Study Abroad in Seoul, South Korea

My STEP Signature Project was studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea through ISA for a month and a half. I took a watercolor class and a history class about the Cold War at Korea University. During my free time, I traveled all around Seoul and saw what it had to offer and engaged myself in the culture.

I don’t know if I had changed per se, but I feel that I have matured a lot through this trip. It was the first time I’ve ever traveled internationally alone, and it was very stressful for me. I am very afraid of traveling, for it seems like I am direction impaired and I panic very easily whenever I get lost. Against my expectations, I traveled like a madwoman in South Korea. I had fun getting lost with my friends, asking the locals for help with my charades, and discovering the country little by little.

I am a very introverted person, and I had prepared myself to be alone for my whole duration there. It’s how I’ve always lived and how my social life has been, so I didn’t feel a particular sadness about my thought. However, opposite to my prediction, I have gained many friends who accompanied me on my adventures and shared their joy with me. As I traveled through the bustling city of Seoul, I was so thankful for their company, and I realized how lonely and miserable I would have been if I didn’t have them with me. I’m very timid, so I always try to do everything by myself and not trouble anyone. However, in such an unfamiliar territory, I have learned to be assertive and confident when asking for help. I learned to speak up more and let people know of my opinions. Maybe I’m still the timid person that I was, but I have also gained bravery and a little bit of a backbone from my project.

I have lived in the US for quite some years, and a part of me has forgotten how Southeast Asia looks like. The US is a very diverse country; I can walk down a block and see people with different ethnicities and skin color, and see it as normal. However, South Korea is a very homogeneous country. When I attended the orientation for my program, I have been warned that many Koreans do not have much exposure to foreigners, and some of them might ogle and try to touch you. Many students were surprised by the announcement, but forgot about it soon after. However, we got a shocking reminder when soon after. My friends and I were walking down the street, and we could see that we were the focus of attention. People stared at us, some whispered, and some avoided us. Their attitudes were baffling to us and we were self-conscious about ourselves. We felt that we were sticking out like a sore thumb. As time passed, we learned better. The Korean students were so kind and explained to us that people don’t ogle with ill-intention, but with pure curiosity. Our misunderstanding was cleared then, and we were more comfortable and relaxed as we walked down the streets. It really showed me how the culture difference can chafe a person if they don’t attempt to understand the whole viewpoint.

I have never flown without encountering any obstacles. It might sound like an exaggeration, but truly I never flew without my planes being delayed, cancelled, or gates being changed. It seems like a curse that follows me around. Due to my past experience, I dislike flying at the core of my being and get very anxious every time I have to go on an airplane. Thus, I was not able to sleep the night before my plane departed to South Korea. Many thoughts plagued my mind and I was very afraid that my curse would act up and I would not be able to catch my flights at the right time. I was right with my prediction. My two flights got delayed, and I was stuck at the immigration checkpoint for one hour. However, what shocked me the most was not the problems, but how I dealt with them. I was so calm when everything happened, and I was able to arrive at my destination safely. When I recall the event now, my hands would sweat, but the me during that troubled time was able to carry herself half way across the world, and I’m proud of myself for that.

I really love to travel, but I’m always afraid of getting lost during my trip, and so my fear has always put a stop to my desire. However, when I was in South Korea, I became a different person. Maybe because it was a different country, maybe because I spent a lot of money for the project and didn’t want to waste my money by doing nothing, I learned how to use the public transportation system, and went sightseeing all over Seoul, some accompanied by my friends, while some were my own solo adventures. It was difficult and scary. My phone did not have service over there, so I was not able to use the navigation system, nor could I call someone if I were to get lost. Even when I looked up the directions on the Internet beforehand, they were still vague and confusing. However, I made it to all the places I wanted to go to, I got lost and I wandered around for hours at times, but I arrived to my destination at the end, and when I saw the sights, all my fatigue had melted away.

The most memorable trip I made had to be to Boryeong for the Mud Festival. My roommate read about the festival in a travel guide and suggested that we make a trip outside of Seoul and see it for ourselves. However, we did not know how to book a subway and or buy train tickets, and we didn’t know what to do if we were to get stranded on the way. I was fueled by optimism, and I urged her to go through with the trip. We picked a Saturday, and we traveled to Seoul Station at 7 in the morning, only to find out that all the tickets were sold out, and the weather was stormy on that day, so our trip fell through. We were saddened, but we decided to go to the festival on the next Sunday instead since the festival is more than a week long. This time, we did extensive research. We found out how to book train tickets online, even though the tickets were at an ungodly 5:00 AM in the morning. This was a trip of a lifetime, so even if we suffered, we still wanted to see it through the end. We got up at 3 in the morning and managed to get a cab to the train station with our broken Korean. Everything was a blur, we were functioning on auto-pilot and were so focused on our mission. When we arrived to the beautiful beach, it was all worth it. We wrestled in mud, and played our hearts out. I was thirty pounds heavier with all the mud on me, but I was so happy that I didn’t let my fear stop me from experiencing the festival with my friend. I’ll always be afraid of getting lost and worry about every small thing, but that anxiety won’t stop me from doing what I love, but instead, it’ll help me be prepared every time I plan a trip, and I’ll funnel it in a way that will make my dreams come true.

I did not know any Korean, and I still only understand the most fundamental phrases. I did not know how I was going to survive in Korea without understanding the language and without people being able to understand me. I was just hoping to be quiet most of the time, smile and bow, and hope that’ll get me out of the obligation of engaging people. However, to my surprise, that did not happen. I did a lot of charades to get directions from locals and did a lot of pointing and grunting when I ordered food. I learned to be assertive when I spoke as it was already hard enough trying to charade my intentions, it would be impossible for the people there to understand me if I was going to mumble or do vague actions. I knew that even though I can’t speak the language, if I persist in my explanations, they’ll have to understand me sooner or later. It was embarrassing at first, but it was a necessity, and I found it fun later by being able to communicate with people just not through words, but also by gestures.

The project was unlike anything I’ve ever done in my life. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, tested my independence and my guts. I’ve learned to not let my fears get the best of me, but actually channel them into guiding tools to help me on my journey. Though it was difficult, I also gained more confidence in myself. I have done things that I thought was impossible for me to do, and easily so. Of course there’ll always be a little bit of doubt in the back of mind, but I now know how to trust myself and know that I have more capabilities than I give myself credit for. I was also able to make myself more outgoing and understood the importance of companionship. I don’t think I would’ve been able to accomplish so many things through my trip without my friends and the help of strangers. The world is interconnected, and there’ll always someone who knows the answer to my problem, all I have to do is ask. The trip has made me more mature and calm, but at the same time showed me how to relax and enjoy my hobby. I’d love to travel to another country again if the opportunity arises.

Cheongdukgung Palace

Nami Island Pagoda

Nami Island

Boryeong Mud Festival

Madrid Study Abroad


Mi familia!

Mi familia!

Name:  Hanna Rosenblum


 Type of Project: Study abroad program


My STEP signature Project entailed studying abroad for a month in Spain, specifically Madrid. I took classes for my Spanish minor and experienced the culture of a new country while living with a host family. The host family allowed me to thoroughly immerse myself in the Spanish way of life! For the month that I was in Europe, I visited 4 cities including Rome, Valencia, Barcelona and of course Madrid.

Studying abroad in Madrid was my first time in Europe and therefore this experience was one I will never forget. There were many expectations I had of Spain in general but you can never really understand a certain way of life until you live it. I always knew that I grew up in a ‘bubble’ so absorbed in our own world and only truly aware of life in the United States, therefore I was expecting to experience some culture shock.


While completing my STEP project, I could appreciate the myriad of historic places to see in Europe as well as the culture of being able to relax at times. Living with a host family was the most nerve-wracking component of my experience before I arrived and I can truthfully say it made me get the most out of my time in Madrid.  Partaking in meals every day with a family of 2 young kids allowed me to converse in my target language and learn. It was also amazing to see how many people spoke English and how common, or may we say required, it is for kids to begin learning multiple languages at a young age. I personally believe bilingual ability is something so beneficial and this tactic will hopefully spread to the United States. My perspective of Spain’s culture and everyday routine was transformed from my exposure to it after a month.

Many interactions throughout my STEP signature Project helped me grasp a new perspective on the daily routine of a Spaniard or Madrileño. First, being welcomed into the home of a family of 4, a 4-year old girl and an 8-year old boy, allowed me to step into the mindset of someone who truly lived there. The meals we shared together allowed me to get a feel for the type of foods that are common. I tried more new dishes in one month then I have in my entire life. I had to become flexible and more open to trying new things. I could abandon yet also verify some of the stereotypical Spanish ideas as the family was also able to get a more accurate understanding of some American stereotypes since this learning experience was a two-way street. I also ate out and got to try some classic Spanish dishes as well as the style of eating which includes tapas most of the time. Tapas style dishes are meant for sharing and are an important way of life in Spain.

The school I attended was also a huge learning experience as well as a new perspective. The student-teacher relationship was different than in the United States and my professors were a key part in my success during this program. The style of learning was also something I had to get accustomed to but I believe it was a positive influence during the project. Specific to one of the classes I took, Art in Spain, I was able to directly apply my learning as I visited many museums featuring artists I had learned about. The Prado museum and the Reina Sofia, which are free for students, are well renown museums and helped to further my understanding of the history of Spain. I found it very valuable to learn about the history of Spain, as the American history is something we learn growing up and is a fundamental part of a country’s culture. I meet multiple other students studying internationally at this University! Many wanted to explore the city of Madrid in the same sense I did therefore it was nice to meet people to adventure with. Many of the greatest places I saw in Madrid include the Royal Palace, Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, Puerta de Sol, El Parque Retiro, La Casa de Campo, El Rastro, and so much more.

Paella in Valencia

Paella in Valencia


Most people on the program came in knowing no-one, myself included. This was a bit nerve-wracking but also refreshing to meet new people from all over America during such an incredible experience. We had a planned trip to Valencia during one weekend and it was an incredible place. Valencia is the home of where Paella was founded, therefore I waited to try it for the first time there. It lived up to the hype to say the least. We played water sports in the gorgeous Mediterranean Sea, attempted to surf, and visited the largest aquarium in all of Europe known as Oceanographic.

Many of the other cities I visited has impressionistic influences on me as well. While in Rome, I was taken back by the beauty of many architectural and religious sites. I visited Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel, Saint Peters Basilica, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine hills. The history and long-lived lifetime of these places completely blew me away. While in Barcelona, I enjoyed the beautiful beaches (Barceloneta), La Sagrada Familia, as well as Park Güell. Traveling was an important part of my experience abroad in Europe.

Park Güell

Park Güell


This transformation of learning to travel solo, interact in a different language, and entirely immerse myself in another culture is an undertaking I will not forget. Traveling to a foreign country for the first time without any family or friends was a self-learning and growing experience. I was forced to be more self-dependent than ever and confident in my skills whether it was speaking Spanish or making my own travel plans. This experience helped me further academically, by studying the language along with the culture of Spanish. Additionally, I feel as though this trip helped me realize valuable life lessons as well as develop into adulthood. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. It was a wonderful adventure that I was fortunate to take on as a twenty-year-old college student thanks to my STEP signature project!





STEP Reflection- Education Abroad

Name: Maggie Nachtrab

Type of Project: Education Abroad


  1. This summer, I studied in Quebec City in a 5 week Intensive French Immersion Program. I received 6 credit hours for 3 courses that I took every day of the week at Université Laval. After classes finished around noon, there were scheduled French workshops and activities throughout the afternoon to continue the language and culture immersion. I lived with a host family 15 minutes away from campus.

Hike up Mont du Lac des Cygnes.

  1. The most important experience I had while on this program was living with my host family in Quebec. I lived with another Ohio State student from the program, which made the transition to living with strangers in a foreign country speaking a foreign language much more comfortable. We lived in a suburb in a small neighborhood, which gave me a completely different understanding of the francophone city as a whole. The family consisted of a mother (Julie) and father (Charles), both in their mid-thirties, who were fairly fluent in English. Their three children, Gabrielle (7), Laura (4), and Louis (2), knew no English. That being said, I spoke only French while spending time with the family. When not at the university with other students, I was with my host family. I adored being with the children and conversing with the parents. We would eat breakfast and dinner together, where they would cook every meal. I would watch French movies with the children cuddled up on the couch. We went raspberry picking as a family and went hiking a few weekends. I event met Julie’s parents (the children’s grandparents) for dinner! Not only did my host family force me to continue communicating and listening to French, they allowed me to fully experience the culture of Quebec. I have gained a greater appreciation to the everyday life of  this Canadian province that I would have never imagined possible.

Raspberry picking with host family.


3. The relationship I formed with the three children of my host family led to the greatest transformation of myself. I have always loved being with kids, but I’ve never spent so much time living with little kids for so long. At first, it was a difficult challenge to fully connect with them since of our language barrier. Although I am highly proficient, it’s a whole new world conversing with children of a foreign language. They speak with different vocabulary, with a different pace, with poor grammar. I would not understand their jokes, when perhaps, they were confused by mine. Nevertheless, I loved those children as if they were my own siblings.

I also formed close relationships with the other students from the French Immersion Program. After hours of class, workshops, excursions, sports, and activities with the students and leaders, forming relationships was inevitable. Students came from all over the world; specifically, I became friends with students from Mexico, Switzerland, Germany,Brazil, and from cities all over Canada and the U.S. It was such an interesting experience communicating with these people where our mother tongue may have been different yet communicating in French, which may have not been the most comfortable language in which to speak. Nevertheless, I would play soccer and walk around museums making jokes and discussing homework in French. It forced me to speak confidently in French even if I made mistakes or blanked on my vocabulary. Everyone was in the same place in their French education, so there was no judgement.

Lastly, I formed strong relationships with my professors and student leaders from the university. The professors were obviously francophone and from Quebec, along with the student leaders of the immersion program who are actually universtiy students of Laval. For them, their summer job was helping with the program. I got a new perspective of the city and the French language as I discussed with them every day on campus throughout the program. It was amazing to make connections with the Laval students because they were francophone, they were the same age as us, and I could become friends with them as if I ran into them on Ohio State campus. Making friends with people my age in a different language was something I had never done. Firstly, because I never truly had the chance to do so, but that’s also seemed impossible. I am so happy I have grown in confidence not only in myself, but also my French abilities. I can make friends with francophones!


Immersion and Laval students.


  1. This program will forever be one of the most transformational experiences of my life. I have traveled a lot within the U.S and around the world with my family, but never have I traveled without my family. I was scared to be on my own, where I had to lean solely on my own abilities and understandings. I learned how to ask for help (in French) when I was unsure. I was able to navigate the city and make friends who speak different languages all on my own. I grew an understanding of public transportation, the Canadian education standards, and what’s culturally acceptable in conversations vs. in writing in French. I grew as an independent young adult, who wants to take what she learned to apply into her future career goals and to life in general. I want to be a book publisher and editor in New York City, but I’ve never felt that I could “make it” there. I didn’t think I was capable of living in such a hectic and big city on my own. Traveling on my own in Quebec and Montreal while making lasting relationships has shown me how possible that is. My French has improved tremendously, and I can see my French fluency so close in the future!