Teaching Internship in France: A STEP Reflection

Name: Annelise Dahl

Type of Project: Study Abroad

Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

Through the Office of International Affairs, I studied abroad for three weeks in Montpellier, France with the “Teaching Internship in France” program. For the first week, I took classes about plurilingualism in Europe and received ESL education training. The following two weeks, I interned in a local elementary school, teaching English to French eight-year-olds.

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

I use the opportunity of studying French to learn and understand another culture, hoping to widen my world perspective. Although I have traveled abroad previously, the “Teaching Internship in France” experience was especially immersive. Situated between mountains and the ocean, the town of Montpellier is a “university town,” filled with young adults developing their self-identity. Similar to Columbus, Montpellier is a smaller city, offering a plethora of experiences, but also feeling small enough to run into a friend or chat with a local.

Throughout the study abroad, I began to understand the uniqueness of the French perspective. Comparatively small, France has an atmosphere that promotes leisure and creativity. Although still hard-working, I witnessed the French mentality of enjoying the moment. Work weeks are roughly thirty-five hours; children spend about twenty hours in school; and long weekends are frequent. While at first confused, I began to understand that this contrast between Americans and French is truly a response to the same fear: mortality. Americans see this fear and want to do everything; however, the French instead hope to take life slowly, breathing in each moment. Neither perspective is incorrect, but it allowed me to reflect on my own values of hard-work and ambition. Thinking long-term, I began to recognize the balance of work and enjoyment.

What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

During my teaching internship, I lived with a French host family, speaking only in French while home. This homestay allowed me to fully integrate into a French living style. In many ways, language is the door to culture, influencing how people interact and share. Above, I shared the France’s different living style, and I primarily experienced it through the homestay. Meals lasted three hours; the television news ran vastly different stories; shops closed early; workdays were short. All these small instances contributed to my discovery.

Moreover, I spent two of the three weeks in a primary school, teaching eight-year-olds. This aspect held a different meaning for me. While the students sometimes struggled to understand me and I sometimes struggled to understand them, we eventually communicated, laughed, and learned. It added a strangely humanizing factor to the study abroad: across cultures, people were people.

Finally, the interactions I had with other Ohio State students were insightful. Most of the other students were Education or French majors, and as a Finance major, I communicate occasionally with other departments. It was interesting to take a course focused on education, giving a new perspective on how we learn. As a student, I spend arduous hours over textbooks, but rarely think of the flip-side of education: the teachers. Moreover, I loved simply forming new friendships with a diverse group of students.

Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? 

This change was valuable to my life because it gave me the chance to reflect on my own habits and perspectives, comparing them to the French. Especially thinking about taking life slowly to enjoy the moment, I realized, although perhaps I always secretly knew, that the “little bursts” of life are as important as the “big bursts,” such as graduation, weddings, and so on (to quote Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge). As a twenty-year-old, this transformation of perspective is important to find and form a fulfilling and contenting life.

Below, I have included a video of the trip, filled with laughs and amazing experiences.

My Study Abroad Experience: Engineering of Ancient Greece

13320580_859115237554753_3833978830751840035_oView of the Aegean Sea

As part of my participation in the Second-year Transformational Experience Program (STEP), I was given the opportunity to complete a personal project I felt would transform me personally, intellectually, and socially. I had never been overseas before, and I had never really lived in a diverse community until I came to Ohio State. For those reasons, I felt studying abroad would be the most challenging, transformative, and rewarding experience I could choose to do for my project– and I was right.

Out of all the Ohio State study abroad programs, I decided to participate in the Engineering of Ancient Greece one because the focus was engineering related. As a chemical engineering student, I wanted the program I chose for my project to be somewhat connected to my major of study. To be honest, I was not too concerned about the location of the project at first, meaning Greece was not what attracted me to the program. I just knew that I wanted to experience a foreign culture and have the chance to view the world (and engineering) from a different angle. I knew that I would have a transformative abroad experience no matter which country I traveled to.

The first part of the program was actually a week-long class on campus where me and the 10 other students each researched a site we were going to visit in Greece. We all wrote research papers and presented to everyone else prior to going abroad. Then, we were in Greece for a total of 12 days. On the mainland, we stayed in Athens and Corinth. Then we flew to the island of Crete and stayed in Heraklion and then Chania. For the last part of the trip, we flew to Samos island and stayed in Pythagorio.

On most days, we had organized tours of the archeological ruins and museums in the morning and afternoon, and then our nights were free. At each of the sites, we learned about the uses or purposes of the ancient structures, the Greek mythology behind them, and the engineering practices utilized to build them. At almost every site we visited, I was amazed at how the ancient Greeks were able to build such large, detailed structures considering the lack of technology they had back then.


O-H-I-O at the Acropolis

In addition to seeing and learning about the ancient Greek sites, I was able to experience modern Greek culture, day in and day out. I learned about Greece’s struggling economy, as well as how the Greek academic system works. From eating Greek food (gyros, coffee, bread, lamb, yogurt, and moussaka were the popular items), travelling on their public transportation systems, learning some Greek language (“Yassou!” meaning “Hello!”) and just exploring the different cities, I gained the new perspective I was looking for.

IMG_5678Epidaurus Theater

Some parts of the trip were personally challenging. Navigating through the airport with just one other student, staying in hotels very different from American ones, trying new types of food, and attempting to understand the currency system along with overcoming language barriers were all personally transformative situations. I feel like I learned so much about how I react to and operate in cultures different from my own, and I feel more confident about traveling now. Some situations made me appreciate my life in America, yet others made me so happy that I chose to explore another part of the world. I do feel that I have a more global perspective on engineering and society in general as a result of studying abroad.

I know this experience will influence my future professional career and how I choose to develop as a professional. The Lavrion Technical and Cultural Park, for instance, was a perfect example of how different engineering research can be between cultures. This technical park is currently conducting research on the water system in Greece, so I was really intrigued by their engineering processes and the explanation of their work provided by one of their engineers. I would definitely say visiting this modern research facility was intellectually transformative – I swear some of the topics we learned about came right out of my chemical engineering textbook!

In regards to my social transformation, I gained a whole new set of friends, some of which I grew very close with. Now I have an awesome experience to share with others, whether those be future STEP students, other engineering students, my friends from home, or my family. I am eager to talk about how a study abroad experience transformed me and my views of the world in efforts to convince others to challenge themselves in the same way. If it were not for STEP, I would not have chosen to embark on this journey. I am so grateful for this experience of a lifetime!

IMG_5859Last Standing Column of the Temple of Hera

International Affairs Scholars Mexico: An Unforgettable Experience

Rachel Pastor

Type of Project: Education Abroad

STEP Reflection

An international experience symbolizes an opportunity to see, to taste, and most importantly to live in a world previously unknown to oneself. From May 8th to May 28th, in hopes of engrossing my senses during an exploration of a foreign lifestyle, I travelled with approximately twenty additional Ohio State student’s on the International Affairs Scholars Program’s May Study Abroad to Mexico’s historical Yucatan peninsula. I had the opportunity to experience a culture like no other. I initially set out in hopes of seeing an ancient civilization’s ruins, tasting famous indigenous dishes, and experiencing the culture of the Yucatecan populace. In reality, I was able to achieve all of my hopes for my education abroad trip and more.

While experiencing and achieving in the Yucatan peninsula, I was able to develop a further understanding of myself and the Mexican world around me. I personally developed as an academic through my research regarding different facets of the Mexican economy as well as the societal impacts that play into the economy. In addition, my opinion of the Mexican economy and society changed. I initially believed that the level of globalization was not as large until I arrived in Mexico. Continuously studying and immersing myself in a culture that was not my own, this particular education abroad experience was even more of an enlightening opportunity than I expected. With my academic peers by my side, I was able to observe the striking similarities, differences, and interconnections you have encountered between the Yucatan peninsula and the United States of America. This opportunity to travel to the beautiful and historically-rich Yucatan peninsula provided me with the chance to compare the region to the United States of America.

Surprisingly, I encountered some notable interconnections, similarities, and differences. I found an example of the cultural interconnections on one of the first days of in the region. On May 10th, I was afforded the great opportunity to listen to native anthropologic professor, Francisco Fernandez-Reppetto, lecture on the topics of Mayan culture and the effects of different types of tourism in the Yucatan peninsula. Professor Fernandez-Reppetto enlightened my peers and I that “approximately seventy-five percent of tourist are from the United States of America” (Fernández Repetto).

Even though my research on the tourism industry had indicated that Americans had made up a large proportion of travelers to Mexico, I was surprised by truly how great the American population contributed to the Mexican tourism industry, especially in the Yucatan peninsula. Constructing upon the professor’s statistical based argument regarding the United States of America’s vital role in the tourism industry, I found additional interconnections between the two North American super powers in my free time. I had the opportunity to visit a Walmart Superstore in Merida and to study the amounts of Americanization and globalization in the retail industry. Even though the Walmart Superstore stocked a large amount of Mexican products, the majority of the products originated from American companies. I also observed the same pattern of an interconnection of American and Mexican consumerism in other stores within the peninsula such as, Oxxo and other stores in areas that were populated by tourists including Playa del Carmen and Cancun. Together, the lecture and my experiences in the retail industry provided me a great opportunity to see the interconnection between Mexico and the United States and further contribute to my academic view of the Americanization and globalization of Central and Latin America.

One area that I observed similarities and differences between the two North American super powers was discrimination. As a group, we studied how the current Mayan populace is discriminated against for speaking their native language, their past and current socioeconomic statuses, as well as their outward physical appearance. In comparison to the United States of America, the current African American populace is also discriminated against for their culture, past and current socioeconomic statuses, and their outward physical appearance. However, in contrast, in the Yucatan peninsula the people exploit the ancient Mayans for profit and continue to discriminate against the current Mayan population. For example, at the Hacienda Sotuta de Peón the current owners still employed the Mayan workers who once were practically enslaved on the proper as current, low-wage laborers on the farm. Additionally, at the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, our tour guide also solidified the point that current Mayan populations are discriminated against while ancient Mayan populations are embraced. In the United States of America, the African American population was not a native populace, nor is their ancient civilization embraced.

Additionally, I was able to personally develop an ability to function effectively within the region despite some obstacles. While on the education abroad trip, I encountered some obstacles that afforded me the opportunities to adapt to the culture and eventually function effectively in the Yucatan Peninsula. I possessed hidden condition, a brain cyst. This past year I was diagnosed with an inoperable brain cyst that causes severe migraines as well as changes in speech and concentration. Even though I take medication to control the migraines and other side effects, the prescription affects the condition of my stomach and dietary habits. However, on the education abroad trip, I tried to embrace the Mexican cuisine to the best of my ability despite the meat, dairy, and egg heavy Yucatecan dishes. I attempted to the best of my ability to embrace the cultural experience of the meal. In addition, the language barrier was an opportunity to adapt to the culture. In high school, I had studied the Spanish language for five years. Yet, when I went to college, I did not take a Spanish class. When I arrived in Mexico, I found myself to be pretty darn rusty. The International Affairs Scholars Program’s May Study Abroad to Mexico’s historical Yucatan peninsula provided me an opportunity to improve my Spanish speaking skills and learn more about the culture through the language.

In the end, on the International Affairs Scholars Program’s May Study Abroad to Mexico’s historical Yucatan peninsula enriched my academic and personal experience as a student of the Ohio State University. Reflecting back upon my education abroad trip, I do not believe I would have been able to fulfill my academic and personal goals without this experience. Thus, I am forever thankful to the host institution, coordinators, and the Ohio State University for this opportunity.



Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

Climbing a Mayan Pyramid

Climbing a Mayan Pyramid


Isla Mujeres

Finding Yourself in a Foreign Country

Jonathan Wallace

Study Abroad

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

My STEP Signature Project was a Study Abroad in Italy. The Architecture course I was in Italy to study focused on the urban shifting, emerging ecologies, and architectural overlaying of Rome through the past few millenniums. Although there was so much historical information given, the primary focus was on quick sketching and diagramming to graphically communicate what we were hearing and seeing.

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

Before leaving for the Study Abroad I was expecting my experience to be all enjoyable, educational and easy. My biggest worry in anticipation to the trip was that something would go wrong, and I wouldn’t have anyone there to help me. I expected my transformation to be in my knowledge, skill, and understanding of Rome and the Italian culture. Although I definitely learned a lot about Roman History and my drawing ability’s became much better, my biggest change or transformation came unexpectedly.

Because of my history with mental illness I am a people person, and as I am a Christian, I envelope myself in the church community, and I love it. I have always had a group of close friends in my life to go to when I am anxious or depressed, but during my time in Italy, I had to face these challenges alone. Since the other students in the Rome Program participated in activities I did not want to immerse myself in, I began to separate myself from the group. During this time in isolation I solely depended on God to get me through the loneliness. In my five weeks in Italy I became very independent. I went on several trips outside of Rome on my own, and became comfortable spending time by myself, whereas before the trip I couldn’t have anticipated going anywhere without the group. Despite being away from the church and Christian community, my dependence on God, and the time of reflection and prayer I had in the hundreds of Roman churches led to unanticipated spiritual growth on the trip as well.

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

The primary components that led to this transformation were the distance, the relationships, and the time of the Signature Project. Even before departure I was worried about being away from home for so long without anyone that I knew very well. I thought that the beauty and excitement of living in a new place would be enough to just make friends with everyone, and get by.

Growing up in a conservative Christian household, I have a set of morals that influence all of my decisions and the people I hang out with. Despite the stereotypes of college students, Ohio State offers so many different communities that I was able to find a place that I didn’t need to adjust my morals. However, being one of the youngest students on this trip, and being away from the Christian community I had at campus, I was surrounded by the party scene which I had managed to avoid back at campus.

At first I went out with my peers to a club, but I didn’t want to waste money on alcohol, and I don’t believe in getting drunk, and at the end of the night I just hadn’t enjoyed myself so I didn’t go out with them again. I still would talk to everybody in class, and on the weekends when some of us would travel together, like to Florence, Venice, and Milan. But during my time spent with them I just did not feel like I belonged.

So by the third week I began Isolating myself. After class I would go home and cook by myself, and stay in my room all night. After a couple days of this I spent a lot of time in prayer, and I felt compelled to just do what I wanted. I wanted to go see Pompeii and Naples so I just did it. I wasn’t going to let other people influence what I wanted to do. I was only going to be in Italy for a couple more weeks, I needed to get the most out of it, even if that means I’m exploring by myself. So it was the lack of relationships for an extended period which actually is what caused this transformation.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

It reassured me that I am in the right community back on campus, and I am on the right path for my life and my future. It also made me grow up a lot. My entire life I have been dependent on other people. Growing up I relied on my parents to provide for me, I relied on my friends for my happiness, and I relied on community to help me overcome my problems. But during my STEP Signature Project I became Independent, something even more valuable to success than knowledge or skill. Instead of looking to others for my belonging or happiness, I learned I can be content and successful on my own. I also think that independence is important in growing up, because I can’t always rely on others for my needs.

IMG_4926IMG_4925IMG_4924Florencedownload (1)

Exploring Italy: My Study Abroad Experience

Andre Banerjee


Florence          IMG_7134

For my STEP Project, I traveled to Italy as part of the Knowlton School of Architecture Rome Program. The program was focused on uncovering the preconceived “invisible” dynamic systems of urban ecology, history, time, geology, and other forces in the city of Rome into a visible and understandable medium that can be analyzed and dissected, mainly on drawing and sketching. I spent five weeks living in Rome during the weekdays and seeing other parts of Italy during the weekends as independent travel.

Being in Italy for five weeks really challenged how I viewed not only myself, but the world around me as well. I came into this program believing that since I was used to the studio environment here at Ohio State, that I would have no problem in Italy. However, that was not the case. I also thought that I would assimilate well into Italian culture after living there for a while, and while that is partially true, I still struggled with the culture shock. And lastly, I thought that I was pretty independent on my own here in Columbus, but living in a foreign country and having to do almost everything from a blank slate finally gave me the confidence I needed to feel like an adult.


Cinque Terre

Before the program started, I had just finished classes for my sophomore year as a landscape architecture major. I had been very accustomed to fast-pace assignments, long and late hours of working on projects, and being crunched for time. I was also given a brief look into how to really analyze the world around me and all the natural and man-made systems that are at play. Rome, however, was very different. We would spend most of the day (usually around 9 AM to 3 or 4 PM) walking around Rome, taking in the city, managing mostly crowded areas, listening to our professors, and sketching all at the same time. It was the opposite of here where I am usually at my desk all day and only see my studio professors for a couple of hours three times a week. So, getting accustomed to that lifestyle and way of learning was challenging at first, both physically and mentally, but it made me really try and soak up as much information as I could in the moment and try to translate it, because we were always on the move and I had to make the most of my time.

Another part of the trip that affected me was the cultural adjustment aspect. Italians have a very specific culture that they are attuned to and makes them who they are. Living in the United States, it is a little different because everybody is unique and we all don’t really follow one culture per se. It was honestly a little unsettling that I would be treated differently because I was obviously an American, and there were some instances where I was embarrassed and felt uncomfortable. However, as the trip progressed, and we were exposed more and more to the language and culture, I started to feel like I had a tiny grasp on Italian lifestyle. I tried really hard to pick up on Italian phrases and words that are used every day, and by the end of the trip I was much more culturally sound than I was at the beginning.

The last aspect of the trip that was the most influential to my transformation was independence and confidence. Living in Italy really challenged me to be an independent person and gain confidence. Before I left, I was having really bad anxiety about flying by myself for the first time and going across the world. I was honestly scared of having to be alone and that something would go wrong. However, it ended up that two people from my trip were on the exact flights that I was on, so it worked out. Once I got to Italy, I had to adjust to living in an apartment, budgeting money, getting groceries, and being extra safe and vigilant, things that I was not used to doing here. They did not seem like such a daunting experience before the trip, and I did not realize how much responsibility I had until I got there. I had to gain the confidence to actually go out and navigate the city on my own, immerse myself in a language I had never spoken before, deal with roommate issues, arrange weekend travels, take extra security measures, and cook and clean for myself while still getting my assignments done. Once I got the hang of it, I felt really confident and good about myself, and I figured that if I can do all of these things in a foreign country, then I can certainly do them back home.

The David                              Aqueduct Park              Colosseum

I can honestly say that I feel like a new person. I feel more culturally well-rounded, independent, analytical, perceptive, and overall experienced. Being a part of this program really helped me improve myself: I can sketch better, I can understand connections between history, time, and the present world better, I can navigate cities better, I feel more confident in myself, and lastly, I feel like an adult. I got to see some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life, including Rome, Florence, Tuscany, Venice, Milan, Cinque Terre, Bagnaia, Orvietto, and more. On the last day, right before we said goodbye to our instructors, I went up and told one of my professors that this trip really encouraged me to take on something bigger than I had done before, and something that would affect the real world. And now, I will be working on a project that some of my professors are working on and have an input in the design. I feel now that because I went on this trip and really opened my eyes to what’s out there in the world, that I am starting a really exciting time in my life. A time where I have everything in front of me, and I have the beginning tools I need to start my career. I have the tools I need to become a more independent and confident person, one day at a time. And finally, I have the tools I need to create a brighter future.

Venice Sketch


The Trip of a Lifetime: My Education Abroad in London and Paris

This summer, I embarked on the trip to of a lifetime. I spent 3-weeks studying multicultural leadership through historical and contemporary lenses in London and Paris, experiencing firsthand the culture of both of these countries. In addition to engaging in cross-cultural learning, I participated in service-learning activities as well, during the domestic component of the course and while in London.

This international education experience was a life changing, transformative experience for me. By participating in this program, I learned what it means to be a global citizen. I also learned the importance of completing service, and modified my previous definition of the word.

Today’s world is becoming more and more globalized, and by participating in this study abroad, I now have a more concrete understanding of what it means to be a global citizen. Global citizens are aware and engaged in local and international issues and efforts. Before I studied abroad in London and Paris, I had not realized how unaware I was of global issues. I realized that having a better understanding of global issues is the key to understanding issues in my own country, due to today’s world’s interwoven nature, and I now make a better effort to keep up with international news.

I also realized the importance and impact of being involved in service, and in turn modified my definition. Before my Education Abroad, I defined service as “being willing to devote time and effort to improve the lives of others.” After this experience, I would now define service as “being willing to devote time and effort to improve the lives of others, regardless of their identities or backgrounds.” Before this course and study abroad experience, I had only served homogenous, predominately Caucasian, middle-class communities that were made up of people with backgrounds similar to my own. I now realize that serving people like myself and people different from myself are equally important and can both provide invaluable experiences to both parties involved in the service.

There were several moments during my study abroad that fueled this transformative experience. These moments include my service at the homeless shelter in London, my visit to the British League of Muslims, and the moment I realized I was in a country whose culture was completely different than my own.

When I visited and served at North London Action for the Homeless, I realized that no matter where you go or whom you serve, people are the same deep down. Each person at the shelter had their own personalities and stories, but they all shared the experience of homelessness in the Western world. Serving them reminded me to never be too quick to judge those in difference circumstances than myself.

When I visited the British League of Muslims, it was a very humbling experience to be served rather than to be the one providing service. They provided us with lunch and allowed us to have a Q and A session with them so we could ask questions to seek understanding about the Muslim faith. Their hospitality and willingness to share their faith and community with us was something I will never forget.

When I was in France, I had an “aha” moment when I was trying to speak to the teller at the Metro station and realized she could hardly speak English. I was reminded I was in a different place and that there are so many places, languages and cultures that I simply do not know. There are so many things to learn.  This was the moment that made me realize that I want to continue to explore and learn about the other countries that make up our global community.

This experience is something that I will never forget. It taught me that in the future, I will strive to make sure that my public service within my extension career values and targets individuals of all identities and backgrounds. I also hope to complete more local and international service projects in the future, continuing to live as a global citizen. As a result of this Education Abroad, I have realized that there is so much to learn about our global society, yet am excited to continue my global education.paris




Name: Molly Potoczak

IMG_9917Type of Project: EnvironmIMG_9720ental Sustainability in Costa Rica Study Abroad

  1. For my STEP Signature Project, I took a 2-week long Earth Science class at Ohio State, then I traveled to various cities in Costa Rica for 10 days to learn about the vast topic of sustainability and how Costa Rica focuses very heavily on it. On my trip, we visited wind farms, learned about sustainable food/beverage production methods, and hiked through tropical rainforests. I learned quite a bit about the physical makeup of Costa Rica through my in-class portion of this project.
  2. My view of the world dramatically changed while I was on this trip. As I mentioned before, sustainability was our main focus and that is not in my realm of study, so I never thought much about it. However, going on this trip really opened my eyes to how important being sustainable actually is. I am an economics minor, so I was always very supportive of trying to build up businesses and expanding the economy, but I never realized how much of a toll that took on the environment. Going on this trip and seeing how much of a connection that Costa Ricans have with their land really helped me to realize how important nature actually is. Since returning to the U.S., I have become a huge proponent of preserving the environment in any way possible, even if this means scaling back on economic progress a little bit.
  3. One activity that led to my worldview change was going to the wind farm. When we were there, I got to see a wind turbine up close for the first time, and there was something about that that really got me thinking about the environment that we have been blessed with. It truly is something incredible and we are ruining it little by little every single day without even thinking twice. If we keep living the way we do, our grandchildren might not have the same luxury of walking outside and breathing in fresh air. At the wind farm, we discussed how growing the economy is deteriorating our environment. I always thought economic improvement was the most important thing, but it really is not when it is ruining our very Earth. Being able to see a sustainable energy source up close helped me to better understand how necessary they really are.

A key relationship that helped me with my transformation was that with my professor that accompanied us on the trip. I had never met him until our on-campus lectures, but I could instantly tell that I was going to like him. He made the material interesting for me (I typically am not too interested in earth science) and he always related it back to Costa Rica and sustainability, which made me excited for the trip. While in-country, you could see how passionate he was about preserving the planet and doing things in a sustainable way, which really made me want to be like that. He seemed so fulfilled from living a sustainable lifestyle and showed how easy it is to do.

Finally, my interactions with locals was the most important factor in my transformation. Being able to witness firsthand their profound respect for the environment was moving. A common thing in Costa Rica is to build a very small house on your plot of land, so you have more land to protect and take care of. That fact really hit me hard because it is the exact opposite of America. Here, people build houses that are way bigger than they need, just to show off their wealth. Experiencing Costa Rica showed me that true wealth can be found simply in nature. Experiencing how an entire culture was built off of respect for land and the environment is enough to make anyone realize its true importance.

4. This change of mindset is significant for my life because it changes how I complete everyday tasks. Now, I take the bus to work everyday instead of further polluting the air by taking my own car. I make it a point to recycle, take shorter showers, and not leave unnecessary things plugged into my wall. Even if they are little things, they add up to make a big difference in both my life and the environment. Also, in the profession of accounting, (my future career and current internship) quite a lot of paper is used. Recently, I was asked by my senior to print out something that was 432 pages long. I thought that was absurd, so I asked him if there was any way to cut that down. I ended up skimming the statement and picking out the most important information and cutting it down to only 80 pages. That is still a lot, but I knew that I was making an impact by saving those other 352 pages. I plan to keep up this technique in my future and hopefully be able to make it a complete computerized system by the time I am well into my career. Therefore, that shows just how much of an impact this study abroad trip had on me and how it will make significant positive impacts in my future.

Here is a link to my blog about the experience 🙂


Reflective Component

I traveled to Valparaiso, Chile during the summer of 2016 for a total of 67 days. While abroad I took two classes, completing my Spanish minor. After the classes completion I stayed an additional four weeks to perform service in a school for children with disabilities.

During my time abroad I have learned the power of body language because the verbal language was a large barrier to me. In the States I depended on the power of my voice but while abroad I learned the power of a presence, to be there and to listen and react. My ability to understand Spanish is at a much higher level than my ability to speak. Sometimes this would be frustrating because I had things to say but was unable to express the ideas. However, through time I adapted to allowing the person to talk and for me to be a supportive presence.

The biggest relationship I had this experience with was my homestay mother. She had a lot of health issues and past experience she wanted to talk about. I at first wanted to add in on my life and what happens in the United States but I did not have the vocabulary to express those ideas. Instead I could only express sympathy through a minimal vocabulary which indicated I understood and just sat there listening, a service I could easily give to someone else. At first this frustrated me making me feel trapped in my head and unable to fully interact with the people around me but then it changed to be more of a observation experience in which case I could absorb so much more of what was around me.

Another relationship I had this experience with was at my service site. I could understand what the teachers were saying at lunch, from talking about middle names to what movies they cried in. However, by the time I deciphered all of it, formed an idea of what to add and figure out how to say it the conversation was three topics down. I know understand why it takes longer for some people to respond in a conversation where in the States I expected everyone to respond just as quickly as I was able to in English. This experience has allowed me to slow down and let people form thoughts that before I would have skipped because I was too focused on moving fast.

These life skills are important to me as a person because they are usable in any setting I choose to pursue in my future. I learned the power of being with someone and to not need to dominate the conversation but to focus on the other person’s needs. To allow the person to talk without adding a personal story to take the attention away from them. I acquired the skill to listen and patiently wait for someone who may not think or understand a language as rapidly as I can because I have now been on the other end of that. I have also learned the skill to communicate effectively in a language that I find extremely challenging, an ability I did not think I would ever attain. This has taught me to believe in myself more and the courtesy of making yourself feel uncomfortable for another person to feel comfortable.

IMG_1922 IMG_1913IMG_0447