Rob McEwan – Engineering of Castles and Cathedrals of England and Wales

My STEP signature project was a study abroad program focusing on the Engineering of Castles and Cathedrals of England and Wales. The program involved learning not only the engineering behind these structures but also both the effect they had on the countries at the time and now. The purpose of the trip also included an effort to understand these countries’ culture and how they fit in this global world.

One thing that I expected to come out of this program was a complete understanding of these countries’ culture and how they viewed architecture. This was achieved readily as it was the design of the program. The aspect that I didn’t fully anticipate was the effect that these cultures would have on me and my friendships that were formed abroad. The idea of taking 20 “introverted” kids, who don’t know each other beforehand, to a completely new culture seems daunting, but through the cultural misunderstandings and the challenges to learn and experience this new place, friendships were formed and enhanced.

I think Ohio State is a special place where people of all backgrounds can come together and coexist in a seamless manner where everyone appreciates everyone. Now take this Ohio State culture and through it into a new country and you get a completely new understanding of what a global world means. What was revealed to me, was the importance of having cultural diversity for the sake of getting to know other people and getting to know them a lot quicker. In summary, this program just opened my eyes to the importance of having this global mindset that Ohio State pushes on us.

I think the reason that my transformation happened is self-explanatory in that it deals with and stems from relationships. I can’t point to one instance over the course of my trip that I made this realization but I think that friendships don’t form in on instant anyway. For the sake of explanation, though, I will talk about some events and activities that helped along my transformation.

The resident directors of my trip did a very good job of putting together some events that they knew would help the students come together. Some of these events include group dinners, the airplane ride over, and plenty of free-time in-country. The group dinners served to allow the students get to know each other over a local meal and learn what everyone wanted to get out of the trip. The plane ride was an adventure in it of itself because of how long it was and the fact that many students had never flown before. Since everyone was worn out and nervous, I got to know everyone as their true self. The free-time was perhaps the most valuable. This was the time when we got to split off into smaller groups to experience the countries and cultures. This allowed us to get out of the large group and get to know each other individually. It is from this free time that I learned how adventurous everyone was and how much fun it is to explore a new place with new people.

The activities were just extensions of the events that we took part in but were more designed to get to know one another. The one activity that stands out in my mind was the first one we had as a group that took place on campus. This was an informal dinner and fire get-together. The most noticeable thing that stood out was how introverted everyone was, after-all, we are engineering major and we are all comfortable with silence. That said though, once we knew each other and what we were all interested in, everyone came out of their respective shells. This was the most interesting part for me, seeing everyone become slowly more trusting of one another and just how quickly it happened once we were in-county.

This transformation of my worldview is important to me because I feel that our society needs to have leaders who truly understand how important diversity is moving forward. With smartphones and video-chatting now easily assessable, there are no real borders between us and the world. The world is increasingly global and without this mindset going forward, I think that I’d get left behind in the real world.

In engineering, especially, the emphasis on having a diverse mindset is even more important because of the nature of the job and who I might have to work with and for. The curriculum at OSU does do a good job of preparing me for this diversity but there is no substitute for going into a new culture and learning it for yourself. STEP has given me the opportunity to do this and I am better off for it.

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