1) Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.
I used my STEP funds to study abroad in London for the Spring 2018 semester. I attended Richmond American International University from January to May 2018. I managed four classes while also getting the opportunity to explore not only London, but other major European cities as well.
2) What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?
This semester-long immersive experience has allowed me to grow as a person in so many ways that I could’ve never imagined possible. Both my view of myself and my perspective on the world have majorly transformed. Primarily, I have gained a deeper sense of confidence in myself and my abilities to relate to those who come from completely different backgrounds than that of myself. I have learned how to push past cultural boundaries in order to arrive at true connection with another human being, despite vast surface level differences. I have learned how to navigate foreign cities alone, I have learned to trust strangers, and I have learned how intellectually stimulating it is to try your hand at numerous different languages. Additionally, I have deepened my passion for diving into new experiences and trying new things.
My views on how the world works outside of the United States have also majorly developed. For example, I now have a deeper understanding of how American politics and especially the American economy can affect the rest of the world. I also believe that this experience has taught me to view the world through an international perspective as opposed to the American perspective that has been ingrained in me through popular media and news.
3) What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?
From taking classes at my university to random interactions with strangers, it seems as if most of the experiences I had while abroad, however varied, played a role in my personal development. Firstly, London is an enormous beast of a city, and through exploring its various neighborhoods, I was able to gain confidence in my independence while also learning about London’s diversity through first-hand experience. In addition to London, I traveled to many other cities and was forced to learn not only how to navigate these foreign streets but also to ask strangers for help when I encountered the inevitable bumps in the road. In traveling to other European countries, I also learned to pick up the essential phrases in many different languages, leading me to more deeply appreciate and even gain passion on language learning. Though venturing into the unknown territory of foreign cities terrified me at first, I soon learned to relish the push beyond my comfort zone and bask in the excitement of new experiences. Even acts as simple as trying a local food delicacy thrust me into new realms of self-development.
My classes and teachers at Richmond University also aided in the broadening of my global perspective. One class in particular, my History of Fascisms class, was extremely relevant in this capacity. Learning about a heated international issue, such as that of fascism, from a non-American perspective was very eye-opening because the lessons we learned were free from the tinges of bias and American nationalism that often accompany history courses taught in the US, especially of that in lower-education. In fact, the class was also largely free of UK bias as well considering our school was an international university and thus was required to consider international viewpoints at all times. Additionally, this class helped open my eyes to the extent to which American politics and economics truly effect the rest of the world. For at first I found it strange, and almost embarrassing, that it seemed my international classmates knew more about American politics than many Americans I know at OSU. However, I soon learned to grasp the gravity of these events on the rest of the world. This realization had the profound impact of making me recognize just how important it is to become not only responsible American citizens, but also responsible citizens of the international community, taking it as our duty to learn as much about the world and its various societies as possible.
Lastly, more than anything, the people I encountered along my journey, whether friends, teachers, or strangers, played the largest role in my growth. It was through my immense interactions with people from all over the world that I was able to learn about valuable cultural differences, but perhaps more importantly, I learned how to move past these differences and make connections with people that have a completely different world view or upbringing than myself. At my international university, I was able to meet and become close with people from literally all over the world. Thanks to this study abroad experience, I now have friends from Japan, France, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Colombia, Sweden, Spain, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Australia, just to name a few. I’ve gained a brand new international network of friends and acquaintances, not even just at my university, but also through my travelling experiences and random interactions with strangers. For instance, while travelling in Berlin I had a profound interaction with a man from Gambia named Ohms who I met at a local park. We got along instantly and quickly started sharing our life stories. I was fascinated by his life and couldn’t stop asking questions. He related to me his dreams of making enough money to bring his younger brother from Gambia to Europe for a college education; he works two jobs so that he can send money back to Gambia and provide for basic the necessities that his mother, two younger sisters, and brother all depend on him for. In this 45-minute conversation, my eyes were opened to how much we Americans take our education for granted. I was ashamed of all the times I’ve complained about college, and the fact that I have no idea what it means to work for this education. It was conversations and interactions such as these, this particular story of Ohms being one of many throughout the course of my 4 months in Europe, that perhaps most led me to gain fresh global perspectives and renewed sense of gratitude for all the wonderful opportunities I have been given in my life.
4) Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
These changes are significant to my life, even as I return home to the US, because they have instilled within me a drive to become an informed and involved member of the international community. This has long been a personal goal of mine, but I feel much more ready to begin on the journey of accomplishment after learning and growing the way I have over the past four months. Furthermore, this growth also will aid me in my future career of Clinical Psychology. For being a dedicated therapist requires empathy and understanding, and I believe the road to empathy first requires exposure to all different walks of life. I believe this experience has exposed me to people with vastly different life experiences than myself, hence, aiding me on my path to understanding and connection despite perceived differences.
This growth may also possess the ability to change my educational goals in a way that I had not previously expected. Namely, I had never considered the possibility of graduate school in Europe until my Richmond study abroad advisor recommended it to me as a viable option. Yet now, as I prepare to enter my senior year at Ohio State, the graduate search will begin and I definitely will be researching European programs as an option, perhaps an option that may present itself as much more affordable. Moreover, more than anything I want to live a life of adventure and new experiences that push me beyond my current knowledge and comfort levels. I want to travel as much as possible throughout my life so as to constantly cultivate myself into a more well rounded human being and more passionate citizen of the global community. And in addition to widening and strengthening my educational and professional goals, this study abroad experience has also given me the motivation I need to work relentlessly on the journey to this life-long goal.