My London Adventure

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.IMG_2909IMG_8565FJEQ5576

Spain Global May

STEP Reflection by Anna Eversole

For my STEP Signature Project, I chose to adventure to Spain for the month of May. The program I was a part of was called Spain Global May. During my time there, I had the opportunity to learn about both the history of Madrid and immigration to Spain. I was able to travel to surrounding cities in Spain such as Segovia, Toledo, Burgos, Bilbao, Santander, Barcelona, and San Sebastian. Through this trip, I learned a lot about myself, my peers from Ohio State, people living in Spain, and the world.

During my time abroad, I encountered many moments where I found myself thinking critically about how the new information and sites I was seeing was adding to or changing my current perspectives. If I had to narrow down what the most important lessons were that I took away from this trip, it would be three ideas. One, that life should never be taken so seriously or be so busy that there isn’t enough time for me to spend with the people and places that I find most important. Two, that as an individual, I am small so I want to be living for a greater purpose than myself.  And three, that the large problems in this world need to be taken care of at the core level and to do that, compassion is necessary.

I have always been a girl who enjoys taking life at a fast pace by planning out most days and always being productive. However, this is not always a positive trait. From my time abroad, I learned that the moments where time is taken to relax, can be just as meaningful and purposeful as the moments when the things on the to-do list are getting done. The hundreds of people I saw, the numerous towns and cities I visited, and the number of conversations I had showed me how there is no time or place for the world to revolve around me. There are too many places to see, unique stories to hear, and problems to fix for me to be consumed with the minor stresses of my life. I learned that when there is a problem, it is very important to get to the heart of it even if it takes more time up front because putting a band-aid on it will never truly solve it.

The first lesson that I took away from my time abroad, I learned from the Spanish culture. I wrote a lot about this lesson in my blog because I was so fascinated by the way the Spanish culture functioned. I am inspired by the Spaniards because they do not let to-do lists, jobs, and expectations for stages of life control their lives. Instead, they prioritize their relationships with family and friends. They keep the balance in life and know how to compartmentalize so that they can live in the present moment. For example, a lunch in Spain can last up to three hours. During our time in Spain, we had multiple group meals where we ate authentic Spanish food and experienced the Spanish dining norms. These group lunches were five course meals where I got to bond with my peers through our conversation. Spaniards often times run a little late but many of the people choose to stay calm. I was talking to the director of our program and she said that Spaniards choose not to stress, they leave work at work, and take time to enjoy their lives. We also talked to an American couple who had moved to Spain. They explained how in Spain, they feel like they can actually be human beings instead of human doings.  This is definitely something I have taken back to the United States with me and have tried to incorporate more into my daily life. For example, I make sure that each day, I do one thing for enjoyment whether it is reading a book or going on a bike ride.  I have also taken more time to sit and eat a meal so that I can savor the food and the time with the people who are eating with me.

I learned my second big takeaway from the trip when I was in Barcelona. I had hiked up to a a cliff that gave a view of most of the city. I say most of the city because the city of Barcelona stretches for so long along the beach that you can’t see all of it even at one of the highest points in the city. I was talking with my friend and we were pointing out all of the places we had walked that day (at the end of the day it had been a total of twenty four miles). Sitting up on the cliff, I realized how many people live in Barcelona alone. Then, I realized that I couldn’t even see all of the city. Next, I thought about how Barcelona is a tiny data point on the map of Spain and even more so on the map of the world. It was at that moment that I decided that the little things I so easily get caught up in back home, shouldn’t ever get in the way of striving forward each day. This world is huge and even though I am small, I can make an impact each day if my efforts are focused on bettering others and the world around me.  Since coming home, I try to read out to someone each day to encourage them and I have set aside time on the weekends to volunteer at an organization that is impacting the lives of children who live in the inner city.  This lesson left me with a desire to find new ways to use what I have been given to help others around me.

I learned the third lesson when the course focused on the topic of immigration. Although we were learning about immigration to Madrid, I realized how it all could relate to the United States. We watched a documentary about men from Africa who were trying to get to the European border. One of the men  who was being interviewed brought up the point about why do we even have borders. I had never really pondered this question before but it caused me to think. He asked why an individual should be forbidden to cross a border. The statement hit me hard because I thought about how at the heart of it all, we are all human beings. This truth has motivated me not to settle for putting band-aids on problems. For example, with immigration, instead of deciding to put up a bigger and better fence, I believe it would be more beneficial to find out the reasons why the people want to leave their country and put the money and effort there. Obviously, the topic of immigration is very controversial and complicated, but this specific example taught me that the problems I encounter in the future should be worked on from the inside out.

Down the road, I hope to be a teacher for the early grade levels. I believe that this is a critical period in one’s life  and that every child deserves a person who believes in them and who offers them an open view of the world. Through traveling, I have begun to broaden my lens of the world so that I can become a better educator for the future generation. The lessons I learned from this trip have taught me to make sure that I get to know my students for who they are and what they have to offer to the classroom. I want to recognize each individual as the unique person that they are and develop their strengths so that they can reach their potential. I want to foster a classroom that allows for open and respectful dialogue on controversial topics. I desire to be an educator who does not overlook the importance of community, balance of work versus fun, and welcomes dialogue to reach the core of issues.  Spain Global May was a once in a lifetime experience which definitely opened up my mind and eyes.  I am thankful that I had the opportunity to grow as a person and future teacher from my month abroad.

 

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Link to the blog I kept during my time abroad:

eversolesite.wordpress.com