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.

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One thought on “Finding Yourself in a Foreign Country

  1. Hi Jonathan,

    Thank you for sharing your story so honestly. I related to the challenges and rewards of spending time alone. It’s a process that certainly has positive outcomes but may not always feel great at first.

    Most importantly, I’m glad you took care of yourself!


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