Global May Madrid

STEP Reflection


Name: Rachel Bengart


Type of Project: Study Abroad


  1. 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.

  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? 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.


img_5289 img_5146img_4887

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

img_5254 img_5314-2

Lecce, Italy 2016 : Inali Pichardo

My STEP signature project was about going to a city called Lecce, in Apulia Italy for a study abroad. My main activities were studying the  Italian language and culture, learning how to cook authentic Italian food,  traveling to different cities in southern Italy to learn about their history, main dishes and landmarks , and engaging in diverse art forms that Italians take pride and joy in. I also wanted to see the similarities of my Dominican culture and Italian culture seeing how both use romance languages.

The changes that took place while I was abroad were mind blowing. I always wanted to test my speaking and comprehension skills of the language outside of a classroom setting on the Ohio State campus and that is exactly what this experience gave me. Ultimately, I have been studying Italian for two years and it has definitely paid off. I understood what people were saying except the dialect of different regions and cities of how Italians spoke was never taught to me, so I had to learn it by engaging with other Italians and my host family. One of the things that really changed my way of thinking was the way that Europeans and Italians think about Americans and the way we think about them. I went into Italy not having many expectations except thinking I was going to see some part of the Italian mafia there because I was in southern Italy. It was very silly and stereotypical for me to think that way. I experienced culture shock in a way I never thought I would.

The way that the pasta was made in Italy compared to the American version of the dish was one of the biggest culture shocks I had. Their pasta is made with the bare essentials: pasta, olive oil, and sweet tomato sauce. The way we make our pasta involves extra seasoning and combines meat with the pasta sometimes, when in Italy that is incorrect. In Italy there are five courses that come with lunch and dinner. First comes the first dish which will usually be pasta. The second dish are the meats. Third dish is a salad. Fourth dish are fruits and the fifth dish are desserts. All of this happens in one sitting and my mind and stomach were not prepared or trained to pace myself while I ate because in Dominican culture, we eat everything all together, except for the fruits and desserts. Immediately in my cooking class, the chef shut down the idea of what we think is Italian food. Alfredo sauce, spaghetti and meatballs, and chicken Parmesan are all made up by Americans. After that moment I realized how much American culture has altered the culture of another. I tried to keep my mind open to all the things they had to say about their rich and beautiful culture and country so that I would not offend and respect what they believe in.

This culture shock I experienced is significant because in America there are many different beliefs, cultures and customs in one country that we all have to respect and learn to live with. This trip has also taught me how to be aware of my surroundings more and use my street smarts to navigate through a city with only walking the path one time. Because I had a darker complexion than most Italians and am female, at night while walking home I would often be mistaken as a prostitute. I honestly got stopped three different times by men that would ask me something, but I was so nervous that I automatically said no and tried walking faster and eventually changed the route I walked home.

While I was there I learned a few things that I still do to this day. My hygiene was not terrible nor bad, but I personally feel like it has gotten better. For example, here in North America, we use only two towels in the bathroom. One for your hands and the other one is for our whole body. In Italy, there are towels for your hands, body, face, and private area. This changed my way of washing my face and taking showers. Now I use one towel for my body and the other specifically for my face so I feel cleaner knowing that the oils from my body are not mixing with my face to make my acne worse. Another change was my diet. Since all the food in Apulia comes from their own backyard, I  was eating fresh food everyday without all the extra bacteria and GMO’s. I felt that I had more energy and I was usually in a good mood. It took three miles to walk home or 40 minutes from school which was in the historical center of the city. My  sleeping habits got better too. Since there is time in the day specifically for sleeping, it did not make me feel guilty that I was missing a certain event or anything. I felt so refreshed after sleeping and I never realized how much naps can help change my mood. In the Dominican Republic, siesta and the different towels in the bathroom are still used until this day and never realized that other countries would practice similar lifestyles.

Some assumptions I had about Italians before going were that were all going to be tan, very family oriented and that they talked the way that most people would make fun of. My first assumption was wrong. Most Italians are fair skinned. Some have blond hair and blue eyes and others have brown or black hair with brown eyes. The way they got tan was actually incredible to me. They would put on sunscreen and then just sit in a chair at the beach and just lay there until they looked like a hotdog in the microwave. Instead of turning brown, they turned into a dark red and then the next day have a tan. My second assumption was correct, but to a certain extent. In southern Italy, my assumption was right because they still continue the traditions and customs that all Italians used to have. In northern Italy they are not that close with family and life is compared to the United States by being a fast paced, busy lifestyle. The way they talk is literally what we hear when someone imitates an Italian. I did not want to believe all the stereotypes until I saw and experienced it myself. One thing I did not expect was the amount of smoking. Almost every Italian smokes and it was everywhere. Honestly, I thought by the time I got home I would have lung cancer from all the second hand smoke I inhaled. For example, my host mom would buy three packs of cigarettes, Linda brand, and smoke almost half a box a day. Something ironic I found was that my host dad smoked and he is a lung doctor at the hospital.

My view of the world changed by the way the news was portrayed differently in Italy than in the United States and how they care about other parts of the world. The news in Italy had to do with different regions of Italy and other parts of the world. For instance, when the shootings happened in Orlando,  the Lecce community held a vigil for everyone that was killed and it surprised me because it was something that had nothing to do with them. The news also talked about American politics and even had their own discussions about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  Although the news in the United States show other countries, we do not leave them as the main story for the whole show. When the bombings in different parts of Europe and the shooting of Philando Castile in the United States happened these were the main stories in their news. It shocked me that they truly care of other parts of the world.
This trip and the personal changes I have encountered matter because they help me with my academic, personal and professional goals. My study abroad helped me fulfill my requirements for minor. Personally, it fulfilled my dream of studying abroad and seeing a different part of the world I never thought I would get to see. Professionally, this experience has made me more open-minded to different customs and how to adapt to things faster. Also, this experience has made more marketable for the job market as I am now trilingual.           

img_6669 img_6595

STEP Reflection

For my STEP Signature Project, I participated in the Public Health Perspectives India study abroad. I spent a little over 27 days in India taking a class on Global Public Health at a local university and traveling to local public health facilities for field excursions.

Prior to this trip, the furthest I had been out of the country was a family trip to Niagara Falls in Canada when I was twelve, so to say I was nervous for this experience would be a gross understatement. Regardless of my fears of getting lost in foreign airports or having my plane fall out of the sky at thirty-nine thousand feet, however, I boarded the first of several flights shortly after my last final exam for the semester with a backpack, a blanket, and a few barely contained terrified tears in my eyes. Soon after arriving in Mangalore, India a short thirty-five hours later, I found that I had no need to worry. I discovered in myself an untapped love for experiencing new languages, cultures, foods, and climates, navigating busy streets, and exploring abundant markets.

In addition to gaining the aforementioned confidence, a sense of independence, and a love for discovering foreign cultures, I also gained a great sense of perspective about what life is truly like in a lower middle income country. It is incredibly easy to become desensitized to the realities of disease and health conditions when hearing about outbreaks in foreign countries, but seeing the conditions in which people live and their health care facilities first hand made the abstract concepts that I have learned in my public health courses at Ohio State incredibly real. Also, having the opportunity to learn the social context of many of India’s health outcomes has greatly informed my field of study by helping me to further consider the social factors which contribute to health status of populations, as well as inspired me to pursue a career in international health.

In terms of the greatest impact, the field excursions that we took as a part of the course had the greatest effect. I had the opportunity to see many incredible sites such as a modern water treatment plant, a milk processing facility, a women’s health clinic, a clinic for a rural community, a brick making factory, a slum, a children’s preschool, and many other public health sites in the area. The most impactful field excursion for me personally, however, was a trip that I took to Manasa Jyothi, a local non-profit orphanage run by a woman from the Netherlands, Maartje, who takes in children whose families cannot care for them. Hearing Maartje speak about her experiences and meeting the children was incredibly emotional. Seeing the children there and witnessing the immense love and kindness with which they greeted a pack of complete strangers, but knowing the discrimination and hardships they have faced and will continue to for the rest of their lives was heart wrenching. One girl with Turner Syndrome would continually come up to me, move my hair off my shoulder, tuck her head under my arm and cuddle into me, holding my hand. It was incredibly hard to imagine the horrors and pain that she has experienced, especially when Maartje spoke about finding her wandering outside of the village after being abandoned by her parents.

Upon hearing about the horrors faced by the mentally and physically disabled with whom we interacted, it became very important for me to remember and consider the culture and social conditions surrounding mental illness, especially in poor rural areas. A family with a disabled child may not only have trouble affording care for them, but also have difficulty finding marriages for their other children, due to the immense social stigma. For some families, taking their children to the NGO is the only option they feel that they have. Also, hearing Maartje speak about her personal journey also really resonated with me. It is often very easy to idealize those that sell all of their possessions and move to a developing country and work in service, but in practice that is very difficult. Hearing about her personal struggles with balancing her desire to be the voice of those she is caring for in India with her family and obligations back in the Netherlands made me feel much better about my own inner-conflict over similar issues regarding my future. She also told us that she is she is nearly ready to find her own balance after spending nine years working with the children there, and this helped me to realize that humanitarian work does not have to be an all or nothing career—balance can be achieved.

Another aspect of my trip that really impacted me was the contrast between the areas that I experienced. Manipal, the area in which we were stationed for several weeks, is a poorer, rural area. Here, I saw a lot of poverty, trash strewn across streets, run down businesses, slums, stray dogs, and children begging. After the completion of the classwork for the course, we spent several days travelling further inland and spent time in a city called Mysore. Mysore was extremely different from Manipal. The area was much wealthier, had sidewalks and paved streets, gorgeous buildings and monuments, and even a palace. This area looked more like a modern European city than anything I ever expected to see in India. Seeing this contrast between the two cities reminded me that I cannot generalize an entire country as one economic and demographic area. Just like in the United States, there are some areas that are much more wealthy than others.

This transformation is significant for my future professional goals, because I realized that I do have an intense desire to work in some realm of international healthcare. Seeing the areas of India where efforts to improve people’s social, economic and health outcomes have been successful, as well as areas that still need improvement has made me hopeful that progress has been achieved and will continue to make a difference. I also realized that I can still pursue my personal interest of raising a family and still do humanitarian work.

Also, gaining the confidence and social capitol to travel to foreign countries has been transformational for me personally.  After this trip, I have the confidence and desire to travel even further and am currently planning a future trip to Thailand to learn even more about places far away from me. Through this experience, I have gained a life long desire to travel and learn and I am incredibly grateful to have been able to participate in the STEP program through Ohio State.

1136x852-jpeg-3 img_6114 img_6124 13244859_1362228540459955_952108429188227512_n-1 img_6407

Global May Hungary

My STEP project was a month long study abroad program to Budapest, Hungary; while I was there I took a 3 credit hour general education class, experienced the Hungarian culture first hand, and shared several amazing opportunities with great new friends. The trip also included a 5-day trip to Warsaw, Poland and a weekend trip to Vienna, Austria. Going to these two other European cities was an amazing opportunity for me to compare and contrast their lifestyle and culture to both Budapest and the United States.

Having been out of the country only once before, my study abroad program opened my eyes to global issues I was not fully aware. In my lifetime, I have never seen or experience anything (besides a text book) that alluded to communism in the United States. Additionally, although I had a thorough understanding of the Holocaust from textbooks and stories of first hand experiences, I did not realize the emotional impacted the Holocaust could have on myself personally until my study abroad trip in Europe.

It is very infrequent that individuals and their viewpoints change overnight, so I had several experiences over the course of my trip that aided in my transformation. On our first full day in Budapest, we went to the House of Terror museum. The building the where museum is located previously housed the jails and execution sites of the individuals that opposed fascism or were Jewish. The part of the exhibit that stuck out to me the most was an elevator ride that stimulated the prisoners’ pathway to death. This stimulation had a great emotional effect on several others and myself; we all had a brief experienced the pain and anxiety the anti-fascists and Jews felt constantly. This experience made me realize that some people in other countries still have to experience this constant anxiety of being captured and killed because they disagree with the national religion or politics.


With minorities becoming more and more prominent in the United States, it is important to understand the events other countries have been through. After my STEP project in

Budapest, I am more sensitive to events and situations I might not have been before. For example, an older individual who is originally from central Europe might be sensitive to anything that alludes to communism. Usually, I would think nothing of a situation like this, but now that I had an emotional and enlightening experience with soviet Russia’s presence in central Europe I will be more sensitive to situations like this one.


Aside from my global viewpoints changing as a result of this trip, I also experienced personal growth and transformation; this trip has made me more independent and improved my communication skills. Before my study abroad trip, it was nearly impossible for me to get around a large city (even Columbus!) alone, so I felt vary dependent on the person I was with to get us to the right place. Living in Budapest in a month allowed me to go out alone and explore the city. These experiences, even if I was just going to the drug store to get a bottle of water, made me realize that big cities are not that hard to get around after all. Additionally, because I was living with people who I never met before and surrounded by individuals who did not speak English, my communication skills improved exponentially.

Often I find myself falling into a pattern and routine of daily life, which more times then not prevents me from ever changing or growing. Going to a new country disrupted the repetitiveness of daily life, which thus forced me to change and adapt to my new surroundings. My greatest personal accomplishment resulting from my trip to Budapest was my increased confidence getting around a new place. I quickly learned my way around Budapest; then, when we took our extra trips too Warsaw and Vienna I felt quite confident getting around these cities as well.

There were several situations on the trip where the people surrounding you could not speak English, in these situations I was able to come up with creative ways to communicate with these individuals. For example, when I was in Vienna I was trying to ask an Austrian man a question and he could not speak English, but he could speak French. I used my knowledge from French in high school and was able to obtain the answer to my question without a word of English. I know the confidence and communication skills I gained while abroad will help me not only at my next two years at Ohio State, but in grad-school and in my future career as well.

After graduating, I am planning on going to Physical Therapy and there is no guarantee I will be in Columbus. Now that I am more independent and more confident in my navigation skills, I feel as though I will adjust better to my post-graduation life as a physical therapy student. Communication is essential for all jobs, but it is crucial for a physical therapist. Having been to physical therapy before, I know that it can be painful and frightening, especially when your PT is not communicating to you what they are doing and why they are doing it.

The experiences I had in Budapest, Warsaw and Vienna were truly incredible and will stay with me for the rest of my life. I believe that because of this trip I am a more well-rounded, cultured and mature individual. STEP helped me grow and change into an individual that will help make Ohio State a better place that will foster transformation for future students.

Our Budapest "family" in Warsaw, Poland

Our Budapest “family” in Warsaw, Poland

View of the Buda and Pest sides of the city from the top of Gellert Hill

View of the Buda and Pest sides of the city from the top of Gellert Hill

The Hungarian Parliament Building

The Hungarian Parliament Building

My summer in Quebec

I participated in the Ohio State sponsored Summer French Program at L’Université Laval in Quebec City this July. It was a six week French immersion program worth six credit hours in which participants receive rigorous daily instruction in language, literature and culture and were expected to speak French at all times.

I have lived in the Midwest my entire life and before this summer had never traveled abroad. I was thrilled to have be accepted into a program to study French for six weeks at Laval University in Quebec City. I was counting down the days until I left! My participation in Laval University’s summer French program had an enormous impact on the way I view the world. People from all over the world came to participate in Laval University’s Summer French Program. I met other students from Germany, Switzerland, India, China, Mexico, Iran, Russia and Uruguay. It was eye-opening to me to learn about the outlooks other countries have on current issues such as universal issues such as gun control, religious liberty, and LGBTQ rights. It was refreshing and fascinating to learn about their different perspectives.

In Quebec, I went the furthest out of my comfort zone that I have ever been. I learned that I am up to whatever challenge life might throw at me. Quebec taught me to stand on my own but it also showed me the value in putting your trust in other people. One of my favorite things to do in Quebec was to visit used book stores. It is safe to say that I explored over a dozen used book stores, which are called “librairies.” I love to read and rather than buying souvenirs I bought dozens of novels written by Quebecois authors. My carry-on bag on the flight home was basically a mobile library. Whenever I visited these bookstores, I made an effort to ask any employees I could find for a book recommendation. I found this to be a great conversation starter and through these conversations I not only had an opportunity to practice my French but also to learn more about Quebec from an insider’s perspective. These conversations were some of my most valuable experiences in Quebec because of the personal connections I made with strangers from another culture.

Besides starting conversation with bookstore employees, another way I got out of my comfort zone in Quebec was to go on as many excursions as I could with peer leaders from Laval University. Many of these excursions involved extreme outdoor activities. I am not a particularly outdoorsy person but through my experience in Quebec I have a newfound interest in hiking. I was struck by the beauty of the mountains and forests surrounding Quebec City, and so I took every opportunity I could to explore the national parks in Quebec on excursions offered by the program. I got very far out of my comfort zone almost every weekend on these hiking, rafting, and rock climbing excursions. I gained new confidence in myself from these excursions and learned that I really enjoy exploring the outdoors. Now, I want to explore more state parks in Ohio and learn to appreciate the opportunities I have in my own backyard.

My participation in the Laval University Sumer French Program will not only help me accomplish my lifelong dream of being fluent in French, but it will also prepare me for success in my professional life. As a participant in this program, I refined my communication skills, cultural awareness, and critical thinking abilities, all of which are essential to being a medical professional.

My participation in the Summer French Program was an excellent opportunity for me to grow socially and to diversify my world view. The cultural exposure and the new perspectives I encountered in this program has prepared me for success in my professional life, since doctors must be able to empathize with and be culturally sensitive towards their patients.

The Summer French Program at Laval University will also help me in my professional life because it will enable me to communicate with other medical professionals from around the world. International collaboration is an integral element of modern medical research. Knowing how to speak multiple languages would assist my ability to work with researchers from many nations on important medical studies. Speaking French would also be particularly useful because I hope to one day volunteer with the French non-for-profit Medicins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders). I am very passionate about improving the lives of people living with chronic illnesses, especially in countries where healthcare is unreliable and inaccessible. Many French speaking West African nations face this enormous healthcare challenge and I hope to be pursue my passion for serving others by putting my medical and French expertise to use in this region. Laval University’s Summer French program offered an excellent opportunity to enhance these abilities that will be very useful in my future interactions with both patients and colleagues.

STEP Reflection: Finland and Estonia

For my STEP signature project, I traveled to Finland and Estonia on a Public Health study abroad. Before departing for our trip abroad, myself (along with 18 other classmates) partook in a 11 day class on campus in which we studied specifics about the healthcare systems of both Finland and Estonia. While we were in country, we heard many public health experts speak, as well as went on many excursions and were able to explore all of the cities we visited.

Throughout my STEP experience, I feel that I became a more independent and worldly thinking individual, as I was exposed to many new ideas and people from many different cultural backgrounds. I also learned that I am a capable leader and creative thinker as I worked with my peers to formulate ideas about the similarities and differences between us and these Nordic Countries.

As I participated in my STEP Study Abroad experience. I feel that I was changed both personally as well as academically. I found a lot of direction in who I am as a person and what I value in my beliefs and in who I choose as friends and role models. I also learned a lot about what I wanted to do as a n adult and in my career. I discovered that I want to work in Public Health and that I want to work with adolescents, abroad if possible. My view of the world also became a lot more realistic, as I went from seeing many cultures as extremely different to vastly similar.

During my STEP project, I had the opportunity to visit a Finnish high school and talk to the students about Finnish culture, Finnish healthcare, their perception of America, and their perceptions of their own health and the healthcare in Finland.  Getting the chance to talk to people around my age and ask them questions that I was genuinely curious about, was an irreplaceable experience.  The students we spoke to offered many new points of view and offered very interesting information as to their perspectives and their country. I also saw how similar these students were as well. Despite being from completely different backgrounds, we still had so much in common and were able to bond over the littlest things, from adding each other on Snapchat, to picking out our favorite candies at the grocery store.  MY relationship with the faculty that taught our course and went on our trip with us was also a very important advancement in my goals and who I am as a person. Dr Wallace, who offered a lot of insight into what I want to do as a career and who had a lot of experience working in Finland was very interesting and inspirational as a person. I also learned that I am able to adjust to different foreign settings, better than I had expected.

I learned that I am able to communicate well as a person in a foreign country, and able to represent my country and university well.  I was able to communicate well with my peers, both American and not. I also was able to improve my planning and coordination skills, as I was able to plan an entire budget and trip with little to no help. I improved my accounting skills, my research skills, and my global understanding as a whole.

This STEP experience related to my professional, personal, and academic experiences. Visiting Finland and Estonia, gave me a lot of insight into possible career paths that I could pursue after college. I could work with youth, I could work in government, or I could work with youth in an academic environment. These many possibilities are all interesting to me and relevant to my career and major in Public Health This STEP experience enabled me to learn a lot about myself, including my felxibility, my friendliness, and my globalized mind. I was able to forge personal bonds with my foreign counterparts as well as my OSU peers. Usually, as a more reserved person, I do not ask many questions or seek out people to talk to, but while abroad, I spoke with many experts and field personnel. Academically, I was able to fin out more about my major and what else I was interested in as other possible majors. As someone who just recently switched to the Public Health major from Biological Sciences, I was not originally very sure whether it was the right switch for me. On this trip, my faith in my neighbor was reassured, as I saw what really drew me to the major, in the flesh. The global, interpersonal, and health related aspects of the major were all very interesting to me. Overall my project hugely impacted who I am as a person, and who I aim to be in my future. I learned that I am far more capable and creative then I had ever imagined and that I am set in my academic and career goals.

img_6586         img_6947

img_6574       img_6921

Summer French Immersion at Université Laval

I spent six weeks at Université Laval in Québec City, Québec, Canada this summer. While there I had the opportunity to take intensive French courses, conversation sessions, and explore the local life all while completely submerged in the French language. This program really pushed my limits academically, emotionally, physically, and socially.


My interactions with the world drastically changed this summer. I feel as though I have become more of a global citizen. Especially in this time of political turmoil in the United States, I was able to observe other people’s views and opinions on how our political decisions aren’t just largely affecting our lives but the lives of people all around the world. I was able to push my language abilities by discussing the different situations in the US, that otherwise, I might never have known how to communicate about these subjects. This experience really opened my eyes to the importance and responsibility of my citizenship and the right to vote that goes along with that. It wasn’t something I ever expected to be an area of growth for me while I was outside of the US.

I also leaped outside of my comfort zone and was very social in Québec. I made many friendships that I believe will last a lifetime. I was lucky enough to make friends with someone who has similar mental health issues as me and we have connected on a very deep level. I was able to have self exploration on this trip as I journaled the whole time. I think it has made my mental state much better and allowed me to explore deeper the state of my well-being.

Being in classes or meeting new people out in Vieux Québec, once they’d find out I was an American, they’d always ask about my political opinions and they’d offer theirs. They were always stressing the importance of our votes and that being able to decide this much will have an impact on everyone in the world. This also pushed conversations among my fellow OSU students on the trip to be able to see criticism of our government and how our vote can really affect the outcome of many events in our future lives.

These changes in my life are valuable to me because I want to be a responsible citizen and not just locally but also be a good worldly citizen. I was able to push my perspectives beyond my formerly smaller view of the world. I think this will help me achieve my goal of being a good leader in the world because to be a good leader, you must know the most you can about the people you lead. Being able to take myself out of my perspective and imagine new ones has always been a valuable tool for me and this experience has enhanced it immensely.

Another goal of mine was to become more healthy mentally. I didn’t know what this trip would hold for me when I first signed up for it, but it turned out that this summer was the most emotionally, physically, and mentally challenging times in my life. Due to some unfortunate circumstances, I felt much more homesick and lonely than I think I normally would have been. I also experienced some dramatic self-image issues this summer, that I honestly had never struggled with before. But hitting all these low points allowed room for me to rebuild my life, support system, and self-esteem into a much healthier lifestyle. I value this more than words can describe because in order to live a good life, you have to have a strong base. The cracks in the infrastructure of my old lifestyle were taking its toll, but by breaking through that, I now live a much more well-rounded life.

I was able to make new friends that encouraged me to strive toward a healthy lifestyle, below is a picture of me and one of those friends (Emily Burkart) who is also my sorority sister in Zeta Tau Alpha. She and I bonded over learning conversational French, exploring the city, studying together, and ZTA. I’m so blessed to have been able to turn my bad circumstances into one of the most influential experiences in my life.


My STEP project has truly affected my life more than I ever imagined it would. It was an incredible experience filled will fun, learning, strife, adventure, and personal growth. I am so overwhelmingly grateful I was able to experience all of it!

Here is a link to my album from my whole trip, including my way back through Chicago: