STEP: My European Adventure

Name: Rebecca Woodson

Type of Project: Study Abroad

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

For my STEP signature project I took the opportunity to spend 4 weeks living in London, Great Britain to study the government, culture and history of the area I was in. Along with seeing multiple museums and popular tourist sights, I was also able to take tours of different ethnic parts of town and see areas that many people visiting for a shorter period of time often overlook. On two of my weekends while abroad I spent time in Scotland and Paris which allowed me to compare the cultures of different societies in Europe.

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

What I learned while abroad did not only change the amount of knowledge I had on the history of Europe but instead it really change me as an whole individual. My specific study abroad program allowed students to live in in a flat with other Ohio State students in the Kilburn Park area of London. The students then commuted to class by navigating the Underground and walking the streets of London. This in itself was where I found the most growth in my own views and self-confidence because prior to this class I never imagined being able to navigate a foreign country on my own and being able to explore areas I had never even heard of. Even when traveling with a small group of students to Paris, we were able to find our own ways and problem solve when things went wrong and none of us knew the local language. Before coming on this trip I was barely confident in my abilities to navigate Ohio State’s campus but now I know that even if I am occasionally wrong and get turned around, I have nothing to fear because I can always figure it out. Whether that entails pulling out a map, looking something up or asking a local, I have a newfound confidence in myself and my abilities

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As for my view of the world as a whole, I have a very contradicting view that is truly unable to be understood unless you have travelled abroad yourself. I found that the world is so much bigger and so much smaller than I had ever imagined. In a way it is so much bigger because there is so much to explore and so much to see that even with my 4 weeks spent in the streets of London, I still have not even seen a fraction of all that it has to offer. There are little alley ways with bookstores and cafes that I didn’t get the chance to explore and parts of town I didn’t get the full experience of. Yet, at the same time, I found that even with the differences in culture, and language in Paris, people are the same and want the same things no matter where you go. This isn’t only obvious in the big things like people having dreams of traveling and such, but people in other countries sometimes like to sit on the couch and watch television too. Just because they are in a different country does not mean that they have completely different lives necessarily which makes the world seem that much smaller.

  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?

If I had to pick one defining moment in my London trip that made me realize that I was stronger and more self-sufficient than I previously gave myself credit for, I would look back to the first excursion we had as a class to Westminster Abbey. Prior to splitting up after class and agreeing to meet at the sight at 1:00 a soon to be best friend of mine, Amy, had spoken to our Graduate Student TA about a short cut to get to the excursion. Thinking that we could handle it, we ventured out with another friend Hailey and tried to make it to Westminster Abbey on our own. However we were very, very wrong. As an individual I’m very rarely late to events and when I am, it causes me major stress. So at 12:58 when we realized we were a mile walk from where our excursion was that started in 2 minutes, I was in full stress mode and still lost. However as a group we used our resources, asked our fair share of locals where to go and eventually, 25 minutes later, got to our assigned excursion.

While this story sounds the exact opposite of growing as an individual, I really found in myself, once arriving at Westminster Abbey, that I made it where I needed to be, yes late, but there nonetheless. I was able to pull myself together, work with friends and navigate my way in a foreign country that I had lived in for only 2 short days. This was something I had never imagined being able to do and was truly amazed with my abilities after this. But that is not to say that I never got lost again because I had my fair share of adventures that I had not expected, but eventually I realized it was all part of the experience and really learning about London and being a citizen of the city.

When traveling to Paris I realized that even if people are from different cultures and speak different languages, there are always commonalities and kind people wherever you go. The second my group of students stepped off the train with our suitcases, we realized we weren’t nearly prepared enough to travel somewhere that the only word we knew was “merci” and had very few plans other than where we were staying. After some confusion with cabs and transferring money, we called the all trusty Uber and found our driver to be one of the nicest people I had ever met. So while we were all confused, somewhat frustrated and worried we would never make it to our hotel, there were still people nice to us and willing to make our experience the best it could be. It was all in the experience and people I was with that made the trip memorable, not all of the mistakes we made and wrong turns we took. More so I remember what great adventures we took and places we discovered when those wrong turns were made.

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

My newfound self-confidence in my abilities does not only extend to my skills in navigating a new place but it also relates to how I see myself when facing a task I may be unfamiliar with. Instead of shying away or thinking that it is simply too difficult for me, I have learned to work through my problems because I need to in order to survive. This can translate into my future workplace as well as personal goals. As for my academic career, I now feel that I am more confident in my own abilities to complete my degree and eventually become an Occupational Therapist no matter how difficult the classes are or how unprepared I feel for the positions that I may be put in. My career goal includes many obstacles such as taking the GRE, graduating from my undergraduate program with respectable grades, and applying to graduate school. With all of these, I will come across difficult situations that I may be timid to face but with the skills I learned throughout my study abroad experience, I know that I can fight through to reach my goal. Personally, this trip has made me a more well-rounded individual who knows more about the cultures around the world and how to face even what seems like the simplest of issues like making it from point A to point B.

Big Ben

Want to find out more about my trip? Check out my blog for a more in-depth breakdown of what all I did this summer: http://woodson58.wixsite.com/worldinprogress

One thought on “STEP: My European Adventure

  1. Hi Rebecca,

    I am glad that this trip enhanced your problem-solving skills and understanding of people different from you.

    My hope is that you continue to use this knowledge to think about how to bring greater equity to the world, not just simply to benefit yourself.

    Sending you many well wishes as you begin your graduate search.

    Best,
    Kara

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