My London Adventure

This past May I had the opportunity to study abroad in London. I participated in the Global May Britain study abroad program and it was one of the best decisions of my life. I learned about the politics, culture and history of London both in and out of the classroom, which truly enriched my college experience.



Growing up in Columbus and attending a university so close to home made the transition from high school to college seamless. I wasn’t challenged by a new and unfamiliar city, or homesickness as most freshmen are. I hoped to venture outside the walls of my tight-knit community and experience independence and growth in a foreign city. I had always been a fan of big cities such as New York City and Los Angeles, which drew me to London. I couldn’t have chosen a better location for me to thrive and grow.


Going into this program I knew no one and was nervous to be away from my friends and family for a month. However the opportunity to be abroad far outweighed any of my hesitations. While abroad I expanded my horizons by making new friendships with both OSU students and London locals. I was also exposed to different parts of the city and saw the wide variety of the demographics in London. This opened my eyes to the fact that not all Londoners fit the tea sipping, pale skinned, proper stereotype. In the suburb we stayed in the neighborhood was primarily Indian and broke the initial vision I had of London. I realized that London is arguably a bigger mixing pot than New York City with all the surrounding European cities that flow into it. The different communities that make up London showed me the depth and history of the city. I now see London as a diverse city that brings together varying cultures. I now feel I am a more globally aware person and do not identify countries by my preconceived notions.


Everyday I found myself exposed to different cultures and faced with new experiences. One of the challenges I faced that helped me venture outside of my comfort zone was the transportation system. In London the tube system is heavily used and it took a lot of getting used to. Without the comforts of my car I was forced to stand extremely close with complete strangers, however this helped me to open up and make new friends. A lot of bonding occurred while on the tube whether that was singing late at night, getting completely lost or meeting unique locals. Although the tube started out as an unfamiliar and awkward form of transportation it grew to be one of the things I looked forward to everyday.


Another aspect of London that transformed my view of the world was the history. London is hundreds of years older than the United States and holds so many ancient gems. Seeing the Globe Theatre, the Tower of London, Shakespeare’s house in Stratford-Upon-Avon, The London Bridge, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey opened my eyes to the depth that London had to offer. I was fascinated by the incredible people who had once been in these places and made such an impact on London. I was so thankful for the opportunity to learn about the history of London in the classroom and truly understand the history of the sites when I saw them for myself.


Seeing the variances between the United States and London intrigued me and forced me to think in a more globally minded way. Continuously throughout the month I noticed differences and similarities between the people, food and culture. Whether it was the fact that the toilet paper was square napkins instead of a roll or the wonderful British accents that we lacked. I constantly found myself discovering new ways that the countries differed. The architecture particularly caught my attention and astonished me. Wherever I went I was always met with historical buildings, interesting museums and beautiful designs. Obviously, Columbus is a small town and would not have the big city feel, but even in New York City there is not the same level of ancient culture that London encompasses. Walking into St. Paul’s Cathedral and West Minster Abbey I got the feeling of royalty and breathtaking beauty that I fail to see in the United States. These architectural works of art are incredible to me and the fact that they were built so long ago without today’s technology is mind blowing. I now have a stronger appreciation for the past and the incredible buildings erected so long ago.


As corny as it sounds I can’t believe how much I have grown and evolved as a person in such a short amount of time while abroad. There is so much to be learned through experiencing different cultures and opening yourself up to new opportunities. I am so thankful for this trip and all the amazing new friends I have met through it. Not only have I grown personally, but academically and professionally as well. The fact that I took a history course abroad and can actually say that I saw what I learned about will be one of my most memorable experiences from college. In addition to this, getting to work in a small class allowed me to truly get to know my peers and teachers. Since studying abroad I have been inspired to take a semester abroad in Spain and plan to work in London post-grad. There is so much to be gained while studying abroad and I can’t wait to see what else is in store.


Check out my blog posts at: Keeping Up With Kaki

Spain Global May Program


Sitting by the beach after class in Santander, Spain.

The Spain Global May program increased my knowledge of Spanish culture as well as strengthened my understanding of my Spanish heritage. Through the program, I learned how Spain’s location plays a key role in creating this multicultural country. Additionally, we had the opportunity to discuss and learn about immigration in Spain in comparison to immigration in the United States. The program helped me grow on a professional and personal level by pushing me to leave my comfort zone and try new things like zip line across the Tagus River in Toledo, after a day of exploring and learning about the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish remains in the city. I am forever grateful for STEP, OSU, and my parents for supporting me throughout this journey.


Ziplining with the girls across the Tagus River.

I cannot believe how much I learned about myself within those two months abroad. Without a doubt, the most important thing my host country taught me was how to accept and appreciate everyone’s individuality. The Iberian Peninsula has become a crossroad for migration. Throughout the years, numbers of immigrants have stopped and settled in Spain even though their intended final destination was elsewhere. From an early start, the idea and importance of living in a “melting pot” is emphasized inside and outside the classroom. This “melting pot” phrase is different than multiculturalism; what some might refer to as a “salad bowl.” In a melting pot, people from different racial and ethnic groups assimilate into one larger culture. While in a multiculturalist environment, people from all different backgrounds learn to live and interact with one another. In Madrid, people understand when they step outside their front door they will be accepted, appreciated, and respected by their peers despite their differences.


Admiring the Roman remains in Segovia, Spain.

In the United States, there is still this idea of the American Exceptionlism and the American Creed. Growing up with English as my second language in the United States was quite challenging. My accent was always present giving away that I was different. On top of that it almost seemed frowned upon on to say I was Salvadorian-American. It continues to be difficult to feel proud of both cultures and sometimes it feels like I have to choose one or the other. However, this class made me realized how things in the United States are changing into a multiculturalism perspective. Today, people are encouraged to explore different cultural traditions as well as to promote their own. Students who speak more than one language are now called Dual Language Learners instead of degrading terms that have been utilized in the past. Schools all over the country celebrate Hispanic and Asian American/Pacific Islander heritage week. Schools have even adopted a new curriculum that provides exposure to other languages, customs, and traditions. The Spain Global May program helped me understand that being different is a good thing, not a bad thing. It has given me the fuel to use my voice to advocate for those who do not have one.

This program inspired me to spend the next couple months volunteering near home at safe havens for immigrants and advocating for immigration reform. The United States and Spain are currently facing similar immigration waves and challenges. Throughout this course, we learn about the irony of the American dream and see how it relates to those who migrate to Spain. The road to citizenship is not quick or easy and it comes with many struggles. Fortunately, there are centers around Spain dedicated and invested to helping immigrants feel welcomed and create a second home away from home. We learned about organizations such as Karibu and Caritas Spain that provide training of the language and culture, housing, legal advice, psychological assistance, and even employment. After learning about the programs and activities carried out by the organizations and interacting with program coordinators; I was inspired to set out and make a difference. There are many misconceptions about immigrants and immigration that need to be addressed.


Beautiful scenery in Toledo, Spain.

One of the main challenges immigrants face is the language barrier. Assimilation or Latinos in Spain is obviously different because they know the native tongue but they still experience harassment. In one of our events, we learned how educators would belittle children who spoke Spanish with Colombian and Peruvian accents. The USA is working towards creating classrooms that are inclusive and welcoming for bilingual students to eliminate the racism and bullying they experienced in school. As a future educator and the daughter of two immigrants, I am motivated to learn more and be part of this movement.

Spain, when compared to the United States, has done a better job at integrating immigrants. Unlike the USA and France, Spain did not build communities and ghettos for immigrants. Organizations like Karibu and the Austrian center we visited, work really hard to successfully integrate migrants to the Spanish/Madrid culture while helping them keep their customs and traditions alive. Part of successful integration is providing migrants with psychological support. Many of them suffer from depression as they are homesick and feel alone. I have seen the psychological toll immigration has had on my parents; there is always that feeling of being in two places so it’s challenging for migrants to have that sense of belonging in an unknown land. After living and studying in Spain, I am determined to use what I have learned to help alter the way immigrants integrate into American Culture.

Immigration is a difficult subject to understand. I have been surrounded by it my entire life and everyday I continue to learn more and more about it. Centro Austriano in Madrid among Karibu and Caritas Spain serve as safe havens for immigrants. Unfortunately, many Spaniards do not appreciate the organizations. They receive a lot of backlash for helping foreigners and not the Spanish people, which is very similar to the United States where many argue that the government should help our veterans and those homeless instead of immigrants. I want to engage people in this discussion and as one of our guest speakers suggested, work towards changing people’s heart and then what’s in their mind. This program has given me the courage to share my parents’ story and teach locals in the United States that foreigners are not criminals, they do not steal jobs, and they do not remove culture.


Front row seats for the Atlético Madrid vs. Celta Vigo soccer match at the Vincente Calderón Stadium in Madrid, Spain.

I am a third year student at The Ohio State University majoring in Special Education. I am specializing in Early Childhood Intervention with minors in Dance and Spanish. My experience as a first-generation, out-of-state woman of color has inspired me to dedicate my career to working towards education reform and promoting diversity and inclusion in the classrooms. Studying abroad has made me a better educator by increasing my communication in Spanish and cultural awareness. One of my professional goals includes teaching abroad in Latin America and Africa alongside children with limited resources. The opportunity to study abroad has not only helped me fulfill my childhood dream of traveling and exploring Europe; but it has also reassured my aspiration to teach in a foreign country after graduation.


This picture was taken during our scavenger hunt in Bilbao, Spain.

Global May Hungary – STEP




My STEP Signature Project was participating in a 5 week course at the Budapest Metropolitan University in Budapest, Hungary. We took many excursions to different parts of Hungary, Warsaw, Poland, and Vienna, Austria. This course gave an overview of central European history and current political standings of each country that we visited. This course concluded with each small group creating a multimedia project relating to something we had learned or wanted to research more about Hungary.


I had never even left the United States before this STEP experience, and neither had either of my parents. I have always been interested in world history and culture, but had never really had the opportunity to experience any of this for my self. That is why I was so interested in this particular study abroad opportunity. During the time leading up to my trip, I was very nervous to leave the country, and my family was even more nervous. Especially with recent events in Europe, spending 5 weeks abroad appeared to be a very scary adventure for me to undertake. This experience helped me to grow immensely as an independent young adult striving to learn more about the vast world around me. Through this experience, I had to learn to budget, speak up for myself (in another language on a totally different continent), and work for what things that I really want.


This experience was an amazing, expensive, but at the same time also priceless. Preparing for this trip was expensive itself, and there were a few times where I had to stop and think if this trip would actually be worth it. As I mentioned, I had never left the country and did not have a passport. Passports are expensive, but I got a necessary document that I should have as an adult. Budgeting and sitting down to assess my financial wellness really helped me out with all these little costs and of course the study abroad fee and plane ticket. I still regularly use some of the budgeting tools and techniques that I learned during this process.

Speaking up for yourself, and making decisions for yourself isn’t too difficult until you don’t speak or read the language. This challenge on top of the stereotype of the ugly American tourist can make things a little difficult in a foreign country. Having to be more assertive and more clear with what I want, are both strategies that I have brought back with me. I no longer wait for good things to just happen to me, but can ask and work for things that I want.

Lastly, this experience drastically changed my views of the world especially traveling to central Europe, of which we have many preconceived notions. Much of what we learn of central Europe is related to World War I and World War II, and much of this knowledge paints a picture of corruption, violence, and underdevelopment. Being immersed in a different culture for 5 weeks was an amazing experience that I will never forget. My eyes were opened to very different ways of interaction and very different lifestyles that I can now properly appreciate without the many preconceived notions that I held before.


These experiences have changed me more than I thought possible in just 5 weeks. My personal life and goals have been transformed to now include much more traveling in the future. After getting just a taste of the rest of the world, I cannot wait to taste and experience as much of it as I can in the next few years and beyond. My professional goals have also been transformed after this experience. Before this experience, I was a student majoring in English and Early Childhood Education hoping to be an elementary school teacher, maybe even a reading and literacy specialist. While in Europe I was introduced to multiple Americans who had been on similar paths in college, but had ended up teaching English as a second language in countries such as Spain, France, and Hungary. I usually met them while they were on weekend excursions because it is so easy to travel within Europe. Maybe not as a long-term career, but teaching English as a second language abroad is now one of my professional goals that would also allow me to travel and experience so much more of the world.


Global May New Zealand

by Nicole Riemer 

For my STEP signature project, I studied abroad in New Zealand during Maymester, studying linguistics. New Zealand is the only English speaking country where the development of a particular type of English and accent can be traced in its entirety. New Zealand has a complete audio record of the changes in New Zealand English (NZE) due to the ONZE data files that were collected by Mobile Unit Recordings in the early years of New Zealand settlement. While in New Zealand, my cohort and I studied at the University of Canterbury which houses the ONZE project. While I was there I learned about the nuances of NZE and how it compares to American and British English. I also learned about phonetics and the development of language and accents.

Going to such a small country and being able to readily interact with locals, including my host family, definitely changed my world view. Living in a country as large and as powerful as the United States, I never really realized how cut off I was from the rest of the world until visiting a country that is incredibly dependent on world affairs. While I have visited other countries before, my inability to speak the parent language never allowed me to reach this realization. I also gained an increased understanding of myself through being on my own in a foreign country and learning to navigate in unfamiliar territory.

Lake Tekapo Top of Christchurch Lake Tekapo Lake Tekapo View of Littleton Castle Hill Cardboard CathedralWhile I was living with my host family, we would sit together and watch the nightly news. Through this simple activity I realized how filtered the news in the United States is. In New Zealand, the news contains stories from all over the world from a fairly unbiased perspective. In the U.S. however, the news is always very U.S. centric with the majority of it focusing on politics. International news focuses on where our political figures have traveled and where the U.S. is monetarily involved. It is also heavily tinged with a U.S. centric outlook on every story: we are never wrong, it’s always another country’s fault. I had never really thought about it before I was sitting in my host family’s living room watching with them. They would often ask me questions about the political affairs going on in the U.S., frequently asking about my opinion on Donald Trump. I realized that they were vested in the outcomes of U.S. politics and policy because it could drastically affect the economy and stability of their own country, much like the rest of the world. I hadn’t realized how much smaller countries were attuned to world affairs, but they need to be because their livelihood depends on their trading partners. For example, on a visit to a New Zealand sheep farm I learned that as a main export, sheep meat and wool is an important part of New Zealand’s economy and culture. We learned how the farmers use each part of the sheep for different products which allowed me to see the role that New Zealand plays in the world economy as well as how their economy functions. I found it interesting to learn that lamb meat in New Zealand is actually quite expensive despite there being more sheep than people. This is because the farmer can bring in more money selling the meat and other byproducts to other countries, putting New Zealand firmly into world trade. The U.S. is not as easily swayed by the fluctuations in the global economy, but New Zealand relies on the stablity of their global trading partners. Despite the fact that we are not as easily affected by world events, I find that the U.S. should pay more attention to what its actions do to the rest of the world instead of allowing the important stories to be buried under a sea of media fluff.

I also found out about myself as a person on this trip. Being in a foreign country where I had to figure out public transportation by myself and discover things to do and proper and improper ways to do things required me to get outside of my comfort zone and ask locals for help and guidance. For example, one of the biggest problems that I had while in New Zealand was orienting myself in order to get from point A to point B. It is not necessarily that I did not foresee this as an issue, rather that it proved to be more of a challenge than I expected. As the digital generation, we have all grown up with smart phones and computers that can tell us directions instantaneously. In New Zealand we were not always able to use the devices we have relied on since our parents stopped collecting and delivering us from place to place because we needed to have internet to use our cell phones. My first experience with having to figure out how to get to where I needed to go was on our second day in New Zealand when we were left to get home from the bus exchange. At the exchange I saw that the two buses that I would normally take to get to university didn’t run through the main exchange which meant that I needed to figure out which lines to take. I picked up one of the maps that showed all the lines, but the main problem I had was that having been in the country less than 36 hours, I had no idea where my house was on the map.

So long story short, I spent 15 minutes trying to find the name of my street on the map. Once I did that I figured out that I had to take two buses and proceeded to find the blue line bus at the terminal. It took me about 10 minutes on the bus to realize that I had no clue where I was and that there was nothing on the bus telling me what stop I was at. When I looked at the map, it also didn’t show the location of every single stop. Not only didn’t I know where I was, I also didn’t know what stop would be close to where I needed to go. So in a panic, I sucked up my pride and in a very un-American fashion asked the lady sitting next to me if she knew what stop we had just stopped at. She didn’t, but then she asked me where I was trying to go, so I told her and she told me that I wanted to get off when the bus starts to turn to the right. I thanked her, but I was still nervous that I wouldn’t know what that meant until it was too late. Being that my American accent was really evident and having just heard my conversation with my neighbor, a couple of curious passengers piped up to ask me some questions. One gentleman told me that he was getting off where I needed to and to just follow him out. That was when the bus driver chimed in to ask exactly what street I was trying to get to.

After I relayed the information for the third time, she told me that she would tell me when to get off. This was a totally new experience; I had never seen people go to such lengths to help someone lost in the States. Surely enough, the bus driver stopped the bus for me when it was my time to get off. Then I was faced with my next problem: which side of the street to stand on? Of course I picked the wrong side and took the bus in the wrong direction, but I realized it quickly and got off to switch sides. Even with all that, it took less than an hour for me to get home. After reflecting on situations like this one, I have realized that the number one thing to being successful in exploring a new country is to ask the locals. Experiences like these made me realize that I am well equipped with ways to problem solve. Also traveling in a large group where none of us were familiar with the country was a lesson in coordination and how to “go with the flow,” something I have never been very good at but nonetheless tried to embrace on this trip and since then.

My trip to New Zealand provided me with important realizations and experiences that are relevant in my personal life and my future professional life. As a visual communications designer, I have the skills and ability to reach a large number of people with the things that I can create and in the future, I will have a job that will put me on an even larger platform to be able to do that. However, the things that I design and promote need to be globally conscious as companies never operate in a vacuum these days and large companies are becoming increasingly global. In addition, I need to be aware of world affairs to ensure that the things that I design will be ethical. I also learned how to operate in a large team of people and how to learn to be aware of others’ strengths and weakness and leverage them for the group’s greater benefit.