Corfu, Greece – May 2018

Name: Meredith Guggenheim
Type of Project: Education Abroad

For my STEP Project, I traveled to the island of Corfu, Greece with an Ohio State Education Abroad Program in May 2018. I participated in a four-week history course through Ohio State at Ionian University, Introduction to the Western Tradition and Contemporary Issues: from Ancient Greece to Global Present. I was able to learn about Greek culture while connecting with local individuals as well as fellow Ohio State Students on my trip.

I believe I have a better understanding of myself and a better understanding of how I interact with the surrounding environment from the experiences that composed my Education Abroad trip. I have always enjoyed and appreciated traveling. On my trip, I learned how to manage to take a class and balance my time abroad. It was enriching to learn about Greek and World history while living in Greece. I adapted to the lifestyle of a traveling student. While learning and experiencing, I felt reminded of the importance of enjoying and living in the moment. The transformations that took place within me have made me more open-minded and accepting human being.

Directly from the course, I learned much about Greece’s development throughout history and its modern position in relation to the world. Our course coordinators were very helpful along our educational journey. Every two days or so, a different professor from Ionian University, or from another University in Greece or Europe, would travel to Corfu to teach us. It was wonderful to learn from individuals who are greatly passionate about their respective subjects. I felt so special as a student to not only learn about history and see it firsthand at different historical sites and museums. Cultures develop over time and with history. I loved being able to learn the history and see how Corfu and Greece have developed in response to it.

As a student abroad, I made it my purpose to take it all in. I pushed myself to do and see as much as possible. Living in one place on the island was a blessing. My Ohio State peers and I were able to get to know and connect with island locals, becoming especially familiar with the owners and employees of our favorite restaurant and gelato locations. Building relationships with the people of Corfu has excited me about the enrichment that comes from new relationships.

Although travel may appear glamorous, it is not always easy. Struggle and frustration are often nearby. Admittedly, it was challenging to live abroad for an entire month. I often missed my family and friends and desired the familiarities of Ohio. I had to learn to adjust and accept. My time in Corfu taught me patience. It taught me to be grateful for imperfections that each day brought and to be more flexible. In these life lessons, I grew. I gained an appreciation of the vulnerability of living in the moment, and to find happiness. As abstract as it may seem, my education abroad experiences taught me to be joyful.

My education abroad experience was timely after a difficult spring semester. I will cherish all that I learned while studying abroad. Regarding academics, I have grown to be more responsible relative to time management. I have developed lifelong friendships with the Ohio State students who I traveled with. I will use my new appreciation for everyday moments to motivate myself and remain humble. The world is a magical place, and there is always something to be learned.

Global May Paris

My STEP Signature Project was a study abroad trip to Paris for two weeks. While in Paris I explored the extensive history of the city by visiting important historical sites. At these sites I was able to gain a greater understanding of their historical and cultural significance in the shaping of the Parisian landscape.

I learned a lot about myself and about traveling abroad during this project. I consider myself a fairly reserved and quiet person, so this trip was a challenge for me to step out of my comfort zone. The main thing I learned about myself while on this trip was that I have the ability to step out of that zone and explore the culture and history of other countries. I do not believe this trip would have been nearly as transformational and fun as it was if I had not learned how to branch out into the world a little more than I was used to. This experience has given me the courage to explore more opportunities like this one to continue to broaden my understanding of the world.

Another thing I learned while in Paris was that cities are not what they are displayed as in pictures and articles. Often what we imagine a city to be before we travel there is something much different. Although I had a great time and transformational experience completing this project, I learned that Paris is a city that has flaws just like any other. I have learned not to make assumptions about cities because they can be much more, or less, than they appear to be.

One of the biggest things about my STEP Signature Project that caused me to step out of my comfort zone was the days where we had free time while in Paris. On these days we were left to find our own things to do and explore the city how we wanted. This was something I was not incredibly used to, but I found a group of people that I had never known before the trip, and we all explored the city together. I think this experience having my own way of learning about the city and its culture was incredibly transformational and allowed me to leave that comfort zone, something I was not comfortable doing in the past. The people I hung out with challenged me to go places and do things I may have never had the opportunity to otherwise, and I will be grateful for that for a long time.

The experiences which lead to me approaching cities with an open mind were ones involving people and places. While in Paris, we took the metro, the Parisian subway, everywhere. It was truly the easiest way to get around the city. However, the subway in Paris was very interesting, and we were warned ahead of time to be aware of our belongings and wary of other passengers. This side of Paris was one that I had never seen or heard about before, so getting to experience it firsthand really changed my perspective of the city a bit. It also made me realize that every city has its ugly side, even though Paris had always been made out to be nothing but beautiful. Despite the experiences on the metro, however, I also met a lot of people that showed me how beautiful Paris is. Often at the museums and places we went the group had a tour guide that would provide us with information on the landmarks and important things to notice. I learned a lot from these people and they really opened my eyes to things that I would never have known about, some things that you just cannot read about.

These experiences have really shaped my outlook on what I personally can do in life. I learned that I have the ability to step out of my comfort zone, even though at times it feels difficult and terrifying. We all have the ability to do things we never imagined we could do, and I think this STEP Signature Project has really increased the belief I have in myself for achieving everything I want out of life. Life does not come easily, we have to work for it and do things that may seem impossible, but we are completely capable of doing.

I also learned that I can’t take everyone’s opinions to heart about places. I have to make my own decisions for myself on what I think a city is like or a landmark or an activity. Sometimes people have their own ideas about things that in their mind are the whole truth, but I think it is important for us to seek our own truth about the world and cultures of other countries. I have come from this STEP Signature Project transformed into someone who takes more time to consider a country and a culture from a different perspective instead of making quick assumptions about the livelihood that people hold dearly.

These changes that I have experienced due to my STEP Signature Project will guide my decisions for the rest of my life. It is incredibly important to be aware and understanding of other cultures and people from other countries. Experiencing another culture firsthand has allowed me to gain a more knowledge on how to be more understanding of these countries and people. These skills are key to my future career goals. In any professional setting, having the ability to connect with those from different backgrounds as my own will be crucial to my success. As for my last year at Ohio State, these skills will also help contribute to my success as a student and a peer. I will be better able to discuss and communicate with my fellow students thanks to this transformational STEP Signature Project.

Global May Paris



My STEP Signature Project was an education abroad opportunity through the Office of International Affairs on the Global May Paris program. Through weekly lectures in the classroom during the Spring Semester on campus and a two-week long immersion in the city itself, we learned how each neighborhood and it’s context in history shaped Paris into what it is today.

Before embarking on this trip, I lived a very comfortable life in which I lived in the same town, interacted with the same people, and took part in my usual activities. I had never been on a plane, let alone to another country. The thought of being in a foreign place with people I did not know was both exciting and terrifying, but I would not have experienced a transformation had it not been for these circumstances. I am much more confident in myself and my decisions now, whether it be something as simple as trying a new food or navigating a subway system in a language unknown to me. In addition, my view of France is completely different than the assumptions I had made before going. Despite what I had learned in high school history classes, I expected Paris to be a very one dimensional city filled with fair skinned people who only spoke French, but boy was I wrong. Paris is an international melting pot, consisting of every skin tone, language, and cuisine you could imagine. I was disappointed in myself for making these assumptions, but was thrilled with the amount of culture I was exposed to.

Several events and places caused this transformation within me. Unfortunately during our trip, there was an attack which caused protests within the city. While a lot of what I read and saw was upsetting, it showed to me that certain attitudes and viewpoints exist, regardless of which continent you are on.

On a more positive note, visiting the Trocadero gardens, which have the most amazing view of the Eiffel Tower became a ritual for us. My friends and I went there at least 5 times, both day and night, just to take in one of the most beautiful and universally recognized sites in the world. While relaxing there, it is hard to ignore the differences in everyone around you. You see the French couple on a date, the families with their young children running around, and us loud Americans laughing and having the time of our lives. It was moments like this where I truly appreciated how big and diverse our world is, and it only made me want to see more. In addition, we had an assignment in which we were instructed to sit in a café and write down everything we observe, stream of consciousness style. Paris café culture is quintessential in understanding the way of life, and it made me appreciate the pace and ease in which they approach their day to day activities. Food is meant to be enjoyed and your company is meant to be listened to. It taught me to slow down and enjoy the little things, and to not live such a hurried and chaotic life, much different than the ones that we embrace in the US.

With the transformation I experienced on this trip, I will go into my future career of Speech-Language Pathology with a greater appreciation of cultural and linguistic differences, which will in turn allow myself to provide the best care possible for the wide array of patients I will encounter and care for. Beyond that, my eyes have been opened to how much more of the world there is to see, and has pushed me to want to see all that I can. It is now a priority of mine to keep pushing these boundaries and immerse myself in farther places and cultures much different than my own, allowing myself to become the most well-rounded person I can be.

STEP Reflection- Operations Global Lab China

My STEP project was to participate in the Operation Global Lab in China with the Fisher School of Business.  The trip consisted of meeting with industries across many different industries to understand how the companies operate on a global scale.  The trip involved spending one week in Hong Kong, three days in Shanghai and three days in Beijing.

China was a very special place and I can say I have definitely changed after being there.  Being in a country that is so different from your own can be very scary and overwhelming.  There were a few times where I felt lost.  I had to learn to overcome this feeling and to be able to navigate my way through this foreign land.  I always knew that China was a different place but after spending time there, you learn that a lot of it is the same.  I had always assumed that Chinese people would hate Americans but the people we encountered were very welcoming and friendly.  We had a few instances where local people would come up to us to take pictures to send to their friends and families.

I was also under the impression that the technology we came across would be very similar to that in the United States.  I can honestly say that I was surprised to find out how much more technologically advanced China was from the US.  The technology that was readily available to the mass public is technology that is still limited to corporate use in the US.

One experience that sticks out to me about interacting with the locals would be a stop we made in Beijing.  We stopped at a mall for free time on the way back from one of our business meetings.  A couple of us decided to find a restaurant to eat at.  When we got inside we found out that the menu had no English on it.  I began to panic a bit because I realized that this was going to be extremely hard to try and get lunch.  The workers in the restaurant recognized this as well and we could see the concerning looks on their faces.  Never the less I tried to use google translate to order beef.  We found out quickly that even google translate has its troubles.  The workers thought I was trying to order a whole cow and they were on their phones translating back that they don’t serve whole cows.  Our table started to laugh realizing that the language barrier was going to be too hard to break.  We opted to leave the restaurant after a few laughs with the workers and would up finding a restaurant with English on the menu.  Not once did the workers get mad at us or try to kick us out.  They tried their hardest to work with our group.  I appreciated this because in the US I can’t say that the same would have happened in the reverse situation.

An experience that sticks out to me about the advanced technology in the country would be the major use of RFID readers.  An RFID reader is a technology that allows for tap-and-go transactions.  Every transportation system we used in each city used RFID readers.  Whether it was the subway, the bus, the tram or even the ferry, each method of transportation was accessible from the tap-and-go metro cards.  I have never seen anything like this.  Being from New York, I am used to having to swipe the metro card in order to use the subway.  I know that the tap-and-go technology is being tested in some parts of the US, but I found that this technology was available in most parts of China.  This made me angry at first as to why china would be so far ahead, but also happy to know that this technology is proven and can soon be implemented in the US.

Another experience with advanced technology in the country would be the use of mobile phones for payments.  One of the toughest things to get over was that there is almost nowhere in China that will accept Visa or Master Card as forms of payment.  In the US I, as well as most people, are used to paying for everything with a credit card.  In China this is not the case.  Everybody, and I mean everybody, uses their mobile phone to pay for anything you can think of.  Food, gas, clothing, even transportation is just one phone scan away from being yours.  The main forms of payment are called WeChat Pay or Ali Pay.  Merchants have QR codes that the customer scans to pay for the item they are purchasing.  It is a quick and efficient system that you can’t find in the US.  After seeing this technology, it really hit me how much more advanced China is technology wise.  I hope that we can one day see this technology in the US.

The changes I experience in China were very important to me.  The goal of traveling to China was to learn about a very different culture and to see how that culture fits into the grand scale of global business operations.  I believe that I accomplished this goal.  China plays a major role in the world economy and engineering industry.  I believe that I know have a much better understanding of their role and the culture behind it.  I think this is important because it will give me an edge over other students and industry professionals in my field.  Sooner or later in the engineering world I will have to work with China/Chinese companies and I will be able to outperform my co-workers and give a better experience to my company and the customers I work with.  I also hope to work in China one day and by having this trip under my belt, I feel confident that I can succeed in any role I might have.  China now has a special place in my heart and I know I will be back there in the future.

STEP Reflection

For my STEP signature project, I participated in a Maymester abroad in England and Wales. The program travelled around looking at the history and engineering behind castles and cathedrals. While I learned a lot about the history and importance of these sites, the most valuable experience was living in another culture for a month. Living away from home in a foreign country challenged me to change my views and think in different ways. Even simple actions like making phone calls and getting dinner became more difficult. Without knowing an area well and having limited phone service forced me and other students to explore, wander, and occasionally get lost. Learning to find you way without a crutch I is an important lesson, whether just going to lunch or in life. However, the biggest changes came from conversations with locals and learning about their lives.

I remember one of the most impactful conversations came on the second night of the trip. It was our last night in Salisbury and our group of students found another group of locals around our age at a popular patio restaurant. Talking to people who were in the same stage of life at us let us compare and contrast our lives easily. Learning how college was a less common path and many pursued skilled trade was interesting and a large contrast to most people in the US. Many of the locals also had families which was also very different from young twenty-year old’s in the US. However, except from these minor differences everyone I met there was very similar to us. The commonalities that we all share are much greater than anything that would divide us.

Perhaps one of the subtlest differences was the attitude these cultures took towards their histories. In the US most historical monuments and artifacts are safely preserved behind glass and are to be looked at only. All the sites we visited are preserved as well but you are allowed to climb on castle walls and all of the cathedrals still hold services daily. Additionally, the rest of the communities around these sites are just as old as the sites we visited; they have just evolved over time. As a result, these sites, which could be 900 years old, are interwoven into the culture of everywhere we went. This leads to a much closer relationship with their past than what we have in the sates.

Travelling to both England and Wales also highlighted some of the subtle cultural differences between these two countries. While many people view these as just the same, Wales has resisted English rule for a thousand years and still value its independence, similar to the Scotts to the North. It’s hard to see why in the current day but when you compare the feudal system of the medieval English to the family system of the Welsh it becomes obvious. The English viewed the land as belonging to a select few who allowed peasants to work the land in return for a cut of the profits. The Welsh, however passed on the land to all the sons of their father. To switch from this system to the English way would cause every citizen to lose the land passed down over generations and become little more than slaves to a lord. These people would have spent their entire lives owning their land, which was owned by their parents, grandparents, great grandparents and so on. It would also be their legacy; passed down to their children and their children’s children. To lose all of this and become beholden to an outsider would be unthinkable. These differences still lie under the surface even though our modern world has largely moved beyond this history. Subtle cultural differences and changes like this are difficult to pick up on without experiencing a culture first hand.

Participating in this study abroad broadened my perspective and gave greater context my academics. Studying the castles and cathedrals of England in person showed me how important these feats of engineering where. While I may not be constructing a castle as an engineer in the 21st century the impact of my career can be similar. Understanding the broader picture of my career and how I can be impactful is something I will carry forever.

Europe: An Architectural Experience

Megan Pettner

Education Abroad, European Architectural Studies

For my STEP Signature Project, I participated in a Maymester Study Abroad Program called European Architectural Studies. For the month of May, I travelled through Germany, Netherland, Belgium, France, and Spain, studying both new and old architecture, landscapes, artwork, and the cities themselves. During the trip, I learned how to critically think about architecture while sketching images and diagrams to document what I saw.

Having studied abroad before I was not sure if the travelling would affect me; however, this trip was a month long instead of the ten day long trips I had previously gone on. I definitely noticed myself slowly transforming both personally and academically. Personally, I was becoming a mature adult. While I had already felt like an adult in my third year of college, I became even more responsible and confident during my travels. Taking care of myself in Columbus is one thing, but to survive in foreign countries with different cultures and languages is a whole new level. I had to learn to adapt to anything and be very attentive to what was going on around me. Living in Europe helped me become more independent.

I also began to transform academically while studying the architecture. By researching and discussing the buildings and sites we saw, I began to think more critically about architecture. I deepened my knowledge about different theories and systems that I can now apply to my own work. Studying architecture intensely for a month also made me consider what I want to do after graduation, and has encouraged me to pursue a Master of Architecture degree.

While many aspects of the trip fostered these changes within me, the act of travelling itself had a huge impact on me. Booking my own flight and train to another country was a huge step for me, especially for someone who does not fly often. I was responsible for getting to Cologne, Germany, where the trip would begin. This meant keeping track of my travel documents and making sure my flights were not delayed or cancelled so that I could catch the next flight in my itinerary. I was put to test when one of my flights on my way home got cancelled and I had to maneuver my way home through other unplanned flights.

During the trip, we rode on a coach bus during class time, but during the evenings and free days I used public transportation and taxis. I had to be cautious and aware of my environment, while also learning the public transit systems quickly. Having to learn the systems made me become more independent as I did not have a leader to follow. This really improved my problem-solving skills and tested my common sense.

Every day we would visit a number of buildings, and at each building a student on the trip would give a short five-minute presentation. Before the trip we were each given five buildings or sites to research and document. On the trip, each student would share their knowledge of the building with the entire group. Then we would discuss the architecture as a group. This really tested my critical analysis skills and showed me a deeper look into architecture. I was challenged to think about the aspects of architecture that an average person would not notice with a quick glance. I knew after all of these discussions that I had made the right choice to study architecture, and it fueled me to want to learn even more.

This trip had a huge impact on my thoughts towards my education and future. As I was transformed into a mature adult, I really thought a lot about what I want to do when I graduate next year. Originally, I thought I would take a couple years off and work at an architecture firm to see if architecture is what I really wanted to pursue, but after studying architecture intensely for a month, I know that I want to go right into graduate school and study for a Master of Architecture Degree. My goal for the future when I was applying to undergraduate school was to become a licensed architect one day. This goal has wavered slightly in the last couple of years, but the study abroad program reassured me that I am doing the right thing, and I am going to get that license.

Dunn Scholars – Education Abroad – London 2018

Erin McAlhaney

Study Abroad

This May I had the most incredible opportunity to study abroad for ten days in London where I learned about the history and culture of the city, and also about the foundations of sport in London and Europe. The trip included guided tours of the city in relation to both history of the city as well as the history of the different sports created and played in London. In addition to this, the trip provided tours of the best sporting facilities in London, as well as the opportunity to attend a soccer (or football) match, and a rugby match.

As someone who has participated in a Recreational Sports based study abroad trip previously I wasn’t sure how I was going to change on this trip. I figured I’d build relationships and learn some history, but I ended up with so much more than that. This trip allowed me to examine not only myself as an individual, but also as a student. With my major being sport industry this trip meant a lot to me, as I got to interact with the history I had been taught about in class. In addition to that I was able to analyze the different topics the tour guides talked about using what I had learned in classes these past three year. The ability to compare marketing strategies at Wimbeldon to the marketing strategies at Emirates stadium to the marketing strategies at home was incredibly interesting. This little thing of comparing strategies made me realize how much I have actually learned while at Ohio State and made me confident in my career path, my school work, and myself.


(Me at Wimbeldon. Wimbeldon showed me how different sports have incredibly different marketing and advertising strategies, becuase Wimbeldon pretty much has none! )

This trip also taught me how places are not so different than home, even if they are an ocean away. I was interested to see how London would compare to Columbus, and my home Chicago, when we left for this trip. The only other European country I have visited is Germany, which is different than both London and America, so I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this trip. London provided me with a surprise, that it was very similar to home. I had assumed I would run into more cultural differences between London and The United States, but I didn’t run into nearly as many as I expected. I thought I would feel uncomfortable in a foreign city, but I had never felt more like myself. I said in the other paragraph that London had made me more confident in myself and it truly did. It showed me that it’s not just cities in America that I could thrive in, but rather it is anywhere I want to.

Multiple experiences during this program led to these transformations and feelings. The first would definitely be the tours of the facilities. As I mentioned we were given tours of some of the top facilities of not just the country but of the world. Being able to learn about these facilities and see the importance of them allowed me to use my knowledge to ask and answer questions. This led me to be confident in my knowledge, education, and ability.

The freedom of the trip allowed me to become confident in the city. I was able to walk to coffee shops alone, turn my phone off, and read Harry Potter for two hours while it rained. That experience specifically is one that I will remember forever even though it seems to small. This experience allowed me to be confident in myself as an adult, as someone who could navigate a foreign area, and as someone how takes time to enjoy herself away from a screen. It reminded me that the small things matter, and that sometimes you have to remove yourself from the hustle and bustle that is life, and take time to read and watch the rain. This experience also showed me that the cultural difference I expected where non-existent, as I was not the only one sitting in a cafe and reading. But most importantly it showed me that I can be myself, where ever and whenever I want to be.

The last thing that really stuck out to me was the relationships I built with those on the trip. I have never been ashamed of who I am but I always felt like I am a person who changes to please others, but on this trip I felt like I never had to change who I was. I was confident in being myself around the individuals I was with and they never questioned who I was. I was also confident in myself while I was alone in the city, and no one looked at me as if I didn’t belong or know what I was doing. This specifically helped my confidence in myself grow, something I will appreciate for years to come.

This confidence in myself, my education, and my knowledge matters a lot. At school, and in the world, I have faced a lot of criticism against my major. This includes being told by my friends my field is easy, that I don’t learn anything important, and that those are the only reason I succeed. I would be lying if I said I don’t let those comments get to my head sometimes. But this trip allowed me to apply the things that I have learned in ways I never expected. It showed me that, in the future, I will be successful in what I want to do, and it showed me I am not only learning, but also retaining the things that I learn in class. Even more important than that it showed me that I can apply what I learn to real life situations. This was something I needed in my life. I need that reminder as to why I got involved with sports in the first place; because it forms connections to people across countries and continents, and because it is the one thing I have always felt passionate about.

The Entire Group with the Olympic Rings. It was incredible to see and learn about the facilities and history of the Olympic Games hosted in London. It was also amazing to form connection with the entire group, we will have this bond for the rest of our lives. 

Education Abroad May 2018: London

During the first two weeks in May, I was given the opportunity, with the Dunn Sport and Wellness Scholars Program, to go on an education abroad trip to London, England. The focus of this trip was on the foundations of sport, specifically sports that were developed and have major impacts in the United Kingdom. We went on walking tours of the city and discussed where sports such as rugby and soccer were first established, we were able to tour the grounds of Wimbledon, Olympic Park, and Emirates Stadium, as well as historic sites around the city.

This education abroad trip pushed me in ways I was not expecting, and for that I feel that I was able to grow drastically. This was the first time I had ever been out of the country, so the cultural differences, while not to dramatic, were a bit of a shock to me, and these differences were something I had never had to deal with. There was also the added element of independence. There were days were free time was ample, with no set structure. Being set free in a city as big as London can be quite overwhelming. However, I found this new confidence within me. While this trip was only two weeks long, this newfound confidence gave me the courage to explore new places, try new things, and experience a world different than one I had ever experienced, and this is something that I will take forward as I look toward graduate school.

Change can be a scary thing, and what kind of change taking place can depend on the individuals surrounding you and the support systems that you have in place at the moment. Luckily for me, I was surrounded by supportive individuals, including some of my closest friends and a mentor that has been there for me since the beginning on sophomore year. The group that I traveled with totaled 13 individuals, and so this allowed me to forge new relationships with people that I had only known at a very shallow level. After being stuck in airports for over 20 hours, you get to know people really well.

London is a city of ample opportunity. It is a city that has so much to offer its’ visitors, as well as its’ residents, as long as you know what you are looking for. It is also a city where, if you do not know what you are doing or where you are going, things can go wrong, fast. It was important at all times to know our surroundings, know what train to take, what areas were safer than others, and who to trust. This knowledge did not come to me at first, and the first few days in the city were, while not problematic, a little more stressful than I was expecting. I think that it was around the third or fourth day when we had the chance to explore on our own that it finally hit me, that I finally got my bearings and could be confident in leading both myself and others to the correct destination without hesitation.

This newfound confidence carried itself through the rest of the trip, and because of this I felt so much more comfortable. By forcing myself into an uncomfortable situation, I had to adapt in order to excel, and when that finally clicked, it was such an amazing feeling. Going to London gave me the opportunity to experience places, meet people from all around the world, and immerse myself in a culture that is completely different than my own.

My trip to London was not transformational because of just one person, one experience, or one place. It was a combination of my peers, my mentors, new places, new knowledge, and new experiences that allowed this trip to mean something more than a 2 week vacation in a different country. London is a beautiful city and has so much to offer, you just have to be willing to find those experiences.

One of the main things I wanted to take out of STEP and out of my signature project was the idea of finding myself and figuring out what I wanted to do in this life. Now, I know that is a lot to ask out of a program. But, by participating in STEP and traveling to London, I took a step in the right direction. I want to make a change in this world. I need to make a change in this world. And in order to make these changes, I need to know the world. I need to see how people different from myself experience this world. I need to see what other experiences are out there. Through my STEP Signature Project, I was able to start the adventure of figuring these things out, and in that, find a part of myself that was missing for a long while.

Walking through Copenhagen (and beyond): my semester in Denmark

DIS Copenhagen is a semester-long study abroad program in Copenhagen, Denmark. At DIS, I was in the Urban Studies program, and spent time, studying, traveling, and meeting new people. 

There is nothing quite like studying abroad. It made me realize just how small my bubble was. Everyone is familiar with the saying “step out of your comfort zone,” but I never truly understood that until I tried grocery shopping in Danish or ordering food in a restaurant in Germany or asking for directions in Prague. My view of the world is much different now. One of the things that struck me the most was how truly uncultured I am. I seriously struggled when people didn’t speak English in the places I traveled to, and I’ve never felt more uncomfortable not knowing any other languages. Studying abroad really does open your eyes. In a more professional context, studying planning in Europe allowed me to see how planning functions in other countries and find what fit the pattern and what broke the mold. 

As I alluded to before, many of my most transformational experiences had to do with language barriers. The first time I went grocery shopping in Copenhagen was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. All the prices were in kroner, so I was trying to divide by 6, and all the text was in Danish, so I had no idea what to buy. Then I went to check out, and the cashier asked me something in Danish, and I panicked. I’ve never said: “sorry?” as frequently as I did in Europe. Another transformational experience was arguably the funniest meal I’ve ever eaten, at a restaurant called Erica’s Eck in Hamburg, Germany. Between our waitress not knowing any English, us not knowing any German, trying not to kill the person with a fish and nut allergy, having to order through the Ghanian man who worked in the kitchen, and accidentally ordering the wrong meal, it was honestly a meal I’ll never forget. 

Prior to my time abroad, I’d only been to Canada a few times to visit my sister and brother-in-law, and to London for about 72 hours. While I was abroad, I visited 12 countries: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, The Netherlands, England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, The Czech Republic, and Greece. With each trip, I experienced new languages and cultures and food and climates and it was fascinating, especially for a city nerd like me. 

It’s amazing how quickly you get to know people when you go abroad and know no one. My housemates and classmates from DIS Copenhagen are now some of my closest friends, travel buddies, and planning nerds, and I am so glad I met them. Oftentimes at Ohio State, you stay in your bubble with your friends who are just like you and you don’t experience different viewpoints. At Ohio State, a lot of my friends are also from Ohio, with a lot of the same political and social views. At DIS, I met people from California to Connecticut, on all sides of the political and social spectrum, and it was an amazing way to diversify my view of the world. 

Planning is all about the people. You can’t (or at least, shouldn’t) plan for a city until you understand the people that live there. You have to get to know the politics and social organization and economic processes and government structure before you can even begin to understand what those that live there need. In living abroad for four months, I began to see beyond the veil of tourism (especially in Copenhagen). I began to truly understand how Danish society works, and in what ways it doesn’t. You can learn a lot about people even if you can’t understand what they’re saying. 

I also learned a lot about planning practices that I intend to take with me wherever I end up in the field. At Ohio State, and in the United States in general, planners tend to repeat the same dialogue on repeat until the day they die. Seeing how planning functions on a different continent is a great way to break the mold and find new insights into the field. 

If you’d like to see more about my experience through DIS Copenhagen, check out my blog, Walking Through Cities (!

Education Abroad: FCOB Industry Immersion Global Lab Italy

Jacob Wyborski

Education Abroad


My STEP Signature Project was the FCOB Industry Immersion Global Lab: Italy.  This trip combined company visits with cultural activities and free time across the northern Italian cities of Padua, Venice, Verona, Turin, and Milan.

This project not only changed my world view, but also changed who I am.  When I first applied for the trip to Italy, the only other country I had been to was Canada.  Traveling the world was something I had wanted to do one day when I had a good job.  With the help of STEP, this moved the start of my traveling ahead to May 2018.  However, due to a surprise with being selected for the Kakehashi Project in Japan during Spring Break, my world traveling started even sooner.  Both of these trips not only showed me that traveling the world was something I wanted to do and was possible, but also the importance of slowing down and living in the moment.

Noticing differences between the culture in Italy and the U.S. first made me think about what I do and why I do it.  First, the pace of life was slower and didn’t have the rush of going from one stage in the day, week, year, or life, like in the U.S.  This stood out several times, such as when I met with students at the University of Padua.  People go to university a few years later in Italy and did not seem to be like me and many other Americans in a rush to get a good job and advance their career.  With meals, except for some Pizza places, a meal was an hour to several hour long activity where we had to ask for the bill instead of having the restaurant rush us in and out to get onto the next group.  Finally, how Italians treated me stood out.  I was treated much better in Italy than I am treated in the U.S.  People were willing to go out of their way to help with anything from restaurant recommendations to helping me order by speaking English or pointing when my use of Spanish and broken Italian did not work.

Living in the moment throughout the trip was a major reason for me to take a look at myself when the trip was over and going on.  In general, I am usually living in the past, thinking about the future, or distracted by my phone or something else that isn’t meaningful when I am living in the present.  With the long days with busy schedules filled with things I had never seen or done before, I was forced to focus on what was currently happening and only use my phone for pictures.  This also led me to become friends with everyone on the trip as we experienced things for the first time from a driving simulator, making wine, palaces, gondola rides, to seeing a tornado outside of our train.  I also often found myself thinking that I didn’t want the trip to end because I was having one of the best weeks of my life.

Relationships ended up being one of the biggest takeaways from the trip. To start off, the trip would not have been the same without the great group that went on the trip with me.  I was only friends with one person on the trip going into the first class in preparation for the trip and by the end of the trip, I would consider everyone a good friend.  Not only did we build relationships through having fun on the trip, but we continue to talk after the trip and are building out plans for when we all come back to campus.  I had countless conversations with Italians during my trip, but my conversation with the owner of a restaurant in Verona was the most memorable.  The owner delivered each dish and as he was handing out food, he explained the history of each part of the meal and what each food was.  He then spent a lot of time getting to know us as we ate and talking about the city of Verona, Italy, and his restaurant.  Finally, meeting and talking to several people in Italy may have changed my potential career and life paths by opening the door to starting my career in Italy.  Until these moments, I had never considered living and working in Italy, but each day it becomes more and more of a possibility as the idea grows on me.

This change and trip was valuable to me because it will make me happier in the long run.  Now, I am looking forward to a successful future, but am enjoying the path along the way while looking for balance between hard work and free time.  The trip to Italy reinforced the idea of Ichi-go ichi-e (once in a lifetime) I took away from a Japanese tea ceremony during my time in Japan.  Being with another great group of friends on an international trip for a limited amount of time reminded me to continue living the idea because we will never all be college students in Italy having the same experiences together again.  If I decide to start my career in Italy, my life path will be completely different than anything I could have imagined just one year ago.  No matter where life takes me, I know I want to continue traveling.