View of the Aegean Sea
As part of my participation in the Second-year Transformational Experience Program (STEP), I was given the opportunity to complete a personal project I felt would transform me personally, intellectually, and socially. I had never been overseas before, and I had never really lived in a diverse community until I came to Ohio State. For those reasons, I felt studying abroad would be the most challenging, transformative, and rewarding experience I could choose to do for my project– and I was right.
Out of all the Ohio State study abroad programs, I decided to participate in the Engineering of Ancient Greece one because the focus was engineering related. As a chemical engineering student, I wanted the program I chose for my project to be somewhat connected to my major of study. To be honest, I was not too concerned about the location of the project at first, meaning Greece was not what attracted me to the program. I just knew that I wanted to experience a foreign culture and have the chance to view the world (and engineering) from a different angle. I knew that I would have a transformative abroad experience no matter which country I traveled to.
The first part of the program was actually a week-long class on campus where me and the 10 other students each researched a site we were going to visit in Greece. We all wrote research papers and presented to everyone else prior to going abroad. Then, we were in Greece for a total of 12 days. On the mainland, we stayed in Athens and Corinth. Then we flew to the island of Crete and stayed in Heraklion and then Chania. For the last part of the trip, we flew to Samos island and stayed in Pythagorio.
On most days, we had organized tours of the archeological ruins and museums in the morning and afternoon, and then our nights were free. At each of the sites, we learned about the uses or purposes of the ancient structures, the Greek mythology behind them, and the engineering practices utilized to build them. At almost every site we visited, I was amazed at how the ancient Greeks were able to build such large, detailed structures considering the lack of technology they had back then.
O-H-I-O at the Acropolis
In addition to seeing and learning about the ancient Greek sites, I was able to experience modern Greek culture, day in and day out. I learned about Greece’s struggling economy, as well as how the Greek academic system works. From eating Greek food (gyros, coffee, bread, lamb, yogurt, and moussaka were the popular items), travelling on their public transportation systems, learning some Greek language (“Yassou!” meaning “Hello!”) and just exploring the different cities, I gained the new perspective I was looking for.
Some parts of the trip were personally challenging. Navigating through the airport with just one other student, staying in hotels very different from American ones, trying new types of food, and attempting to understand the currency system along with overcoming language barriers were all personally transformative situations. I feel like I learned so much about how I react to and operate in cultures different from my own, and I feel more confident about traveling now. Some situations made me appreciate my life in America, yet others made me so happy that I chose to explore another part of the world. I do feel that I have a more global perspective on engineering and society in general as a result of studying abroad.
I know this experience will influence my future professional career and how I choose to develop as a professional. The Lavrion Technical and Cultural Park, for instance, was a perfect example of how different engineering research can be between cultures. This technical park is currently conducting research on the water system in Greece, so I was really intrigued by their engineering processes and the explanation of their work provided by one of their engineers. I would definitely say visiting this modern research facility was intellectually transformative – I swear some of the topics we learned about came right out of my chemical engineering textbook!
In regards to my social transformation, I gained a whole new set of friends, some of which I grew very close with. Now I have an awesome experience to share with others, whether those be future STEP students, other engineering students, my friends from home, or my family. I am eager to talk about how a study abroad experience transformed me and my views of the world in efforts to convince others to challenge themselves in the same way. If it were not for STEP, I would not have chosen to embark on this journey. I am so grateful for this experience of a lifetime!
Last Standing Column of the Temple of Hera