Berlin Then & Now Reflection

For my STEP Signature Project, I studied abroad in Berlin, Germany. While in Berlin, I learned about the history and culture of the city in both the past and the present.  As a group, we had class twice a week where we discussed in depth the tours of the city we were going to go on and how they affected us.  We went on a tour about 3-4 days a week and the rest of the time was free time to explore the city for ourselves and make the trip ours.

Getting the opportunity to travel abroad with a group of strangers is unlike anything I have ever done. Any traveling I have done in the past was for vacation with my family.  Being able to go out on my own with new people and truly immerse myself in a different culture allowed me to grow as an individual.  At first, there were some challenges, such as adjusting to a new culture, a new language, and getting to know everyone who I travelled with.  After a while, these things became less difficult and I become extremely close with those in my group.  I was very fortunate that the people in my group were people I felt comfortable with and people I could create friendships with.  I believe that the friends I made over the course of my trip really helped transform me into a more globally aware and independent person, simply by being there to support me throughout the trip.

Upon arrival in Berlin, I was immediately overwhelmed. However, when I asked an employee of the airport where to find my luggage, I was pleasantly surprised by how open he was to helping me and how good his English was.  All over Berlin I found that nearly everyone I had an interaction with was kind and very understanding of my lack German.  Having these daily interactions with locals made me much more globally aware of just how powerful America is on the world stage and how America is focused on America and nothing else.  Also, getting to live in the heart of one of Berlin’s largest boroughs was an amazing opportunity because I felt like I was living like a local, not just visiting Berlin for vacation. Learning about the history of Berlin made me more aware of how close to home World War II and the Holocaust were for those people living there. Learning about those events at a distance only have so much weight, but getting to hear firsthand stories and see the aftermath of these events, made it much more real.  Being so close to the subject there made me realize how recent these events really were.  It is very easy to put them behind us so quickly as history, but getting to meet people that really experienced things such as the Berlin Wall, made it feel much more recent. Over the course of my trip, I also became a much more independent and confident person. Going to a new country alone can be very scary, but being open to new ideas and new people really helped make the friends I made feel like family and the new city feel like home.  I went into this trip knowing only one person and came out with new best friends.  During the month I spent abroad, we did everything together and together we learned about the city.  If it were not for the friends I made during the trip, I would not have had the amazing experience that I did.

Before taking this trip to Berlin, I was not knowledgeable about the history of Berlin or about World War II and the Holocaust. I feel like I came home much more educated on important world events and much more globally aware.  It is important to be globally aware in these times because of how connected we all are by social media and the internet. Getting the chance to live in Berlin for a month opened my eyes to the fact that there is more to the world than just the US and made me appreciate another culture more than I ever thought I could. Because of this trip, I have also become much more independent and confident. For an entire month, I had to navigate a completely new city without speaking the language.  This forced me to become confident in my ability to navigate my way around and step outside of my comfort zone and ask for help when need be.

Neuroscience of Fear in Copenhagen and Munich

Lindsay Strehle

Education Abroad

I spent 2 weeks in the classroom in Copenhagen where we discussed the neural mechanisms that drive fear and the subsequent behaviors. The week we had in Munich was filled with traveling to different research facilities and universities where we discussed the research they were doing in relation to the nervous system. Additionally, we had free time to explore both cities and get a feel for their cultures.



Until this summer, I had never been out of the country. I was worried about how I would adjust to a different lifestyle and nervous about “fitting in” with the people. I had little background knowledge on what the Danish were like and what to expect while in Munich. The Danish Institute of Study which hosted my course gave wonderful resources on Denmark and Copenhagen in particular, which made me feel more comfortable coming into the city. I certainly became more confident as time passed in Europe and as I made friends that I got to explore the cities with.

I now am itching to go back to Europe, especially Copenhagen, as it was so welcoming and inviting; it became a source of solace and another home. I branched out with my eating habits and became more comfortable with doing things by myself, whether it was going out to dinner or wandering around a foreign city. I also was able to supplement my knowledge of neuroscience and speak with a vast arrangement of specialists in the field. I had the opportunity to experience different virtual reality simulators first hand and discuss the importance of neuroscience research from a clinical aspect. Both on a personal and an educational level, I gained so much from my time in Europe.



The neat thing about the Danish Institute of Study is that it is open to any student internationally which allowed me to meet people from schools all over! As it turned out, I met some fellow buckeyes within my residential community and in my own class. Whether from near or far, we were able to find similar interests we had or we would share stories that allowed one another to see into the others’ lives.

I became very close with some of my classmates because we spent so many hours a day in the classroom together or traveling around Munich. And when we weren’t in class, we all enjoyed hanging out with each other and studying together. These are the people that really helped push me out of my comfort zone and provided a sense of support while I was away. Our instructors also supplied us with assistance in learning how to navigate the city and the etiquette of Denmark. I know I would not have enjoyed my time nearly as much nor found myself like I did if it were not for my instructors and my new friends and I cannot thank them enough for being there for me!



I feel as if I grew so much as an individual and it would not have happened if I did not spend my summer in Europe. I met so many incredible people and I learned about more than just neuroscience with this study abroad. Copenhagen became a safe haven for me; it provided comfort when I did not expect it. The people I became close with instilled a new sense of belonging in me and allowed me to gain a new sense of self, one that is more confident and spontaneous than ever before. I now trust myself to be able to enjoy my own solitude, but also to not be afraid to meet new people and trust them.

I am incredibly grateful for receiving further education on neuroscience. Further, being able to interact with some of the top researchers in their respective fields was mind-opening. I am able to bring back this knowledge to my own studies and to my work in the research lab. This trip also opened up the door of completing my doctorate abroad as I know I can survive and thrive. It gave me connections for the future on both a professional and an academic level. My education abroad experience was absolutely magnificent and I cannot imagine a better way to have spent my summer than growing and learning as I did with the Danish Institute of Study.


Summer in Sydney

For my STEP Signature Project, I interned in Sydney, Australia this summer for eight weeks through the Fisher Global Internship program. This project gave me the opportunity to have my first business internship while also learning the Australian culture.

During my time abroad this summer I learned how to step out of my comfort zone and do things that I normally wouldn’t do.
 While I was in Australia I noticed a lot that was different from the culture that I am used to here at home. I realized that it is important to experience cultures other than my own. Australia has a different government, different laws and regulations, and a different lifestyle that made me more open minded after experiencing these differences first hand. This was my first time living in another country, and because of this I understand how to adapt to new situations and overcome obstacles while leaving my comfort zone.

The main event that led to my understanding of myself was at work. At work I was challenged everyday and my boss would give me different projects that I had to complete. These were things I had never done before like using excel to make graphs and charts on my own and using access to download data to make tables that would be used in meetings with my supervisors. After I would complete a task I would gain confidence and realize that I could overcome these challenges I was given.

Traveling halfway across the world and going to a place you have never been before can be intimidating. I had never been that far away from home and I didn’t know anyone else going on the trip. When I first arrived in Sydney I had no idea where I was going, how to use public transportation and I couldn’t understand some of the terminology they used. After a couple of days, I began to meet new people and adjusted to these differences, so Sydney started feeling more like home to me.

In Australia I was able to step out of my comfort zone, interact with people and participate in activities I normally wouldn’t. This was my first time being in an office setting and communicating with people who were my supervisors who by the end were my friends that I still keep in touch with. By stepping out of my comfort zone and reaching out to new people, I was able to grow even more as a person.

I believe this transformation is valuable for my future because I realized things about myself that I don’t think I would have recognized without this experience. I can now be given tasks and complete them with confidence, communicate better in a professional setting, and step out of my comfort zone, so that the next time I am faced with these challenges I will already have the experience. I believe this internship transformed me and gave me the necessary tools that I needed to learn in order to succeed with my future professional goals.

Cailin Downie

Education Abroad


May in Madrid

My project was Called May in Madrid a study abroad through The Ohio State University. I lived in Spain for one month were I studied the history and experience the culture of Spain.

Studying abroad in Spain was a time of self discovery for me. It was the first time I left the comfort of my home county. I needed to break my comfort zones to be able to grow as a person. I realized that importance of understanding different cultures other than my own. My patient grew while I was trying to adapt to other cultures and realizing the different ways countries have of doing things. I realized that I need to be a more determined individual. I need to have a higher work ethic if I want to succeed. No matter what country people genuinely want the same things. These things are to live and to have fulfilling lives. There are many different paths to achieve these and I believe after my trip I am closer to finding my path.

I was living in a foreign country f which the languages spoken I knew little. I was determined to learn how to communicate with the locals. My main goal was to be able to order food in the Spanish tongue. It was a struggle at first where I would grow frustrated with myself and end up just having to point to the menu to get my point across. After a great deal of patience and determination I was able to order the food I wanted and I felt very accomplished. I was even able to make friends with some Spaniard speaking basic Spanish. It amazed me how much you can communicate with someone by doing little talking.

Leaving the comfort of the U.S open a door for self growth and discovery. I believe I realized that I was going down the wrong path in life. I felt like my eyes open up to the actions in my past. I am now ready to succeed in life. There was one moment on the trip where we were hiking in a mountain outside of Madrid. This was a sense of realization that I was halfway across the world. My group I was with was talking about everything they have accomplished so far in college and I was realized that I need to increase my productivity and drive if I want to become successful in my future.

This was the first time I was immersed in another country cultural. I was a foreigner in a country where I Knew little of their languages and customs. I know have a whole new look on how immigrants feel when they come to America. It is a hard situation trying to just be a guest in the country let alone trying to start a new life in a foreign country must be an extremely hard challenge. I learned that I need to be patient with foreign cultures,and do my best to understand these customs. I now know it is best to respect and see the positive of other cultures. I can learn and even adapt other cultural into my way of life.

I believe I am know more equipped to be successful in my life and career. This has been a life changing experience that has open my eyes in different ways. I now see it best to watch, try to picture myself in someone else’s situation, and truly to understand someone before I make judgements of others. I am now more a more determined and driven person than I once was. I believe I am more able to adapt and be a to solve problem better than I was once. I am grateful to been able to experience the country of Spain and I will always cherish the memories I made.

HIV in Context: Iringa, Tanzania

Jon McCormick

My STEP signature project was an education abroad trip to Tanzania studying HIV. This experience exposed me to global health through the history and microbiology of the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa and to the public health response in Tanzania by the government and local communities.

When I left for Tanzania, I left with no real plan. My goals were to learn and immerse myself into the culture and way of life found in Tanzania. Letting go of the comforts of home and adjusting to the differences of my new, temporary home were harder than I expected, but allowed me to be transformed by the experience. Study abroad classes offer a unique element that other classes don’t. Being in Iringa, Tanzania, where the HIV prevalence is 9%, I saw how health projects impacted the area and explored reasons that some projects or initiatives failed. Through trips to the lab to learn about microscopy, a trip to a rural clinic, and with various local NGOs, I was able to see the numerous ways HIV has effected the area. There is a difference between only reading about an area and its problems and actually being in the area seeing and experiencing the same problems. Each excursion built upon information learned in class from discussions and readings. The out of class experiences strengthened my knowledge of the concepts and allowed me to make new connections across the different aspects of the class and HIV. Being in the country and seeing the response to the HIV epidemic also showed me how interested in public health I am, and has made me want to add a public health minor when I return to OSU this fall.

I made many new relationships during the month I was studying in Africa. Spending every day with the other students, we got to know each other very well. Many students in the class applied due to their interest and minors in global public health. After hearing about their minor and how their classes related to the different aspects of our class, I became interested in adding a global public health minor to my studies.

This interest grew with every person we met that had been affected by HIV. The last visit we had as part of the class in Iringa was to a local HIV support group. The group was made up of people of a variety of ages all dealing with being infected with HIV. The group met to support each other both emotionally and financially when going through hard times. They were even working on buying chickens to start a business as a way to bring in more money and we were able to donate money to help them reach this goal. By being part of the group, members were able to help each other stick to their medications and through difficulties they faced by being infected with HIV.

The group was lead by a woman who had done work with an NGO and had training on forming and running support groups. Even though the NGO that trained her had shut down, she was still able to form the group and begin to reach out to others with HIV to help them with treatment. Meeting with this group and seeing the impact of the work of NGOs in the area, showed me how important funding from international groups such as USAID is. I also realized that public health isn’t just about clinics and medicine. Without education and training to send people into communities, groups like this one wouldn’t be around to support the community. Seeing the impact of this group showed me how much more there was to public health than I thought and made me want to add a global public health minor even more.

I have come to recognize many benefits to studying abroad. Each trip offers the ability to become independent, develop personal skills, develop language skills, experience a new way of life, and most importantly, change the way I think about and approach issues. After immersing into a new culture and way of life, I am able to better look at issues from a local perspective. This experience had these benefits, but additionally showed me an interest in public health that I didn’t know I had. The experiences and lessons I have learned from this trip will stay with me beyond the end of the class and the addition of a public health minor will impact me throughout the rest of my college career and also my life post graduation.

HIV in Context (Iringa, Tanzania)

Jesse Cannella

Education Abroad

  1.        I participated in a study abroad program in Iringa, Tanzania called “HIV in Context”. We spent a month in Iringa learning about the history, transmission and public health aspects of HIV in the region, as well as hearing from and visiting clinics, NGOs and professionals in the area.
  2.        Living in Iringa was an eye-opening experience. I lived in a Tanzanian college dorm for a month and ate most of my meals at the cafeteria, which was mostly “wali maharage” (rice and beans). The living conditions and sanitation were also far less safe than those in the United States. Considering the high national prevalence (over 5%) and the regional prevalence of HIV (over 9%), these conditons and nutritional options are considerably dangerous for opportunistic and comorbid infections. Nonetheless, many people had very positive attitudes of success and self-sufficience, free of self-pity. This helped to transform my American perspective of “starving Africa” and the “developing world” into a situation of gray area. Tanzania, and much of Africa, is at a relative disadvantage from the “Western” world in terms of development and access to medicine and technology, but that does make it instiutionally inferior.
  3.       One important part of my experience was learning Swahili. It is very difficult to stay in a foreign country for an extended period of time with little or no understanding of their language. By expanding my knowledge of Swahili, I was able to learn how to communicate directly with local individuals and more precisely communicate. It allowed me to translate for myself certain propaganda and printed or posted statements, rather than rely on the translations of others, sometimes changing the meanings quite signifcantly from the supposed English translations. This helped to create a more authentic experience and direct understanding of my surroundings. It also created a level of ethos on my behalf when conversing with Tanzanians. This allowed me to have more contextual pereptions of NGOs and the work of others’ with HIV and the region.                                  Perhaps the most significant experience of my trip was visiting an HIV support group. The group was created, run by and consisted of all HIV-positive individuals. It was a group meant to provide emotional, moral and financial support to its members. It was extremely well organized, having a president and treasurer, among other roles, and with a regular meeting schedule. The group essentially takes about a USD 2.50 “insurance premium” from each member every month. When a member is having considerable economic difficulty, they then use this money to help pay for the member’s food or medical expenses. The group helps to ensure that everyone regularly attends the HIV clinic and stays with their ARV drugs. They also provide emotional support for an otherwise stigmatized, and often socially ostrocized, group of people. The support group was extremely welcoming to and open with our group. The group all had very positive and proud demeanors, even though they were all in very difficult situations. This experience helped show me that many Tanzanians, even those who are HIV-positive, have a very high sense of credibility, organizaional potential and self-reliance.                                                                                                                                                                                          An experience which similarly helped transform me, but from a different direction, was a meeting with an American environmental NGO. This experience adjusted my view of Western influence on Tanzania. The man in charge was fairly self-righteous and proud of his work, even though it had made little to no difference, so far, for the local population. He expressed quite judgemental attitudes of Tanzanians and their essentially “inability” and “ignorance” of protecting the environment. He was not well versed in the culture and did not even have any basic knowledge of Swahili. It was disturbing that what seemed to be a positive, American-run NGO had such minimal impact and was led by someone who seemed so inconsiderate of the local population. It helped show me that “Western” efforts to “fix” other regions of the world, such as Africa, often have an unstable ground effect and may be “fixing a problem” that cannot be solved in that way, or already has alternative solutions from the local population.
  4.      This program was very significant for my career and life goals. I hope to enter the medical field, where I will be met with people of many different origins and lifestyles. It is important to understand that my perspective is not the only or necessarily correct solution. Western medicine and antibiotics can have stigmas, so it is important to consider and understand local situations and perceptions. I also hope to ultimately work with Doctors without Borders in Africa, where this experience will be especially relevant. I now have a better understanding of how some of this part of the world operates, and how the people think and act, and even of their language. This can help me to be a better doctor and more considerate of people’s beliefs. My new perspective of Tanzania helps build my cultural sensitivity and identity of my own impact.

STEP REFLECTION- Goethe Institut: Dresden, Germany

Theodore Du-Education Abroad

My STEP signature project was a 4 week study abroad in Dresden, Germany. In the Goethe Institut, I took an intensive German language course, get to learn the culture of Germany, get to know Dresden inside and out, and even have excursion trips to other cities nearby.

Coming into this trip, I have been well traveled having gone to Brazil and Taiwan the same year, and had been taught about the culture of Germany in High School. A lot of culture differences wasn’t a surprise but naturally it was cool seeing all the differences in person. The biggest difference for me going to Germany and the other countries I’ve went to is that for this study abroad I traveled alone. I’m a very community oriented person so this was a huge transition for me. It was difficult at first since I felt alone, but I began to grow comfortable in exploring and travelling alone. I saw myself grow a tremendous amount in the 4 weeks. I’m not exactly the most disciplined person and I need people nagging me to get work done and that’s still the case for the most part, but I was able to step up in maturity, plan all the transportation and housing because I needed to. Although I was only in Germany, I also got to see some pretty cool perspective of other countries and I even surprised myself with initiating events with people I hardly knew.

For 6 weeks before going to Germany for a study abroad, I had another cool opportunity to go to Floripa, Brazil to do ministry with Cru at Ohio State. Like I mentioned before, I am a very community oriented person and the community I had in Brazil was beautiful and it really pushed me in discipline and God was able to reveal so much in me. Knowing I would be going to Germany by myself, I was terrified. I’ve had many doubts about my faith and whether it was genuine or not since I’m so community oriented, it didn’t seem like it was my own. Germany is spiritually dark with very little talk about faith and religion, so I knew it was going to test my faith. That’s where this trip really transformed my understanding of myself. I thought there would be no way for me to walk with the Lord while not being surrounded by a Christian community and just being focused on so many other things. I was so wrong. I’ve grown a lot in my spiritual maturity and this trip really showed me that. I always found time to spend time with the Lord despite the lack of community. It was a challenge to find motivation for sure, but God was able to show me a lot while in Germany.

Not only did I see a lot of change in myself, but I was able to see the world in a whole new perspective. My classmates in my intensive German course were from all over the place with different experiences. I had two students from Spain (one for southern Spain and one from Catalonia), one from Moscow, one from Serbia, one from Gambia, one from Japan, one from Mexico, and multiple students from the United States but with very different experiences in life. One of the students was around 60 years old and had served the army for 20 years, another grew up in the US but now lives in Switzerland. When our class began to discuss random topics, I got to hear a massive variety of perspectives and it was honestly so cool. I did this Study Abroad to improve my German, which I did, but I came out learning about all these different cultures from around the world. It was incredibly humbling knowing that there are so many different lifestyles all across the world but even thousands of miles apart, we all have similarities. A cool thing our class did, was have every student talk a little about themselves and their culture. The different life experiences was brand new to me. Although lifestyles in the US are varied, I’ve heard many similar stories. However, my classmates varied from being raised in poverty and having all these different reasons to study German. Our classmates being so vulnerable with each other was a catalyst to start a friendship among each other.

Another thing you should know about me, is I love sports and athletics. Sport is something that can transcend language and culture and seriously think about how cool that is? Sport can literally connect people from all over the world that have no other similarities. So I have never played actual soccer in my life, and I’m a very casual soccer follower. I would say I know a lot about football, basketball and volleyball, but soccer was slightly foreign to me. However, I got the amazing opportunity to start a soccer group at Goethe Institut and a group of us were meet up at a nearby field and just play our hearts away. I’m not good at soccer in any way, so it was cool seeing different soccer skill levels and different German speaking levels combine just for the love of the sport. It was actually a great way to practice German outside of the classroom since in some cases it was the only common language and it was a great way to meet some friends that weren’t from the United States. It was so easy to default to speaking English and hanging out with the Americans, so soccer was able to build friendships with people that I otherwise would not have met.

In just 4 short weeks, I was able to see me grow spiritually and in maturity. I was able to learn a variety of perspectives and learn different cultures that can help me understand the World better as a whole. I was also able to take initiative and grow in leaderships. The main reason I did the study abroad was to see growth in my German language skills. That was for sure the case. Being completely immersed in a language is absolutely necessary to improve your language abilities. Having this study abroad experience under my belt, it opens many opportunities for academic goals. I’m a mechanical engineering student who wants to work in the sports industry. Knowing German opens all the opportunities in Germany for me and knowing a 3rd language could really separate me from other applicants in the real world. I’m so incredibly grateful for what this study abroad has been able to do for me!

Side note: Dresden, Germany is super underrated but filled with so much beauty. I highly recommend giving Dresden a visit.

STEP Reflection

Jack Carey

Education Abroad

My STEP signature project was a study abroad program in Denmark. This project entailed studying social neuroscience and introductory medicine while interacting with the students and faculty. Also, it involved exploring the city of Copenhagen and interacting with the local population.

Academically, I feel much more comfortable engaging in classroom discussions as well as speaking to professors. I enjoyed how, in Denmark, everyone calls professors by their first name, and everyone knows everyone in the class. The classes that I took put a lot of emphasis on participating during class as well as getting to know your classmates. Also, as a class, a lot of the time we would go out after the classes ended and explore the city, which has never happened in my experience in the US. I also enjoyed the Danish people and I believe I now care less about what people think of me than I did before participating in this STEP signature project.

A common activity after class during both sessions was playing a board game at the Bastard Café, which was a few blocks away from where the classes were located. As we were all Americans and none of us knew each other previously, it was nice to have a group to hang around with, a lot like freshman year of college. During college, I spend a lot of time studying for my pre med classes, but I also spend a lot of my time volunteering in clinical settings and service settings, and at academically oriented student organizations. Because of this, my time to hang out with friends is typically scarce, and not all that laid back. Chilling out at the Bastard Café, while drinking a beer and playing some random board game was so relaxing that I will try to alter how I spend my time during the school year to fit in more relaxing time with my friends.

One thing that I love about the Danish people is how little they care what you think about them. This is abundantly clear with their public display of affection. One occasion that sticks out to me is when I was shopping for groceries at Netto, and there was a young couple in the liquor isle making out. Now, this was a bit odd coming from America, where pda is somewhat of a taboo. However, I really respected how the couple just thought, ‘Hey, I want to make out now’, and they just did. They weren’t concerned with getting weird looks from other shoppers; they just did what made them happy. Another aspect of this that was great was that none of the other shoppers cared that much. They seem to have a complete “You do you” mentality, which is something that I hope to take back with me to the US.

Spending time with Danish doctors during my second class was very interesting. Much like the professors, their patients and their other co-workers know doctors in Denmark by their first name. I found this very interesting, as it reinforced the idea that no one is better than everybody. I feel as though it could be more effective as a method of treatment as well, as there is a phenomenon known as the white coat syndrome, in which patients are nervous about being around a doctor, so sometimes their heart rate and blood pressure can rise to abnormal levels. I really enjoyed how down to earth all of the doctors were that I met, and I plan on acting similarly when I become a doctor in the future.

Studying abroad in Copenhagen was a great experience and many of the lessons I learned will stick with me for the rest of my life. My time at the Bastard Café will remind me to always leave time for relaxing with friends. This will keep my relationships strong and keep me from burning out because of a high workload and high stress. Personally, I really liked the “you do you” mentality that the Danes had, and think it could be the key to their reputation as being among the happiest people in the world. In the future, I will just do whatever makes me happy, and not worry about what anyone else thinks. Professionally, I enjoyed the laid back attitude of the professors and doctors in Denmark. When I am working as a physician, I will employ this same attitude. Also, in my classes I am usually one of the smarter students, and I sometimes will act snobby toward my classmates. My experience hanging around with down to earth doctors and professors made me realize how much better interactions are if no one acts like they’re better than anyone, so I will act accordingly in my classes. In conclusion, I learned a lot in and out of the classroom in Denmark, and I am very grateful to STEP for allowing me to have such a great experience.


Reflection Post: World War II and Europe Study Abroad

I choose the History of World War II study abroad program as STEP Signature Project for the summer of 2017. In the program, Ohio State students including myself toured through Europe to visit and understand the impact of World War II at the home front. By the end of my time in Europe I had gone to England (London), France (Bayeux, Paris), Poland (Krakow), Germany (Berlin, Amberg, Nuremberg, Regensburg), Italy (Venice, Verona, Rome, Florence), and Switzerland (Zurich.)

Academically, I learned a lot about World War II while in Europe but more importantly I felt that everywhere reminded me of America and how it is hard to recognize how special it is to be in the moment. I thought when I landed in each place that it would be so different than America and I would be thrown into a completely different environment but other than the language barrier, I usually felt like everywhere resembled each other in a way.

I did not expect to feel like America and Europe were similar. Our first place on the program was London, England. Looking around I felt like it was Washington D.C. which makes sense since American colonists probably based their capital from what they already knew. Other than England, everywhere drove the same as America. I felt comfortable on the subways because they reminded me of New York or DC, the tram cars of Poland reminded me of New Orleans, buses between countries were like Greyhound from Ohio State to Philadelphia. Driving through Poland looked just like the beautiful countryside of Pennsylvania. Only place I might have felt was new was Venice because they travel by boat and I had never been on an island. Everywhere could be compared to America, it was not apples to oranges but rather a Fuji apple to a granny smith to a gala, etc. Once I did feel comfortable with my surroundings, it became a focus to find the differences and create memories.

Sometimes it is difficult to live in the moment and to choose new options. In every location, I thought, “Wow. I am in doing (blank) in (insert city, country).” For example, while on a boat tour of Venice I really appreciated the present moment and wanted to focus on how it was unique. As simple as eating in each place I tried to make special. I had some of my best moments abroad. While in Florence I had one of the best days of my entire life by driving a vespa for the first time and it was through the Tuscany countryside. The people in my group were wonderful, honey and cheese was served and trust me that is wonderful, being the leader of the pack on the vespas was scary but I didn’t crash. It really does not matter where you are but rather what you do there.

My favorite places were where I have the best memories, but memories can be formed anywhere. I always had a large feeling of discontent with my home town for being so small, but it’s the memories and the people here that make it better. To be honest I sometimes am not happy in Columbus, but there are so many opportunities there that I have not taken or have taken and forget to cherish. I don’t have to travel across the world for excitement but can find excitement anywhere.

Now how I see my future plans have changed because I can learn to be content anywhere. I might not be sure what path I am taking right now, but at least I know I can adapt to a new location. If I stay living and working in the North East even though I have lived here my whole life, I can make the best of it because I can put aside my idea that everything must be boring here. My location will change my happiness like how I first thought, and feeling that connection between all the places I have traveled to makes everywhere feel like home.

STEP Reflection- HIV in Context: Iringa, Tanzania

1. While completing my STEP Signature Project I traveled to the region and major town of Iringa in south central Tanzania. I completed a one month study-abroad program that focused on HIV in the context of Iringa- we learned about the history of the country and it’s influence on HIV, as well as the science behind it by participating in both in-class as well as experiential learning.

2. Traveling to a place half-way around the world, and one with a completely different culture than what I was previously used to left me in an originally uneasy place. I was unfamiliar with the language, Swahili (I didn’t even know how to introduce myself), unsure of how to act in a culturally-appropriate way, and was a little in shock of the cultural adjustment I had to make. I thought I had adequately prepared myself for living in a new country, but when I actually had to, I learned that my preparation would have never sufficed. I wasn’t prepared to feel as alone as I did when I first arrived there- I figured that being surrounded by the same core group of people each day would even make me sick of social interaction. This was far from the case, and the feeling of this loneliness was one that was on the back burner for the beginning of the trip.

I also wasn’t prepared for what I experienced. You hear about the stereotypical depiction of places in Africa, ravaged by disease and corrupt systems. In some areas, yes, this can be found. But what is more noticeable is a way of life that has been heavily cornered and changed by Western idealizations. In some ways foreign funding has completely overrun local environment, with most infrastructure and medical developments being completed by the United States or other developed countries. But in other ways the cultural and social aspects of Tanzania have persisted. With that, comes the harsh realities of the wealth disparities between developing countries and the West, which became more apparent as we traveled within more rural locations. It was hard to rationalize, and at times uncomfortable to think about, but was also something that became more apparent as my time in Iringa grew.

3. When the orientation sessions first began for my study abroad trip, our professors brought up things like “bucket showers” and “long skirts.” It went over my head completely. As I had once thought the bucket showers, ones in which you fill a literal bucket with water, use an external heating coil to warm the water, and then use a scooping cup to pour the water over yourself, were just used in times when the power went out. I thought that the dress code being “no pants, and skirts/dresses below the knee” was more of a suggestion. It wasn’t until I stepped off the bus after a long ride from Dar es Salaam to Iringa that I realized I was in for a shock. The dress code was extremely serious, and considering that our group of students were the only Caucasians on the campus, you didn’t want to stick out more because of wearing something inappropriate. The bucket showers were an all-the-time thing, rather than just being employed when the power went out (which, to my knowledge, never happened).

I think a huge reason why I felt the loneliness that I did was because of my unfamiliarity with the culture I was suddenly immersed in. The comforts of home, even being able to walk down the street and greet people as they passed were unavailable, as my Swahili lessons didn’t start for a few days. I also think that the daily interactions with the other students made me feel like this. I was never discluded, in fact the amount of time everyone spent together was a little overwhelming at first. It was hard because I was struggling with my surroundings, but didn’t know how other people were feeling, and didn’t want to complain for fear of their own feelings differing. Instead, I kept it to myself, and tried to be as social as possible. The feeling of loneliness only abated once I was alone myself, at a cafe we frequented for lunch. I just sat a table overlooking the mountain, and began to write in my journal. It was this huge feeling of relief to be alone for the first time in over a week.

I didn’t go into my study-abroad program blind- I was aware of the impact of foreign funding in Tanzania. I didn’t, however, realize just how noticeable it was. It was shocking to see how deeply the commitment to funding USAID and PEPFAR ran, and how affected the country would be if it was removed. In light of recent political change, this was a particularly sensitive topic to approach, as the continuation of the funding is still under review. For a weekend of our trip we visited Kilolo, a rural district outside of Iringa Town. While there we resided at an Austrian NGO, which funded an educational and vocational training program for AIDS orphans. Part of the trip included a visit to a dispensary, which served not only the local community, but also people from around 50 kilometers away. The dispensary was largely funded through USAID, and all of their medications were donated by PEPFAR. When the doctor giving the tour was asked what would happen in the case that the funding for ARVs is cut, he just stated, 5 times, in both Swahili and English, that “many people will die.” The reality of this is severe and can be overwhelming to think about, but it is one that is necessary to discuss.

On our final day in Iringa we visited an HIV Support Group- it was easily one the most emotional and moving experiences of the month spent there. The group was composed of 20 members, all who were HIV positive. The membership fee was a monthly sum of 2,000 Tanzanian Shillings, which is the equivalent of $1 USD. The money was pooled together and then donated to a person in the group who could use it for medication or transportation to health care. However, within the group there were 15 active members. The five that weren’t active weren’t because they couldn’t afford the 2,000tsh. The reality of not being able afford $1 in a month was heartbreaking, and as cliche as it sounds, really opened my eyes to the wealth disparity that third-world countries face as a daily realities.

4. I had never thought of myself as being a politically active person, or even one who was interested in it prior to this trip. I think that realizing the impact that our foreign policies and funding has on other countries was extremely significant, and was something that I can foresee myself having a future in. I also think that by experiencing more, and immersing myself in a country with a culture unlike what I was used to, I was able to have a different perspective of how these changes affected my own life. The experiential learning portion was a huge part of this; we were forced to have hands on experiences that let us with lasting impressions discussed the following day in classes, both to dissect and share these feelings. This social change connected with a more personal one for me, as they both furthered my knowledge and understanding, but also my willingness to get involved.


A view of the sunset from Ruaha National Park in Iringa Region (South Central Tanzania).


A view of the old house of Tanzania Chief Mkwawa who defeated the German colonial officers in 1891, and the tree of Miracles (Kalenga Town).