For my STEP project I participated in the Scientific Roots Spring Break Study Abroad Program. We traveled to London and Paris to visit sites of scientific importance throughout history. In the mornings we visited these sites, while in the afternoons we were free to explore the two cities.
Before this experience, I had never left the United States. Almost immediately after landing in London, my eyes were so wide open because I didn’t want to miss anything. I was going from having absolutely no different cultural experiences to seeing something new almost every hour. But the thing is, I wasn’t overwhelmed. It was empowering. During the week abroad, I would say I certainly became more confident and self sufficient. I did not really have any friends in the class prior to our trip, and I had to step out of my comfort zone multiple times in order to form new relationships with people. It was very difficult, because I am a person that is very set in her ways in regards to relationships. This uncomfortableness with new people really changed during the trip, and the remaining semester after we returned. I am so grateful for this change too, because it has really helped me be less awkward in new social situations. The whole trip/ semester I learned to take advantage of any amazing opportunity you are given, and to live with no regrets. I have no idea if I will ever go back to Europe, so I did my best to see, taste, hear, smell, and touch as many new things as possible.
I would say a key point in the transformation to a more independent and empowered person involved the Tube in London. The subway system in London is pretty overwhelming at first. But I soon realized just how extensive and amazing it really is. But if you board the wrong train.. goodluck.
A couple of friends and I were heading to Harry Potter Studios and we were supposed to meet up at Abbey Road (where I was previously with another group that left to catch a train), but I found out later the other girls went to Abbey Station instead of the station where Abbey Road is. I was alone for about an hour and a half with no decent cell phone service or contact with the girls. It was certainly very nerve wracking because I was alone in the middle of some random suburb in England, with no contact with anyone. I finally made contact with the girls after about an hour when we both were able to find service. When the girls made it to the correct station, we then had navigate to the studio for our scheduled tour for the group.
This experience was really the first time in my life I’ve been so separated from family, friends, and anything familiar; there was no one to help me when I was by myself in that suburb. I did not panic or cry and shut down, I took a deep breath, tried to relax, and I explored the suburb a bit. I walked around the town by myself with no cell phone or means of communicating and soaked in the environment. Since this moment, and because of the the way we had to find our way around the cities, I have been able to handle more inopportune moments with more ease and patience, rather than too emotionally and ineffectively.
This change is extremely important to me personally and professionally. In all manners of life I think it is important to be able to handle unforeseen complications adequately. I learned from this experience more than ever that life is one crazy ride, and you need to be able to deal with what comes your way in order to live a healthy life. Losing your cool is not ideal, and this can be avoided by relaxing, being patient, and rolling with the changes.
This next year I am applying to medical school, and it is even more important to be able to deal with stress as a physician. You have peoples’ lives in your hands, and you are trusted by the patients and their families with their health. A physician needs to be able to deal with adverse situations with ease and focus, because of the lives in your hands. I learned in London that I am certainly capable of being independent, self sufficient, and able to deal with adversity. Ever since returning to the United States, I would say I have been able to deal with adversity and stress more successfully.
Before the trip I had always focused solely on school and my biochemistry major, but while in England and France I stumbled upon my passion for history that had withered in the 3 years of college. Therefore, when I came back to the US, one of the first things I did was add a history minor, so I could re-familiarize myself with a subject that I had lost for a few years when I was so focused on science. Since returning to the United States, I have also been promoted at my job to a spot of leadership. I would have never had the confidence and self-assurance to accept this offer in previous years, however, I really think forcing myself to participate in situations I am not necessarily 100% comfortable with (like meeting new people in Europe, navigating the subways, etc) has really helped my self confidence. I have stepped out of my comfort zone, which was a rarity for me, more than a couple times in order to achieve my future dreams since the end of my Study Abroad experience. I have participated in a judged research presentation, which I never thought I would be able to do, I took the MCAT successfully, I was promoted at work, and I added a history minor.
In Europe, I learned how to deal with adversity, became more independent, self sufficient, and learned it is okay to step out of your comfort zone. This has really helped me in my job as a Quality Assurance Manager with Scribe America, it has helped me academically with my new minor, and it has helped me in my personal life. All of these positives that have occurred as a direct result of my participation in this programs have given me all the more confidence for the upcoming application process for medical school, and only increase my abilities as a student and person going forward.
two of my favorite pictures from the trip; at Versailles in France