Wait, this wasn’t a dream? My Global May Britain Experience


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For my STEP signature project, I participated in the Global May Britain program. Not only was I able to fulfill a life-long childhood dream of mine to visit London, but I was able to fully immerse myself in the British culture through all the experienced I had during my trip. We lived in flats in London, utilized their underground transportation practically every day, visited many different stereotypical tourist attractions, visited many local spots, all while still taking classes and learning about the British history, culture, and politics! In all honesty, it’s extremely challenging to put into words just how life-changing this experience was, especially through just a summarization. As much as I would love to share every detail, I know that it would practically become a novel, so here’s my attempt with just the highlights…

Within just a few weeks, I experienced a substantial amount of personal, academic, and professional growth. Yet, it was not just one particular event that influenced this growth. Rather, it resulted from the culmination of my experiences throughout this trip – I stepped out of my comfort zone, had the opportunity to go on some excursion nearly every day, took a weekend trip to Scotland, and experienced everyday life as a Londoner, all while still taking classes! I became more outgoing, discovered a newfound love for nature and natural landscapes, fostered a desire to explore the U.S, became more aware of public health issues, and changed my future career goals. Most importantly, I became even more appreciative of my opportunities and experiences.

I noticed my personal growth almost immediately. As a New Jersey resident and out-of-state student with no family or high school friends in Ohio, I learned to be fairly independent during my first two years of college. Because of this, I assumed I could easily handle living alone in London. After all, I knew how to utilize the NYC subway system and fly planes on my own. For the most part, I was right. The Underground or “Tube” was very easy to utilize and become familiar with; going around London and even other parts the of the U.K was not very difficult. Living in the flat with easy access to a kitchen and bathroom (compared to dorm life) was not a difficult transition as well. My biggest personal challenge was actually stepping out of my comfort zone. As a very shy yet somewhat-extroverted individual, I often have trouble making friends and even though I enjoy the company of others. My shyness typically results in a struggle to open up to others and show my true personality. As such, I often remain quiet until I am fully comfortable with the people around me. I decided to defy this natural tendency; I realized that I would be living with 7 other flat mates and be with the same people every single day for four weeks. Within the first few days of the trip, I branched out and tried to meet as many people as I could. It was honestly extremely hard to do and it really forced me to step outside of “my bubble.” However, my efforts proved to be worth it as I surprised myself with making many new friends. In fact, I became very close with a group of several girls within the first week and I felt like I could be myself around them without worrying about being judged. What would have taken me months to do back on campus only took a few days during the trip, and I can honestly say that these new friendships may be life-long ones too.


My flatmates and I

With these new friends, I nurtured my personal growth even more.  We had a tendency to further explore London beyond our daily excursions. We often found ourselves “accidentally” lost, which resulted in a plethora of adventures. It became such a habit that, after a certain point, we purposely went out of our way just to explore even more. During our first full weekend in the U.K, our class had an excursion to Edinburgh, Scotland. During this amazing weekend, we hiked on Arthur’s Seat. The view and experience altogether was absolutely breathtaking. It also led to our newfound love for nature and natural landscape. This revelation influenced our desire to explore green spaces throughout London for the remainder of our trip; we tried to visit as many parks as we could! After realizing there is much more to the U.K than the popular tourist spot of London, we spent our weekends visiting other places in the U.K such as Wimbledon, Brighton Beach, Stonehenge, Bath, and Stratford-Upon-Avon. A few girls and I went on a backpacking expedition in Italy and France for a few days after the trip, and we tried as best as we could to explore natural landscapes and non-tourist parts as part of our experience.

Watching a play in the view of a "pennystanker" in the Globe Theater

Watching a play in the view of a “pennystanker” in the Globe Theater

Hiking Arthur's Seat in Edimburgh, Scotland

Hiking Arthur’s Seat in Edimburgh, Scotland

Though we had the weekends free to ourselves, we still had to attend classes during our time abroad. These classes were quite enjoyable actually, especially since they only took place on Mondays through Thursdays from 10AM-12PM. Our classes were typically accompanied by an afternoon excursion relating to the morning’s lesson and discussion. The pairing of our classes and excursions was the primary influence towards my academic growth during this trip. I was able to see the historical influence and prevalence of the U.K still prevalent in their culture. The majority of our excursions were museums or historical sites, and it was interesting to see how people still greatly acknowledge or even embrace the history of their country up to this day. This revelation was particularly prevalent during our visit to Edinburgh, Scotland; the majority of its structures and buildings were comprised of its original architecture. In a way, it also made me appreciate the U.S even more and fostered a curiosity with both American historical and cultural presence in various cities across our country. It made me desire to visit other parts of the U.S to explore historical landmarks and natural landscape, which I personally was not originally interested in.

Not only did I observe everyday life in Great Britain such as their architecture, fashion, and cuisine, but I also noted the behaviors of many British people. I was shocked to discovered how common smoking was – not just in Great Britain, but in Europe in general. Since I minor in public health, it was very overwhelming and disappointing to see the amount of smokers we encountered, especially since many of them were actually adolescents. Given the decrease in the amount of smokers in the U.S recently, it was a harsh realization that this is still a public health issue in other parts of the world.

The professional growth from this trip resulted from the combination of my personal and academic growth. I expected this experience to trip to satisfy my curiosity with London and the U.K. My month in the U.K was definitely culturally immersive, but I can easily say it left me craving for more. The trip actually altered my professional goals and future plans. Originally, I hoped to matriculate into medical school immediately after my undergraduate studies. After much consideration and even discussion with my parents, I have decided to apply for graduate school in the U.K probably for a year-long Master’s program in pharmacology or public health. I still want to go to medical school one day, but I also want to take a gap year and further immerse myself in the U.K while still furthering my education. There is still so much I want to see and experience in the U.K, and I personally cannot think of any better way to do this other than to study abroad again.

I can safely say, without a doubt, that my time abroad truly changed me for the better. I learned so much about myself in such a short amount of time. It only took those four weeks to notice a personal, academic, and professional development in myself that will now always be part of my identity. It was such a humbling experience and not a second passed by when I did not appreciate my blessings. I felt very thankful for all my opportunities and experiences with both my trip and my life back home. In fact, I actually cried out of happiness several times during this trip which was a surprise since I had never cried because of such reasons before. I have always been appreciative what I had, but this trip was a great reminder of the multitude and magnitude of my blessings in my life. I will forever hold my time abroad dear to my heart.


Abroad in Berlin

This past May I studied abroad in Berlin, Germany. My funds from STEP allowed me to experience Berlin’s unique culture by visiting famous memorials, palaces and neighborhoods. My Maymester class in Berlin focused on the city’s culture both in the past and the present. Berlin has a vast history, and I was fortunate to learn about its history in the same place where it happened. My experience was truly memorable.

During my time in Berlin, I realized that living and getting around in a foreign country is quite easy even if you don’t know the language (I only know a few greeting words in German). I used the local trains, S-Bahn and U-Bahn, to navigate my way around the city and I only had to use a taxi once. I also felt very safe while traveling around Europe, although many people warned me that Europe is too dangerous to travel around. In the future, I can even see myself living abroad for an extended period of time. Something else that surprised me about Berlin was how diverse it is: the city is truly a melting pot with many cultures. As a matter of fact, it was slightly difficult to find German food since there were many Turkish and Italian restaurants.

The longer I spent abroad the more I realized that it was fairly similar to the States. However, I did notice several differences. For example, they have high-speed trains in Europe that make traveling extremely convenient. The food in Berlin also appeared to be cheaper, especially the healthy food. Going out to eat also wasn’t very expensive. The servers are paid a decent wage so you only have to tip them 5-10%. The biggest culture shock I had in Berlin was the fact that almost no one drinks the tap water, and they prefer to drink carbonated water. I often found myself buying bottles of carbonated water at Aldi’s and carrying them around to avoid buying the overpriced water at touristy areas. As a matter of fact, most people just buy beer for lunch since it is the same price as the water.

I was certainly surprised that there were so many different activities to do in Berlin. Not many people mention Berlin as a place to visit when going abroad, but it was my favorite city to visit. I enjoyed all of the places that I explored this summer – Prague, Munich, Salzburg, Venice and Rome – but in my opinion none of these cities compare to the immense amount of activities Berlin offers. Berlin has an activity available for every hour of the day whether you want to check out Museum Island, Peacock Island, The Berlin Wall Memorial, Charlottenburg Palace or the city’s nightlife. Additionally I shopped at Potsdamer Platz, swam at Wannsee Beach, cruised on the Spree River, strolled through the Tiergarten and toured the Reichstag. Our group also received a tour of a local university. Humboldt University’s campus is located all around central Berlin and although they don’t offer many dorms for students the university is free. Students do not even need to buy textbooks. The student who gave us a tour said that she only spends about 600 euros a year on a train pass.

Peacock Island

Peacock Island

As part of my classwork I published a blog post with a partner while in Berlin. We extensively researched the Reichstag and I learned a lot about Berlin’s history ranging from Prussia to Parliament. It was very cool to visit buildings that represented the Prussian era such as Charlottenburg and Sanssouci Palace while also visiting modern buildings like the Reichstag. I enjoyed walking through the Tiergarten, knowing that it had once been a hunting ground for their ruler. The Brandenburg Gate also represents the city’s long history since it was once a place for royalty to pass through and later represented the divide between East and West Berlin.

Sanssouci Palace

Sanssouci Palace

While studying abroad in Berlin, I experienced a new culture and I also learned how to explore a new place on my own. This opportunity has allowed me to break out of my comfort zone. Additionally, this experience has helped me interact with people who come from different backgrounds and even speak different languages. Studying abroad has helped me recognize the importance of being a global citizen while understanding and appreciating everyone’s differences. In the future I hope to be a physician and work for Doctors Without Borders, and I believe that this trip has helped me live in a foreign country while meeting new people and learning about new ideas. I hope to travel to many more countries and make my way back to Berlin one day.

Here’s a link to the Reichstag blog I worked on in Berlin: http://u.osu.edu/krasnoschlik.1/2016/05/13/introduction-to-the-reichstag/

There and Back Again- A Hobbit’s Tale


STEP Reflection Prompts

Name: Emma Weihe

Type of Project: Study Abroad

  1. Please provide a 2-3 sentence description of your project.

For my STEP Signature Project, I participated in the OSU Global May New Zealand course, which focused on looking at New Zealand culture through the lens of linguistics. Other aspects built into the program included staying with a host family, taking field trips to learn about different parts of the country, and allowing free time for personal exploration.

  1. In 1-2 paragraphs, what changed while completing your project?

I suppose the largest takeaway has been the realization that I lack personal satisfaction in life potentially because I have some mental roadblock that I need to work out. I’m a happy, positive person, but there is nothing else that can explain the general frustration, lack of drive and the feeling that I’m stuck. I want to be able to fully participate in all that life has to offer. I took so many risks while I was there including going on an unsolicited two day trip without an adult, eating something new almost every day (I’m a noted picky eater), drinking alcohol for the first time (legally), and spending time outside of class with some of the more outgoing students. I felt so accomplished for doing things I would never do either at home or at school, even though I was uncomfortable at times when my peers were a bit more raucous than I would prefer. After experiencing that taste of pride, I would love to finally be able to embrace myself as a grown up. If I need therapy in order to make that happen, then I should start treatment as soon as I can. I’ve learned that I’m capable of far more than I thought, now I just need the energy to make all my ideas happen.

  1. Write 3-4 paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences that led to this change.

When I was in Christchurch, I had to act as an individual and as a part of the group. On my own, I was responsible for taking the bus to get to school as well as navigating the city. I was also obliged to do stuff around Christchurch where I would normally go back to my room and play on my phone. I also made fast friends with a whole group of people, which I haven’t gotten to genuinely experience in years. I especially became close with two students from China; now I’m already planning my next trip to go visit them at home! I’ve never been good at keeping in touch with my friends, but now I’m so eager to talk to these girls! It’s remarkable how going through this journey together can forge such strong bonds


The single most significant event during the course of the program was when I, along with a group of 16 other students, went away for the national observation of the Queen’s Birthday. That long weekend was a study in risk and reward. I’d been nervous about taking an overnight trip to Lake Tekapo, which is nearly 4 hours from Christchurch, without a real adult, just some of my classmates. There was so much to worry about, let alone what my peers would think of my nearly asthmatic reaction to hiking, or general physical activity for that matter. Agreeing to go was a huge risk for me which paid off tenfold and more. A few of the risks I took included: agreeing to a potential 3 hour hike up Mt. John, pushing through the entire duration of said hike despite wanting to quit several times, trusting my peers, willingly ordering non-deep-fried seafood, and hanging out with my classmates past tea (dinner). Here, however, are only a few brief thoughts on what I learned that day:

  1. I am lucky to have this group in my life. Despite my horrendous attempt to hike without huffing and puffing, they never said anything negative; instead, encouraging me to get to the top. I wouldn’t have gotten HALF of the experience (and photos) I had if I had just quit.
  2. Lake Tekapo is heaven on earth. I saw mountains, lakes, plains, and forests there as well as a beautifully perfect night sky, with the Milky Way taking center stage. It may have gotten below freezing, but every layer of clothing was worth it!
  3. Salmon can actually be quite good! I know that sounds lame, but I don’t eat seafood too much and it’s always deep fried. When we went to dinner, most of the menu was seafood and sushi, so I figured that since I’d JUST CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN that I could eat something I hadn’t had before. I ended up with a delicious meal that I would have never thought to try.

Overall, on this trip to Lake Tekapo, I learned so much about myself. I did things that I didn’t think were possible, that I didn’t want to do, and I actually enjoyed them! It was a wonderful surprise that I had never expected, and instantly became the highlight of my trip.


4. Write 1-2 paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

All my life I was called mature because I act with a composure and tact few of my peers exhibited in childhood and adolescence. As I get older, I have noticed that while I still feel that way, I’ve noticed that they’ve hit milestones that I haven’t, such as getting a driver’s license, having a committed relationship, getting a house/apartment, having children, etc. Going into this experience, I knew I needed to make a major change in my life; I was too dependent and afraid to grow up. I figured that forcing myself into a new perspective would ensure that the mindset shift would occur. Because I was required to perform “grown-up” tasks throughout the experience, I started to realize that grown-up life, although not as “cushy” as my prolonged adolescence, is far from the burdensome, depressing hell hole I once thought. Since arriving back home, where it’s easy to slip back into old roles, the contrast has been stark. I became again unable to go anywhere by myself, which, when you don’t have a job or many at-home tasks to complete, can get incredibly tiresome. I craved the independence I had back in New Zealand, which put me at great odds with my fear of the adult world, which is where I am now; stuck between two strong emotions that are in conflict with one another. While that may not be the storybook transformation you’re looking for, that’s the truth. Major lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight, or in a month, or over a summer; they happen over a long period of time which will include highs and lows, tears and cheers. It hasn’t been easy dealing with these dueling thoughts, but it’s a step in the right direction, and I’m thankful that OSU and NZ have been able to help me take it.

Study Abroad in Europe focused on World War II

For my STEP project I travelled to Europe to continue studying World War II through the History Departments “History of World War II Study Program.” I had the opportunity to see the places in Europe that I learned about in my spring semester classes and continue to learn more about them in person at the actual site. These sites included the museums and memorials and locations where the fighting took place.

Being able to see the beaches of Normandy, cemeteries, some of the best museums in the world, and concentration camps has really opened up my eyes academically and helped me develop a better understanding of World War II. The experience has really left me with a personal touch to the individuals who fought the war. It was one thing to learn in classes about how many people died in certain battles, but seeing the cemeteries with graves for the individuals who fought and died really was astonishing and something no text book could ever teach. With World War II, everyone “knows” about the holocaust. Reading and seeing footage of a concentration camp does not even come close to the emotions and realizations that visiting a camp does. I read a book on the Auschwitz trials in a class and thought I had a good visualization on what the camp would look like and be like when I visited it. This was not the case at all. The camp was so systematic and terrifying to know what happened at the site and left me with a feeling of hopelessness that people could kill thousands of people.

The new understanding and appreciation I have on World War II has really helped me while I teach other people on the topics. I worked at a museum last summer and am currently working at a museum again this summer. I have noticed a huge difference in the approach I take to discuss war and our collection to visitors that I would not have gained had I not been apart of this study abroad.

The program itself is partly responsible for my transformation. Professor Steigerwald did a wonderful job at combining prerequisite classes that covered the same materials. I have never had such an in depth understanding and knowledge on a topic until now. My classmates on the trip were also partly responsible for my transformation. I realized how big the world really is and how little of it I have been able to see. The people on the trip really made a big difference and I would not have had such a wonderful time with any other group than the group that I was with. Everyone in the program had to take classes at OSU before departing for Europe. We all got to know each other a lot in the semester before studying abroad. During classes at Ohio State, we saw some parts of the group three or four times a week. Then, once in Europe we all lived together and saw each other everyday for almost a month straight.

During the academic side to the trip, I developed a greater appreciation for the soldiers who fought the war. I learned that I am really proud to be able to say that I am an American and that as an American, I saw all the sites that are associated with World War II that were available to be seen. Another thing that contributed to my view of the world changing happened at Point du Hoc. I overheard another tourist say every American should see this. I have to say that after seeing everything on this trip, I agree. Americans do not have as easy access to the sites as Europeans do and most will never see the beaches, cliffs, or sites for the D-Day Invasion, or other historical sites we got to see on this trip. Point du Hoc was the location were the rangers assaulted on D Day. To assault the position the rangers had to climb the cliffs. It was unbelievable to see the cliffs in person and know that Americans climbed the cliff and took the position.

DSC01959View from top of cliffs at Point du Hoc

Another event that contributed to my viewpoint changing was visiting the cemeteries. I was able to see the American cemetery that overlooked the beaches. I was also able to see the Germany, Soviet, and British cemeteries. The American cemetery was very similar to Arlington. I really liked the British Cemetery. I had the opportunity to visit it without anyone else on the grounds. This created a very nice peaceful environment that no other site on the trip had. I was able to leave with a very personal touch that the British created in the layout and even messages on the graves. The British allowed family’s to include a personal message on the graves. These messages combined with the ages of the soldiers really showed that they were not numbers but individuals who died at such young ages and that most were the same age as me.

DSC02081British Cemetery

The last place that was transformational was Auschwitz. I had the opportunity to talk to Professor Steigerwald after seeing the camp. We discussed what the camp left me thinking about and the history of the holocaust. The main thing I remember was being able to say that I was glad I could not imagine the camp accurately and that no one really can. This inability or even imagine a camp to kill people was really the only thing that I thought about and how anyone could come up with a design to kill people.

The change in perspective I have gained on war and World War II has really helped me gain a greater appreciation for the men and women who fought in World War II and all other wars. I was able to see how many people in the world think of the individuals who fought in the war as numbers who fought for their countries but to families and friends they were perhaps their entire world. I have been using the knowledge and experience I gained from this experience at work in a museum setting. I will continue to use what I learned in my future academic settings and classes and in my professional settings. This trip really expanded my horizons and was a great experience. I have developed a broader understanding of just how small Moon Township that I grew up in really is and also how small Columbus is. I did not realize just how young the United States is compared to the cities and towns I visited and how our buildings and history here at home do not compare to the countries of Europe. It was amazing to see the details the cathedrals had and to know that they were hand made without any power tools. It was also disappointing to know that modern day architects and construction sites have better tools and resources but do not make buildings to last or look as beautiful. I am looking forward to traveling more and getting out of my comfort zone more often after seeing that the world is a big place and that there is a lot of interesting places, things, and people that I can and should visit.

Here is a link to my blog posts for the History of World War II Study Program:  http://u.osu.edu/wwiihistorytour/author/kaminski-212-2/

My Study Abroad in Prague, Czech Republic

My STEP money went towards my summer trip to Prague, Czech Republic through the Office of International Affairs, where we took classes in various subjects such as economics, Czech agricultural studies, Czech history, and sustainability. This program took place from May 15th to June 11th and counted as a 3 credit hour course towards a subject related to my minor.prague1


This 4 week program gave me a better perspective of the world outside of the U.S. and made me realize how important it is to explore different cultures and learn new ways of life through meeting people in other countries. Before stepping into a new country and immersing myself into their culture, I had no idea what the world was like outside of where I grew up. After living in Prague for a month, my view of the world changed because I met people from several countries and heard their stories, how they grew up, how they ended up where they are now, and what took place in their life to lead them there. Talking to so many people opened my eyes to the amount of possibilities there are in choosing a life path, and taught me that you can’t always plan exactly what you’re going to do or where you’ll end up. I met several terrific people with such an array of different cultures and different lives and it really made me appreciate all the diversity in the world. Growing up in Mentor, Ohio, mostly everyone has relatively similar backgrounds and cultures, so being able to experience such diversity within one month changed how I view the world and put me in other people’s shoes, seeing how they live their life and how it differs from what I know. My view of the world before was through a much smaller scope, so what I know now is from experience rather than stories from other people or textbooks. I learned things about the Czech Republic and their government and their past that I had never known before and it truly made me appreciate the country that I previously knew so little about.


While we were in Prague, the celebration of the 700th anniversary of King Charles IV was taking place, through events such as the showing of the crown jewels in Prague Castle where people stood in line for hours to be able to see. Thanks to the celebration of this event, we got to learn why King Charles IV was so beloved in the Czech Republic and how much he meant to the development of their country and of the town of Prague especially. This helped facilitate my change in the view of the world because I had no idea how old Prague was and how much history it held and I got to understand how a country was built and what it had been through for the past thousand years. I would never have learned the rich cultural history of this country without having travelled there and without the celebration of King Charles IV’s anniversary, I would not have learned as much about his role in the country.


Activities we did within the program included a few farm tours throughout different areas in the Czech Republic, in order to see how farms operate especially in a country where farming is such a huge contributor to their economy. We went to small and large farms, some owned and operated privately by families and some owned by large companies. We went to a meat manufacturing plant where we saw how chickens are processed for sale and we went to a milking cow farm to see dairy production. All these experiences changed my view of how we get food. I had never visited farms to such an extent before and seeing how they differ in the Czech Republic from what I know about farms in America helped to improve my understanding of how different countries operate. For example, I learned that the Czech Republic has several sustainability initiatives such as solar panel farms and ways to improve farming efficiency without hurting the environment. Learning about their efforts to contribute to a healthier world made me realize that different countries are putting forth efforts to make a big difference in people’s standards of living.


Lastly, the relationships I formed with the people I met in the Czech Republic really changed my perspective in how people live their lives. I was fortunate enough to be able to stay with a Czech student and her family for a weekend in the village she grew up in and I was able to see how their family lives. In her village most people have farms and grow a lot of their own food and breed and kill their own animals, which is very different from the place I grew up in. I also learned that in general, everyone in the Czech Republic is very family-oriented, unlike most families in America these days. I appreciated learning about the family and village dynamic and how everyone works together to sustain themselves. I saw how different their culture was from mine in the U.S., which gave me a greater understanding of the diversity within the world.



This change in my understanding of a different part of the world matters in my life because with my major in Public Health, I hope to travel the world and help people in all kinds of areas to improve public health and safety. With a better knowledge of at least one other culture and the differences between health and food safety in Europe and America, I will be able to apply that not only to my learning in college, but also to my future endeavors. With experience in a different country so early on in my schooling, it will shape how I learn and interpret concepts because I can apply ideas I’ve developed from Europe to what we can improve or work on in other countries. Such a fulfilling experience will help with finding a job after graduation and allow me to develop the future career I am aiming for, as well as develop my personal goals of traveling and seeing various ways of life throughout the world.


Blog: https://czustudyabroad2016.wordpress.com/

My Spain Global May Reflection Post

For my STEP Project, I used my money to go on the Spain Global May trip through the Office of International Affairs at Ohio State. This trip took take place in Madrid where we took a 3 credit hour class relating to the history and culture of Spain. The program took place from May 9th through June 4th.

spain 5spain 4

For myself the Spain Global May trip was a very transformational experience. Growing up I have had the opportunity to travel to many different places, however before this trip I had a hard time imagining actually living in a different country. Through having the opportunity to spend an entire month in Spain, specifically Madrid, I was able to get a glimpse of what it would be like to live there and what it was like finding my way around a city on my own. The transformation that took place for me was figuring out that with the help of keeping an open mind I could now picture myself living abroad in the future.

There are several different aspects of my trip that led to this feeling that I could live in a different country. The first aspect of this trip that led to my feeling more confident living in a different country was being responsible for finding my way around using the public transportation systems. In the beginning of the trip, using the buses, taxies, and metro were a bit confusing which made for stressing situations. However, after about a week we all became very comfortable with knowing how to get from where we were to where we wanted to go. Gaining this confidence aided in my transformation.

DSCN4039 DSCN4079

Another aspect of this trip that led to this change was being put in situations where I had to overcome the language barrier. Being someone who knew very little Spanish coming into Spain, it was definitely more challenging trying to talk to the locals. I struggled with ordering my food, asking questions to the workers at our dorm, and asking for directions. At first these experiences were discouraging, however seeing how much I was able to improve my language skills within the month led to me believing that I could thrive living in a different country.

The last aspect of the trip that led to my transformation was the relationships I built with my professors and graduate TA’s on the trip. During the trip I had the chance to get to know all four of the Ohio State teachers that came on our trip who have all spent at least a year living abroad. Through hearing about their experiences and asking questions I developed a more open mind to the idea of living abroad.

DSCN4124 spain 3

This transformation is important for a few reasons. The first reason is that having an open mind at all times is important for building relationships whether at school, work or in everyday personal life. As a business major, building relationships is a vital skill in order to achieve success within any company. Another reason why this change is significant is that it opens up opportunities for me to explore working abroad which could lead to great business opportunities in the future. Overall I am very thankful to have had this great experience.





Studying Abroad in…Canada?

“You’re studying abroad in Canada of all places?”

For many, studying abroad is traveling to far and exotic locations; however, I found that one does not need to travel too far to fully experience the benefits of a study abroad program. For 5 weeks, I lived and worked in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, under Dr. James Baker’s Canadian Parliamentary Internship Program. I was an intern for Peter Julian, a ten-year Member of Parliament (MP) for the New Democratic Party. This study abroad opportunity was unlike any other in that it was essentially a full-time internship. I developed press releases, contacted constituents, wrote letters to Cabinet Ministers, and conducted research for future legislation. The opportunity to observe and engage with another country’s federal government was one that I could not pass up.

Before my study abroad experience in Canada, I was someone who preferred predictability over spontaneity. I liked to have a strict schedule that I could follow. The idea of change unnerved me as it was something that I could not plan or act on as I might have wanted to. During my time at Parliament, this mindset of consistency was challenged as I would have no idea what the next day would bring. Would I continue to conduct research? Or would there be another incident in Parliament (as such was the case where Justin Trudeau acted out against the NDP in what became known as Elbowgate) that I would need to react to? It wasn’t just work that was always changing. Every day, I met new people at after-work receptions, learned about minute differences between Canadian and American culture, and discussed these differences (among many other topics) with my new Canadian friends. The abrupt break from my bubble of comfort was something I had no idea that I so desperately needed.

One of the major excursions for my group was the weekend trip to Quebec where we traveled to Quebec City and Montreal. As an American, initially traveling through Ontario was not too different from driving through the U.S. (other than the change from miles to kilometers of course), but crossing over into Quebec felt like I was really in another country. In the months leading up to the trip, my Canadian Politics course discussed how Canada is effectively composed of many distinct cultures and two different languages who, effectively forming the Canadian Mosaic as opposed to the idea of an American Melting Pot. This was never clearer than when we crossed over to Quebec. The cultural difference was astounding as we saw an immediate change in language and customs. This unique multi-culture environment is something that does not exist anywhere else in the world and witnessing it firsthand in the historic Quebec City was something that I could never forget.

While the excursions provided me with the opportunity to experience the very cultural idiosyncrasies which we had been studying for months beforehand, the relationships I developed provided me with experiences I would have never expected when I was initially applying for the internship. When applying, assumed the internship was going to be solely about Parliament and that our group of Ohio State interns would have a strict schedule that would not allow us to mingle with Canadian students. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Some of the closest relationships I developed on the trip were with Canadian interns. Parliament provided a unique situation in that the American interns were basically thrown into the mix of Canadian interns allowing us to not only work together, but to get to know each other personally as well. In my office, I was lucky to have two Canadian interns who were essentially my mentors, Jeff and Branden. Both were in the process of completing their Masters degrees and helped me not only with work but with suggestions about my collegiate career as well. It would not be unusual for us to be engaging in deep, multi-layered policy discussions while in the midst of writing letters and researching.

I did not only make new friends in my own office and party. After work, there was always a reception to go to and meet new people. While I was in the NDP, I was not hesitant to talk to and discuss issues with interns from other parties. As many of my fellow interns from Ohio State worked for other parties, I frequently met the people they worked with. In fact, one of my closest friends I made on the trip was a member of the Liberal party not the NDP. One of the overarching themes of this trip for me was being able to talk to anyone. For some reason, being in a completely new environment where I was virtually unknown empowered me to be able to just start a conversation with anyone. I was more confident than I had ever been. I felt like I could connect with anyone I met. I was a blank slate who could choose who he wanted to be. The freedom of anonymity provided me with confidence to just be myself and not be persuaded by what others think of me.

While this study abroad may not have been the conventional choice, the experiences that I had, the people I met, and the policies and ideas that I worked on made this trip the highlight of my time at Ohio State. Being able to break free of my tendency toward predictability, I was able to embrace a spontaneity that I never knew I had. While I still like to have a schedule, I now don’t mind as much if things “don’t go according to plan.” On a resume, this trip looks great, but it was so much more than that. The bonds I made with my fellow Ohio State interns and my fellow Canadian interns are something that cannot be solely expressed by a blurb on a LinkedIn page. Personally, this trip enabled me to be free of what I previously considered to be my limits and as I return to Ohio State this fall, I’m excited to bring these newfound skills and confidence with me.

Where I worked, Centre block

Where I worked, Centre block

On top of Mount Royal overlooking Montreal

On top of Mount Royal overlooking Montreal

Meeting with members of the American Embassy

Meeting with members of the American Embassy

Last day at Parliament Hill

Last day at Parliament Hill

East Block

East Block

Education Abroad in South Africa

Through the College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Science, I travelled to South Africa to study Exotic Animal Behavior and Welfare. We visited different locations in South Africa, such as Kruger National Park, an elephant sanctuary, Moholoholo Rehabilitation Center, and a secret rhinoceros sanctuary to learn about exotic animal behavior and welfare in their natural environment.

Before my education abroad, I was angry with game hunters and poachers. I was incredibly furious with Walter Palmer, the hunter who killed Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe. However, I was ignorant on the subject of game hunting. Our guide explained to me what game hunting entails. Game farms monitor every exotic animal on the premises, and keep track of the ages of the animal. When hunters are willing to pay a large sum of money to shoot the animal, the people in charge of the game hunting offer them a list of animals who are approaching old age. The hunters can only kill an animal that is past his prime, which was the case of Cecil, the Lion. The media portrayed Cecil as the leader of this pride, but in reality, he was too old to mate with the females. I was intrigued by how the media twisted the information in order to make it appear more malicious. According to Zimbabwe law, what Walter Palmer did was legal. My knowledge was also lacking concerning how game hunting benefits the community. Hunters collect the trophy, but the community is provided the meat to eat. My guide described game hunting as a “necessary evil.” It is unfortunate that it occurs, but it has its benefits for the community.

Before my education abroad, I was against the trade of rhino horn. I was one of the many people who thought that banning the trade would help. I was also furious with every poacher who killed a rhino. I still see on social media sites how people are outraged at poachers, and say that humanity is corrupted because people want to kill innocent animals. I had never once thought about the poachers as humans. During my time in South Africa, I learned that poachers kill rhinos because they are trying to provide for themselves or for a family. Third parties are willing to pay large sums of money for rhino horn, causing people to be easily persuaded. There are even employees of Kruger National Park or other sanctuaries that are bribed by poachers to allow rhinos to be killed because they make more money doing that than in an entire year of working. In some sanctuaries, employees shoot poachers. This is hard on the employees as well because they have to deal with whom they just killed, such as a father. My views regarding the trade of rhino horn have changed. I now support the legalized trade of rhino horn because rhino horn is a sustainable industry because rhino horn grows back. Rhino horn can be sawed off with no harm done to the rhino. It grows back, and can be cut off again. It is made of keratin, which is the same protein in our fingernails. If the trade of rhino horn were legalized, there would be fewer rhinos killed for their horn.

One event that led to my change of opinion for game hunting was when I saw a young boy digging through a trashcan in search of food. This is only one aspect of the poverty I witnessed. South Africa has a large unemployment rate, which means many people cannot afford food or shelter. I saw people living in cardboard/metal huts along the highway, and sleeping on blankets in the streets of Pretoria. It is unfortunate that animals have to be hunted but it is a benefit to the communities because it is a source of food.

One event made this transformation to supporting animal hunting difficult for me. One of my favorite parts about Kruger National Park was being able to see different species of animals interact with one another. The best example of this occurred when we saw baboons in the trees, expressing an alarm call. Because they were seeking shelter from the ground, our guide, Andy, knew that there must be some form of predator on the ground. Andy drove us around, looking for this animal. Eventually, we saw lion cubs running to a lioness in the distance. We drove around more, trying to see where this pride went. Eventually, we saw another lioness, which was evidently the mother because her cubs ran to her one by one. The mom, aunt, and cubs then walked away together. This was an incredible natural moment that our class witnessed. This was one of my favorite aspects of the trip, being able to observe exotic animals in their natural environment. I learned that lions behave similarly in their natural environment compared to that in a zoo. They rest the majority of the day, even in the wild. It was difficult for me to observe this and be so happy while knowing that humans were targeting similar prides. The more time I spent in South Africa, the more empathetic I became for the people. The “wealthier countries” such as the U.S.A, U.K, and Australia try to manage South Africa, which is a frustration for them because they want a say in how their country functions. The people in poverty also feel neglected because the wealthier countries care more about the animals than they do the people. I came to the realization that we tend to forget that human life is more sacred than animal life. We cannot necessarily neglect the animals altogether for the sake of conservation, but we cannot forget about human needs either. Because of this, my acceptance for game hunting has increased.

My opinion on the trade of rhino horn became more positive because I had the opportunity to witness the dehorning of rhinos. We went to a secret rhino sanctuary and followed the team around as they tranquilized and dehorned rhinos. For their protection, the rhinos were then moved to a different location with all of the other dehorned rhinos. While one female rhino was being dehorned, I was drawing blood from her ear. It was an amazing experience to have direct involvement in such a great cause. Our guide explained to us that families could own a rhino and be responsible for taking care of it and dehorning. This would generate an income for every family that raises a rhino. It would increase the numbers of rhinos and decrease the number of unemployed people.

During the duration of this trip, I also had the opportunity to physically examine an elephant, pet a cheetah, and feed a hippopotamus. These are opportunities that I would never have received if I never went on this education abroad, and I am so thankful that STEP helped me achieve this opportunity.

This education abroad has allowed me to transform into a culturally aware student who has gained more knowledge about exotic animals and their impact on South Africa. I will forever be changed from my visit to South Africa. I want to share my experience with people through my video documentary that will be shown at the STEP Expo and defend South Africa. I want to educate people on the trade of rhino horn and game hunting, and encourage them to do more research on the subject before forming an opinion. I also want to remind others that poachers are humans who are trying to support their families. I will not defend the poachers but would give people something to think about and see that the issue is larger than it appears. I believe that the legalization of trading rhino horn would greatly benefit South Africa. Further, I think my knowledge will help me find employment in a zoological park because I now have a greater understanding of conservation. This education abroad has impacted my college experience and will stay with me far after graduation.IMG_5948 IMG_5170


Stephanie Endlish.1

Greece: Understanding the Past to Understand the Present and Future

As part of the Crossroads of East and West Study Abroad Program, I learned about the history and culture of the ancient world from the time of the classical era to near modern history. We then used the knowledge we learned to analyze how that affects the current nations in the region and the national narratives they currently have. Initially, my fellow students and I were supposed to go to Istanbul and Greece, however due to unforeseen circumstances, the program took place only in Greece. As a result, we used our analytical tools in the cities of Athens, Thessaloniki, Sparta and more to make these connections from past to present.


My assumptions of Greece going into the program was that of the standard Greek stereotype, that the whole country was stuck in the age of the classics. I could not picture in my head any idea of the Greek people as a nation without thinking of Democracy and togas. I had no image of a modern Greek to reference. When thinking of the country layout, my mind was again affected by the classical era. I just assumed that the country was only made up of ancient sites and that was it. And if I had to think of Greece of a modern nation, then I just thought of any other standard modern European Nation. Therefore I imagined Greece to be like France, England or Germany.


All these assumptions were completely changed with my visit to the country. The cities are modern, yet they are unlike any United States cities. Ancient sites do exist and they are everywhere, but so are the people of Greece. Therefore there is a constant conflict of what needs to be preserved and who comes first, a piece of the countries narrative or the people of the country. This conflict directly affects the build and feel of the city. It felt like there were pockets of isolated time in the city. The major cities also felt divided. There were certain districts in the city that were dedicated to race or a group of people, but the interesting part of these sections were that they still seemed Greek.


The people of Greece also felt very different from the people of the United States. Greek people are very hospitable and a result very friendly. However, they are very direct and straight forward. They are a prideful people who are very family centric and rarely ever violent. It is more likely that you will get into a yelling match than an actual fight if ever. I would still think of the Greek people as European, but they are so much more unique than that.


The change in my thinking and determining that my assumptions were incorrect were caused by my interaction with the people Greece and learning about the history and culture of the ancient world. On interaction that stands out in the encounter with a woman in the University of Athens. I was exploring the university and found the geology department. The Geologist at the time, Theodora, could tell that we were not from around the area. So she took time out of her day to show us around the entire collection that the University of Athens had. She even showed us the secret collections that the university had as well. This act showed me how hospitable the Greek people were and also how we could connect with others of completely different cultures.


Learning about the history made me understand nations around the world in a new light. Greek history is highly focused on the times of classical Greece and the Golden Age of Athens, however this was only a couple of hundred years in the whole span of Greek history. By learning of the history of Greece, I indirectly learned about how nations alter what is portrayed in their education and what the project out to the world. This is because the history of a nation as known by other nations is directly how they are perceived. Therefore a country has a lot to gain by carefully selecting what parts of their history to emphasize.


When visiting Greece, I also got an international perspective of the United States from the people of Greece. I learned that not everyone is fond of the United States. There were multiple instances of talking with an older generation of people were they would tell me that I should not be proud to be an American. However on the flip-side, the younger generation loved Americans. Whenever I would get into a conversation with a people more my age and found out that I was American, the question would not stop. The program changed my international perception of the United States.


The program was life changing and gave me exactly what I was looking for, perspective. Our world is getting smaller everyday however our understanding of each other as people has not changed. These misunderstandings cause conflict. As a student studying to become an engineer, I need to interact with people to help solve problems. I cannot do that if I cannot even understand the people I am helping and worse, causing more issues. By seeing more of the world, I am able to understand more of it and that will help me be able to help the world the best I can as a future engineer.


Richie Tran

Berlin: Then & Now

I choose to participate in the Berlin: Then & Now: People, Places, and Experiences study abroad program. Throughout the month long program, I learned about different important people, places, and experiences that all had a part in creating Berlin today. My fellow students and I visited many different locations in Berlin and the surrounding area that, with the aid of class time, were designed to educate us on the cultural and historical aspects of the city.

When I was preparing for my trip to Berlin, I was expecting to be dropped into a very different alien environment. I was expecting to experience a culture that didn’t resemble my own at all. I was expecting something so different that I would have difficulties adapting to the city. In actuality, the city had some elements of this alien landscape that I expected, but it also had many aspects that I was able to relate to my life in the US. I thought that I would be constantly lost, but within a few days I was fairly confident in abilities to navigate the complex train – or should I say the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, tram, and bus – system, which is all interconnected. By the end of the month, I had seen most of the city and knew the history and significance of most areas. I could recognize the contrast between old West Berlin and old East Berlin. As John F. Kennedy said, “Ich bin ein Berliner”.


Wasserturmplatz (Dicker Hermann)

One instance where I saw both the similarities and differences between Berlin and the US was during our first meal in the city. The dining experience in Berlin is quite different than that in the US. In Berlin, it is normal to eat dinner for 2 hours or more. The waiters never rushed us to leave. Many times we would have to ask for our check, it was rarely brought on its own. It was a much calmer experience and more of an event than another task to be completed. As many of you know, this is quite different from restaurants in the US, where you are pressured, to place your order, eat your food, and to pay your check quickly, then leave immediately.


Döner kebap

Through speculation, we came up with a theory for this cultural difference. In Germany, waiters are paid minimum wage and rely less on tips than American waiters. Due to this, it is custom to tip less than one would in the US (around 10% or less) and because waiters are not relying on tips, they have no benefit in turning tables quickly.

One day, while on the S-Bahn (Berlin’s above ground train system), my fellow students and I meet a group of German students around our age. We began talking and ended up hanging out a few times throughout the month.  While we were talking one night the topic turned to politics, more specifically American politics. These German students were VERY interested in the upcoming presidential election. At first, it was surprising that they had such a vivid interest in our opinions and what the opinions were actually like in the US. They wanted to know if anyone actually supported Donald Trump, who they said says “all of these crazy things”. We sadly had to confirm that for some reason people do support him. Reflecting on our conversations, it makes sense that they were interested and slightly concerned about the upcoming election. American politics ultimately influences Germany and the rest of the world. Later, we learned that there is a similar movement in Germany right now that is supporting this radical conservative view, it’s called Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). The main points of the platform focus on returning the “old gender roles”, stopping the expansion of wind energy, reinstating conscription, and anti-immigration. The AfD also includes a large number of neo-Nazis. Interestingly their platform is strikingly similar to that of Donald Trump. The AfD is currently gaining support throughout Germany, they currently do not have any representation in the Bundestag (Germany’s parliament), but things may change with the upcoming elections. It is scary indeed.  3

Berlin Wall Memorial

Overall, I think the most influential aspect of my trip to Berlin is simply the exposure to another culture. The main concept of a major in Anthropology is understanding different cultures, my professors try to teach us this in class, but it is sometimes hard to imagine or truly grasp a people’s essence. The best way to understand the way a different people think is to immerse yourself in the culture; to live the way that they do. It hard to pinpoint a precise experience that was transforming when your entire month was a gentle, gradual transformational experience. I admire the resilient and confrontational aspects of Berlin’s culture. It is a city made up of survivors and revolutionaries. I truly believe that this experience has been one of the best decisions I have made in terms of my personal goals to travel, as well as an experience that I can apply to my future education. Since returning from Berlin, I have begun looking into different graduate programs in my field that are in Germany as well as other parts of Europe. One program that I have especially drawn to is at the Max Planck Institute of Human Evolution in Leipzig, Germany, which is not far from Berlin.


Graffiti – “The city has sold out.”

Below I have attached a link to the blog post on Rosa Luxembourg that my group completed while studying abroad.