Animal and Human Interactions Study Abroad to New Zealand


For my STEP signature project, I was given the opportunity to travel abroad to New Zealand through the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, where I studied animal and human interactions. Each day our group would tour various types production animal farms to compare the differences between how farming is done in New Zealand versus how farming is approached in The United States.

While abroad I came across many emotions. The first being the sheer beauty of the country that is New Zealand. It was absolutely breathtaking to be surrounded by the green grass outstretched for miles in front of you. I was also struck by both the similarities and differences between the United States and New Zealand. I appreciated the way New Zealand approaches farming, and would be lying if I said that that country of New Zealand is behind us in terms of sustainability. However, it was also during the time that I was admiring their country, that I also truly began to appreciate what I have been given at home. Throughout the trip I was constantly looking for interactions, similarities and differences, so much so that I almost forgot to take the entire country for what it was: breathtaking. After returning home, I am more inclined to look at problems or road blocks in front of me a certain way, I am able to truly apply what I have learned from the people in the country of New Zealand in my section of the world. 

Each day our group would visit two or three stops based on a type of production animal. For example, one day we visited a salmon hatchery, a dairy farm and were able to witness a sheep shearing show. Every day for ten days we were given the amazing opportunity to leave our normal classroom setting and get out in the real world to study what we had previously learned on slides. That was one of the most important aspects of this trip for myself, so I would also suggest this was where I noticed the most change in myself. It was during our trips outside the classroom that I was able to interact with the locals in New Zealand, learn of the Maori culture and really dive into all of the culture that surrounded me.

While participating in the pre-requisite class at school was informative and also enjoyable, because we did get to leave the classroom and experience what we were learning firsthand, when were in another country the experience was even more enhanced. One of my favorite parts of my trip was when we learned about the Maori culture. On our first night in the country we ate dinner in Rotorua, a town where the Maori people of New Zealand have a village. In this town we had the chance to experience a Maori traditional dinner with all of their traditional food, a dance and other culture rituals they participate in. This was when I was truly able to immerse myself into their culture and know that I was experiencing something unique, something I would now have the chance to experience again.

I believe the final thing that rreally allowed for a transformational change to occur within me might have been the relationships with the people I had on this trip. Our group was smaller- only about 29 people. We got to know each other pretty quickly since we were always around one another. Prior to departing, I was hesitant about this, because I was worried I would not be able to make friends. However, it is with the people on this trip that I am still talking to know, after having returned about a month ago. I am amazed how close traveling together brought us. I have been able to look to them for questions and have talked through the returning process with them too- how to get back into the swing of things after returning from the most amazing trip of your life. I had such an amazing experience with them, that lead to both change within my heart and mind, of which I will be able to use in the near and distant future.

I believe this change is relevant to me because before leaving for this trip I was at a point in the semester that really took a tole on me. I noticed I was constantly stressed, not enjoying what I was doing, and merely just living. Since returning, I have noticed I am different. I am more engaged in what I am doing, and truly enjoying what I have going on. I feel as if I am more focused this semester on my classes and will now be able to utilize what I learned in New Zealand in other Animal Sciences classes I have yet to take. I was given the most amazing opportunity to experience these animals and techniques first-hand. I know have something to base my knowledge off of and am truly able to understand why studying abroad is something that every student at our school should have the opportunity to do. If it would not have been for this wonderful program, I would not have had the opportunity to attend, and I will forever be grateful for this opportunity that I was given- the chance to experience something beyond myself and cause a true change within me. beyond myself and cause a true change within me.

Studying at WHU: A Truly Transformational Experience


For my STEP transformational experience, I studied abroad autumn semester of 2016 in Germany.  This was a program through Fisher College of Business’s Office of Global Business, where I was an exchange student at the WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management in Vallendar, Germany for the entire semester taking business and German language classes.  Being a solely business-focused institution I was able to hone in on my passion for business alongside students from all over the world.

When I used to picture myself studying abroad, I anticipated that I would eventually adjust and have wonderful adventures, but only a few weeks of a lot of fear and culture shock.  Yes, I had a bit of that the first few weeks living in Germany, but with the help of my fellow exchange students and German friends it was much smoother than I anticipated. The first lesson I learned was to use my network, and to not be afraid to ask for help.  Months leading up to my departure, I started reaching out to friends who either live in Germany currently or spent some time there, even if I hadn’t spoken to them in some time.  After some digging I even found out that my friend Dominic who was an exchange student at my high school currently attends WHU (Crazy coincidence!).  In other cases, I had friends who heard I was going to Germany and contacted me.  Talking to people with experience was the best preparation I could have had, from learning more about WHU, to simple things like how to navigate the grocery store.  By putting in the effort to meet German students at my university I also felt much more integrated, and they helped me along the way as well.  There were many situations, from figuring out my mail to needing to call Deutsche Bahn using German, where I was able to recruit some of my kind German friends to help me.  I used to see my study abroad semester as much more of an independent and often lonely experience, but this was certainly not the case!  I met so many wonderful people from all over the world, and we helped each other in so many ways in addition to our wonderful traveling adventures together.

A unique aspect of WHU that I was able to take part in at WHU are company presentations.  Just about every week a different company came and offered a presentation and networking dinner.  Many of these presentations were in German, but I was able to attend the Oliver Wyman (a consulting firm) company presentation which was in English.  During the networking dinner I had conversations with representatives from the company (many of them being graduates of WHU) and I enjoyed how casual and honest the conversations seemed.  Often times I find these sort of encounters to be quite scripted, but when it came to events at WHU it was not at all the case.


To be honest, consulting was not something I seriously considered before coming to WHU.  But due to the fact that a large percentage of WHU students enter that sector after graduation, there was a huge consulting firm presence on campus.  Through talking to firms at both company presentations and the career fair I started to realize that it really might be a great fit for me.  I’m now quite excited about the idea, and it’s amazing to think that had I not gone abroad for a semester at WHU I may not have explored this option.  It may be due to the fact that I stepped back a bit from my normal life in the US allowing me more space to think about what I actually want after graduation, or simply because there’s a huge push towards consulting there, but either way I’m very pleased about this! Even though I was away from Ohio State, I still interviewed and was accepted to the Fisher Emerging Consultants class next semester, and am excited to continue exploring this option.


Beyond the university-sanctioned events, attending an exclusively business institution also had its benefits.  I thoroughly enjoy the fact that Ohio State has a plethora of majors available, with that comes such a diverse student population in terms of talents and perspectives.  But there’s also something to be said for WHU, where you could talk about business internships, aspirations, and issues with everyone you met.  There was certainly a unique drive and ambitious character to WHU students when it came to business.  Never before had I been in a room with 4 other young college students, speculating over dinner about the future of the labor market as digitalization improves.  To be around those students was truly inspiring! Additionally, the exchange student population was comprised of business students from top-notched business schools across the globe, so there was such a diverse set of backgrounds and business perspectives represented.  My network definitely became much larger and more international while abroad!


Moving forward, I can see myself having a much more open mind when approaching problems or interacting with people different from myself, and have seen myself become much more flexible and calm under pressure.  These were essential qualities to have when traveling and living in an unfamiliar environment for four months, qualities that I definitely didn’t consider myself having before leaving the country. Additionally, I was able to face so many of my fears while I was abroad.  From living far away from my family to traveling alone, I certainly have so many crazy stories to tell. But now that I’ve survived many of my greatest fears, what do I have to be afraid of anymore? Fears that used to hold me back in so many ways have now lost much of their validity, giving me such a freeing feeling as I know I will face many more challenges in the coming transitional years.

So yes, it’s safe to say that I was able to travel and have a ton of fun while abroad.  That’s to be expected, but my time there became much more valuable than simply bragging rights due to places I’ve traveled and something to stick on my resume, hoping that companies will see that I have an “international perspective”. I truly learned so much, both personally and professionally.


If you’re interested in hearing more about my time abroad, check out my blogs with the Office of Global Business:


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.