Engineering Castles and Cathedrals of Wales and England – STEP Transformation Project

My name is Chloe Nemchik and My STEP Signature Project was an Education Abroad with the College of Engineering. We spent 12 days in England and Wales, touring the country to see various Castles and Cathedrals of unique history and architect. Each day was filled with landscape drives, crawling throughout and inside massive cathedrals, and the labyrinths of castles.

Having never been abroad, or even to another continent, my sense of what the world can and has been able to offer was small. I thought every place was similar to other’s just that different people lived there. I thought the world was mainly shaped by cultural influences, and people. I never thought that the landscape that communities resided in helped or hindered different historical events. Having grown up in Ohio, one of the bigger farming states in the USA, I had no concept of what massive mountains in the distance looked like. No concept of what “a window with a view” or “fit for a king” meant. They were idioms to me, with no real life relation. Going on this trip, that all changed for the better. I now have a broader sense of the world, and what it can offer me in experiences. I know and viewed how massive mountain ranges or rolling English countryside influenced the people who lived there. Being on a plane for 7 hours, landing in an entirely new country, and spending 11 hours in engaging “lessons” every day lead to me having a greater appreciation for all things human. Actively exploring each site while listening to the history and significance of these massive places lit dark corners of my perception that I never knew were shadowed.

There were too many instances of abrupt and subtle changes that lead to my transformation for me to tabulate. Like any great change, it stemmed from the small collective reservoir of events, activities and interactions that occurred during this trip, which ultimately have shown to change my perspectives significantly. Despite this, in each reservoir there are gems and precious materials nestled in the bottom bank. This is much like my trip and experience: there are certain events that stick out amongst the others. One was the hike to Devil’s Pulpit, which overlooked Tintern Abbey.

Tintern Abbey was my assigned location, so I knew the most about it. I had a more intimate connection to the Wye Valley and the people whom once lived there than the other students, because of my research on the site. Perhaps that was why the view from the Devil’s Pulpit, pictured above, was one of the events I’ll remember for a long time and had the greatest impact on my worldly perspective. We were just at Tintern Abbey less than an hour ago, before we hiked to this Pulpit. It’s named this because the monks whom resided there said they could see the devil perched on a rock here, luring them to leave the abbey. When we were up here you were able to look down and see where we had just been standing. Knowing that the monks never left the abbey, and that the people responsible for this massive structure were never able to see it from our angle was humbling. The hike to this pulpit was through grazing fields that harbored cows. We walked a footpath, through these pastures, from gate to gate, until we got to Offa’s Dyke Path, a 1200 year-old path.

The serenity within the walk and nature was beyond description, especially when ended with a peak into the Wye Valley from above. The awe of this view is mostly thanks to the expansiveness of the valley. Seeing the other side of the valley rise in a veil of green trees, seeing the exclusive and private valley was invigorating. Knowing a place of such beauty and quiet was home to an order of white-robed monks was invigorating because it was the first time that I made the connection of landscape on culture and people. This place would have never been inhabited without the need for its isolated beauty, and the monks never would have relocated here if it hadn’t been for it’s majestic muteness. It was this realization that made me feel a closer connection to the history we were learning. And because of this beauty and juxtaposition of what has been and what is now, I will remember this location as a pivotal milestone in my shifted perspective of the world.

The main things that influenced my gradual and comfortable perspective difference were all the things unsaid. It happened in all the silent moments spent absorbing the landscape and architecture. It was collected in standing within the ruins of castles, once fit for kings, and experiencing just how ominous yet exquisite they are. Understanding just how alike my life is to others, the people of the past and the people of the current tradition. I went on this trip with the expectation of broadened horizons, no matter the cliché connotation. I journeyed across the ocean, between and through mountains, as well as up castle corridors and found understanding. Understanding in my place and relation to the current and historical world.

The takeaway of this trip for me has been so important for the my life and my career aspirations. I went from looking for life sustenance only within the country, only possibly considering relocation to, at most, Canada.  I was terrified of new things because I didn’t know what to expect, and this trip has taught me to expect the best. It has made me realize how much I enjoy travel, and adapting to new societies and norms. This translates into me knowing that I want a job as transient and opportunity-producing as possible. I no longer wander within the fences of my comfortable nation, in search for career matches and life collaborations. I now am expectant of a dynamic and diverse life, filled with many people, cultures, histories and predictions. I think going to an English society made this mindset possible because the transition was enough to notice, but not enough to intimidate or feel inadequate. I’m so happy that I have been on this trip, and had the opportunity to absorb this experience to further my expectations of myself and what the world can offer me. I know that I am able to adapt to situations I was doubtful about. My STEP Signature Project gifted me the opportunity to expand, and I did.