Scientific Roots in Europe Study Abroad – Halle Flate

Project Summary

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.

Primary Objective

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!!

Study Abroad London and Paris

Cindy Gao

Study Abroad in London and Paris during Spring Break 2017

Project Summary

For my STEP Signature Project, I was able to travel to London and Paris during spring break through an OIA program called Scientific Roots in Europe. Leading up to the trip, I attended classes for the study abroad and learned about many of the scientists we would be seeing overseas. When I was finally there, I was able to see the things I had been learning about in real life and visit the homes of some of the greatest scientists in history.

Transformation During the Trip

While I was in London and Paris, I was able witness how diverse their countries were. In London and Paris, there were people of all ethnicities. They were all speaking different languages; it was almost overwhelming. Then most of the time, they were still able to speak English very well. To me, it seems that there is a large emphasis in European countries to learn multiple languages to help with communication. This is understandable considering how easy it is to travel from one country to another and how much tourism they get.

I also realized how old Europe really was. In London and Paris, no matter where you went, there would be ancient architecture. The facade of the building would be how it was hundreds of years ago while the interior would be remodeled. Some of the cathedrals we visited were breathtaking and almost thousands of years old. While some parts were reconstructed, majority of the cathedrals still contained the original glass windows and pillars. There were also many scientific discoveries made in Europe before the United States was even a country. This makes me hopeful that the United States still has many things to discover and hopefully we will be able to preserve the history and science.  

What led to the Realization

With the language difference from London to Paris, I was very anxious because I only knew very minimal French. I was worried that I would be unable to communicate or that no one would be able to understand what I wanted. However, once I got there I realized that this was not the case. No matter where I went there was always someone who could speak English and it was very fascinating to me.  In the United States, other languages are not as frequently learned to a great level of fluency to my understanding, and I was not expecting it to be so different abroad. This lead me to realize how necessary it is in Europe to know their native language and another. With the countries being so small, they interact with people from other countries frequently and they need to be able to communicate. I was happy that they could speak English, and it makes me want to become fluent in another language. I want to be able to help someone who my not speak English very well while they are in the United States.

During my trip, my group visited the Royal Society, and we were able to see the original books published by great scientists such as Darwin’s Origin of Species. To be able to see the books and touch them was surreal. They were published so long ago, changing the scientific world and for them to be preserved and readable today is amazing. We also went to Darwin’s and Louis Pasteur’s homes and were able to see some original tools, furniture, and scientific models. I was amazed about how they were able to make their discoveries when none of the proper tools were around, and how even today majority of their scientific projects are still preserved.

I also went to the British Museum during my time in London, and I was able to see many sculptures from the Parthenon in Ancient Greece.  This was eye opening to see so many artifacts built in 430 BC. To think that the there were people alive then and creating art is amazing. The world is so old with many countries being there since the start. For the United States to only have come into the picture a couple hundred years ago makes me think one day people will be looking back at the United States. I wonder what we will leave behind for the future generations to see and learn about?

Significance of the Trip

All the things I learned from overseas will help me in my life. I have realized how important communication is. I will put more effort into communicating effectively and listening to others. I hope to one day become fluent in another language to help with my communication with others. Through my experience in Europe, I have also realized how old science really is how many topics there are I have yet to learn. In the future, I hope to learn more about the different scientific fields and also how the scientists were able to make so many breakthrough discoveries despite the times.


Louis Pasteur’s Crypt

Afternoon Tea in London