My STEP Signature Project involved a study abroad visiting London and Paris during the Spring ’18 Spring Break. This study abroad program was through the OSU Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology and consisted of a 3 credit hours course in which we were visited by many guest lecturers on topics like scientific revolutions, European scientists, and global cultures.
Before this trip I was rooted in the midwest, destined to stay that way until I had a career and could support myself and my family. Travelling was always an unattainable goal of the future, always second to tuition, rent, and all the other mundane facts of life as a college student. I was stuck in constricting practicality. My focus was to take out as little loans as possible, how would I ever experience travelling while I was young? One of my worst fears was waking up one day, halfway through my life, to find that I never tried to experience other ways of life, other cultures and people. And then I was introduced to STEP. I was given $2,000 strictly to be used for enrichment. This opportunity was not only a dream come true, but a realization that fearing lack of experience is a waste of time that could’ve been spent experiencing. While I saw so much of these two iconic cities, it made me realize that I’ve barely seen my own home. I haven’t been to the Western side of America, I haven’t even been to the Ohio History Center! The boundaries I was desperate to break were not those of state or country lines, not even those of oceans, but of my limited mindset.
While abroad, I grew in my capacities for problem solving, adapting, and time management. The colors and feelings of life in both London and Paris were so vivid and complex. It was amazing, being able to see iconic places in real life without any filters. It made me feel small, yet special, to be part of such a world. I walked down streets that have existed longer than the US has been a country, that feeling is indescribable.
London gave me a good transition into international travel since everyone spoke English. It was almost like twilight zone, so many things were similar to our culture. The unpredictable weather almost exactly like Ohio, pop music playing, slang people used, classic metropolitan city feel we have here. Yet their accents were straight out of the movies, they had different types of food, and, of course, the currency was (unfortunately for my bank account) different.
Because we only had about 4 days in each city, planning was key to ensure we made the most of our time. This really helped me bond with my other classmates and it prepared us for what to expect while abroad. In London, I got to see the house Charles Darwin lived in, I went to pubs and drank (legal) pints of London Pride while talking to locals, I saw classic London theater, and visited their many famous markets.
Paris was mesmerizing yet more down to earth than I expected. The Eiffel Tower in real life, during the daytime, looks very industrial and slightly rusty. It’s definitely huge and impressive, but there is obvious wear from the volume of tourists visiting it. At night, however, it comes alive. I’ll never forget walking the streets of Paris with my friends and ending up on a beautiful pedestrian bridge right outside of the Eiffel Tower and watching it light up at midnight. The Notre Dame was definitely a spiritual experience with its architecture alone and I’ve never had such good, yet cheap food.
I love being at Ohio State, I take every opportunity I can to build upon myself while here. Every successive class I take further affirms how much I want to do what I’m doing and how far Ohio State has taken me. Despite this, I believe this trip was the most significant thing I’ve done during my time here. To be given funds specifically to help me grow as a person is something I can’t be thankful enough for. This trip made me realize how being desperate to see Notre Dame or Big Ben clouds the wonders in my own backyard. I’m now planning trips to see the wonders of America, which are considerably cheaper than going abroad. I let myself use time and money as an excuse to allow myself to feel stuck and inexperienced. This trip gave me the skills to plan and adapt, because I now know that if I am determined enough to go somewhere, do something, anywhere in the world, I can.
Here is the link to the blog I have for this trip, which includes pictures!