Name: Caroline Weisgerber
Type of Project: Education Abroad
- Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.
For my STEP Signature Project, I attended the Global May Great Britain Education Abroad Program. This program was a course provided through Ohio State University as a 3 credit hour course, which fulfilled my History General Education requirement, that took place over the month of May in London, England as well as various other parts of the United Kingdom. During the duration of the four-week program, about 24 OSU students, including myself, lived in Highgate, North London and attending daily class and excursions around London, such as museums and galleries or comedy shows and plays, to learn about british politics, history, and culture under the guidance of two OSU faculty members.
- What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.
One of the most striking similarities that I noticed during my time was that we’re all just people, whether in the United States or in the United Kingdom. This may be very obvious to everyone else, but when I first began this program I think that I was anticipating seeing all the men in business suits and all dressed up for work and the women in fancy dresses and elegant hats, like what you see on TV during the royal weddings or what the Queen wears, seeing everyone all put together and hustling around doing their own thing, but that isn’t the case. I would ride the Underground next to a mom and her kids coming home from school or a couple sitting holding hands and reading, and it was striking to me that everyone is just living a normal life like as I’ve seen and experienced in the US. Bringing this anxiety and pre-conceived notion that British people are more snobby or judgmental made that fear grow again in me when I began this program, but seeing and experiencing a London daily life, I found myself coming to that same realization in a whole new country, we are all just trying to make it through and that there were a lot less differences in everyday life than I was expecting. This realization made the whole world seem smaller and more tangible as I thought back to my own life in comparison to that in London, that not much changed between what made up our everyday lives and what makes us happy.
This program helped me get to know London, but also myself. I learned that I am more of introvert than I had expected, often needing to go back to my own space and sit still for a little bit or sit with my headphones in alone to recover and gear up for a new excursion. I learned that I am very selective in how I spend my time, and that I would rather spend it doing things outdoors or interactive than walking through a museum inside, that I really enjoy the freedom of taking public transportation and not having to worry about parking and maintaining a car. I also learned that I thrive with a routine, having had class and an afternoon or evening excursion helped me feel like I was taking advantage of and making the most of my time here. This type of time blocking also helped me plan my own free time and could check off items I wanted to do while in London.
- 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? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.
One of the main worries that I held on to when preparing for this course and time spent abroad was that I would have trouble adapting to my new environment and really feeling comfortable in my new surroundings. As an individual, all my life, I have been very independent and very accepting of changes in all aspects of my life, often inviting or causing it by constantly rearranging my bedroom, my notes, and even my clothes as I grew up, but that was back home and I was feared that this large of a change would be too overwhelming for even me. However, I have found that there are enough similarities to the United States of America that I had hardly any trouble assimilating into the environment and flow of the city of London.In finding and looking for similarities, like how we have similar slang words, there have been many differences I have noticed as well, which is to be more expected. A big difference that affected my time here most was the food being more freshly made and with less preservatives compared to back home. The shelf life of the food that I would buy from Sainsbury or Tesco grocery stores would be a few days at most and would even sometimes only be good for the day in which I bought them. This was something I was not expecting at all, especially when having to buy food and grocery shop for myself for the duration of the four-week program. I was unable to go to the grocery store once or twice, which is what I had been planning on doing because that is how I do my grocery shopping back home in Columbus during the year. In London, I had to adjust to making weekly grocery store shopping trips and even buying things for lunch the day of from the store to go sit and eat in a park right after purchasing.
I think that while this difference did shift my diet and I had to change a little bit of my daily and expected activities to accommodate for the change, it was a positive one overall. Even though at first, I was a little bit upset about having to walk to Sainsbury more often to get dinner, it made me get out and be more active and it caused me to eat a little healthier too because I wasn’t eating a lot of extra food between my meals, especially because of the afternoon excursions or other sightseeing opportunities. As well as my diet being better, I also think that because of the atmosphere surrounding parks in London, I will find myself wanting to spend more time sitting in parks, even just for an afternoon stroll, to unwind. I have always loved being outdoors and hiking, but being able to sit down after class and eat a freshly made sandwich from Sainsbury really made me very happy, so I know that will be something I will take away as a future activity back home.I consider myself a very easily adaptable person who embraces change well, there were a few things, besides the food, that I noticed about how I changed to function in London, specifically the way that I interacted with others. When I am living in Columbus I have found that often I am overly polite and will apologize when someone else runs into me. However, after having lived here I think I have stopped doing that and even become more confident as an individual. I remember when I first got here I was intimidated by everyone who knew the Tube system so well and had headphones in and just went about with such confidence and self-assurance in every action. I don’t think I ever say anyone apologize for standing near someone or thinking they were in the way, even just trying to get around someone at the store or on the trains, people would just say excuse me and walk through without apology or second-guessing their movement. I know I overthink things constantly, but this stood out to me as the exact opposite of how I had been raised in the Midwest, where we all apologize to each other, excuse ourselves for getting too close to someone and will say sorry to someone who said sorry to us for having had them say sorry to us. As I watched the people moving around me every day in London, I think that I gained my own level of confidence in my own movements, not saying sorry when I was trying to go around someone with plenty of space, and when I was trying to grab something behind someone at a store. This small shift in non-verbal communication ended up causing a larger shift in my verbal communication as well.
Alongside my new-found self-assurance in a new unknown setting and city, I was also able to find myself getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. I found myself stressing less and less about possibly getting on the wrong tube or bus and just accepting that there is no air conditioning in the buildings and that I was going to be hot. I began to embrace that some things go wrong and although it is a big and excitingly busy city, I can’t be in control of everything all the time and sometimes I just had to let things take their course and try to just adjust to the inconvenience. Letting go of this anxiety and cause of stress I found myself enjoying my time more and more.I was very nervous going on an education abroad program knowing no one for a whole month in a completely new country, very far from the comforts of home, but it has become one of the best things I have ever done with my time. I met so many amazing people and made great friends who I can’t wait to spend more time with in the future.
- Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.
These few simple changes about my lifestyle and learning about myself and my view of others around me have impacted my everyday life since I have returned to the United States. Having learned that I am easily adapted into new places and environments, but that I am introverted and somewhat selective in how I spend and enjoy my time I have found myself often taking “me time” doing things I know I enjoy or even exploring activities I might like doing alone. I have begun to really value my time that I have to do what I personally want to do, any free time that I have I spend outside hiking or kayaking. I have started to spend more time in parks and going on walks since having really enjoyed time I spent in parks eating lunch and walking around the city exploring. I have also changed my diet to eating more fresh foods, like I experienced in London groceries and have stopped snacking. Overall, I have found myself living a more healthy lifestyle and have even begun to incorporate this into my family’s lifestyle as well because I am living at home this summer. I have become a lot more independent and have noticed that I am more self-confident having traveled to and lived in a new country alone and participated in a program in which I didn’t know anyone. I am proud of myself for having done something so far out of my own comfort zone and this has made me more self-assured and a more confident traveler as well.
This trip has also reduced my overall anxiety about everyday things. When abroad when I began to accept that I couldn’t control everything that could happen and that something may go wrong, but it wasn’t the end of the world, this mentality has been brought back to my life in the U.S. I think it’s important for me as a person who struggles with overthinking and social anxiety to have experienced events that I could not plan to the detail because I became more familiar with this style of living and found myself being more relaxed. I love being able to tell people that I traveled and lived in London for a month taking a course abroad because I was able to get a more worldly view and even personally grow. As an engineer, I strive to have a more open-minded view of things so that I can logically explain or understand them wholly and this opportunity was extremely helpful in this aspect of my academic career.