STEP in Madrid

For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by cultures that are different from my own and the ability to speak multiple languages. As an aspiring medical professional, I knew how crucial it would be for me to gain cultural competency and an appreciation for others’ cultures. As a result, when I was designing my STEP signature project, I wanted to combine these two personal objectives and immerse myself into another culture’s way of life. For my project, I chose to study Spanish language and culture in Madrid, Spain for approximately six weeks through an OSU approved third party provider called, ISA. In Madrid, I enrolled in an intensive Spanish program at a Spanish University where I took Spanish language courses for 20+ hours a week while living with a host family.

Going to Spain, I knew I was going to change as an individual, but I could not predict how is transformation would take place and the role it would have on myself. On the first day of orientation, the director of the program told me that I would never return back to America as the same person and I fully believe this statement. Being abroad, meeting new people, and gaining new perspectives is an extraordinary opportunity that helps you define who are and role that we individual play as human beings in society. My STEP project allowed me to develop independence, faith, confidence, and a deeper appreciation for human differences. More important, I learned how to slow down and live life.

Growing up as a military kid, I always believed that I was an independent individual. Due to my parents’ careers, I was used to taking care of myself and taking the initiative to achieve personal objectives. However, traveling abroad to Madrid allowed me to see independence from a different perspective. The independence I had was always supportive by the safety net of my family and friends. These individuals were all people whom I could consult for opinions regarding difficult situations or when a plan went awry.

However, as I traveled throughout Spain solo, I began to re-conceptualize the idea of independence. The challenge of navigating a large city such as on my own without cellular data was daunting. For the first time, my parents and friends were not a phone call away. But, the process of learning how to gather the courage to use my limited Spanish to ask strangers for directions allowed me to grow faith and confidence within myself. This exposure to independence and growth in confidence continued as I immersed myself into my Spanish institution where I had to make new friends, adjust to a new life style, and learn a new language.

This experience not only allowed me to develop independence, but I learned how to live life fully. One of the first things I noticed in Spain was the change in pace. My Spanish host family and friends truly to cherished every moment they spent with their family and friends. While abroad, I never felt pressured or rushed to get somewhere or to meet someone. The realization that work was driven to allowed people to live their lives became especially salient. This starkly contrasted to my Asian-American culture where one’s life is defined by one’s work. Having a constant reminder to enjoy the present has allowed me to achieve a better work-life balance as a student and aspiring professional. It also helped me realize that I had allowed my academic and professional ambitions dictate a large portion of my life.

Finally, having the opportunity to practice my Spanish with locals allowed me to learn to accept failures and mistakes. Throughout my life, I considered myself a perfectionist and lived up to this image where I always had to succeed. However, while partaking in “intercambios,” or conversational exchanges, with my new friends and host family, it became salient that failure and trying again are crucial components of the learning process. At first, I was extremely discouraged and embarrassed to continually make small mistakes. However, it began to see each mistake as an opportunity to improve! These are lessons that I am planning to actively apply to my academic, professional, and personal life.

My STEP project became a personal project to me that I am so thankful I have been given the opportunity to engage it. This experience has been valuable to me because it allowed me to develop in ways that would not have been possible if I had remained within my comfort bubble on campus. I am now more eager and prepared to engage in opportunities that seem daunting as first, especially as a woman of color. I am no longer scared of failure because it is an opportunity to become a better version of myself and learn. I know I am capable of being independent and executing my goals. These are all qualities that will build me to become a strong student and professional candidate.

STEP Experience in Costa Rica

I spent my summer in Costa Rica as part of my STEP signature project. For the first month, I took Spanish classes at the Universidad Latina in Heredia and for the second month I volunteered at a nursing home as part of a service learning program.

During my time in Costa Rica, I learned a lot about the world around me. Although I have traveled before, this was my first time being abroad for an extended period of time. Culture in Costa Rica is different from the United States in certain ways. I felt like the lifestyle was more relaxed, almost more informal. I learned about “tico time”, and how it is normal to often be late even in professional settings. In Costa Rica, I learned to live a more relaxed, less stressful life. I learned to be flexible with time and plans, and to quickly adapt to change. I think these lessons will be very beneficial when I come home, as my life in Columbus is usually very fast paced. I think after this experience, I have learned to better adapt to stress and change and I think this will serve me well at home.

I had two primary goals in Costa Rica: learn the language and study the healthcare system. As a Spanish major, this was my first extended period of time in a Spanish speaking country. Going into the trip, I thought/hoped my transformative experience would be mastering a language I have been trying to learn for twelve years now. Instead my transformative experience, I would argue, was learning how to get by. I did not come home from Costa Rica a fluent Spanish speaker. I still had to conjugate the perfect tenses painfully slowly in my head, I still didn’t understand other people when they talked too fast, and I still got confused in slang heavy conversations. I did however, learn to embrace the struggle. As for the second goal, my time in a Costa Rica nursing home changed the way I looked at certain aspects of public health, medicine, and palliative care. I was exposed to a set of struggles, the idea of inevitably losing oneself, that I had not really thought about before.

Studying Spanish in Costa Rica reinforced the value of speaking a second language. I think talking to people in their native language facilitates deeper, more meaningful connections. I tried to communicate only in Spanish while in Costa Rica, and I found that even people who spoke perfect English always preferred to communicate with me in Spanish even if it slowed down the conversation. I think the world is becoming more global and it is important to speak more than one language, to be able to communicate and connect with people from all over the world, especially as the demographics of the United States are changing and Spanish is becoming a much more prevalent language.My goal was to attain fluency in Costa Rica and I don’t think I have reached that level yet, but I am close and will keep working towards that goal. However, I did learn a lesson in resiliency. Learning a new language is difficult. Sometimes the taxi drivers would get angry, when after the third try, I could not explain where I wanted to go. Sometimes a 10 minute walk turned into an hour long walk because we didn’t understand the directions. Sometimes I boarded the wrong bus, ordered the wrong food, or went to the wrong place. Being used to a place where I speak the primary language made me forget how debilitating losing certain basic skills can feel. I had to learn to take things in stride, to worry less if I was going to be late or if I missed a bus. Not because I lacked responsibility but because learning is a process. As time went on I learned to adjust- to time the buses, recognize the friendly drivers, use landmarks on the streets. However, I learned that it is okay to be lost, to not always know where I am or what I am doing. I didn’t have to have all the answers– that’s why I was there in the first place. Taking a step back was an important and transformative lesson for me.

Working at the nursing home, I became aware of many of the challenges faced by elderly people both at an individual and societal level. I think I have come back to the United States with a new, reinforced respect for language and I am very motivated to keep studying Spanish and improving.

I formed several very important relationships during my study abroad that helped me transform during my time in Costa Rica. I had the opportunity to do a homestay with a Costa Rican family. Our accommodations were humble, and my family was just my host mother but immediately I knew I had met a special person. When my host mother came to pick me up from the bus station, her car was too small to fit all of our luggage, and she had me sit on her lap on the way home. This small, kind of silly gesture, quickly broke the ice and made me feel like I was already part of her family. Some days when I was struggling with personal problems or felt homesick, I knew I could always rely on my host mom to give me advice and comfort. She only spoke Spanish so my Spanish improved very quickly while living with her. When I ate dinner she always came and sat at the table with me so I did not have to eat alone, and we discussed everything. We talked about our families, politics, hopes, and dreams. Margarita always made me feel welcome in her home, and I will always be grateful to her for that. She was an important part of my experience in Costa Rica and I hope to stay in touch with her now that I have come home. At the end of my Costa Rica trip, my mom came to visit me. One of my favorite memories is when my real mom got to meet my Costa Rican mom, because I felt like two very important people in my life were meeting each other.

Another important experience during my study abroad was taking classes at a Costa Rican university. While the instruction style was not very different from my classes here in the US, my professors were native speakers who were used to teaching classes in Spanish as the first language of their students. They spoke faster and used more complex vocabulary than my professors here. I was able to take a pronunciation class that significantly improved how I sounded when I spoke. Since Spanish is not my primary major at Ohio State, sometimes during the school year, I cannot give priority to my Spanish classes. As a result, sometimes I feel like I did not give my best effort in my classes at Ohio State. In Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to only focus on learning Spanish and I was able to put full effort into my classes. As a result, I got much more out of my classes. I felt like I learned more about both Latin American culture through my literature class and greatly improved my spoken Spanish through my phonetics class.

For the second month I spent in Costa Rica, I worked in a public nursing home. This was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences I had both in my study abroad and in my life. Most of the residents where I worked did not have close family or friends. Many were there simply because they had nowhere else to go, and felt lonely and abandoned. Most of the residents suffered from some level of physical or mental incapacitation. Most used wheelchairs or walkers to move around. Many suffered from Alzheimers or dementia, and many were depressed. This was a challenging environment to work in, as I witnessed a lot of suffering on a day to day basis. Aging can be difficult, and when people lack support from the ones they love, it is even more difficult. Yet, in this space, the elderly loved seeing us, and were excited to talk to me everyday. I helped them with their physical therapy and served meals at the nursing home, but during my free time I was able to read to them and listen to them tell their stories. I had the privilege of listening to a wealth of stories, of incredible lives and experiences, and I could not help but be saddened that these stories were on the cusp of being lost. I returned to the United States with a newfound respect for the wisdom of the elderly, but also aware of the unique sets of challenges elderly people face. They are a vulnerable, and unfortunately, often marginalized community and I believe our society has a responsibility to take better care of them.

I want to be a physician. As we continue researching the dynamics between clinical practice, public health, and socioeconomic determinants on patient outcomes, it is becoming more and more apparent that patients are healthier when treated at patient centered practices by culturally competent physicians. Given the demographics of the United States, I think it is especially important to understand Latin American perspectives on health and to be able to communicate with patients in their native language. Studying Spanish and learning about healthcare structure and attitudes toward patient care in Costa Rica will help me better understand patients from this part of the world. I hope to take the medical translation licensing exam for Spanish when I graduate so that I will be able to communicate with my patients without a translator.

My experiences in Costa Rica have broadened my world view and helped me better understand a different language and culture. I am very grateful I had the opportunity to participate in this transformative experience.

STEP Reflection

For my STEP project, I chose to study abroad in Chile for a month and a half. During this time, I lived with a host family and attended classes at PUCV, the city’s university. While in Chile, I got to enjoy two of the things I love most: travel and nature. I was able to meet new people and experience a different culture as I traveled the county’s diverse landscape of mountains, oceans, and deserts. Yet, even after a month and a half in the country—more time than I had ever been abroad previously—it was still not enough. When it came time to leave, I felt like I had barely scraped the surface.

Despite this feeling, my time in Chile was transformational, especially in respect to my understanding of global interactions. Personally, the most surprising part was the amount I learned about our own country, the United States. It is sometimes said that the winners are the ones who write history. After being in Chile, I completely agree. Although I am a Spanish major, being in Chile, in my classes and interactions with locals, I felt like I was learning about Latin American history for the first time in my life. I had heard about some of the major events and people before—Pinochet, Allende, the coup in Chile, and Operation Condor—yet never understood their significance to Latin America nor the role that the United States had in these events. Through my STEP project, I discovered a whole new perspective of the United States, another side to the story. From my Chilean professors and family, I heard about the United State’s pattern of interference in Latin America. Unfortunately, this pattern often consisted in the US interfering for its own benefit (under the guise of anti-leftist governments such as communism or Marxism) at the expense of Latin American countries.

Before Chile, I had little idea of why countries would dislike the United States or that such sentiments could be so potent. After, I am both knowledgeable and aware of these feelings and can understand their origins. I feel that I am more politically and culturally aware and have a more global perspective on how the actions of our countries can affect others.

There are a few central events and people that led to this transformation. First and foremost, the classes that I took in Chile really helped to broaden my perspective on interactions between the United States and South America. The two classes that I took were the Sociopolitical History of Latin America and Human Rights in Latin America. Between the two, I was able to hear Chile’s side of history and learned a lot about our own country.

One of the more surprising things I learned was the role the United States played in helping to overthrow Salvador Allende and in Pinochet’s rise to power. For those who are unfamiliar with the situation, Salvador Allende was a socialist president elected in 1970. Three years later, he was overthrown in a coup that led to the rule of Pinochet—a dictator of 17 years responsible for thousands of disappearances and death. Although I had heard these names previously, I never realized the gravity of the situation. I discovered that the US took drastic measurements, such as stopping almost all economic aid to Chile, in order to combat Allende’s socialist government. I also found out that the United States interference with Chile was not isolated; it is one of many instances in which the US has worked against “the evil” of leftist governments (communism, Marxism, etc). Unfortunately, like Chile, many of these efforts led to dictatorships and unlawful rule.

After learning all of this, I realized that my knowledge of history has been completely one-sided. I have only ever really heard the United State’s version, which seems to have skipped over these not so great details. Moreover, these experiences made me question some of my views/beliefs about leftist governments. Although I still believe democracy is the best option, I now see that those types of governments are not necessarily as dangerous or terrible as I had thought.

I know that, so far, my account of my STEP project may seem dismal—learning about the not so great history of the US and Latin America. This is because this knowledge was the transformational part of my experience. Before going, I thought that I wanted to travel and teach English in foreign countries after graduation; my trip confirmed this. Seeing the beauty of Chile and interacting with locals made me positive that traveling is something I want to do throughout my entire life and career. Though this confirmation was reassuring, it was not a change. Instead, I was transformed by the Chilean account of history. Discovering how the United States interfered in Chile and other South American countries and, more importantly, the result of these interferences gave me a new perspective on our country and world interactions. It made me more conscious of the United State’s role as a global power and how our country affects others, especially developing countries. As I move past college, I will use this knowledge to search for careers. After I teach English abroad for a few years, I plan to return to the US. Knowing this history makes me interested in working in some type of foreign affairs or for the government so I may be able to make a stand against these types of actions in the future.

Living in Tel Aviv

For my STEP Project, I studied abroad at Tel Aviv University for Spring Semester 2017. During the semester, I lived in a residence hall at Tel Aviv University and studied with international students from around the world. Once the semester ended, I decided to extend my time in Israel and worked an internship with the Tel Aviv Municipality Board of Tourism.

My time in Tel Aviv changed my perspective on many issues and themes. Because Tel Aviv is such an international city, I felt connections to a broader international community in a way I did not before. I thought about the relationship between the United States and the rest of the world. I further explored how the world relates to Israel and strengthened my opinions about what Israel means to me.

I made friends from many countries around the world. I heard their assumptions, opinions, and knowledge about the United States which allowed me to think more deeply into my role as an American citizen in the world and about how the U.S. affects the world. Comparing countries, cultures, and customs made me think further about this. Being surrounded by people with so many opinions about Israel also affected me. I was able to engage with people of many backgrounds in order to have conversations.

Being in Israel may be considered a risk, at least by some. Terrorism is relatively frequent and conflict arises. However, during my time there, only once incident occurred in Tel Aviv. Many more things happened around the world and reading the news of this both saddened me but also reminded me that Israel is not portrayed accurately in the media. At one point, I was taking a small trip to Paris. I told my Hebrew teacher that I would be missing a day of class, and she immediately became worried for me. “Be careful,” she said. “So much happens in Paris. It’s not safe.” Clearly, such perspectives depend on your own situation. Many people at home asked my mom if she was scared for me to be in Israel. I told my mom on the phone multiple times that if anything ever happened to me in Israel, it would be the result of a bike knocking me down on the sidewalk (since riding on the sidewalk is all too common).

I had a sense of independence in Israel that I enjoyed immensely. Public transportation is extensive and Tel Aviv is walkable. I traveled all over the country, to cities such as Jerusalem, Tiberias, and Haifa. In total, I lived there for six months. In this time, I felt that I adjusted in many ways. I was comfortable spending time on my own. During the summer, I lived in apartments in Tel Aviv and was in the heart of the city. I used Hebrew as much as possible. I got used to needing to be as assertive as possible for Israeli culture.

I learned, through my transformation, that I can adjust to living in a different country. This is important for me because I am majoring in International Relations and do not know where I will end up one day. I want to be open to living outside of the U.S. I also learned that I can live with and be surrounded by people from other countries and cultures well. Overall, this experience further helped me internationalize my undergraduate career and I look forward to seeing how this will affect me more in the future.



My Summer in København

My STEP Signature Project entailed an education abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark for the whole summer. I took three classes, traveled to eight countries, and made some lifelong friendships along the way. Over the summer, my confidence soared and I spent those 11 weeks getting to know the most important person, myself.

While completing my project, my view of myself changed entirely. It sounds so cliché, but I left America as a girl and came back a woman. I watched myself take risks and yet at the same time, I learned my limits. I took on the role of leader, supporter, navigator, and problem solver. My view of the world also went under construction while I was abroad. I learned that the smallest things make the biggest difference, especially when it comes to the environment. I realized how important it is to be eco-friendly and take care of the earth as well as each other. I also learned what it’s like to live as a Dane, Spaniard, Catalan, and Finn through my classes abroad. In Belgium, I learned the importance of safety, especially as a woman. I experienced what it’s like to be a target in a foreign country and how to escape a dangerous situation, which really opened my eyes to reality.

When I first stepped into what would be my house for the next 10 weeks, the light turned on, literally. Every room in my apartment had motion-censored lighting that turned on/off in order to save energy. Air conditioning? Not really a thing in Europe. It’s seen as a huge energy waster and simply opening a window produces air-circulation. The Danes also love to drink alcohol and it’s not uncommon to see people walking around the city sipping a cold one. This produces a lot of cans and glass bottles, which are often collected by the homeless. They then take their collected items to a nearby grocery store where they receive cashback. In addition, a third of all Danish people bike to work everyday, which reduces air pollution and decreases obesity rates. This made me realize all the things we could be doing in the U.S. I realize our population is much larger, but if each and every person made small changes, the earth would truly be a better place.

To celebrate the first week of classes being over, some girl friends and I traveled to Brussels, Belgium. Although I overall loved the trip and the country, we experienced more than the catcalls and whistling. We were hunted down in a metro car and chased after in broad daylight by several men. I felt like prey in a sea of predators. I often felt unsafe and disgusted by the way men looked at us. It was disheartening that as a woman, I was in constant fear of being harassed and it affected me in the long-term more than I thought it would. However, this made me realize the seriousness of sexual harassment and how scary it can truly be. I gained confidence in my ability to trust my gut and learned how to spot a predator. Finally, it showed me that this study abroad was going to have both ups and downs. Most importantly, I realized that I am a grown 21-year old woman, capable of overcoming any obstacles.

My internal transformations stemmed from the total independence that I had. Copenhagen is the biking capital of the world and I immersed myself in that culture. I biked everywhere and anywhere at anytime of the day or night. This gave me a lot of freedom and confidence in myself. I formed incredible relationships with my flatmates in the 10 weeks we spent together. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so close to people in such a short amount of time in my life. We planned spontaneous trips to Belgium, France, and Norway. We ate our weight in pasta, had dance parties in our airbnbs, and got to know each other on a deeper level. We frequented Tivoli, Copenhagen’s amusement park, weekly, biked to the coast, and drove electric cars to Denmark’s cliffs. We were a flock of free birds, exploring a new city as well as ourselves.

Of course though, this was an education abroad, and boy did I become educated. I was enrolled in the psychology of human sexuality, food & identity, and child development: theory and practice. I could talk for days about how much I learned, but in short, I learned how food reflects culture, that sexuality is on a spectrum, and that children shouldn’t be treated lesser than adults. From sailing the Mediterranean while eating traditional Catalonian food to using nonverbal communication to interact with Finnish kindergarteners, I gained an appreciation of cultural diversity. The classroom settings were always so open and warm, making me feel comfortable to participate more than I usually do in class. This gave me confidence to voice my opinion in a safe place among friends.

Change is like time, it cannot be stopped. When I started college, I made decisions and went down paths that molded, as well as surprised me. Likewise, when I went on this study abroad, I never imagined to have transformed as much as I have. I’m more confident, assertive, and independent that I’ve ever been before. This kind of change is so significant to me because I now feel like I can really take on my last year of undergrad. I feel confident in myself academically in terms of taking the GRE and applying to grad school. I feel confident in myself personally in that I no longer fear embarrassment or failure. I know who I am and where I see myself going, but at the same time, I welcome change with open arms. I’m not scared anymore because I know things always work out for the best. It’s true what people say about studying abroad, it can change your life and I’m proof of that.


Chilling in Chile: Reflections for STEP

My STEP signature project consisted of an absolutely amazing trip to Valparaíso, Chile. I lived in Viña del Mar with a host family and studied at Pontifica Universidad Católica de Valparaíso for a month. After a month of taking classes, I got the chance to do Service Learning for a month as well. I was placed in Instituto Chileno Norteamericano, which is an English language institute and cultural center in Valparaíso. I helped in the classes, held English language conversation sessions for the students, did tutoring sessions, and even got to lead my own workshop where I taught basic Mandarin Chinese. My experience living abroad has shown me many things about myself, my future goals, and about the world in general.

Most importantly, my trip abroad proved that I am capable of living and working abroad. I always thought that that was what I wanted to do, but now I am completely sure of it. I was worried that I would show up in Chile and realize that I had made a huge mistake, but that’s not what happened at all. I felt like I fit right in. My Spanish was sufficient enough to hold conversations with natives without much of a problem, I loved both Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, and I got along with the staff at the Institute really well. However, this experience did make me realize that I still have things to work on with my Spanish as well as my ability to teach English. This realization wasn’t discouraging though, it gave me hope for the future knowing that I can always learn something new, even about topics that I have studied for quite some time.

Working at the Institute was the game changer in my trip. My experience there was what made me realize that I still have some work to do, but overall my goals for the future are very much in my reach. I basically got to live the life of myself from the future. I used the subway, got to know the area around the institute extremely well, made friends with my colleagues, and thoroughly enjoyed my time in the English classes. During this time, I was living life like any Chilean would. Where I was felt like home. It truly felt like I lived there and not like I was just on a short trip. Seeing that I can get used to a new place confirmed that I do really want to live abroad in the future.

However, before I can teach English abroad in the future, I will have to get a TESOL or TEFL license. The thought of having to be taught how to teach your own language sounded absolutely ridiculous to me, but my time at the institute proved to me that that training was actually necessary. There would be times when a student or a fellow teacher would ask me a super specific question about the English language and I wouldn’t know the answer right off hand. Being a native speaker, I just perform all of these super complicated grammar rules and structures without thinking about it, so their questions would catch me off guard. Half of the time my answer would be something along the lines of, “I don’t know why we say it that way, but we do…” Also, there are some terms that they use to describe English grammar patterns that I just flat out do not know. I never learned those terms because I picked up English naturally and I was never in a language learning classroom for English. In some respects, I was out of my depth. I spoke the language, but I didn’t have the knowledge to explain certain things. I have gained a new respect for TESOL and TEFL training that I did not have before.

As for the world in general, I have come to realize that everyone, even those from different countries and backgrounds, is so similar to each other. There may be some tiny cultural differences and of course different languages, but people are just people. Cultural differences shouldn’t be a dividing factor because we are way more similar than we are different. There was one night in particular where this realization hit me hard.

On that particular night, my Chilean friend, Jorge, was taking me to meet his other friends. We went to an event at the botanical gardens and then ended up at a video game bar. One of his friends looked at me and asked, “Is it weird for you to be in a bar to play video games?” I just laughed because I knew my friends back at home would have absolutely loved that place. We go to very similar places in the U.S. As the night went on I realized more and more that the group of people I was with would get along so well with my friends from the states. They have similar personalities, they like similar things and they have the same sense of humor. At one point in the night I thought to myself, “How on earth did I find the exact SAME group of people only in a different country??” People are just people.

My trip also made me realize how lucky I am to live in the United States. Of course, the US is in no way a perfect country. We have our problems just like every other country, but judging from what I saw in Chile, our problems are on a different level than the problems that Chile and other countries are facing, especially regarding issues such as poverty and education. The US has some problems in these areas as well, but not to the extent that I saw in Chile. The US is a first world country, and sometimes we forget what that really means.

In Chile, there is a huge problem with the distribution of wealth. So, we would see a city made up of just shacks made out of scrap metal on one side of the road, and then on the other side of the road we see a huge developed, modern, city. The contrast was shocking. Also, in grocery stores there was an option to have a payment plan for your grocery bill, so families don’t have to pay a huge bill all at once. The community has adapted to the level of poverty that is all around them. We are very lucky to live in a first world country where most cities are modern cities and not just made up of shacks.

Another issue that was brought to my attention in Chile were the problems with their education system. Good education in Chile is really expensive, so the huge gap between the rich and the poor shows in education as well. The free public schools do not provide quality education. The teachers slack because they aren’t paid well and there are sometimes up to 50 kids in one class. With this kind of environment, the kids in those schools have no chance of competing with kids with a private school education for scholarships in the future. The education system is not fair to everyone. Multiple colleagues of mine at the institute told me stories about teaching in public schools and about how terrible it was for them. Quality education is truly a privilege that we take for granted in the states.

The combination of all of these revelations and experiences made my trip to Chile a truly transformational experience. Everything that I learned in Chile is relevant to my professional goals and will help me tremendously in the future. Now that I have lived abroad and have done the job that I was hoping to have, I know that that is what I want to do in the future. Also, this trip has brought back my excitement of language learning and teaching, so now I am looking forward to improving my Spanish and also improving my English teaching abilities through a TESOL of TEFL program. I also gained work experience that taught me more than any class would have. I know what I need to work on and I know what I need to focus on to become the professional that I would like to become someday.

Here is my blog that gives you a play by play of my trip:





My Study Abroad Internship in Australia

For my STEP signature project, I was fortunate enough to be a sports journalist intern for one of the biggest newspapers in Sydney, Australia: The Daily Telegraph. I was able to shadow veteran journalists around all parts of Sydney, learning about everything there is to know regarding Australian sports culture. My internship allowed me to visit training sessions and games of various Australian sports clubs all while writing and researching for the Sydney newspaper. I was even given the opportunity to write my own articles, which were published in The Daily Telegraph‘s online newspaper.

Considering this was both a study abroad and an internship program, it was an interesting dynamic having a work schedule while simultaneously being a tourist. That said, I think the biggest transformation from my experience was actually having a work routine and getting a strong glimpse of how life is like after college. Previously, I never had the opportunity to have a structured job or a real resume builder other than a few tutoring and babysitting jobs. From this internship, I was able to gain more knowledge and tips from people who have been working longer than I have been alive. The real transformation was soaking in all of this knowledge from my coworkers and referencing it to my personal career goals. I didn’t know how confident I was choosing sports journalism as a potential career path, but this trip absolutely confirmed that I have the capability and passion to pursue sports writing if given the opportunity in the future.

I think the biggest spark to my transformation was being around another culture in both a working environment and as a visitor. I learned the ins and outs of what it took to become not only an Australian sports journalist, but also a contributor to the operations of a major news outlet. Dealing with having no prior internship experience wasn’t a huge hindrance because I was more focused on adjusting to the culture of Australia and constantly comparing it to the culture of the U.S. Moreover, being around the Aussie lifestyle always presented me with new opportunities and chances that made the internship unique. For example, covering all of the different Australian sports allowed me to learn something new each and every day. I didn’t have a day where I repeated the same procedure. I was always typing up new stories, researching possible leads, or traveling any given time I was working.

Another key component were my coworkers. My boss/mentor was the chief sports editor for the paper and he taught me countless lessons about Australian sports and its culture. He was a huge help to me adjusting for a job in the media and offered me tips with how to succeed after college. He also gave me opportunities to explore other career options by setting up mini internships with The Daily Telegraph‘s  marketing firm as well as an Australian professional basketball organization. The other journalists were also incredibly helpful too. I shadowed many of them as they chased stories all around Sydney. I was able to visit tons of sports stadiums, team practices, sports owners, and other journalists from various newspapers. Having that firsthand experience was priceless because I can now use all of the knowledge I gained to further my career goals in situations like interviews or networking.

The last aspect that impacted my transformation was the environmental class I took during my program. The class didn’t have any relation to my work, but that was the very reason it had a significant impact on my transformation. It was nice to take a break from sports journalism and learn about a topic that I was completely unfamiliar with beforehand. The class allowed me to take in a side of Australia few know about as well as the challenges Australian wildlife face during this influential climate change period. I was able to work with professors, environmentalists, and government workers to see how they handled life outside of school. The one commonality I witnessed was passion. Everyone I met loved their job and could talk about it for hours along with the impact they are making to better Australia’s environment. This inspired me to reevaluate my attitude post-college to be certain I am able to speak with the same amount of passion as those that were involved with teaching me about the Australian environmental impact.

To me, this new view towards internships and towards my life after college is important simply because getting a glimpse of the real world is such a beneficial perk. Knowing I would like or dislike certain career paths allows me to have some confirmation of what I want to do that will make me happy. It gives me an advantage since I won’t have to waste my time with careers I might think are fun during school, but in the working world might actually be the opposite. I also valued everyone I met during my time in Australia. I ran into all types of people and that furthered my understanding of how the world works outside of school and outside of my own social sphere. I can use all of my experiences and newfound life lessons towards bettering myself in academics and with future employment opportunities. I can steer my academics to replicate what I want my career path to be and I can use this maybe once in a lifetime opportunity to share with others.

Nursing Experience in Nicaragua

 Arboles de la Vida (trees of life)

O-H-I-O outside the Nueva Vida Clinic

Name: Hannah Kayuha

Type of Project: Education 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.

My STEP project was a nursing study abroad in Nicaragua. Throughout our time in Nicaragua we mainly worked in a clinic just outside the country’s capital, Managua. In the clinic we helped check people in, worked in the pharmacy, went on home visits, and sat in with the doctors in the clinic.


  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

This project was very eye opening despite having visited family in Peru throughout my life. Working in the clinic and visiting Managua’s children’s hospital really showed me what their healthcare system is like and what equipment is available to them. I loved working in the clinic because we were able to see how the people in the community lived and cared for each other despite what little they had. The Nueva Vida Clinic is located on the outskirts of Managua in an area called Ciudad Sandino and it is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. When hurricane Mitch hit Nicaragua in 1998 it devastated Managua leaving many homeless. The families that were displaced were given two pieces of tin and a tarp by the government and told to make a home in the Ciudad Sandino community. The people in this community started with nothing and built a beautiful community where they care for each other, despite the fact that their homes are still made from tin and tarp. This experience affirmed my belief that one can always find beauty and should always look past the poverty.

When we first arrived in this community one would think that they have nothing and wonder how they survive, but upon working in the clinic and interacting with the people you realize that they love their lives and make the most of the resources they have available. One of the most valuable parts of this experience was learning to provide good patient care without the advantage of advanced technology. For example, I learned to rapidly find a fetal heart beat by palpating the mother’s abdomen to identify the best location to listen with a Doppler. In the U.S. I would have wanded the abdomen with an ultrasound machine and allowed the machine to find the heart beat.


  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.

For our first few days in Nicaragua, our knowledgeable guide and driver took us around Managua to learn about the history of the country, so we could better understand the culture and people throughout our trip. For example we visited the house of the old dictatorial president and learned about the current political and economical standing of Nicaragua. Their current president elected his wife as vice president and instead of helping the poor people she has spent millions on unnecessary things such as the 134 metal “arboles de la vida” (trees of life) that are lining the street of Managua. When we arrived in Nicaragua it was late at night so we were able to see the arboles de la vida lining the streets. Each tree stands 17 meters tall, costs $20,000, and because they light up, roughly $1 million more in electricity each year. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, so the majority of the people don’t like the trees. Had I not known the story behind the “Arboles de la Vida”, I would have felt they made Managua unique. Having a tour guide that was able to explain the history of many different sites allowed us to connect with the culture and people on a deeper level.

In the clinic we worked in the pharmacy by filling prescriptions for the people of the community. The pharmacy had wooden shelves along the walls and didn’t have near the medications we have available here. At the clinic, we were also able to sit in with the physicians such as the gynecologist, podiatrist, pediatrician, radiologist, dentist, etc. The doctors were so eager to teach us examination techniques that they offered to let us examine some patient’s; we respectfully declined as it was out of our scope of practice. I learned a great deal from the doctors, such as measuring a fetus’ bones on the ultrasound to determine the approximate week of gestation. They also taught us a simple math equation to determine the week of gestation with just a few pieces of information.

The final part of our work at the clinic included home visits into the community that consisted of checking on people with chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes; we also check on pregnant women and newborns. These visits are brief checkups with the patients to make sure everything is well. When we checked on the chronic disease patients, we would take their temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar, answer any questions, and give them advise on how to better manage their disease. The pregnancy visits consisted of taking the mother’s blood pressure, measuring the abdomen to determine the week of gestation, and finding the fetal heartbeat. The newborn visits consisted of checking their reflexes and making sure they were feeding well. The people were very welcoming of us into their homes and allowed us to examine them and/or their babies in order for us to learn and to help them. Everything we did throughout the trip affirmed my goal to become a pediatric nurse and to continue to do more medical mission trips abroad.

  1. 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.


This experience made me appreciate how fortunate I am to have grown up in a home where I have endless necessary resources available. It also made me realize that we live in a consumer-driven nation, yet the world doesn’t have the resources to sustain that way of life everywhere. By vising Peru and now Nicaragua, it has become abundantly clear that a materialistic way of life is unnecessary in order to also have a happy life. I am much more appreciative of what I have, but I also realized that I could live a simplistic life and be just as fulfilled and happy.

This transformation is also significant to my life because ultimately I would like to become a pediatric nurse practitioner and go on more medical trips abroad. It is my passion to help people and learn about other cultures, so this experience was the perfect mix of what I love. I have not had my pediatrics or obstetrics clinicals yet, so this experience allowed me to learn a great deal about the population that I am most interested in working with. Most mothers would be hesitant about handing their newborn to strangers, but the mothers in Nicaragua were proud to have us hold and learn from their children. This experience will make me a better nurse because I will be more understanding of my patients no matter their situation.

STEP Project Reflection

For my STEP Project, I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, through the program DIS. I was there for the Spring semester of 2017, and I lived with the loveliest Danish host family. My core course with DIS was on prostitution and the sex trade in Europe, and included study tours in Sweden and the Netherlands. I immersed myself in Denmark by forming relationships with Danes, joining political organizations, and taking part in important cultural practices, such as commuting by bike and learning the language.

While in Copenhagen, my life was radically different. I was exposed to different languages, foods, political views and lifestyles. I was transformed not only by living in a new place, but also by the people I was around. Perhaps one of the most influential parts of my STEP Project, was that I was living with a Danish family. They taught me useful cooking skills, and shared with me yummy Danish delicacies, such as salty licorice and Koldskål. With my host family, I also participated in cultural traditions and holidays, such as Fastelavn and Easter in Sweden. There are three children in my host family, so I also was able to learn more about education in Denmark and family benefits under the Danish Welfare State.

Winter walks with my host family

Just as my Danish host family opened up their life to me, I tried to do the same by sharing some Ohio traditions. I taught my host family my favorite Ohio State football chants, and we made Buckeye candies together.  I showed them pictures of my apartment and my favorite Columbus coffee shops. They were impressed with the size of the Oval, and I promised to take them there someday for an O-H-I-O style family photo. By sharing my own Ohio experiences, through baking, music and photos, I grew in my sense of self and feel a closer connection to my home.

Making Buckeyes in Copenhagen!

Living in Copenhagen for eight months, taught me more about what it means to be an American than my twenty-one years living in Ohio. Not long after I started my travels, President Trump was inaugurated. Throughout my entire stay in Europe, as soon as I was recognized to be an American, people wanted to debate politics with me. It was in these conversations that I grew in my ability to listen and discuss. It gave me new perspectives on the United States, a country I thought I already knew so well. I now recommend that everyone travel outside their own country if they can, especially those interested in government. As a Public Affairs student at OSU, I feel excited to share my new global perspectives in my classes and with my professors.

Observing political action on May Day

My classes through DIS were also life changing! My classmates were from all over the United States, and studying with them exposed me to a variety of learning styles and ideologies. I made lasting friendships and connections with my classmates and DIS professors. As the only student from OSU in my classes, I also learned to appreciate and share the incredible experiences I have had from the faculty here. Returning to OSU for my senior year, I feel affirmed in my decision to earn my degree with this university.

Now that I have experienced what it means to travel, I know it is something I will do the rest of my life. Studying abroad, through the guidance and support of the STEP Program, allowed me to grow into the person I was met to be. I feel more passionate than ever about my field of study, and my experience at Ohio State. I will continue to cherish the relationships I formed while living in Denmark, and look forward to the next time I visit. My STEP Project may have ended, but the personal growth and the knowledge I gained will continue to develop, as I find myself home again in Columbus, Ohio.



Stays Abroad: Valencia, Spain

I participated in a five week study abroad program located in Valencia, Spain. Throughout the program we visited Spain’s most historical and important cities, learned about Spanish culture and got to know some of the locals. I took two classes Spanish Cinema and Spanish Culture. Additionally, myself and another student lived a host family. Throughout my time in Valencia I immersed myself in the culture by bicycling throughout the city, making friends with locals, and participating in cultural events put on throughout the city.

Because I lived with a family that spoke no English, I learned how to cope with and overcome the language barrier, which was my principle fear in studying abroad. Ultimately, I became a more confident and empowered student. Before my trip I had never spoken with a native Spanish speaker outside of a classroom environment. Because of this, I felt extremely nervous about how I would communicate with my host family. I found that although I struggled in the beginning to understand their accents, I was able to comprehend almost everything they said by the end of my program. Although I believe I needed more time to improve my speaking skills, I have noticed that I am able to speak with more fluidity and confidence than before I traveled to Spain. Additionally, the trip has made me a more confident person in general. I feel that being in such a starkly different environment from my regular life forced me to interact with people I would never have met. Since returning I have found that I am much more confident in awkward or new situations than I have ever been in my life. It feels less terrifying to meet people when I know that I’ve been able to form lasting relationships with people that spoke none of my native language

With limited data I was almost never able to use Google Maps. Because of this, I was forced to use a map to navigate throughout a huge city that I was completely unfamiliar with. As a result, I was frequently lost. In these situations I was forced to walk up to strangers and ask for directions, something I almost never did in the United States. By the end of the program I felt completely confident asking for directions, and I felt that I had a complete grasp of the layout of the city.

Every Tuesday our International Studies Abroad (ISA) held a program that was called “Intercambios” in which the students in our program met with Spanish students to practice our Spanish and their English. At our first meeting I was terrified. I had communicated with our host family and my professors but never anyone my age. As the weeks progressed, I met two students, Adrian and Soleil, that went to the same university. Throughout this friendship I was able to practice my Spanish skills, which was especially helpful in learning how real students spoke. Additionally, Adrian and Soleil helped to introduce myself to a number of different cultural activities including a holiday called “La Noche de San Juan”.

Visiting many different cathedrals and churches throughout Spain gave me a much better appreciation for Spain’s history and the importance of Catholicism within the country. Before the program I had learned that Spain was a predominately Catholic country and that it had been that way for many years. It was amazing to see the architecture of these buildings and to think about the significance of these buildings not only for present day Spaniards but those that lived and worshiped there centuries ago. This experience helped me to better understand the culture of the people that I was living and interacting with.

This transformation has made me want to pursue Spanish in my everyday life. Before I had felt that the language was something that I had to learn for school, but now I use it in my free time by watching movies and speaking to native Spanish speakers. I would love to incorporate Spanish into my personal and professional life in the future as well. It has given me the confidence to step out of my comfort zone, which has led me to talk to multiple professionals in my professional field and build relationships with influential people. Personally, I have a dramatically increased desire to understand and  other cultures. I hope to continue my travels and learn more about many different cultures in the near future.