old Town Prague, which is a historic city square. In the square, there were tons of merchant carts selling various Prague treats and delicacies. I can still distinctly remember the sweet, savory, October-like smell in the square. But just 2 minutes from this old square, there is a 5-story mall called the Palladium Mall. It is modern, made of glass, and filled with all the stores anyone in the 21st century would want to shop at. The streets were primarily cobblestone and brick, but they blended into blacktop- and cement-paved roads as you ventured outside the city center. I had the pleasure of experiencing all of these things firsthand, and it was like nothing I’d experienced before. It was spectacular. This aspect of the trip enabled me to transform from someone who focuses a lot on expectations about future events and engagements to someone who tries not to focus too much on expectations or assumptions, but rather enjoy events and engagements as they happen and appreciate them for what they are.

Another phenomenal aspect of the trip was getting to travel abroad with 14 of my fellow Fisher students that I had never met before. I have traveled abroad with “strangers” before, so I felt somewhat comfortable traveling with students who I hadn’t met before. I got along really well with most of our group and I made some friendships that are still going strong today, 6 months after we returned to the U.S. It intrigues me how I meet some people in life, and the people I met thru LGL are no different. Several of my fellow LGL members were/are in my classes at Fisher. One of them is on the executive board of The Logistics Association (a student organization in Fisher) with me. Another was a friend of three of my roommates long before I met her. And the rest were strangers that I had never met before. LGL brought us all closer together and I am blessed to say that I had the opportunity to explore Budapest and Prague with these people. There are no friendships like the ones made while studying abroad. I think this experience with my fellow classmates transformed me into someone who is more willing to step out of my comfort zone and seek out situations in which I don’t know anyone. This trip transformed me in this way because I realize how much I gained from each person I met thru LGL. Everyone has something interesting or unique to offer that you probably didn’t know before meeting them.

 

The group - outside of Prague Castle

The group – outside of Prague Castle

 

There was one other dimension of the LGL program that transformed me as a business student and aspiring business professional. During the course of the week-long program, our group visited 6 different companies based in and operating throughout Europe. We visited companies such as Mondelez, Skoda, and Lego, among others. Through each of these unique visits, we had the amazing opportunity to network with executives from each company, discuss business problems and the business climate in Europe, and witness some real-life business operations in practice. These were a fantastic part of the LGL program because it opened my mind to business challenges and operations around the world that I had never seen before. This enabled me to transform my perspective as a young business professional to be more well-rounded and to have a global mindset when approaching business problems.

The transformations that I experienced as a result of LGL are tremendous. I am very blessed and appreciative of the opportunity to participate in such a great program. I believe that I have become a better individual, student, and professional as a result of my STEP Signature Project. The first transformation I talked about will help me to enjoy life to the fullest and live in the moment. I focus more on taking things at their face value and appreciating them as they occur, rather than getting bogged down on my expectations and assumptions. The second transformation I mentioned was about becoming more willing to step out of my comfort zone in social situations where I don’t know anyone. I believe this will open up my life to tons of new experiences and opportunities, simply because I’ll be more likely to engage with all different types of people even if I don’t know them. The last transformation I detailed was the transformation as a young business student and professional. The business operations exposure that I received in Hungary and the Czech Republic cannot be matched by any other program at a university. I had the pleasure of interacting with real executives that lead some of Europe’s largest companies. I was able to listen to them talk about the unique challenges (both in logistics and in general) that they face as a company operating primarily on the European continent. This experience will foster my growth as a business professional after graduation because it opened my eyes to challenges and different aspects of the business world (specifically logistics) that I had never considered before. In the modern business world, it is crucial to have a global mindset and that is exactly what this program provided me.

O-H-I-O! from Prague Castle

O-H-I-O! from Prague Castle

Studying Abroad Helped me Find my Home

Sara Owens

Study Abroad

         Over the past 6 months I have been attempting to put my passionate feelings into words that even begin to describe the adventure of a lifetime that took place in Budapest, Hungary this past summer. I’ve not wanted to accept that my STEP signature experience is over, but I have realized that one adventure must end before another can begin. One year ago, I began my STEP proposal by quoting John Green saying, “I am in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met”. As I reflect on this experience, I feel a pang in my heart as my soul has been touched by the places I’ve visited and the people I’ve met. I began this journey quoting the words of other travelers; now I am telling my own story.

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           My STEP Signature Project enabled me to set out on an adventure I had only dreamed of before. I participated in the 2015 Global May Hungary Program. This allowed me to live in Budapest for 4 weeks and challenged me to delve into an entirely new culture. Coursework included learning the history, culture, political views, economic conditions, and unique language of Hungary. Touring the city, learning innovative ways to utilize green spaces, studying the importance of famous monuments, meeting with political representatives, and reflecting on museum exhibitions were just a few ways we covered the course material. Our final project consisted of a video presentation of a prevalent topic of choice unique to Hungarian culture. I took this opportunity and ran with it as my group studied the progression of café culture within Budapest as well as central Europe. The Global May Hungary program also led us to Warsaw, Poland as well as Vienna, Austria to compare the history and culture of other major European cities.

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           I began this journey as ignorant as could be. While I knew I had never seen the world, I had not realized that I had not been living life to the fullest. My perspective shifted with each step that I took and I found more compassion in my heart with every person that I met. I did not know that I was capable of accomplishing the things that I did within these 4 short weeks that I lived in Budapest. My main goal of this experience was to transform into a traveler. At one point, this seemed unrealistic due to my utter lack of travel experience. I had never even been on an airplane before casually flying overseas. While writing my STEP proposal last year I was sure to include my personal philosophy of what a traveler ought to be. I came up with this: “A traveler is someone ambitious enough to capture the serenity of new places while welcoming the new culture to become a part of them. A traveler leaves nothing behind; only gains knowledge, acceptance, and perspective from new places. Less comparably, a tourist is one who may look at the world, but will never see it for what it truly is. Tourists travel merely for their own personal pleasure, while travelers seek to become a part of something larger than them.” As I copied these words onto paper I deeply felt that this was true. Something was driving me to become a well-seasoned traveler; I just wasn’t sure how I would achieve this.

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           Not only did I accomplish this, but I have also unleashed a new passion in life. I have discovered the priceless beauty of engaging as a global citizen. Our professor whom led us on this trip, Dr. Daniel Pratt, warned us that we would begin to attract the company of others whom have spent a significant amount of time abroad. I have found this to be incredibly true. Sine returning from Budapest, I have met people from all around the globe and it seems that they pick me out of a crowd. Whether I am at school, work, or simply out in public, I find it difficult to avoid travelers whom have great stories to tell. I feel that these people feel comfortable around me because of the new confidence and energy that I have gained from my STEP signature project.

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            Many do not understand how it is that I felt more understood than ever before in a country that did not speak my language nor practice my culture. The moment I arrived in Budapest, I felt welcomed by this new place; I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging. I quickly learned that this infinite feeling of bliss is what home feels like. My home is no longer a place. Home is where my heart is full, my mind is challenged, and my soul is happy. I’ve found the place that wakes my mind up and fills my heart with happiness. Finding this place has bought my new passion for traveling to light. This experience allowed me to openly challenge all I have ever known. Boarding my first ever flight to pursue my dreams of traveling the world was one of the greatest feelings I have ever experienced and I will never stop chasing adventure that provides me with this much energy and happiness. Being exposed to a new culture, a new language, a new currency, and a new lifestyle provided me with endless opportunities to learn. I had the amazing opportunity to take on Budapest and experience new things each and every day I was here. Being on the other side of the world, I had no choice but to adjust to my surroundings. I noticed how my personal values began to shift with each week I was here. I no longer depended on technology to stay connected, I began to trust my sense of direction more, and I realized the importance of creating unforgettable memories with 25 new friends whom I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life. I have gained a new appreciation for central Europe as a whole and cannot wait to explore more of Europe in the future. I have also begun to view America differently and have thus reevaluated our Country’s values. Most importantly, I have discovered the significance of traveling with purpose. I returned back to The United States as a more curious, intellectually stimulated, passionate, inspired, and determined individual who will never stop searching for the infinite feeling of bliss that I now call home.

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            No amount of coursework could ever exceed the amount of knowledge I gained from living like a local in a foreign country. Simply taking the right bus route to get to class, practicing effective communication, discovering new territories, and interacting with locals provided me with experience in all areas of productivity. Engaging in the world has a whole new meaning to me after investing so much of my time, energy, and passion into Budapest. This opportunity has genuinely increased my global literacy skills. Prior to this experience, my personal and professional expectations were limited. I now know how important it is to see the world and face new challenges. Throughout the course of this program, I became more susceptible to change. I quickly learned that the benefits you gain from pushing your limits and trying new things is an incredibly rewarding process. I have since decided that I want to travel with a deeper purpose. I want to leave my fingerprints around the world as I help those less fortunate than myself. I want to understand economic differences between thriving countries and underdeveloped nations so that I can better appreciate where I am from. Now that I have experienced traveling abroad, I know I must continue this leisure pursuit. I will continue to explore Honduras and Peru this coming summer and I cannot wait to explore new land, meet new people, and understand new cultures. I have also begun seeking future employers with international opportunities and am even considering international graduate school programs. I have also added serving in the Peace Corps for two years to my bucket list. Choosing to no longer be restricted by borders has opened up so many possibilities for my future and I cannot wait to see where I will end up. I am eternally grateful for the resources I am provided with, the people I have met, and the memories I have made along the way. Köszönöm, Budapest, for helping me find my new home.

 

Here is my group’s multimedia project about Café Culture

 

 

Beautapest 2015

My STEP project was an Ohio State Sponsored Study Abroad program by the name of Global May Hungary. The program occurred in the month of May, 2015, and extended into the beginning of June. In Hungary, I took a general education course over Central European culture, politics, and history, specifically focusing on Budapest, Vienna, Warsaw, and Hungary. The class occurred everyday for three hours and was accompanied with professor guided tours and excursions on the weekends.

I went into my STEP Project with no idea as to how it would affect me. I did very little research about the area and simply chose Hungary on a travel-bug whim. Having a lack of knowledge about my fellow classmates, the topic, and the area honestly gave me a more authentic experience in Hungary. As to my own growth, I was not prepared for the amount of learning I would be doing regarding myself. I’ve always been a relatively hesitant person especially when it comes to my own skill set. Where this thought comes from I’m not sure, but I know that many years of believing it has compounded and brought me to an unhealthy level of skepticism. My time abroad in Budapest introduced me to an innate confidence I was unaware I had beforehand.

Budapest taught me more than just confidence. It taught me how to be an individual and taught me to expand my perceptions of the world. I have always prided myself on my ability to consider other realities, whether it be for the person next to me or someone across the world. Before Hungary, I saw myself as open-minded and observant. After actually immersing myself in a different culture and part of the world, my perspective on my perspective changed. I become more cognizant in practice, not just theory. Alongside my perspective, my ability to be an individual evolved. I think being in a completely new setting with no strings attached to the people on my program and the people of the place led me to see situations for what I wanted and not what others wanted around me. I functioned in the city as a singular person with obligations only to myself, something the context here on campus and in my hometown doesn’t really permit.

The confidence I gathered from my time in Hungary worked synergistically with my newfound sense of individualism. A lot of it came from my ability to navigate the city. I began with this idea that I needed to know where I was in order to know where to go, so I tried to learn the metro map, bus map, and outline of Budapest as quickly as possible. Others were a tad lackadaisical in learning the system. People began to rely on my directional skills which was a new experience for me. Because I learned how to navigate for my own sake and not for the good of the group, I felt ownership of it. I learned that the reason I do things can really change my understanding of those things/skills/actions. If I chose something for myself and people came along, I felt a sense of power and reaffirmation from those around, but the difference is that I was not intentionally seeking it. A majority of my live had been making choices with others ranking over my own thoughts, changing how I felt about my choices. I was unaware of my confidence from my own choices during my stay in the city and only noticed it upon returning home. I haven’t been able to continue it much, but because I know I am capable of that confidence and ability now, I’ve been working to implement it into my already written life which has been an experience in itself and one that is long but purposeful.

I think one of the greatest gifts from traveling comes from perspective. I’ve been aware of how much of a bubble I have lived in for most of my life, something I began to notice when I moved in high school. Acknowledging it was the first step of change and something I have been working on. I think one of the moments that I realized how my sense of perspective itself had changed was on our monument tour of Budapest. I was observing all the monuments representing different points in Hungarian history and saw how their depiction of the Holocaust, the Communist Era, and the post-Communist Era were so different than my own and, to generalize, America’s depiction. A lot of the existence of Hungary was due to its background, from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Queen Cici to the loss of the Big Fish in WWI. It reminded me how important these lenses on our own realities are and how important it is to see any situation from multiple sides. After leaving Hungary, I also developed an even greater sense of perspective during the Syrian Refugee migrant crisis. It as mind boggling that there were people stranded in the same train station I arrived in coming back from Vienna. It was insane to see thousands of people in the squares that my peers and I walked through every day. My experience in Hungary gave me in-the-moment perspective as well as post-abroad perspective that most people wouldn’t experience. My understanding of the importance of our own interconnectivity increased drastically since the crisis and has kept me on the forefront of any news regarding the people trapped in a city I came to love.

One of the last things my trip offered me was a new group of people I could relate to. Now, you can say that groups can be found anywhere from organizations on campus to classes you take and so on. There’s something different about being in a country where they don’t speak your language predominantly that brings people together. I genuinely believe that I was a more authentic me because I had very few strings attached to who I needed to be for these newfound friends. I was able to express myself with no preconceived notions of how I should act or what I should believe. That was truly liberating. I found some much of myself in the relationships I made with my fellow students. I see these friendships as something deeper than what I could have found here in the United States. We relied heavily on each other but not in the sense of “accept me, like me, be my friend.” We relied on each other to get by and experience the city, which in my eyes builds friendships that are truly unbreakable. I have kept in contact with most all of my Budabaes through GroupMe but also through the effort of maintaining these one-of-a-kind bonds. I want to continue these friendships because I feel that most of these people know a more truer me than a lot of my friends here at Ohio State and back at home.

These developments in my life has greatly changed who I am and how I perceive myself. I’m thankful for STEP for providing me with the ability to have this experience but also requiring me to view it as something more than a simple Study Abroad experience. A lot of this experience has taught me to reflect on a level I didn’t reach often in my life. Alongside that, the skills I’ve listed above have greatly impacted the way I see myself. These changes are incredibly important to my future in that if I hadn’t known I could be naturally confident or hadn’t known that my own choices were just as important as the group’s or hadn’t known how genuine friendships can feel, then I wouldn’t be at the place I am today. In a way, this experience opened my eyes to a new reality for myself, one where I am more appreciative of me. Sounds cliche, I understand, but I truly believe that going to Hungary and living there for so long while learning of Hungarian culture and having few attachments has led me to a truer version of myself. It will help me go through life with a sense of purpose, understanding, and more acknowledgment to my own existence and how it affects me and is affected by those around me.

Overall, I loved my STEP Experience. It was unforgettable. I still think about it 6 months after it occurred. For our class, we made a video regarding something we learned. Mine was actually about Animals in Budapest. Enjoy some wonderful videography courtesy of me and a fun timeline and idea courtesy of my group mates :).

Below are some of my favorite photos from my STEP experience:

This was taken on a boat down the Danube after returning from a day excursion to Sventendre and Visegrad. It shows the Buda Castle and Chain Bridge.

This was taken on a boat down the Danube after returning from a day excursion to Sventendre and Visegrad. It shows the Buda Castle and Chain Bridge.

When we travelled to Warsaw, we went to a food and artisan festival. They had this insanely large cotton candy that took forever to eat but was delicious!

When we travelled to Warsaw, we went to a food and artisan festival. They had this insanely large cotton candy that took forever to eat but was delicious!

Here is a look at the Chain Bridge beneath the façade of the Buda Castle. We were walking back from exploring tunnels under the Buda Hills and the lighting was really nice and deserved a picture.

Here is a look at the Chain Bridge beneath the façade of the Buda Castle. We were walking back from exploring tunnels under the Buda Hills and the lighting was really nice and deserved a picture.

This was taken by our super macho Visegrad tour guide. We were on top of the tower which gave us a great view of the Danube. This was before we knew each other, too. :)

This was taken by our super macho Visegrad tour guide. We were on top of the tower which gave us a great view of the Danube. This was before we knew each other, too. 🙂

This is one of my absolute favorite photos I took on the entire trip. I am in love with this building and the space surrounding it. One of my favorite places in the entire city of Budapest.

This is one of my absolute favorite photos I took on the entire trip. I am in love with this building and the space surrounding it. One of my favorite places in the entire city of Budapest.

This was a night of fun as Monica and I walked through Vienna at night. Vienna is gorgeous but it becomes even more beautiful once the sun sets. We tried the classic coffee and their special bakery item, a sweet bread roll with plum jam inside!

This was a night of fun as Monica and I walked through Vienna at night. Vienna is gorgeous but it becomes even more beautiful once the sun sets. We tried the classic coffee and their special bakery item, a sweet bread roll with plum jam inside!

My entire experience was unforgettable and I will never forget it as long as I live. #BUDABLESSED