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

Francophone Africa: Between Tradition & Modernity


This summer—specifically for thirty-four days during May and June—I studied in Dakar, Senegal, as a part of the Francophone Africa: Between Tradition and Modernity Education Abroad program at The Ohio State University. Delving into topics ranging from West African hip-hop and art to the study of decolonization, religion and history, our classes were diverse and challenging, and not to mention almost exclusively taught in French or Wolof. Moreover, I had the opportunity to explore many of the major cities in Senegal, learning about cultural and religious mixture in the country, in addition to learning alongside Senegalese university students.


This video encapsulates a considerable portion of our program; made by Laine Monsey, used with permission.




Although the program was just under six weeks in length, my STEP Signature Project significantly molded my worldview and myself in general, perhaps in a way that was much greater than anticipated. I knew that I would love the program; I had been talking to the Program Director, Dr. Cheikh Thiam, Associate Professor of French, since my first semester at Ohio State about how incredible the experience sounded. This personal transformation took place from the moment we approached the Dakar airport, sailing high above the Atlantic, to the moment we touched down at Port Columbus at the very end of the trip. Much of this transformation occurred in the classroom and my daily life with my host family. Learning about the varied and important issues in Senegal alongside Senegalese student peers was an experience that is difficult to put into words. Every single second was spent learning. During our first visit to l’Univerisité de Cheikh Anta Diop and our peer group’s dorm, we casually sat on the floor, talking, eating some fresh fruit and nuts, and scrolling on our phones. Oddly, at one point, I looked up and scanned the room and just felt so at home, so welcome, and I sat in awe at just how the experience was profoundly mundane, yet still decidedly special.

At that moment, I thought about how painstakingly similar this instant was to so many older memories of living in a dorm in Columbus, yet at the same time, everything still remained fundamentally different. For instance, one of our friends was praying in the corner, as 90% of Senegalese people practice Islam, and the dorm room housed six students in the space of a typical double at Ohio State. I will never forget that moment; the sun beaming into the cream-colored room, accompanied by a warm coastal breeze. It was pure bliss. From my interactions with my now friends in Senegal, I learned that collaboration and camaraderie can be two of the most powerful tools for understanding, not only in a cross-cultural sense, but also on a deeper, more personal level. In fact, I still frequently email, Snapchat, and interact with my friends in Senegal. My worldview has shaped to be more compassionate and appreciative for every person on this planet, and I am hopeful that our world, which is too often divisive and stricken with doubt, could become as serene and pleasant as that quiet dorm room. In addition, simply going home to my host family each evening and talking with them about my studies and my personal experiences transformed my perceptions of family, kinship and openness. La Téranga sénégalaise, or Senegalese hospitality, was a hallmark of my experience. Whether it was at the round oak kitchen table at my host family’s home or at a roadside mango stand in the countryside, I always felt welcome. I thought about how immensely different this idea is in the United States and American universities. The importance of family, friends and cordiality in Senegal was something that I will always look back upon as another thing that positively molded my personality and worldview after have completing the program.

In addition to my interpersonal relationships and experiences that help shape myself and my perceptions of traveling and the world, the lectures and discussion from our classes led to my personal transformation. For instance, we spent an entire week in class discovering the unique, peaceful métissage, or mixture, of cultures and religions in Senegal. In the country, which is predominantly Muslim, both Islam and Catholicism are not only tolerated, but celebrated. One of the most moving experiences during our weekend excursions to other cities was when we visited a cemetery with both Christians and Muslims, a very unusual occurrence. After our class discourse and writing two essays on this topic, I truly value this aspect of Senegalese culture, and I think that the world could learn a valuable lesson from the religious acceptance of all people in Senegal. In the United States, for example, Islamophobia and religious discrimination have gravely become too commonplace and putative. Living and learning in Senegal was so transformational in this respect because the mutual understanding and acceptance was so unlike my experiences at Ohio State or in America in general. It was a breath of fresh air, a hopeful goal for a future long overdue. In order to eradicate injustice and promote love, nations and individuals alike will need to have the courage to celebrate the diversity among the population and not resort to divisiveness, bitterness and resentment.

Another section of our intriguing and diverse study encompassed Senegalese hip-hop and rap music, especially how it is being used as a vehicle for political action and social change in Senegal. This was perhaps my favorite unit of our study. Learning the modern-day manifestations and implications of hip-hop culture and art in Senegal as compared to hip-hop in the United States reinforced the importance of expression and the power of the voice of the people to change. Our professor, Dr. Thiam, is fortunate enough to have several high-profile connections in the greater Dakar region, and we heard lectures from top hip-hop scholars in the country and met some of the most talented spoken-word artists as well. The power of the written word has always been something that has interested me. Another layer of this concept is the language in which the artwork is written and performed. Some artists exclusively use their native tongue, Wolof for example, while others use French or English as a means to reach a wider audience with their words, which was something I had never reflected upon, in addition to art’s place in decolonization studies. Some of my fondest memories with my host brother are when we bonded over hip-hop music and went to a rap concert at l’Univerisité de Cheikh Anta Diop, and I am eternally grateful to the Francophone Africa Education Abroad program for this aspect of my transformation.

 A Senegalese spoken-word duo performs in our classroom.


These few specific experiences, along with all of the other moments of the program, have contributed to this transformational shift in my worldview towards being more understanding and grateful for people, places, art and history. The more I reflect on my time in Senegal, the more I want to return in the future, in addition to recognizing the gravity of my transformation. In Senegal, we visited countless artist communities and galleries as a part of the Dak’Art Biennale, or biannual African arts festival that is centered in Dakar, and talked to the artists themselves and toured their private homes and studio spaces. From this experience, I have a reaffirmed impo
rtance of interpersonal interactions and understanding. For instance, when I go to my local farmer’s market nowadays, I make a special effort to talk to the farmers who are there, asking them questions, learning from them, and actively making an effort to connect. I sometimes catch myself thinking about meandering through a small coastal art collective in Dakar and how such small interactions from strangers can change your life, or another’s, forever and for good.


My transformational experiences in Senegal, which lead to this change to a more grateful, appreciative, understanding, and connection-focused worldview, is incalculably valuable in my life, both personally and professionally. In the near future, I am going to be applying for medical school to pursue a career in (hopefully) emergency medicine and perhaps work with Médecins Sans Frontières in areas of violence or lack of access to medical care. My newly transformed grasp on the importance of hospitality, cross-cultural encounters, gratitude and acceptance will surely be beneficial to my career path as a physician in every way possible, from treating and understanding patient’s circumstances to working collaboratively on a team. Even utilizing my French knowledge and having learned and used some basic Wolof, the communication skills I developed in this program will be valuable for my entire life in general, not just as it pertains to my career aspirations.

Wrapping up the STEP and Francophone Africa program, I have emerged a changed person: a more informed, compassionate, curious, thoughtful and positive citizen. The lessons that I learned, similar to my myriad fond memories of the Francophone Africa program, will be woven into the fabric of my soul for my entire life. Finally, I can only hope to use this first education abroad experience to further catalyze my yearning for understanding and connection with others, as well as my courage to step out of my comfort zone in order to continue to have these dynamic, transformational experiences.

SU16 CLAS 2798.02 – ByzConstpleInstbul (16564) STUDY ABROAD MAY SESSION

Greece Powerpoint

step-reflection-prompx WORD DOC

step-reflection-promptsts PDF FILE

Name: William Hoffman


Type of Project: Travel Abroad


During the summer of 2016, specifically the May Session, I was enrolled in CLAS 2798.02 – ByzConstpleInstbul (16564). During this class I traveled abroad to Greece and explored the country with Professor Anthony Kaldellis who taught me to look at things on a deeper level in an exploration of the truth. This exploration of the truth through history and fact finding yielded to be an insightful journey.


During my Step Signature Project, I found myself immersed in a different culture and effectively a different mindset. I was no longer confined to my roots in Ohio or in the United States for that matter. I was a part of a completely different tree. So naturally I wanted to explore how this culture and effectively this nation came to be. That is where my classwork provided me means to try and answer my curiosity. Each text contained a different key to understanding my world around me, showing the origins of the countries mindset. Much in the same sense as Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin shaped the national identity of the United States through literature. The past works, artistic, literature, or otherwise shaped the national identity of Greece.

This understanding of how past determines future is immensely interesting, however combining this knowledge with a pursuit of the truth yielded an even more interesting worldview. When you focus on finding the truth you begin to notice how nations emphasize certain aspects of their past to gain footing in the presence, even at the expense of hiding much of their past as well. This can be seen by the toppling of churches and mosques, as well as their minarets, from the top of the Acropolis. This was done to purify the site in the name of the national identity which would be tarnished by the continued standing of any other religion other than paganism atop the Acropolis. This is just one example of how the bleaching of the past effects the present, many more exist.


There are numerous experiences I can pull from that solidified my transformation during my STEP Signature Project. One chief experience I pull from is that of the Acropolis. This is possibly the greatest monument in all of Greece and it is deserving of the title as the national monument. It serves as a homage to paganism and the trialed past that the country has been through: the Acropolis exploded during the Venetian war, had multiple churches erected, and mosque built on the site who adopted the structure for their own purposes. The meaning this site had on my transformation was that it showed what happens when a site has been imbued with multiple different meanings: it creates a black hole of meaning. The present can then alter the site to have whatever meaning it deems important.

In addition to the Acropolis there is the Mycenae site: The Tomb of Agamemnon. This burial site was the richest grave site in all of Greece. The real ebbing of the truth can be found in the fact of who discovered the site. Schliemann was the self-proclaimed archaeologist who used Homer’s Iliad to find the site. Many question if the site is actually real because Schliemann was untrustworthy and could have planted the gold. Interestingly enough, Nestor’s Cup (King of Pylos) was found at the site. This brings into question the truthfulness of those books ancient such as that of the Odyssey and the Iliad alike.

A site that I found particularly interesting is the Agora in Athens. This site has meaning in the sense it was the location of Pericles Funeral Oration, the site of multiple wars, and the market and temples on the site surround the Acropolis and would have been used in times of ancient. The Columns of the site have been mined of their lead to make bullets during times of war. Pericles gave one of the greatest orations at the end of the first year of the Peloponnesian War. This site holds three unique truths that gives unique meaning to the location.



This change is extremely valuable because it fuels my search for the truth. In part of this trip I have decided to go to Law School. I want to continue to practice in the ancient art of rhetoric and oration as many of the great philosophers of Greece did. I get to construct the truth of an issue much like the truths are constructed around sites. I also am presented with an opportunity in this field to use logic and reason to look beyond the surface level of issues and search of their intrinsic motivations.