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.