For my STEP Signature Project, I chose to adventure to Great Britain for a May Semester. I was part of the Global May Britain Program. During my time in Great Britain I had the chance to learn about the history, politics, and culture of Great Britain and learn what it means to be “British”. I was able to live in London and travel to Edinburgh, Scotland, Paris, France, Leeds, Dover, Canterbury, and Greenwich, England over the course of the month. Throughout this trip I learned so much about the unique culture of Great Britain, the world, and myself.
I encountered many moments while I was abroad that transformed my view of the world and my understanding of myself. This trip truly enriched my academic experience because it provided me an all-encompassing view of countries and their different cultures. First, this trip challenged me to live and function on my own in a strange place and it could not have been more fulfilling. I learned to take the tube, decipher the slight language difference, learned the social norms, and tried to assimilate with traditional British culture. I truly learned to appreciate everything that I have in the United States from the comforts of my home to my life at Ohio State. Secondly, I also learned the importance and value of having a global mindset. I was fortunate enough to travel extensively during my trip and I learned that places will surprise me and challenge me to think about myself and how I fit in. Perhaps, the biggest thing I discovered during this journey is the fact that life exists beyond my little bubble at Ohio State and that life is definitely different. All of those things being said, I also learned that life goes on even when I am not there.
The first lesson I took away from my time in Great Britain was my ability to live and function in a country very different from my own. Now, I understand that London has similarities to the United States, but its differences are very pronounced. . In Columbus I feel like I live in a bubble. It is a very nice bubble where I attend classes, go to football games, and spend time with friends and people my own age. This so called bubble is incredible but I needed to expand out of the bubble that is Ohio State. London is one of the biggest cities in the world with lots of diversity and it is the financial center of Europe. I immediately broke through the bubble just by setting foot in the country, learning to take the tube everyday, deciphering the slight language difference, learning the social norms, and trying to assimilate with traditional British culture. In Britain, almost everyone uses the tube for transportation and I quickly learned to use it to get to class every day. Even when I was on the tube, everyone seemed to know that I was American. I was just surprised that I stood out as an America immediately to the locals even though I tried so hard to assimilate. I believe the most important part of my feeling capable of highly functioning in London was the fact that I had an apartment to live in. I also had to go grocery shopping for food, which was always an experience because I had to adjust to the different types of food and the different brands. I had the typical London living experience of a twenty year old commuting into the city for class and cooking, cleaning, and living in an apartment. I can actually say I lived in London, which was always something I dreamed I would do one day.
The second lesson I learned during my time abroad was the power of traveling to new countries and analyzing how I fit in and what it means to have a global mindset. Throughout my life, I have been fortunate to travel throughout the world with my family but this experience of traveling abroad on my own was different. I could explore on my time and agenda and see what I wanted to see. One of the most unexpectedly enjoyable experiences I encountered was the weekend long trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. This weekend trip was part of the study abroad but I really wasn’t expecting much. I hadn’t known anyone who had visited Scotland and what I would encounter there. I was so wrong because it was my favorite part of the trip! Scotland is so beautiful with the rolling green hills and the water. Also the people were so warm, welcoming, and lots of fun. The most impactful moment was when I hiked up King Arthur’s Seat and overlooked the entire city of Edinburgh. The view was breathtaking and it brought some perspective to my life. Scotland often gets overlooked and overshadowed by England because it is bigger, “better”, and one of the greatest cities in the world. While all of that is true, Scotland is wonderful because it is breathtakingly beautiful, relaxing, and quaint. I learned that just because something isn’t as grand and well known doesn’t make it any less special. As I was looking out to the city around and below me, I learned the importance of taking time for myself to challenge myself and to grow. It is crucial for me to set aside time to do what makes me happy and grow as an individual and let go of stressors in my life. My problems and stress seems very minor compared to the extraordinary world around me.
The last lesson I learned during my global adventure was that life is so much larger than Ohio State and that even when I am not present life still goes on. Great Britain is vastly diverse from any other place in the world. There are many different ethnic areas in London and they seem to embrace the cultural differences that set them apart. I also experienced how interconnected Great Britain and the United States are. I learned that many issues that pose challenges to the US also affect Britain and many other countries. As I lived in London, I maintained contact with friends and family back at home. I would check the news in the Unites States frequently to keep up and it was humbling to realize that life continued and I just wasn’t part of it back at home. Life in the United States, though I was disconnected, still was full throttle ahead and being overseas definitely made me more aware of that fact.
In the future, I hope to be a businesswoman for a large global company. In today’s society, globalization is key. Businesses are expanding past geographical borders and we are learning more about the differences in cultures and the world around us. It is important to have a global understanding in order to interact on a large scale. I now feel more in-tune and connected with other areas of the world because of this experience. Global May Britain trip was a trip of a lifetime and surely one I will treasure forever. I will use all of my knowledge of cultural, political, historical, and economic similarities and differences to expand my horizons and help make informed decisions for the future.