With the once in a lifetime opportunity STEP provided, I studied abroad during Spring Break 2017 through the program sponsored by The Ohio State University, entitled Scientific Roots in Europe. This week-long program will allowed me to immerse myself in European culture and its significance to discoveries in the field of biological sciences, helping transform my time at Ohio State and my future endeavors in life.
The primary objective of my STEP project was to make me a more diverse and globally educated person. However, I also wanted to stay true to my interests and my studies at Ohio State. Studying abroad with a program that focuses on the roots of the scientific knowledge I have learned thus far in my time at Ohio State taught me more about why my studies are significant, not just to me, but also cross-culturally.
Description of Trip
Looking back on this trip, it is still hard for me to believe that I was able have this once in a lifetime opportunity. I am forever grateful for the places I saw, the culture I experienced, and the people I met.
The first place we went to after stepping foot off of an 8 hour overnight flight was Down House, Charles Darwin’s home when he was working on “On the Origin of Species.” Since we were all so tired from the flight, Down’s quaint and peaceful vibes were perfect before traveling to the bustling city of London. I definitely starting geeking out when we entered Darwin’s study, the room and chair where he actually sat down and wrote the book!
The next day, we went to the British Museum. They had so many amazing artifacts there, even the original Rosetta Stone. I could’ve easily spent multiple days looking at everything in the museum, however, we had more things planned for the day! One of those was afternoon tea, which was one of my favorite meals during the whole trip. We all had our own pot of DELICIOUS tea along with sandwiches, crackers, scones, pastries, macarons, tarts, etc. My favorite part was when we were sitting there, our stomachs aching from all the food that we ate, and the waiter came over and said, “would you like me to bring the cakes now or later?” Obviously, we ate the cakes too.
The next day was a free day, and ended up being one of my favorite days. We decided to try to fit as many things as we could into one day. This included: seeing the “Treasures of the British Library,” pretending to be the Beatles by walking across Abbey Road, and taking a train to Oxford University. If I had to describe the room of treasures at the British Library in one sentence, I would say, “a large room full of the original copy of basically everything important, ever.” It had the Magna Carta, handwritten Beatles lyrics, original bibles, Torahs, and other religious documents, Shakespeare, Galileo, and Beowulf, among MANY other things. It was so cool to actually see things you have only learned about, and I would highly recommend it to anyone. I’m so happy we decided to travel to Oxford. We ate in the pub called “The Eagle and the Child,” where CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and others ate and talked about their books. All of the buildings on campus were extremely gorgeous. We saw many just as the sun was setting, which made for beautiful pictures.
Our last day in London was exhausting (again, we had to fit the rest of our London bucket list into one day!), but I love being able to say that we saw so many amazing things. The history of Westminster Abbey was almost overwhelming; it was hard to wrap my head around everything/everyone that was in there and everything that had ever happened in that building. Big Ben was just as picturesque as I had imagined and it was super cool to be able to see both of these sites and more from the top of the London Eye. After eating lunch at the famous Borough Market, we travelled to the Royal Society. In my opinion, the room with all of the books was one of the most memorable things from the whole trip. I can’t even describe being able to see the actual, original “On the Origin of Species” by Darwin and “Principia Mathematica” by Newton. It was amazing to see these things we have learned so much about right there in front of our eyes. We ended our last night in London with a delicious Italian dinner and going to see a show, The Phantom of the Opera!
Once we arrived in Paris, we almost immediately took the metro to the main city center to see Notre Dame Cathedral. The building and stained glass windows were absolutely beautiful and it was very interesting to watch some of the mass that had just begun. We were pretty tired from our travel that day, so we walked around some parts of Paris to try to find affordable shopping (we couldn’t), ate some delicious French food, then went back to the hotel and bonded with new friends!
The weather in Paris the first few days was absolutely beautiful. First, we went to the museum of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy and the museum of Evolution. In between both museums, we split for lunch. I had a delicious, savory crêpe, espresso, and an éclair (pretty much the most French lunch you can get). I was very excited to practice ordering in French, however, I found out that pretty much everyone speaks English. I knew this to an extent, but I was surprised that at every single restaurant or cafe we went to, the staff spoke English. I found it funny that, even when we spoke in French to them, they would still respond in English. “Bonjour!” “Hello!” or “Merci!” “You’re welcome!” After the museums, a few of us headed to the catacombs, which were extremely creepy but also super cool. We got to see the Eiffel Tower for the first time around sunset, which was breathtaking. It is so much bigger than you would imagine. We ended the night with a group dinner at a delicious French restaurant.
While, overall, Paris was more relaxing and laid-back than London, this next day was one of our busiest. We started out at Pasteur Institute, learning about how Louis Pasteur “took the bad microbes out of bad tasting wine, put good microbes in, and the wine tasted good again, saving humanity!” (paraphrasing our tour guide). I was so surprised to see that Pasteur was actually buried in a stunning mosaic crypt. Next, a few of us got lunch at a cute, little cafe before heading to the Louvre museum. Our waitress at this cafe was so nice and probably my favorite local that we met during our travels; she told us that she made our food with love! The Louvre was humongous, we were there all afternoon and probably didn’t even get through 1/4 of it. The Mona Lisa was amazing to see and was much smaller than I expected. Through a window in the Louvre, I took the middle picture of the Arc de Triomphe and a ferris wheel in the background. For dinner, we went to a delicious Moroccan restaurant where the servers seemed overwhelmed by our large number of people, but were extremely accommodating and sweet. A few of us were able leave early before the check came so we could see the Eiffel Tower twinkle. This was one of my favorite sights in Paris. The pictures and videos I took of the tower twinkling do not do it any justice; it was so beautiful and peaceful watching the twinkling lights while a guitarist played music in the background. This is one thing that I would tell people they cannot leave Paris without seeing.
On our last day in Paris, many of us travelled to Versailles to see the palace. Everything was so decorated, ornate, and expensive, it’s hard to imagine that the French revolution ever occurred! Once we returned to Paris, we went to Musée d’Orsay to see famous, original artwork, my favorite of which was Van Gogh and Monet. My night was complete when we enjoyed a delicious meal at a wonderful restaurant. I was exhausted, but I didn’t want to leave Paris the next morning. I could sit at a cafe, drinking coffee or wine and eating a pain au chocolat forever!
Overall, I am so thankful for the opportunity to go on a trip like this. I found a new love of mine, travel. I had always considered myself somewhat of a “homebody.” I loved traveling and experiencing new places, but I always longed for the comfort of home. Now, since coming back home, I have been more eager than I ever had been before to travel again. This trip opened my eyes to how much there is to see and experience out there, and I can’t wait to do it again, soon!!