There and Back Again- A Hobbit’s Tale

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STEP Reflection Prompts

Name: Emma Weihe

Type of Project: Study Abroad

  1. Please provide a 2-3 sentence description of your project.

For my STEP Signature Project, I participated in the OSU Global May New Zealand course, which focused on looking at New Zealand culture through the lens of linguistics. Other aspects built into the program included staying with a host family, taking field trips to learn about different parts of the country, and allowing free time for personal exploration.

  1. In 1-2 paragraphs, what changed while completing your project?

I suppose the largest takeaway has been the realization that I lack personal satisfaction in life potentially because I have some mental roadblock that I need to work out. I’m a happy, positive person, but there is nothing else that can explain the general frustration, lack of drive and the feeling that I’m stuck. I want to be able to fully participate in all that life has to offer. I took so many risks while I was there including going on an unsolicited two day trip without an adult, eating something new almost every day (I’m a noted picky eater), drinking alcohol for the first time (legally), and spending time outside of class with some of the more outgoing students. I felt so accomplished for doing things I would never do either at home or at school, even though I was uncomfortable at times when my peers were a bit more raucous than I would prefer. After experiencing that taste of pride, I would love to finally be able to embrace myself as a grown up. If I need therapy in order to make that happen, then I should start treatment as soon as I can. I’ve learned that I’m capable of far more than I thought, now I just need the energy to make all my ideas happen.

  1. Write 3-4 paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences that led to this change.

When I was in Christchurch, I had to act as an individual and as a part of the group. On my own, I was responsible for taking the bus to get to school as well as navigating the city. I was also obliged to do stuff around Christchurch where I would normally go back to my room and play on my phone. I also made fast friends with a whole group of people, which I haven’t gotten to genuinely experience in years. I especially became close with two students from China; now I’m already planning my next trip to go visit them at home! I’ve never been good at keeping in touch with my friends, but now I’m so eager to talk to these girls! It’s remarkable how going through this journey together can forge such strong bonds

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The single most significant event during the course of the program was when I, along with a group of 16 other students, went away for the national observation of the Queen’s Birthday. That long weekend was a study in risk and reward. I’d been nervous about taking an overnight trip to Lake Tekapo, which is nearly 4 hours from Christchurch, without a real adult, just some of my classmates. There was so much to worry about, let alone what my peers would think of my nearly asthmatic reaction to hiking, or general physical activity for that matter. Agreeing to go was a huge risk for me which paid off tenfold and more. A few of the risks I took included: agreeing to a potential 3 hour hike up Mt. John, pushing through the entire duration of said hike despite wanting to quit several times, trusting my peers, willingly ordering non-deep-fried seafood, and hanging out with my classmates past tea (dinner). Here, however, are only a few brief thoughts on what I learned that day:

  1. I am lucky to have this group in my life. Despite my horrendous attempt to hike without huffing and puffing, they never said anything negative; instead, encouraging me to get to the top. I wouldn’t have gotten HALF of the experience (and photos) I had if I had just quit.
  2. Lake Tekapo is heaven on earth. I saw mountains, lakes, plains, and forests there as well as a beautifully perfect night sky, with the Milky Way taking center stage. It may have gotten below freezing, but every layer of clothing was worth it!
  3. Salmon can actually be quite good! I know that sounds lame, but I don’t eat seafood too much and it’s always deep fried. When we went to dinner, most of the menu was seafood and sushi, so I figured that since I’d JUST CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN that I could eat something I hadn’t had before. I ended up with a delicious meal that I would have never thought to try.

Overall, on this trip to Lake Tekapo, I learned so much about myself. I did things that I didn’t think were possible, that I didn’t want to do, and I actually enjoyed them! It was a wonderful surprise that I had never expected, and instantly became the highlight of my trip.

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4. Write 1-2 paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

All my life I was called mature because I act with a composure and tact few of my peers exhibited in childhood and adolescence. As I get older, I have noticed that while I still feel that way, I’ve noticed that they’ve hit milestones that I haven’t, such as getting a driver’s license, having a committed relationship, getting a house/apartment, having children, etc. Going into this experience, I knew I needed to make a major change in my life; I was too dependent and afraid to grow up. I figured that forcing myself into a new perspective would ensure that the mindset shift would occur. Because I was required to perform “grown-up” tasks throughout the experience, I started to realize that grown-up life, although not as “cushy” as my prolonged adolescence, is far from the burdensome, depressing hell hole I once thought. Since arriving back home, where it’s easy to slip back into old roles, the contrast has been stark. I became again unable to go anywhere by myself, which, when you don’t have a job or many at-home tasks to complete, can get incredibly tiresome. I craved the independence I had back in New Zealand, which put me at great odds with my fear of the adult world, which is where I am now; stuck between two strong emotions that are in conflict with one another. While that may not be the storybook transformation you’re looking for, that’s the truth. Major lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight, or in a month, or over a summer; they happen over a long period of time which will include highs and lows, tears and cheers. It hasn’t been easy dealing with these dueling thoughts, but it’s a step in the right direction, and I’m thankful that OSU and NZ have been able to help me take it.