England and Wales

Name: Andrew Volchko

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For my STEP signature project, I participated in the Study Abroad program Engineering Castles and Cathedrals over the summer. In this program, we traveled across England and Wales to study the building techniques that were employed by their constructors, as well as the history of the area and why they were built. I also tagged on an additional trip to Germany to view the country of my ancestors and greater appreciation of them.

During this trip I was able to learn about myself and adapt to different conditions than I am used to here in America. During this trip I was able to experience the cultures of England, Germany and Italy. Each one of these places held a different challenge for me to overcome, whether it be the proper customs in a British pub, how to act in Germany, or the language barrier in Italy. Having made it back to the United States, I am proud of myself for adapting and overcoming these different situations.  These abilities will help me in the future when I move to new jobs, either in America or elsewhere, and  also gave me more confidence in tackling situations that seem difficult at first glance.

This transformation came about mainly due to the fact that I had to adapt or be eaten up. England was an easier experience since I had an instructor and classmates to stick with. However, when we would break into smaller groups for lunch or dinner, we would be on our own. Without the help of the instructor, we had to find our own way through towns or cities. Most of the time we would end up wondering through the city or town looking for someplace to go, relying on google or TripAdvisor. However, eventually we learned how to ask the locals for help; either where to eat, or how to get someplace.

I was able to apply what we learned in England to my travels in Germany and Italy when the program finished. Instead of relying on the instructor, I had to rely on my instincts and what I learned from England. In these two countries, there was no coach that would take me everyplace I needed to go. As a result, I had to get accustomed to the public transportation system in many different cities. Some places like Munich and Rome had an easy to understand system, with only a slight learning curve, which made traveling much easier. However, places like Naples had a harder learning curve. Here, most ticket kiosks would not work and I had to get tickets from tobacco shops. At first it was confusing, but after learning the first time, the next times I needed tickets was easier.

Another aspect of the trip that help my transformation was seeing the places that we traveled to. We went to places that were out of the way, tucked in the mountains or in the forest. They seemed like places in fairy tales. Before I went to England, I knew very little about the country, and even less about Wales. By the end of the trip, however, I knew a lot about the early history that formed these two nations, as well as their present day problems. One of the problems that stood out the most when traveling through England was the ‘Brexit’ vote and the views of the Welsh and English. The Welsh wanted to remain because the Union helped their economy and were worried England wouldn’t be enough. However, England wanted to leave because they felt the Union wasn’t letting them be independent. In the end, it was a hard decision, but I was able to gain valuable insight on the way other governments and societies go about their business, and made me realize how lucky we are to live in an independent nation that doesn’t have these particular issues.

Today, as the world becomes a smaller place with a greater emphasis on being a global citizen, it is important to be able to adapt to different circumstances. This doesn’t only mean adapting to different locations, but also adapting to new coworkers or methods in the workplace. My experiences this summer have shown me that when I am faced with a challenge I am able to face it and conquer it. Whether it be asking for help when I need it, or adjusting to a language that is foreign to me, I was able overcome the challenge. I believe this was the greatest realization/transformation I could have gone through.