Cultural Exchange in Ecuador

Our cohort of undergraduate and graduate students traveled to Ecuador through the Department of Higher Education and Student Affairs during May Session 2016 to participate in a cultural exchange with Universidad de Cuenca and Unidad Educativa Quilloac. Over the course of two weeks we visited historical sites in Quito and immersed ourselves in the culture of Cuenca. Most importantly, we built upon the existing relationship between the indigenous community of Quilloac and The Ohio State University by teaching English and learning both Kichwa and Spanish at Unidad Educativa Quilloac.


I have studied the negative and positive consequences of globalization on indigenous communities in Latin America as a Spanish minor, but this experience brought respect for indigenous cultures and the importance of their preservation to the forefront of my worldview. The children, teachers, and administrators of Unidad Educativa Quilloac welcomed me and my entire cohort into their community and showed us a deeper level of respect and generosity than anything I have ever experienced in the United States. Students and teachers welcomed us into their classrooms, and they showed no inhibition in asking us questions or answering our questions about their culture.  From the very first time I stepped through the archway at the front of the school, I stepped into a space of open dialogue where everyone had something to offer and everyone had something to gain by sharing their authentic lived experience with the others.


My understanding of gender roles, poverty, and cultural relativism was stretched through this dialogue, as was my understanding of my own privilege as a college-educated, white female citizen of the United States. This was a challenging process, as it forced me to engage with the historical legacy of colonialism in creating my privilege while also coming to terms with the degrading effects of this legacy on the culture and lives of the Cañari people. I walked into my experience with a textbook understanding of how colonialism shaped our world, but I returned with a deeper understanding of what it means to look within to evaluate the effects of that legacy while also looking outward to validate the fight of those who have been forced to prove the worth of their way of life to the world when it has always held value in its own right

.La mezcla


Language played a central role in my transformation during my time in Ecuador. I am conversant in Spanish, but I did not realize how critical that would be to building relationships with students, teachers, and community leaders in Quilloac. Likewise, I did not realize my knowledge of the language would allow me to learn so much about myself.


The first day of class, I felt an immediate connection with my students because I was able to stand in front of them and address them in the language the majority of them know best. We built upon that connection throughout the week in one-on-one and smaller group conversations, but that first day was a turning point for me in my experience because it showed me just how powerful language is as a sign of respect. More importantly, that moment made me realize that the eight years I have spent studying Spanish prepared me to serve in the role of a connecter between my own culture to that of my students, even if it was for a brief period of time. My students immediately wanted to know how to say different words in English, and as the week progressed I was just as eagerly asking them how to say certain words in Kichwa. Aside from all of us gaining an introduction to a new language, these interactions served as authentic, energetic cultural exchanges that came much more naturally than I had originally anticipated.


These interactions are also what showed me that cultural exchange is critical to understanding not only that we have different cultures, but validating the equal importance of our respective cultures to the world at large. One of the most impactful moments of my experience was the fourth day of classes when it was time for the class to “test” my knowledge of Kichwa. Our teacher asked me how I would say “Good morning” in Kichwa, and instructed me to demonstrate by choosing a student from the class to greet. I greeted one of my students correctly, and the excited reactions from the entire class when I spoke the words made me feel just how profound language is as a medium through which we connect to one another on deeper levels than auditory communication. They asked me to do it again and again because each student wanted a turn, and I was just as excited as my students to oblige. However, looking back on that part of my experience I realize just how profound of a sign of respect and appreciation it was that I made the effort to internalize what I learned from our teacher and the students over the course of the week.


Our fourth grade class learned the song “We Are Family” in English and Spanish, and they taught us an original song in Kichwa.

Although I could only say a handful of words, that day I was able to use that handful of words to tell my class and the school staff that I saw them and I respected the values of their culture they taught me over the course of the week. I could only articulate that in Kichwa in three or four words that translate to “Hello, friend,” but those few words symbolized a week of learning about the relationship between gender roles and the Cañari peoples’ world view and the colonial legacy of enslaving indigenous peoples or forcing them to work their own lands as indentured servants. Those few words were simple, but they translate to an expression of respect, appreciation, and validation that all too often is not shown by someone who comes from a privileged space to a community that still struggles to preserve its culture because people from privileged spaces in another time felt that only their culture and their values mattered in our world. I recognize that this moment was a small contribution toward connecting our cultures as equals, but it transformed me because it challenged me to think about how my actions can affect others by taking steps, however small they may be, towards closing the divisions that exist between communities, countries, and cultures in our world.

Somos Familia

I chose to study Spanish as a minor over the course of my college education because I wanted to be able to help others tell their stories in spaces where they may otherwise be shut out because they did not have the privilege of learning English as a first or second language as I did. This is a broad goal, but my experience in Quilloac gave me a stronger direction and understanding of how I can transform this goal into a resource for others as I pursue a career in law. As both a student and a future attorney, I want to continue working with minority groups in the United States and Latin America to advise them on their rights and assist in the protection and preservation of their cultures. Eventually I would also like to pursue a Ph.D., and this experience showed me just how critical it is to pursue research in how “development” will only occur if we pursue mechanisms of development that are based on the lived experiences of marginalized communities and their cultures rather than our own assumptions about the way the world “should” work.


Buck-i-Serv and the OAC Costa Rica trip January 2016


With the money I received from STEP, I went on a ten day backpacking and service trip in Costa Rica. The first half of the trip focused on hiking and getting to know the local people by staying in homestays. We also participated in service activities along the way such as painting a school in Uvita, Costa Rica.

While I had been on service trips prior to my time in Costa Rica, this was the first time I participated without knowing anyone. I was really nervous going into it but established strong connections right away due to the format of the trip. It made me realize that going out on my own in other areas of my life is very doable and I should dive in to other opportunities. It also showed me that the best way to connect with others—even through a language barrier—is through face to face contact. We were without phones and most technology which allowed us to be present and in tune with one another throughout the entire trip.

I became more confident and ready to try new things after my backpacking experience in Costa Rica and I felt my worldview shift as well. I have traveled in Central America before, but never been immersed in a culture like I was in Costa Rica. We stayed with families who were a part of a network of households that gave student groups like ours places to stay while they traveled. Because of this, we were lucky enough to get to know several families along the way, each of which shared their culture and language with us. We learned how to make cheese, how to harvest sugar, where the best parts of the river to swim were, and even how to slaughter a chicken. I think I had assumptions about the trip and the region before I went but having the opportunity to get to know the local people and live with them showed me just how valuable sharing different cultures with each other is.

There were several aspects during my trip that allowed me to feel a positive shift in my life. There were moments that challenged me both physically and mentally on my trip to Costa Rica. The main elements that contributed to the importance of my trip were going out of my comfort zone socially, on adventure excursions, and having the opportunity to immerse myself in the Costa Rican culture.

A major challenge for me before ever leaving for Costa Rica was coming into a new group of people without knowing anyone at all. There were a few people who knew each other a little bit, but mostly we all signed up for the trip by ourselves. We had meetings before to learn about the trip and get to know one another, but nothing can really prepare you for ten days with strangers. While I was nervous to introduce myself and was pretty quiet at first, I quickly opened up because of our trip. During the hiking duration of our trip, everyone bonded very quickly because of the unique circumstances we were under. It taught me not to be afraid to go out on a limb and be more outgoing in other parts of my life and I definitely noticed a change in myself when I returned home. I noticed that I was more talkative during my day to day life at home like in class or meeting people at work. Costa Rica made me a more confident and outgoing person overall.

Beyond meeting new people, the adventure aspect of the trip as well as learning about the local culture made me more confident. We backpacked, went repelling, rafting, showered in a river, and did so many other things I would have never had the opportunity to do at home. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone was essential to making the most of this trip, and I would not know how much I love most of those things without my time in Costa Rica. A lot of our time was spent interacting and living with local families as well. We stayed with our guides’ friends and families who opened their homes, fed us, and taught us things like harvesting sugar and making cheese. It was awesome to get to know people from Costa Rica as closely as another trip would not have allowed us to do so. The hospitality and importance of family was truly amazing to see and definitely contributed to the shift I felt after the trip of feeling more confident and accepted.

Trying to describe what my trip to Costa Rica meant to me is next to impossible in four paragraphs. To try and sum it up I vividly remember a moment of reflection I had on our longest hike of 8 miles. We stopped and took a break and I had been thinking about my previous year, one that had not been easy (part of the reason I wanted to go on this trip in the first place). I looked around at the mountains and lush green jungle surrounding me and felt so small, but in such a way where it was comforting. I felt at peace and really happy and confident in my decision to spend the first part of 2016 off the grid in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Without the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica with the funds from STEP I would not have made the strides I did to become a more confident, happier person.

After returning from Costa Rica my future goals of law school and working in a nonprofit one day were solidified for me. I had a lot of time while hiking to reflect on what I want to do with school and knew I was on the right path as an English major.

A real example of this is when I was awarded a trip to New York City to a Human Rights conference and film festival through the department of English. We often get emails detailing opportunities for students to apply to and I never applied because I thought I would not get them anyway. Shortly after returning home for Costa Rica, I realized I had nothing to lose and applied for the trip to New York. Without the confidence and “Why not?” mentality I gained in Costa Rica I would have never applied and been able to go to an eye opening conference, film festival, and site see all for no cost to me. My backpacking trip in Costa Rica has opened up other educational opportunities for me because of a newfound level of self-assuredness in my goals.


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

Environmental Sustainability in Costa Rica

Gabrielle Ansberry

Study Abroad:  Environmental Sustainability in Costa Rica

My STEP Signature Project was a May Term course at Ohio State called Environmental Sustainability in Costa Rica.  It had a classroom portion and an in-country portion.  The classroom portion was about two weeks long and involved lectures about geography, biodiversity, natural resources, and sustainability.  Then, the entire class and the professor traveled to Costa Rica for two weeks to see firsthand many of the things we had learned about in lecture.  We were constantly moving during our time in Costa Rica, and we were fortunate enough to travel to several diverse regions throughout the country.

Our entire time abroad was spent visiting new locations and exploring national parks.  The longest stay we made in one location was only about 3 days long.  While exhausting, this constant on-the-go itinerary was also exciting.  Every day was a new adventure – literally.  We visited 3 different volcanoes:  Volcán Poás, Volcán Arenal, and Volcán Tenorio.  We also visited several waterfalls, most notably the Río Celeste Waterfall and La Fortuna Waterfall.  In addition, almost every day was spent hiking through a different elevation level than the previous day.  This allowed us to see how the landscape changed from region to region.  One particularly exciting hike was a night hike through the rainforest.  Reserva Santa Elena, a cloud forest that we got to visit, was also very interesting.  We saw several bodies of water too, including Lake Botos, Lake Arenal, and the Tarcoles River.  We came face-to-face with all kinds of wildlife, like crocodiles, monkeys, iguanas, sloths, and butterflies.  We got to see a hydroelectric dam, windmills, and geothermal hot springs.  Overall, the environmental aspects of this experience were unbelievable.  I could not even find any post cards to send to my family that accurately portrayed the beauty we saw in the landscapes and wildlife of Costa Rica.

Another important aspect of the Environmental Sustainability in Costa Rica program was learning about the people and culture of Costa Rica.  We got to stay in the capital city, San José, as well as several other cities, towns, and villages across the country.  These were all vastly different.  Some were lively, popular tourist sites, others were remote mountain communities.  At the beginning of the trip, we got to tour the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica.  Here, we learned a lot about the history and culture of the country – a great preface for the rest of our adventure.  In each region, we got to experience the unique cuisines, traditions, and daily lives of the people that lived there.  One of my favorite days was when we got to visit a tiny school that was up in one of the mountain villages we passed through.  The students performed some of Costa Rica’s traditional dances, and then we got to eat lunch and play soccer, or fútbol, with the children.  I tried speaking Spanish, the official language of Costa Rica, throughout our trip as well.  However, I was surprised by how many people spoke fluent English.

We also got to work on two different service projects – both of which were reforestation projects that benefitted the environment as well as the local community.  These projects, while challenging, were immensely rewarding.  It was amazing to see the integral roles that the environment played in each location and in the daily lives of each citizen.  It was also interesting how important the tourism industry was throughout Costa Rica.  The Ticos (Costa Rican people) took such great care to protect the environment because it was vital to their way of life and to the tourism industry – which supports a large part of their economy.

This trip taught me a lot about myself and the world around me.  Because each day was so jam packed full of activity and traveling, and because of all of the strenuous hiking we did, I was exhausted by the end of every day.  I became more self-aware and I learned that I am a lot tougher and stronger than I initially believed.  The obstacles and limitations that I originally saw before me transformed into new personal accomplishments as I conquered volcanos, mountains, and rainforests.  I also acquired a new love for hiking, and have ventured out to local forest preserves and state parks now that I am back in the United States.  This has shown me even more of the beauty that the environment has to offer, and has taught me even more about my surroundings.  I also became more adventurous in terms of food.  I used to be a very picky eater, but in Costa Rica, I tried all kinds of new and exotic fruits and dishes.  My experience in Costa Rica taught me that adventure is waiting around every corner, and taking advantage of each one is worthwhile.

My perspective of the world also changed dramatically.  While I already had a great appreciation for the environment (I am an Environmental Engineering major), this appreciation grew when I saw so many amazing aspects of the rich biodiversity in Costa Rica, and how vital they all are to the livelihood of so many Costa Ricans.  So many people made a living by sustainably taking advantage of their natural resources.  I was humbled by the modest way of the life that each Tico led.  Each person was so respectful not only of the environment, but of us as well.  Wherever we traveled, we were welcomed with open arms.  People shared their knowledge, food, and traditions with us, and I learned so much from each and every person I met while in Costa Rica.

Perhaps my favorite part of Costa Rica was the phrase “Pura Vida”.  Directly translated, this means “pure life”, but in Costa Rica, this phrase means so much more.  It can be used as a hello, good bye, and an expression of gratitude or excitement – its use is fitting in almost circumstance.  To the Ticos, it means “it’s all good”, and it signifies an eternal optimism and love for life.  Thus, “Pura Vida” was not just a saying, it was a way of life.  We met people in Costa Rica who had next to nothing, but they welcomed us and shared what they did have with genuine smiles on their faces.  Everyone was a friend.  Their humble love for life has inspired the same sentiments in me.  I want to represent the “Pura Vida” lifestyle through my life in the United States and as a student at Ohio State, because I think everyone has something to gain from the optimism and happiness it preaches.

After my STEP signature project, Environmental Sustainability in Costa Rica, I learned a lot of invaluable lessons about the environment, the international community, and myself.  By venturing into another country, I was able to take a hands on approach and immerse myself in a completely unique environment and culture.  I want to pass this knowledge on to my fellow Buckeyes and peers, and have continued my involvement with STEP as an ambassador so that I can do this and help other students design their own signature projects as well.  Thanks to my STEP experience, I was transformed into a stronger, more gracious, and more globally and environmentally aware student and participant in our international community.




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.

My Dream Summer in Australia

For my STEP Signature Project I participated in the Summer Global Internship Program in Australia through the Fisher College of Business. This first entailed a half semester class in the Spring 2015 term called Doing Business in Australia where we learned more about our trip prior to our departure. The majority of this experience however, took place in Sydney, Australia where I was a finance intern at Novotech, a clinical research organization based in Australia.

I chose this as my STEP signature project because I had always wanted to go to Australia. I have dreamt of living in Australia since I was 9 years old. There were many things I thought would happen when I finally made it to Australia: meeting a kangaroo, spending everyday at the beach, and never wanting to leave being a few examples. And while different that what I expected, the country I had longed for definitely lived up to my expectations. I always worried that somehow the world would be too big for me to every make it to Australia or that once I did it could never live up to my dreams or I would feel out of place because somehow Australia could not be similar to America at all. Much to my surprise, none of this was the case. Yes, it was different than I expected. Sydney, Australia is very similar to an American city, which helped me feel right at home 10,000 miles away. Now that isn’t to say I didn’t change or grow at all throughout my 2 months in Australia. Most of my experiences in Australia were very new to me; I had never been grocery shopping for myself, I had never really cooked anything for myself, nor had I ever been by myself in a big city, had a real job where I didn’t know anyone, or been that far away from my family for an extended period of time. However, I did get my kangaroo selfie, I spent a lot of time at the beach, and, yes, when it came time to leave I cried. But if I could only chose one thing that Australia taught me it would be how to be more independent, a lesson that I will never forget.

My STEP experience had two major components, the internship and the study abroad trip. First, I’ll talk about how the internship changed and transformed me. My internship at Novotech helped me realize that I do actually enjoy the tasks of an accounting job, which is my major. This internship also helped me appreciate the differences between countries in the world. The work helped me realize the way that the world is interconnected through the similarities in accounting practices in Australia and America as well as many other countries.

However, it also helped me to understand and appreciate that there are differences from country to country in accounting as well as in business and general customs and cultures. Novotech has subsidiaries in many different countries throughout the Asia Pacific region, along with South Africa. Throughout my summer I helped on various projects that allowed me to understand the workings of the business in these different countries opening my eyes to different cultures. Besides accounting, the internship taught me to be more perceptive when it comes to customs and how to go about doing business with professionals from other countries. While there are many similarities, there are also many differences that needed to be respected. One example of this is the general laid back attitude that many Australians have even in their professional lives. I learned this from having meetings with my coworkers where it was accepted, if not expected, to start the meeting late, which is very different from what I have been taught in America. All of the ways that my internship experience helped me learn and grow as a business and accounting major will help me in my professional life.

The second part of my STEP experience was the study abroad component. This part of my experience changed and transformed me because of the way I had to challenge myself and become independent. It allowed me to see that I can live on my own and do things for myself. This experience pushed me to try new things also, which I discovered that I enjoyed most of the new things I tried. This changed my understanding of myself because I will forever be able to remember this experience and all the enjoyment that came out of trying new things, which will lead me to trying new things in the future. A few examples of the new things that never thought I would do that I tried in Australia include climbing Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, sliding down a waterfall, getting in a tank with sharks and stingrays, and learning to surf.

My study abroad experience also changed the way that I view the world because it now seems like a much smaller place. While there are some big differences between America and Australia, I learned that people are generally the same in both countries as well as the other people I met from around the world. This STEP experience changed and transformed the way I view the world and myself in countless ways that will forever remain a part of me.

My transformation throughout this experience is valuable in my life because the lessons I learned throughout my time in Australia will stick with me for the rest of my life. My experience impacted my personal goals moving forward by allowing me to be more laid back throughout my life. I learned while I was in Australia to adapt to their laid back attitude and not be so concerned when everything does not go as planned. My experience impacted my academic goals moving forward by allowing me to experience the career that my major is preparing me for. My internship in Australia reinforced that my academic major is taking me in the direction that I want to go in with my life. My experience impacted my life-goals moving forward by allowing me to experience life in a different country. This experience opened my mind to the possibility of living abroad in the future, continuing to explore different parts of the world that I have not seen before, and hopefully someday visiting Australia again.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb - Allie Stevens

This is a picture of me while I was climbing Sydney’s Harbour Bridge. This picture was taken at the summit of the bridge  440 feet above the ocean. This was one of my favorite experiences in Sydney because I climbed the bridge on my last free day in Sydney and it was a great to see the city in such a different way at the end of my trip.

Allie Stevens with a KangarooAllie Stevens KoalaAllie Stevens Camel

It was great to experience the different animals that are native to Australia. This is one of the many aforementioned “Kangaroo Selfies” and “Koala Selfies” from Featherdale Wildlife Park and our camel ride on Anna Bay in Port Stephens.

Allie Stevens Surfing

This is a picture of myself taken at a surf camp I attended on Seven Mile Beach. This was one of my greatest accomplishments while in Australia because not only was I actually able to stand up, but as my boss pointed out to me it was one of the most Australian things I could learn to do while abroad.


Needless to say, going to the beach was a huge part of my time spent in Australia. These pictures were taken at Bondi Beach, Manly Beach, and Port Stephens (from left to right).


At the end of our trip, after our internships had ended, many of the students on my trip participated in the optional trip to Cairns, Australia located in Queensland, which is home to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. The picture on the left was taken on our snorkeling trip in the Great Barrier Reef. The picture on the right was taken at Millaa Millaa Falls (with means lots of water in the Aborigines language) in the Daintree Rainforest.