Global May Britain: A month in London

In May 2016, STEP gave me an amazing chance to study abroad in Great Britain. For four weeks, I lived in central London and studied British history, politics, and culture while taking the Arts and Sciences 2798.03 class Global May Britain. Four times a week, I and other thirty-nine students from the US had morning lectures at Anglo-American Educational Services Study Center and then afternoon excursions at various famous historical an20160509_164713d cultural sites in London. I also traveled to a couple of big British cities like Liverpool and Edinburgh and made a lot of new fiends.

This month abroad has changed my perception of diversity and European cultures a lot. Before going to London, I imagined Great Britain as a pretty conservative thousand-years-old country with strict etiquette and traditions represented by predominantly white nation. However, from the very first day British cities were impressing me with their huge diversity and proving that my images of old and wealthy European countries were outdated. I have realized that social and cultural diversity is more than just a feature of big American cities – this is the image of a perfect world recognized by many developed countries nowadays.

As soon as I arrived to Heathrow airport in London, I realized how wrong I was when imagining Britain as a predominantly white country. In the airport, in the underground, on the streets, and even in the supermarket, I was surrounded by people of all colors, clothes, and languages. Kilburn, where I lived in London, was a mostly Muslim area with busy street markets and friendly people. Our class had a walking tour around bright and vibrant Brixton – the home of thousands of Afro-Caribbean emigrants since early 20th century; and of course, London Chinatown located in Soho was my favorite place to walk, have food, and enjoy the busy night life. London and other big cities I visited during my stay in Britain turned out to be as bright and diverse as New York and other huge cities in the US.

I learned a lot about British history, politics, and culture at our lectures and excursions in London. We were talking about the rise of British Colonial Empire, the kings and queens, and development of quintessentially British traditions. However, we also discussed the multiple waves of emigration to London and all British Isles, the age of slavery, and racial riots in the 20th century. We read a lot of literature describing the life and struggles of separate ethnic groups in different periods of British history. At our classes, I have realized that Britain also has spent a lot of time and effort to build a diverse and harmonic society.

However, the greatest surprise for me was to learn at our excursion to London Tower that although all generations of kings and queens till today had pledged to protect the Anglican church, Prince Charles who was supposed to become the next British king was going to pledge to all churches and religions in Great Britain. For centuries, the monarch has been the head of Anglican church and this important tradition will be saved, but the twenty-first century monarchs realize the necessity to recognize other religions as well. It is fascinating to see how in Great Britain old traditions are mixed with new ideas to create a harmonic and diverse society.

When going to study abroad in London, I hoped to see a different life-style and immerse myself in a different culture bIMG1711839710ecause I thought this would help me better understand my patients especially foreigners when I become a doctor in the future. However, this trip to Great Britain has taught me much more than just to understand foreign cultures – it has created an absolutely new picture of a perfect world for me. Now I believe that every place can be bright, diverse, and welcoming for everyone while saving its unique traditions and features. In the future, where ever I go and whatever I do I want to create such environment around me and I believe that my new foreign friends will help me with this.

I also have a blog describing my adventures in London

حياتي في الاردن

Carolyn Pucillo

Study Abroad: Jordan

For five months I lived and studied in Amman, Jordan. I focused my studies on the Arabic language and politics of the Middle East. I was offered many cultural opportunities and travel excursions through CIEE. Such excursions included traveling to places like Wadi Rum, Aqaba, Petra, Madaba and others. I also traveled to the Dead Sea, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Bahrain and Qatar. During my time in the Middle East, I focused my personal goals toward learning about the Jordanian culture and breaking down provincial stereotypes that are pervasive throughout western society. This was arguably hardest thing for me to learn. I was also fortunate enough to attend school every day on a college campus, not too different from Ohio State and interact with young Jordanians in an everyday setting.

There are many things I learned while in Jordan that are beyond the traditional scope of education. I focused my studies on the Arabic language, both modern standard Arabic and colloquial Jordanian Arabic. In total, I was in an Arabic language classroom for fifteen hours a week. Additionally, I learned the language through constant interaction at the university and with shop owners throughout the city. This immersion helped me advance my language skills like I could have never imagined. I also took other classes on the politics of development in the Middle East and the long history the United States has had with Arab countries. Learning about key political and cultural issues through a different lens was extremely gratifying and eye opening. I gained a new perspective on almost every idea I had before living in Jordan. Especially for Americans, sometimes it can be difficult to understand the point of view of other nationalities and countries. One must let go of all pre-conceived notions she had and allow herself to be influenced by a totally new perspective. This gained perspective is something I am very proud of and hope to share with my family and friends.

Personally, I experienced a lot of growth as a student, as a language and art lover and as a citizen of the world. Some of the most influential things to me were simple conversations at school with some of the other Jordanian students. One can learn so much about another person and his or her ideas by simply listening. I learned about so many historical events through the eyes of the Jordanians, instead of through an American textbook.

In addition to classroom learning, I learned a lot from my travels. One of my favorite places to visit was Israel. While in Israel I stayed in Tel Aviv and then in the Old City. This experience was truly amazing on a historical, cultural and spiritual level. One of the things I love about the region I lived in is that everywhere you go is dripping with a rich history all its own. In every country, there is so much to learn about the people and the struggles they have experienced. In Jerusalem, for example, one of the most diverse places in the world, every group of people has their own unique narrative, although they live less than a mile away from each other. Learning these things directly from the people is an invaluable experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Moreover, in embracing the Jordanian culture, I learned that the two cultures, Middle East and West, don’t always have to be in conflict with each other. I learned there are things I am comfortable doing the Jordanian way instead of the American way. This is another beautiful idea that I am fortunate to have picked up during my time abroad.

I am also indebted to Jordan for showing me love.  I fell in love in Jordan in more ways than one. I met a really great guy who taught me a lot about what it means to be Arab and how the relationship between Arabs and Americans is not always properly represented. Besides experiencing love in this way, I experienced love in many other ways. I fell in love with the country itself and with the stories I would hear. I fell in love with the culture and the history and traditions. More than that, I fell in love with the journey. Everyday I was able to meet new people and learn about their stories and their perspectives and realize that their opinions, which seemed foreign and strange at first, were just as valid as mine. Discovering the world is a passion that burns deeply within my soul and I owe it in large part to my time spent in Jordan.

Moving forward, I have many new life goals following my time spent in Jordan. In many ways, living in Jordan cemented my aspirations of studying Arabic and specializing in the Middle East as a region for my career. But living abroad taught me many new things as well. I now know I would not be opposed to living in Jordan again in the future, or elsewhere in the Middle East, for a few years. I definitely loved the journey and desire to travel as much of the world as possible. Eastern Europe and East Asia are next on my list

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Summertime in Shanghai

With the help of my STEP funding I spent the month of May studying abroad in Shanghai, China. From May 9th to June 6th I lived and studied at East China Normal University with eight other Ohio State students. At ECNU I took a “survival” Mandarin course as well as a class on the history and urban development of Shanghai.

Prior to my study abroad in Shanghai I had not studied any Chinese history, culture, or language. I chose to study abroad in Shanghai because I wanted to immerse myself in something entirely unfamiliar and challenge myself to embrace something new and adapt. After spending a month in Shanghai I learned that I am not only capable of adapting to new surroundings, but that I really enjoy experiencing new cultures, seeing new sites, and meeting new people. My experience in Shanghai gave me a lot of confidence because it showed me that I can live and endure anywhere. It’s freeing to realize that if I ever choose to, I can pack up my bags, settle somewhere entirely different, and still be perfectly content.
There were a lot of aspects about life in Shanghai that took some adjusting to, but by the end of the trip I felt very at home in Shanghai and in particular at ECNU. In the beginning however, the hardest thing to cope with was the language barrier. I had never studied Mandarin before, and knew absolutely nothing upon my arrival in Shanghai. Additionally, nearly all the food was very foreign and I was extremely wary about what I ate. I don’t like seafood and unfortunately, much of the food contained it. Lastly, the sheer number of people everywhere we went was overwhelming. Shanghai is the largest city proper in the entire world, with an estimated population of more than 23 million (more than 27 times larger than the population of Columbus)!

Despite these challenges, I was able to adjust and learn how to live comfortably in Shanghai. As I said, being unable to communicate and express myself was very challenging. In the beginning, whenever I went out in public I felt as though I was trapped inside my own head. Not only was I unable to ask simple questions like, “Where is the restroom?” but I couldn’t even articulate an apology if I bumped into someone. Thankfully, we were tested and placed into “survival” Chinese classes right away. I of course was put into a beginner class, along with two of my fellow students from Ohio State. Our teacher was incredibly patient and kind and we were able to start learning and using Mandarin right away. Our language acquisition was extremely accelerated because we were surrounded by people speaking Mandarin all the time. By the end of the trip I knew enough to say thank you, sorry, excuse me, what I like and don’t like, order food, and most importantly ask where a restroom is (along with much more). I was really excited about the progress I made and I loved being able to immediately go out and put what I had learned to good use.
Once I knew a little more about the language, I was able to start finding and trying food that I liked. I learned how to read enough characters to decipher some basic menu items and most importantly I learned how to ask if something had seafood in it. Once I was able to better control what I ate I felt free to try a lot of different foods. I discovered so many dishes that I love! Even today, one of the things I miss most about Shanghai is the food. Chinese food here is nothing like real Chinese food, and I wish it was possible to eat some of the wonderful things I had in Shanghai without traveling half way around the world.
Finally, I learned to go with the flow… literally. While at first the large population and the population density in areas like the metro station and shopping centers was overwhelming, eventually I grew to feel comfortable being part of an ever-present, ever-moving crowd. There are many great things about being surrounded by people: there’s always someone new to meet, there’s always someone to help, there’s always something exciting to watch, and you never feel alone! Shanghai is a city that never sleeps; there are enough people that you can find a friendly face at all hours of the day or night. Returning to my suburban hometown after the end of my time in Shanghai was quite jarring because even major roads were empty of cars by about 11PM. There are certainly things to be said for both settings, but I would argue that there’s no city as lively as Shanghai.

My time in Shanghai was really significant to my life because not only did I learn more about myself, but I got to learn about and experience a whole other culture and area of the world. I’ve known that I love traveling ever since my parents started taking my sisters and I on summer camping trips in northern Ontario when we were little girls. Since then my wanderlust has only grown. My love of traveling prompted me to major in International Studies, to minor in both French and German, to teach English as a Second Language, and to seize every opportunity that I can to see another part of the world. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to live somewhere so unfamiliar and make it familiar. The ability to adjust and adapt is priceless and I know that I’ll be honing and using those skills for the rest of my life, as I plan to continue picking up and setting down all over the world.

Culture and Life in India

For my STEP Project, I spent two weeks in Delhi, India with the Ohio State University International Affairs Scholars. Along the way, I learned about religion, family, education and overall, everyday life in India. I also worked on daily reflections and journal entries that allowed me to fully understand my experience.

My trip to India was my first time traveling outside North America and it allowed me to grow into a better student and member of the global community. Life in India is so different from life in America. Some of the wealthiest people in the world live there, as well as some of the poorest people. India is also one of the most populated countries in the world. During my time there, I saw slums and hunger everywhere I turned yet most of the people I met were joyful and polite. They were happy to teach us about our culture and welcomed us into their homes. Of course, this did not apply to everyone. Through these experiences, I learned that happiness is a choice. Though many families worked all day just to put food on their tables, they were still happy to be together and to show us how they live. My time in India taught me to be grateful for the things that I had and the opportunities I have been provided with. I also appreciate my education more now. Many children in India have to fight to go to school. School can be expensive and families must make it a priority in their homes.

During my time in India, I learned to be more understanding of others and their cultures. I have learned to keep an open mind and expect the unexpected. While there are many ideas in the west about what life in India is like, it is important to realize that these may be generalizations. The only way to truly understand India is to go and experience the culture and even then, one may still have things to learn. The trip showed me that while the idea of everyday life may seem simple, there are many things that influence life and culture.

Over the course of my trip, I visited locations for many of the major religions in the world. At each stop, people were very open to teaching and sharing about their beliefs. They allowed me to take part in their customs and made me feel welcome. I believe that this approach allowed me to better understand religion in India and showed me that religion does not need to divide us. Instead, the world should allow religion to make them stronger. After seeing people of all religions interact peacefully and happily, I know that it is possible. I also noticed that people on the streets were very welcoming and helpful. Numerous times, taxi drivers or shopkeepers would provide advice and even look out for the students well being. It showed me that mutual respect for each other can go a long way. One thing that was hard to experience was mothers and young children begin on the side of the roads. I wanted to help every person but I knew that it would not truly make a difference. This was a very hard idea for me to accept and I’m still not completely comfortable with it.

Education is very valued in India because it is the means to a better life, including more economic opportunities and job prospects. During my trip, I was able to talk to some parents about their families. I learned that education is a way to keep the children off the streets and to ensure they have a better life than their parents did. I also visited a school in a rural village and learned that the children love to learn and enjoy going to school. The village made the education of their children a priority and though there was work to be done on the farm, they all came together to ensure that the children could stay in school. It also helped that the village elder was educated and understood the value of educating the next generation. After seeing how hard these people worked to send their children to school, I learned how lucky I was to grow up in a place where education was provided for every child. I see now that much of my opportunities came just because I was lucky enough to be born in the United States. I will always remember this and be thankful.

Before this trip, I had never traveled outside of North America. My time in India opened my eyes to the infinite possibilities that other countries have to offer. I have learned so much about culture and life and I am looking forward to learning about other countries as well My time in India will be very helpful in the future as I would like to become more involved in global leadership and development. As a City and Regional Planning major, I am interested in how the developing world will grow and evolve. I would like to be involved in planning for a more sustainable future and India was a great place to go to see a developing country in the middle of becoming a global one. My trip taught me to be more understanding and open to others which will help if I travel to a different country to work after graduation.

Traditional cooking styles in a rural village.

Traditional cooking styles in a rural village.


Foods of India


Neemrana Fort Palace