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:


Finding Yourself in a Foreign Country

Jonathan Wallace

Study Abroad

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

My STEP Signature Project was a Study Abroad in Italy. The Architecture course I was in Italy to study focused on the urban shifting, emerging ecologies, and architectural overlaying of Rome through the past few millenniums. Although there was so much historical information given, the primary focus was on quick sketching and diagramming to graphically communicate what we were hearing and seeing.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

Before leaving for the Study Abroad I was expecting my experience to be all enjoyable, educational and easy. My biggest worry in anticipation to the trip was that something would go wrong, and I wouldn’t have anyone there to help me. I expected my transformation to be in my knowledge, skill, and understanding of Rome and the Italian culture. Although I definitely learned a lot about Roman History and my drawing ability’s became much better, my biggest change or transformation came unexpectedly.

Because of my history with mental illness I am a people person, and as I am a Christian, I envelope myself in the church community, and I love it. I have always had a group of close friends in my life to go to when I am anxious or depressed, but during my time in Italy, I had to face these challenges alone. Since the other students in the Rome Program participated in activities I did not want to immerse myself in, I began to separate myself from the group. During this time in isolation I solely depended on God to get me through the loneliness. In my five weeks in Italy I became very independent. I went on several trips outside of Rome on my own, and became comfortable spending time by myself, whereas before the trip I couldn’t have anticipated going anywhere without the group. Despite being away from the church and Christian community, my dependence on God, and the time of reflection and prayer I had in the hundreds of Roman churches led to unanticipated spiritual growth on the trip as well.

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

The primary components that led to this transformation were the distance, the relationships, and the time of the Signature Project. Even before departure I was worried about being away from home for so long without anyone that I knew very well. I thought that the beauty and excitement of living in a new place would be enough to just make friends with everyone, and get by.

Growing up in a conservative Christian household, I have a set of morals that influence all of my decisions and the people I hang out with. Despite the stereotypes of college students, Ohio State offers so many different communities that I was able to find a place that I didn’t need to adjust my morals. However, being one of the youngest students on this trip, and being away from the Christian community I had at campus, I was surrounded by the party scene which I had managed to avoid back at campus.

At first I went out with my peers to a club, but I didn’t want to waste money on alcohol, and I don’t believe in getting drunk, and at the end of the night I just hadn’t enjoyed myself so I didn’t go out with them again. I still would talk to everybody in class, and on the weekends when some of us would travel together, like to Florence, Venice, and Milan. But during my time spent with them I just did not feel like I belonged.

So by the third week I began Isolating myself. After class I would go home and cook by myself, and stay in my room all night. After a couple days of this I spent a lot of time in prayer, and I felt compelled to just do what I wanted. I wanted to go see Pompeii and Naples so I just did it. I wasn’t going to let other people influence what I wanted to do. I was only going to be in Italy for a couple more weeks, I needed to get the most out of it, even if that means I’m exploring by myself. So it was the lack of relationships for an extended period which actually is what caused this transformation.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

It reassured me that I am in the right community back on campus, and I am on the right path for my life and my future. It also made me grow up a lot. My entire life I have been dependent on other people. Growing up I relied on my parents to provide for me, I relied on my friends for my happiness, and I relied on community to help me overcome my problems. But during my STEP Signature Project I became Independent, something even more valuable to success than knowledge or skill. Instead of looking to others for my belonging or happiness, I learned I can be content and successful on my own. I also think that independence is important in growing up, because I can’t always rely on others for my needs.

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