Name: Rachel Bengart
Type of Project: Study Abroad
- Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.
For my STEP signature project I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain at The Fundación José Ortega y Gasset-Gregorio Marañon. I stayed in a dorm, the Colegio Mayor de Argentina, with 39 Ohio State students and other Argentinian students attending the University, for three and a half weeks. The class focused on the multicultural and global history of Madrid through readings, site visits, class lectures, and discussions.
- 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? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.
I truly believe I have grown overall as a person after this experience because of the exposure to a culture completely different than my own. Being from the suburbs of Buffalo, New York and then moving to my Ohio State bubble, I sometimes forget about the immense diversity of the world and this trip provided me with the opportunity to not only be reminded of that, but to experience the diversity this world has to offer first hand as well. I have gained a better understanding and acceptance of other cultures from this experience and I will be forever grateful for that.
3. 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? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.
The main reason for experiencing this type of transformation was due to the first hand exposure I had to the Spanish culture. As a Spanish minor, I am constantly learning about Spanish speaking countries; however, I was never truly able to understand or appreciate the differences until I experienced it in Spain.
One factor in particular that stood out to me the most was Spain’s alarming unemployment rate of 25%. This is close to the levels of unemployment the US suffered from during the Great Depression and it was shocking to see how differently the public reacted to it. As expected, throughout the city of Madrid, there were countless numbers of homeless people and others trying to do get any work they possibly could in order to support their families; street performers and others selling knock off clothing, flooded the center of the city, Sol. The Spanish government is obviously trying to help their people, but I learned in class that not nearly in equal measures as the United States government took during the Great Depression, or any other economic crisis, and the people don’t seem to be as mad about it as I would have thought. It could be because of the lower cost of living in Spain, but regardless of the reason it is a major problem that needs to be fixed. Learning about the problems with the Spanish economy taught me to be grateful for what I have and the opportunities so readily available to me at home.
Another important reason I developed a new appreciation for diversity was because of the amount of traveling we were able to do within Spain. We were mainly located in the center of the country Madrid, but were able to spend a few days in places rich in Spanish history like Toledo and Segovia, and also travel up north to Santander and Bilbao. Each region had its unique qualities, but they’re all united under Spanish ideals and that is what makes Spain so great. It was incredible to see the variety of cultures that exist in a single country and caused my appreciation for diversity to blossom.
The most fun part, in my opinion, was learning about the every day life of the natives. Interacting with Spaniards, I soon learned that the country as a whole has a very laissez faire attitude that is incredible different than the fast paced lifestyle we’re all accustomed to at home. The days in Spain are much longer, but honestly much less productive as well. Work starts much later in the morning and is accompanied with a lunch that usually extends over a two hour period, followed by a long siesta, or a nap. A few more hours of work is proceeded with a late dinner and then social time with friends. In the US, our days consist of work and making money, and finding time for other activities is simply a bonus. Spain does not agree with this, and values socializing to a much higher extent. I am all for having a fun time with friends, so this was a very refreshing and fun difference I experienced.
Without experiencing the Spanish lifestyle I would have never opened my eyes to different walks of life and I am incredibly appreciative for the opportunity to grow and learn to appreciate diversity.
4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.
It is important to understand and respect different cultures in every aspect of life, but I believe that the understanding and knowledge I’ve gained about others and the world around me after studying abroad will be especially helpful with my future goal of becoming a doctor. I will be faced with the daily challenge of interacting with those of different races, religious beliefs, backgrounds, and so much more. It’s crucial to be understanding of these differences and know how to properly interact and communicate with others, in order to provide the best care and be the best doctor I possibly can be.
In addition to career growth, I also believed I have grown as a person over all. It is difficult to travel anywhere without the comfort of friends and family, let alone to a foreign country and I believe this study abroad was a big step outside my comfort zone. I was able to improve my Spanish speaking skills, make 39 new friends, and experience a culture completely different from my own. In just one short month I have gained a whole new perspective on diversity and life and am beginning to grow into a person I am proud of.