- The main purpose of my STEP signature project was to learn more about influential European history starting with the ancient Greek Empire and going up through the second World War. By being in Corfu, Greece for a month there was the first hand experience of being immersed in a culture that has been so influential throughout history and in the world. The program itself consisted of being in class 3 hours a day, Monday through Friday and every few days our professor would change and we would be taught by someone who was considered to be an expert on what we were learning that particular day.
- My education abroad experience through STEP was the first time that I had been to Europe and I didn’t know exactly what to expect from a place where I was completely unfamiliar with the food, language and culture. I went into this trip very open minded and eager to learn a bit about a new culture through this immersive experience. When I arrived in Corfu I was pleasantly surprised to learn that while most of the island’s residents spoke English, they also held tightly to their culture through the festivals celebrated, history in the city, and ornate orthodox churches all about. There was always something new to witness or be a part of and in the month that I was in Greece I really broadened my horizons from things like trying new foods, to going to a church festival to celebrate saints, to something as simple as making new friends. I believe that this experience helped pique my curiosity in other people’s cultures and regular ways of life and allowed me to be less hesitant to try new things. I love to travel but prior to this trip, all of my abroad experiences have been with my family which always made things a lot easier. In this instance though, I was by myself and didn’t really know any of the people on my trip prior to the trip either so it was especially necessary that I branch out and put myself out there to be a part of new things with new people.
- I truly believe that every part of my experienced helped assist me in my transformation. From sitting on a 9 hour flight alone and navigating an international airport, to going to the Parthenon in Athens towards the end of my trip. The trips and experiences such as going to see the Parthenon in Athens or the Tombs of Alexander the Great’s father on the mainland were really fascinating and helped me learn more about the culture and the country itself by being there first hand. On both of these instances I was astonished to see how well maintained these structures are. It is incredible when you’re standing there looking at something that was built over 2,000 years ago and you can still depict every image and read every letter. It really makes you think about several things-(1) just how young our nation actually is and how little history we have relative to many other civilizations, and (2) how everything that was once great eventually falls when someone bigger and better comes around. At another point, closer to the beginning of our trip, my whole class was informed about a festival that was taking place at a church down the road from our hotel. I went to the festival with a couple of the other members of my class and got to try a lot of good food, listen to music, and then stay after and even talk to some members of the church to learn what the festival was all about. The church members informed us that the celebration was about someone who had become a saint and they told us the story of what the woman did and how she plays a role in their daily life still in this day in age. It was really impactful and transformational to get a first hand look into a culture that I was so unfamiliar with. Another thing that was really cool was when we went to Athens for the last few days of the trip it was interesting to see how Athens is such a modern and large city-almost similar to New York or Chicago-yet it has maintained all of it’s history and culture throughout all of these centuries. At one point you could be walking though the city and be right in the center of a massive, modern shopping center and then one block over there would be an ancient temple that’s been around since 1060 BC. I liked the fact Greece in general seemed to be able to modernize with the times but still stick to their roots. Everyone that I met while traveling was so nice and open to teaching us all about their traditions and customs which was great and only positively contributed to the experience as a whole.
- This whole experience and trip to Greece was a really incredible experience that I feel so lucky to have taken part in. I truly believe that my travels allowed me to branch out more and made me more open to try and embrace new things. I feel as though many people, including myself sometimes, don’t partake in certain experiences because they are scared of the unknown outcome or results or because they’re comfortable where they are, however, stepping outside of your comfort zone helps you to grow as a person and learn more about yourself and this trip taught me that more than anything. It is also important to be able to interact with people who are different from you and learn about the things that are important to them, while also sharing what is important to you and being immersed in a new and foreign culture is a perfect way to do this. The more you interact with people who are different or unlike you, the more open and understanding you become to different ways of life which is something very important in our ever changing and growing country. I thank STEP for this wonderful opportunity and look forward to being able to travel more in the future, keeping in mind the things I learned from my first experience to Europe.