STEP Reflection: Global May Great Britain

Name: Caroline Weisgerber


Type of Project: Education Abroad


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.



From Bucks to Shamrocks: My Study Abroad to Trim, Ireland

by Nathan Stadnik

My STEP signature project was to study abroad in Trim, County Meath, Ireland at the Blackfriary Community Archaeological and Field School site. This trip was an introduction into archaeology field work with the oversight of Dr. Allison Beach, an OSU professor, and Finola O’Carroll, a respected archaeologist, to excavate the Blackfriary from the 1200s. Field trips to neighboring historical Irish friaries and monasteries were taken to learn more about the lives of the friars and the expansion of the monestaric religion into Ireland.

Being a pharmacy major, I was often asked “Why are you on an archaeology trip?” I always explained that I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone. I have never flown internationally alone before and I have never taken on such an ambitious opportunity as learning brand new skills that are so different from the pharmacy courses I’ve studied. I was going from very minimal labor in an air conditioned pharmacy to using pickaxes and trowels in the dead of the Irish summer sun to move huge amounts of dirt. To say the least, I was scared out of my mind. However, as the weeks went on, I learned that there was nothing to worry about. I started getting closer to the other students on the trip and ended up making 15 new friends. By taking such an adventurous trip, I learned that it’s very rewarding to go outside of your comfort zone, and to learn and experience new and unique skills. Before this trip, if I was offered to intern at a very challenging job, I would have probably declined it. After this trip, I would wholeheartedly accept it and would take on the challenge of going out of my comfort zone as I know great things can come from it.

Blackfriary Group (Taken at Quin Abbey) From Left – Syndey, Br. Colmon, Melissa, Lauren, Ian, Kelley, Jenna, Erin, Jen, Kate (F), Adrian, Dr. Beach, Kaitlyn, Mary, Nathan (Me), Allyson (F), Josh, Melissa (TA), Emily

When I researched and worked toward this study abroad trip, I had a pessimistic view that archaeology was just a simple science. Once I began working on site, I quickly learned I was completely wrong. I understand now that archaeology is an art to accomplish. The organization from the different sections and even layers of dirt need constant monitoring to ensure that no piece of information is lost. The sketching of the site and locations of artifacts found have to be accurate and the archaeologists have to have an artistic aptitude to keep accurate records. With each new piece of information found, old theories have to be updated to include these new findings, theories that might have been created when the site was first opened. Archaeologists have to ensure the community is accepting of the site, as they are the ones that would allow them to continue to work. To juggle all of these aspects requires an immense amount of skill and knowledge, not just about human history but also the history of the landscape. By taking this trip, I now know that archaeology is nowhere near a simple science and I am reconsidering my views on many of the fields that I once considered facile.

One of the events that made me realize how important archaeology can be was when our group toured the Quin Abbey in Quin, County Clare, Ireland. The Quin Abbey, built in the 1400s, was one of the few remaining Abbey’s that had an intact cloister, or a covered walkway surrounding a square lawn. Being there to experience the history and feel of what our friary would have looked like was breathtaking and was a highlight for the entire trip. In this covered area, there are still impressions of the hay straws that was used to hold the plaster to the ceiling, which was incredible to see as the site is over 600 years old. We not only got to see the physical beauty held in the Abbey, but we were shown the historical beauty by a local benedictine monk that specializes in the local history of friaries and monasteries. The wonder and fascination of the site showed me the importance of archaeology and how it can give insights to those lives 600 years ago.

The Cloister to Quin Abbey with visible straw marks still in the ceiling.

I learned how artistic and skillful the field archaeology was when I was a part of cutting seven in the Blackfriary site and started to do fieldwork. This cutting was lead by Ian Kinch, a Senior Excavation Supervisor and Co-Director of the Blackfriary site. During this time, I learned what a feature was and how important they are for detailing the past. A feature is a singular event in time (i.e. building a wall, planting a tree) that can span many days or years but was planned and constructed. Each of these features are given a number based on the timing of their discovery, rather then by location, and so organization is key to each cutting, or exposed section, in the entire site. Ian described the meticulous process of not only sketching the features but examining the content of the soil found. The soil could contain animal bones, indicating either backfill from later dates or food waste, or gravel, that could be from stone paths or grout. All of this needs to be documented to determine whether the hypothesis on that section is correct, and if it is incorrect, what the new information could mean and the formation of a new hypothesis. Experiencing the field work, journal writing, and sketching gave me the appreciation to the imagination and skill each archaeologist must have to be effective in the field.

The people that really supported me and proved that going outside of my comfort zone was the group of Ohio State students that also went to Trim. The group that went on this archaeological trip were very unique. Out of the 16 students, I was one of two guys and one of eight people that were not an archaeology major. However, with all these differences we all were connected in many different ways. While many students make most of their friends solely within their major due to the number of classes together, I admit most of mine are pharmacy, I found the idea of meeting new people with completely different interests very intimidating. Once I got to know the other students, I learned how refreshing it can be to see communities with new views and experiences that make them unique and different from yourself. I ended up learning a few Japanese words from my roommate, a Japanese and business major, along with fascinating archaeology stories from another. I often feel anxious about how I represent myself around others, yet being with the students in the group, I learned that people still enjoy me for being me. By just being myself, I have gained 15 new and very close friends after spending a month with them abroad.

In my future profession, pharmacists have to see from a patient’s point of view and background to determine why they want one treatment over another. By going on this study abroad trip, I get to experience the point of view from not only those of archaeologists but the culture of those who live in Ireland as well. By having a profession in the medical field, new procedures and drugs with complex indications are brought about every day. By going to Ireland, I determined how quickly I can master a totally new concept or ideas and how to make it more streamlined to get the task done. I discovered that I am very flexible and that I became very proficient in anything the site director told me to do. I gained a whole new respect to those in the other sciences and other majors and even to the hard-working professions. As a pharmacist, I have to relate and connect to future patients and by going on this trip, I combined expert knowledge with physical labor to gain a whole new vantage point. By going on this trip, I challenged myself to learn and master new skills and I was able to relate to a new occupation and new culture. While on the surface, the trip looked like I would be just digging in the dirt for a whole month, it was much more than that. I learned to trust my judgements, I can be successful at unfamiliar tasks, and that I can open up to those around me without being criticized. I can say that after stepping out of my comfort zone to take this journey, I plan to venture out and experience brand new events and cultures more frequently in the future.

Report Back: Reflection

Name: Jamilah Muhammad


STEP Participant 2016-2017


Type of Project: Education Abroad

Francophone Africa: Between Tradition and Modernity, Summer, 2018.



  1. 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 chose to study abroad in Dakar, Senegal where we focused on Senegalese history and culture. Topics ranged from religion to hip-hop and we were not only able to learn about these topics in the classroom, but were able to take what we learned and apply it to different places and activities.


  1. 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.


The most interesting thing about Senegal, is that in America is not talked about enough, and to my perspective, it is due to the fact that it is an exception from many other African countries. All we hear and learn about in the States, are the lack of resources, civil unrest, or terroristic activity that goes on in some African countries, but for Senegal that is not so easily the case. There are five main ways that Senegal can be theorized as an exception of other countries: politically, geographically, religiously, socially and historically. The social and political aspects were the most influential to me, because to my understanding, it was the complete opposite of America.

The social construct of America thrives on differences and individuality, while here in Senegal, no matter where you are, at the end of the day you will be accepted and invited, and that is due to the idea of substituting sameness with equality. Within Senegal there are many different groups of people, rather it be the Dialta or Faye or Fulani, they all live amongst one another peacefully and if you migrate to certain groups part of the land, you will become one of them. However, this ideology is rooted in equality not assimilation and in America the two can get confused. Why? I argue it is a mixture of two main ideals, which are diversity and domination. In America, we are forced to see each other’s differences because we do not look, act or think the same way. However, rather than accepting those differences and letting one be an American solely for the fact that they are in America, western ideals push a narrative that you must “be an American”. What is American? An American is the imitation and assimilation of western culture, ideals and practices. It goes far behind how you look, but is engrained in how we think. Physical appearance is a big part of it, but at the same time the same it can be argued that individualism is western along with the majority of socially constructed phobias and “-isms”. To be afraid that someone is going to come in and take your country does not exist here in Senegal, because they see you for your being and character not you color, socioeconomic standing or language. In America, I am Jamilah Muhammad, which would automatically be interpreted that I am foreign or exotic, African and a possible threat, but in Senegal I am just Jamilah Muhammad.


  1. 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.


When I initially chose to study abroad for my STEP Signature Project, I went in with a search and hunger for a culture that I felt I was robbed of, and yet so desperately wanted to be a part of. When I chose to Dakar, I was excited because not only would I be the first of my family to travel to Africa, but I wanted to experience a place that my ancestors could have potentially originated from. I went into the experience expecting to learn about a world, life and culture different than my own and provide a different perspective, and yet couldn’t have left the education experience feeling more similar the friends and families I met in Senegal.

Being African American, can be looked at, from the perspective as a dichotomy. In a time where having black skin is a threat to the American values and foundations, it is important now more than ever to explore and educate ourselves about other people, countries, and cultures even though we are told to be afraid and to focus to on our differences rather than our similarities. When I first got off the plane, I did not realize how affected I would be by being in the majority. Everyone around me, looked like me, and I was in a place that the color of one’s skin no longer mattered where here in America it seems to matter the most. I realized after our first few dinners and classes that we also shared the same kind of humor, same likes in fashion and our culture, despite being on opposite sides of the world and being 300 years removed, were virtually the same.

One of the places we visited that really made me realize my ancestors were not only strong and resilient through slavery and colonialism, but also through the process of forced assimilation and denomination, was the Woman’s Museum. As we walked around, we really learned a lot about the powerful African women in all aspects amongst various generations. It was amazing to see the tools they used, precolonial and colonial, to just go about their everyday lives, and you would find the same tools in an African-American museum back home. I was in awe, because to know that my ancestors really fought to keep the culture in alive (whether it be the aspects of tools, religious practices, or ceremonies) in a time and place where they were brutalized into submission, makes me appreciate and want to celebrate my culture that much more, in way that really highlights the strength of my ancestors. I realized the piece of Africa that I had been searching and yearning for could be found at baptisms, beauty salons and the black Baptist churches.

The one key difference between the Senegalese people and many people of Africa and African Americans, is that the ancestors of African American were taken while the ancestors of our Senegalese peers were not. This was a realization I had at Goree Island. I was overcome with so much emotion, and they did not and could not understand. We had to explain to them, that while their families were succumbed to colonialism and exploitation, ours were put under harsh, brutal and violent conditions. After the conversation we were able to see a different perspective of one another. They saw, that behind the fancy clothes and makeup we as a people were broken, incomplete, and that even though we live in America, we live as an enemy to the States. The conversations and experiences we had together, made the world that much smaller and brought everyone that much closer together.



  1. 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.



This change was not only significant, but it was life-changing. The most important thing in life is being able to live and experience other people and other cultures. Learning about those different from you can not only make the world smaller, but allow for you to see those differences as miniscule and hone and focus on the similarities. In journalism, I pride myself on telling stories that are not only important, but giving a platform to those who otherwise would not have one. All too often are people of color mischaracterized, misjudged and misheard because of what they look like or their socioeconomic status and I want to be the journalist to be able to get rid of the prejudicial judgement that we find all too often in media. Sometimes it is easy to feel alone or is if you or your people are fighting an uphill battle, but through conversation and fellowship you are on the road to understanding one another, being there for one another and being able to make the world a smaller and more comprehensible place.

JAM Packed Adventures

STEP: The Brazilian Experience

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to study the music and culture of Brazil. I spent two weeks in a Brazilian culture class at The Ohio State University Columbus campus. Then I went with the class to Salvador and Rio de Janeiro. I learned about the cultural traditions practiced in Brazil, and furthermore I learned things about myself and the individual’s role in culture. I also learned many songs, dances, and stories that have enriched my life.

Being welcomed into a new culture allowed me to experience the rhythm of being in their group. There was one cultural practice where a group of us gathered in a circle and two-stepped in rhythm. We were tasked with keeping our feet and minds in rhythm with the group while our hands clapped interlocking, opposing rhythms. This task in itself took focus and an attentiveness to others in the group. Our focus was put to the test when, the leader of the group approached each member of the circle, clapping extraneous rhythms with the presumed intention of distracting us. This exercise allowed me to become more aware of the depth and intensity of focus. It was our job to look straight through it and focus unwaveringly on the task at hand, relying on our friends to help us stay in control. Then, when another was faced with that distracting force, it was our turn to help them by being steadfast in our roles. In doing this, we could be resilient against distraction and focused on contributing to the whole greater than the individual. There were many meanings that I took away from this exercise. We were all united by the groove, but we had distinct roles within it. The lapse of an individual’s focus could cause the group’s rhythmic structure to collapse. These roles required our individual focus to succeed.

In general, the people I encountered in Brazil seemed more laid back than most Americans. In the grocery store, cashiers chatted with their patrons while slowly scanning items. On the street, shops were lined with people hanging out outside. In the town squares, locals played samba music on various percussion instruments. I was fortunate enough to meet and play with a bunch of local musicians throughout the trip. Learning to be in a culture by experiencing and understanding its music and dance is very welcoming and personally rewarding.

In addition to learning more about Brazil’s music, I was able to see its beautiful landscape and plant life. I walked the length of Ipanema Beach and Copacabana Beach. I toured the some of its magnificent churches with glimmering walls lined with gold.  I looked out upon the vast city of Rio de Janeiro from the pedestal of Christ the Redeemer. It was truly wondrous. I visited public schools with few resources, but a great amount of determination and talent in their students. I met with a dean the day his classes were forced to be cancelled due to a protest about the price of oil. I witnessed religious ceremonies and watched traditional martial arts. The weeks I spent in Brazil were filled with rich experiences which have become fond memories, and I am for those extremely grateful.

Genocide and its Aftermath in Rwanda

My STEP signature project was the Genocide and its Aftermath in Rwanda education abroad program in the Sociology department. The program consisted of lectures in the classroom focusing on Rwanda’s cultural, political, social, and colonial history, the genocide, and how it has developed and changed since 1994 as well as testimonies and talks from Rwandans who survived the violence of the genocide, rescued others, and participated in it. We also explored the cities of Kigali, Huye, and Gisenyi throughout the program, engaging with the Rwandan community and important sites across the country.

During my time in Rwanda, my worldview was transformed on many levels. I became more critical of my Western viewpoint and was encouraged to recognize the significance of context when analyzing a situation and the responses to it. I was also strengthened in my belief of the importance of acknowledging and appreciating diversity and working to better understand differences in culture, religion, and ethnicity rather than ignoring them. I found that failing to dismantle the false, negative perceptions people have of the other and burying hostile feelings is problematic because the root of conflict goes unresolved. Finally, I further recognized the importance of responsibility and accountability. There is a thin line when it comes to the role foreign powers should play in other countries but when violence pervades and foreign powers have the ability to put an end to it, intervention is necessary. It is paramount, however, to seek to understand what a particular country needs before aid is provided. I plan to incorporate what I learned in Rwanda into my studies and future career.

During the program, our class visited a women’s cooperative where we heard from women whose husbands were killed during the genocide and whose husbands had participated in the violence. They shared their stories about how initially they were unable to even come into contact with women from the “other group” due to fear, anger, sadness, and shame. Over time they realized the need they had to be able to communicate and live together in their community peacefully. They spoke of the meetings they held and the help they received from a priest to encourage them to engage in conversation and work through their pasts. Over time they became able to speak and work with one another, eventually forming a cooperative together, creating strong relationships. Hearing their story of struggle, pain, persistence, and peace was inspiring and reminded me of the power dialogue can have in a community and the good that can come of speaking to one another, bringing down barriers, and understanding other perspectives to work through difference.

As we visited more organizations and heard the stories of Rwandans, our group became very close and engaged in conversation surrounding what we were learning and being exposed to during our time in Rwanda. On one particular day, Dr. Brehm organized an activity where she read various statements and each person had to decide whether they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed, or strongly disagreed with that statement, moving to a respective corner of the room to convey their response. This activity triggered some strong reactions and conversations surrounding the issues of identity, race-ethnicity, education, and diversity, pushing us to see and understand the perspectives of others in our class and the speakers who had shed light on their experiences during the genocide and in Rwanda since the period of violence. This activity allowed me to see beyond my stance and recognize the importance of context. I began to detect the Western viewpoint I hold on politics and society and was encouraged to consider the statements from a viewpoint unattached to my experiences to better understand why particular policies were in place and why people held certain notions.

Our class also visited four major genocide memorials and learned about the colonial history of Rwanda from both Dr. Brehm and Rwandan scholars. The role that colonial or foreign powers played in Rwanda was emphasized in memorials and lectures, demonstrating the negative influence they had on the region. We discussed the role Belgium played in transforming the social classes in Rwanda to ethnic groups and how this created arbitrary yet strong divisions on the basis of physical appearance and assumed characteristics. Feelings of hatred were cultivated between the groups in large part due to colonial actions and rampant, false propaganda was spewed forth from the government, pitting Hutus and Tutsis against each other. Many factors, including this growing ethnic tension and fear that the other group posed a threat to well being and safety led to the genocide in 1994. A couple of the genocide memorials chose to outline this history and also shed light on the absence of foreign intervention in the country during the time of the genocide. I became increasingly angered as I uncovered more about the lack of action Western powers took to end the violence in Rwanda despite being aware of the events that were taking place. Foreign power was integral to the creation of division and tension but remained on the outside when this violence came to a head. As I reflected on this, I realized how important it is for countries in power to take responsibility for problems they create and intervene in a positive way when necessary.

The transformation I underwent over the course of my time in Rwanda is valuable to me because I began to recognize my interest in foreign policy and rediscover my passion for learning about and appreciating diversity. As I work with my fellow board members to lead our student organization, Allies for Diversity, this upcoming year, I hope to encourage people with various backgrounds and perspectives to engage in conversation on social issues prevalent in the world today and highlight the differences in culture and experiences people have to promote acceptance and appreciation. Following graduation, I hope to gain experience working for an international NGO and work in the realm of human rights to better understand how they can be applied at an international scale and work through the complexities that come with this. My experience in Rwanda has sparked increased interest in these areas of identity, diversity, and human rights and I will bring what I’ve learned and been exposed to with me as I move forward.


Class Blog:

Education Abroad in France and Morocco

Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

My STEP Signature Project included traveling to France and Morocco for three weeks in the month of May. The first week consisted of touring the most prestigious and well-known landmarks of Paris. For the duration of the second week, I traveled to three cities in southern France and for the third week, I traveled to four popular cities in Morocco. While traveling to these destinations, I participated in approximately 3 hours of class each morning that allowed me to learn about the history and significance of the culture and community that I would be submersing myself in for the day.

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.

              After having the amazing opportunity to be one out of twenty-five students that were accepted to go on this study abroad trip to France and Morocco, I have to say I learned things about myself and the world that I was not cognizant of before. First of all, I never thought I would be able to survive a ten hour plane ride, so, I proved to be way stronger than I thought. But, more importantly, I learned that reality is so much different than what you learn from textbooks. Yes, textbooks provide a basic foundation, but I never realized how basic the foundation was until I was consumed in a foreign reality I had only dreamt of. To know that the Eiffel Tour sparkles on the hour is way different than witnessing it happen. It is the most beautiful thing. And the Africa I traveled to was not even remotely comparable to was is portrayed in the media. It is a stunning place full of so much culture. This trip eradicated all misconceptions I held before embarking on such a journey. I left the trip with so much knowledge and cultural appreciation that I would otherwise not have. I am so beyond grateful that I was able to see these parts of the world in a capacity that many people do not have the opportunity to witness.

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.

To say that I fell in love with the community of Sidi Moumen would be an understatement. Being able to see hundreds of people’s lives changed by the work of one man was truly amazing. Many times the more “fortunate” or well off people tend to neglect those who are victims of less fortunate socioeconomic circumstances and, as a result, they never give those people a chance to show that, they too, are human. The story of Idmaj and the success that they have achieved is so awe inspiring. And to think that it is all because of one person’s desire to help the community and provide them with some hope and opportunity is incredible. Mr. Boubker Mazoz is truly a hero. I have never been a part of an experience like our visit the Sidi Moumen Cultural Centers. I have only seen such acts of humanitarianism and philanthropy on a television screen. From the young to the old, the love that the community holds for Boubker Mazoz was pervasive throughout every speech that was given. Unfortunately, I was so captivated by their speeches that I only remember their stories and not their names. But the very first two girls that spoke, were so charismatic and so ambitious that it almost brought me to tears. Both of them talked about how they could barely speak any English when they first came to the cultural center and now they possess vocabularies that are more vast than some Americans that are their age. And the eloquence throughout their speeches was beautiful. One of the girls is going to Chicago for a summer convention and she wants to be an engineer. The other girl talked about how she explored dancing, singing, art, music, etc., but realized that her true passion was public speaking and now she is an aspiring public speaker. Of course, in America, these are normal ambitions; however, in a country that considers women to be second class citizens, it was moving to hear these girls say that they have such goals. They would not even have those dreams and opportunities if it wasn’t for Boubker Mazoz.

The older woman who gave the very last speech, also had a huge impact on me. She talked about how she was in a very dark place after she lost her husband. Through profusive tears, she was brave enough to admit that she neglected her kids and herself for so long before meeting Boubker Mazoz, who turned her life around for the better. I was so inspired by the twenty-year-old who gave her speech about traveling to the White House, meeting Michelle Obama and receiving a phone call to be a part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s movie about the women of Sidi Moumen. I wanted to ask her for her autograph so bad but I did not know how to go about that without it being weird. I just have this intuition that she is about to be something so great in the future. I could honestly go on and on about my experience in Sidi Moumen and I am finding hard to put into words how much I was positively impacted by the community. For Boubker Mazoz , to be supplying such opportunity and instilling such hope and promise into a community, such as Sidi Moumen, is beyond remarkable. The classrooms, the music room, the computer lab, the preschool rooms, the room filled with recycled creations, the classroom for the moms to learn English and French, the outside gym, the drums, the dance routines, and everything else was beautiful. And the fact that these resources are free to these people is truly extraordinary. One of Boubker Mazoz’s ending remarks was that he hopes that his legacy will live on forever. And I truly hope, with all of my heart, that it does.

Another aspect of the trip that will have a lasting impact on me is this conversation that I had with a guy in France who approached me to ask me if I was from the United States. When I told him that I was American he proceeded to say, “I have been to your country! I love your country! Yes, I know that there are police killing Black people all the time, but it’s worth it. Here, in France, if you are Black, you will not get hired anywhere. Tyra Banks was famous here only because she was American. Our Black people have to go to the United States to even have a chance at becoming famous because there is no way they can become anything here.” And when his friend walked over to us, he introduced him by saying, “This is my friend. He is a true French. You see his skin? White.” As our conversation continued, I began finding myself having to fight back tears. It is heartbreaking for me to be forced to realize that the United States is only one country in the world and everyone has not gotten past the stage of racism in the way that America has. For some reason, I truly believed that the entire world was just as progressive as the U.S. in terms of race relations. And to hear this man say that seeing Black people get killed by the police everyday is worth it speaks volumes about racial equality and struggles of Black people in France. Not only that but for him to believe that the only acceptable way for a true French person to look is to be white, is just so sad. The psychological oppression that he exhibited was just so devastating. The conversation was much longer than what I included in this journal entry but it was one of the most eye opening conversations I have ever had. To see how far the U.S. still must go until racism and prejudice in America is gone (racism and prejudice will never be gone) and then to hear that France is in the same place that America was in decades ago is an emotion I had never experienced before. And I don’t think that I have ever had a conversation with such a passionate person before. He was so convinced that all the bad racial relations in America were so much better than the racial relations in France. I wish I could accurately convey how I felt during this conversation but I don’t think that words can do it justice. But it was definitely one of the best conversations I have ever had.

There were so many awe-inspiring moments that I had on this trip. But these were the most impressionable moments that I will cherish for a lifetime.

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.

This transformation is significant and valuable to my life because I now how adopted an adequate international perspective of the world and created new points of view based on personal experience. I have grown more than I could ever imagine after going on this trip. Personally, I have learned that putting myself in uncomfortable situations is imperative to growing as an individual. For example, I had never studied French before I traveled to France so the language barrier made things complicated but overall, it facilitated a greater understanding and appreciation of the French culture. Not only was I able to flourish personally, but this trip has a myriad of positive implications for my future professional goals. As a prospective physical therapist, it is essential to have an appropriate understanding of different cultures because my patients will be from diverse backgrounds. Obtaining a global mindset will enable me to communicate better with my coworkers, and ultimately help me foster more professional relationships with my patients. This experience has also left me with a better understanding of the differences among cultures, especially in medicine and the health field, which will better assist me in providing the most beneficial treatment for all of my patients. Diversity is an important aspect of my future career and being a part of this study abroad trip has further instilled in me a passion for appreciating and understanding other cultures.


Semester at Trinity College Dublin

I spent Spring 2018 semester studying abroad at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. The experience was truly unforgettable and opened my opened my eyes to new experiences, opportunities and cultures. I took classes not only in my major, finance, but took classes in the international relations and classics schools. I was able to diversify my experiences, achieve personal goals and develop my understanding of Ireland’s culture, as well as my own and others’.

Having grown up traveling and even living abroad, I didn’t expect to be as effected by culture shock or the drastic changes to my schedule. I found it hard to adjust to the lax academic system and to the disappearance of my support system. Threw this experience pushed myself socially, emotionally, financially and academically, growing every day. Socially, I lived outside of my comfort zone. I pushed myself to interact with those that lived in my building and took my classes. By pushing myself, I developed lifelong friendships with amazing people from around the world. Emotionally, I left my normal support systems. I left my family, my friends and my peers, to travel across the world and essentially start over, alone. I have traveled and lived abroad when I was younger, but didn’t realize how much I relied on my family when moving for traveling. During this time, I learned a lot about myself and about my strengths and my limitations. I learned that while I am an extrovert, I am not afraid to travel alone and that while I rely on my support system, I can also be a support system for others. I struggled financially. It was difficult not have job–not just because I lacked a paycheck but because I lacked structure and accountability. Finally, I had to adapt to the different academic structure at Trinity College. I found that classes at Trinity were aggressively independent and lacked accountability; grading was arbitrary and classes were unstructured. The transition from OSU to Trinity was challenging but I was able to adapt to the system that required me to be self-accountable to motivated.

Following my love for travel, I took advantage of Ireland’s location and Ryanair to travel to some dream destinations: Greece, Morocco, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. I was able to use Ireland as a leap-pad to experience even more cultures and further develop my passion for traveling. I am excited to visit my friends at their homes in Australia next summer.

The interactions I had, the relationships I built and the traveling I did shaped my exchange and my life (my thoughts, perceptions and goals). The family I created for myself in Ireland will also connect me to the country and to the people. For five months, my friends were my family and I will always think of them as such. I interacted with them, with my peers, with the country and finally with myself. The best part of my exchange may have been the friendships I made. My close group of friends were from different countries and different majors but found ourselves connected by a love of travel and new experiences. Together we made dinner together almost every night, we travelled Ireland and Europe and shared an experience that will connect up forever.

Being in Ireland for five months, I spent a lot of time around the Irish. I experienced some of the nation’s most important holidays and some of the most important historical memories. Living there I was not a visitor or a tourist but I became a local. The employees at my favorite coffee shop knew my name, I knew all the local haunts and made friends outside of my living environment and my university. I quickly learned to navigate the city and was able to act as a tour guide for all those that visited me.

Traveling has always been a passion of mine. I have traveled to 35 countries and my passion shapes many of my personal and career goals. I seek to understand new cultures and perspectives, to see new landscapes and to eat new food. Traveling with my friends was an experience I will never forget. I was able to engage in experiences that were important to others, experiences that I may not have even thought about and to experience the passion of others. Traveling while on exchange reinvigorated my love of traveling and inspired me to travel as much as I can before starting a real “adult” job. Through my STEP experience, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I can be extroverted, but can also be introverted. I learned that I am not afraid of new experiences and that I actively seek them. Finally, I realized that international experiences are not only something I want more of, but I am not considering a requirement to my life.

More that every I am pushing myself to seek out new experiences, to challenge myself and to challenge others. I become comfortable living outside of my comfort zone and realized that an important skill is continuous development–always seeking new experiences that develop me personally, socially and professionally. Through my STEP experiences, I not only achieved life-long goals, like studying abroad and having geographically diverse friends but I also developed new goals and expanded upon new ones. The goals I was able to achieve are just as important as the goals I created for my life moving forward. My STEP experience was an amazing milestone and I look forward to the milestones to come.


The Canadian Parliamentary Internship Program

My STEP Signature Project was an education abroad opportunity to intern at the Canadian Parliament. This involved direct engagement with the House of Commons and the legislative process as an unpaid staffer in an MP’s office as well as access to multiple networking and career-building opportunities on Parliament Hill.

I interned with an MP from a rural and primarily French-speaking riding in Quebec. During this internship, I was tasked with responding to constituency mail, attending House committee meetings, assisting in research, and other miscellaneous tasks. I also went out of my way to work with offices that represented my interests in immigration, foreign affairs, and indigenous populations.

Being given an opportunity to be immersed in the federal politics of another country was a unique experience. It not only provided me with the opportunity to view U.S. politics from a different lens, but also motivated me to get further involved politically. The way constituencies, albeit large or small, influence structures of power fascinated me. In Canada’s case, the transparency that Trudeau’s Liberal government had with its citizens as well as profound acceptance of multiculturalism heavily impacted the relationship between Members of Parliament and their respective ridings (districts). I also felt very inspired and represented seeing the number of Muslim or South Asian or women MP’s there were. Seeing the diversity of perspectives and communities represented in the House led me to feel optimistic about the future of government.

These experiences to learn about francophone culture in Quebec paired with exploring a multitude of global issues were distinctive from what a textbook could have provided me with. To even sit in on meetings that would make the news the next day or meet important figures daily in both social and political contexts was something I will never forget. I left Canada feeling inspired and fortunate enough to have the capability and the resources to pursue a career in law and one day enact change.

Additionally, the duration of this internship aligned completely with Ramadan, a month of fasting for Muslims. Because of this, several Parliament iftars (dinners where people break their fast at sunset) were hosted. When I attended some of these, I was in awe at the number of Muslim staffers, MPs, and Ministers as well as the number of non-Muslims that came to eat in solidarity. That community not only made me feel at home and welcome but also gave me the conviction that it was extremely possible for me to be successful and included in politics.

Another experience that really impacted me was being able to witness a lagre group from the Wasagamack First Nations people arrive at Parliament and meet with their MPs to discuss issues plaguing their communities. They had walked for three months from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Ottawa, Ontario to raise issues about drug abuse and the systematic injustices that they face daily. Their resilience and strength is something that I think about often now. To be at such a disadvantaged position in society and still be able to fight for yourself is something that I have identified with for most of my life, since I grew up as an undocumented immigrant. This group that had just arrived included people of all ages, in search of better prospects for themselves and their children. Those are the people that I would like to help and fight for one day.

This experience was integral to keep me motivated to follow my goals. Witnessing the ways in which policies affect various communities opened my eyes to effective governance strategies. I want to become an immigration lawyer and provide legal services to communities in-need, seeking asylum or sanctity in the United States. How this opportunity broadened my horizons and exposed me to so many incredible people in both social and professional contexts is something that I will carry with me always. Because of this, I am more confident about my skills, my career path, and myself.

STEP Project, Study Abroad in Dublin, Ireland

1.       Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.


My STEP project involved me studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland at Trinity College

through the Fisher College of Business for an entire semester. I applied and had been accepted

to the program, and I went Spring semester in 2018 from January to June. My goals were to

diversify my knowledge base of business and solidify both the American and European way of

conducting business.


2.       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.


While completing my STEP project in Dublin, Ireland, many things changed with myself, assumptions, and my view of the world. First, with myself, I changed for the better. This was the first time that I had to travel on my own, live in a different country, go to a different country for that matter, pack five months’ worth of my items into two suitcases, finance myself with no job, and much more. After the completion of my five-month STEP project, I was, and am, a world travel expert. I learned the ups and downs of traveling, and even the needs verses the wants of traveling. I learned that I needed to eat healthy, rest well, and take care of myself while I was traveling. I never understood what it meant to live well until I went abroad. I also learned how to travel in a different country, and even countries with a different language. It was a challenge at first, but by the end, I knew my way around the European travel system. Living in a different country I discovered the true meaning of loving your home and family while you are away. I changed in a way that now, I know it is important to keep in touch with family and friends no matter where you are. As for packing, you really learn the true value of what “stuff” you need while you are abroad versus having access to everything while you are home in the United States. Lastly, Financially, it was difficult at first to adjust to not having a job, however, I transformed myself into a budgeting expert. Now, I am better than ever at budgeting my money.


Assumptions and view of the world is a very important transformation when you study abroad. I went into my STEP project with assumptions of the cultures that I hadn’t lived in before. However, my view and assumptions of the world changed when I lived in a different part of the world to experience it for myself, not with assumptions. I learned that it is extremely important to not make assumptions or be biased about someone or a culture, just because your culture teaches you to do so. My mind was transformed to accept the world for its beauty and differences it has to offer. The differences of everyone and their culture is what makes the world so special. When all the cultures are blended together, you will lose the uniqueness, and I think it’s important to understand and accept the differences in our world.


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? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.


Starting with my change in becoming a master traveler, I had many events, interactions, relationships, and activities that led to the success of my foreign travels. For events and activities, I traveled almost every weekend. I had a lot practice with both English and non-English traveling which allowed me to understand traveling and navigating a city even more. With relationships, with my two good travel friends, we worked together in order to achieve being a master world traveler. Sometimes it was very difficult to navigate a foreign country, so when you work together and put your heads together, you can learn a lot more. Lastly, with interactions, we interacted with many locals of the country in order to find our traveling legs. This was an important step in order to finally learn, because sometimes the best way to learn is not only doing it on your own, but having the perspective from the local.


Next, I had the transformation or realization of the importance of family, friends, and where you came from. This is an important thing to know and understand as you study abroad. With different relationships I made while abroad, I came to realize that there was so much diversity in this world that it is important to keep it that way. For instance, sharing my home culture with someone else in the world is something special and exciting, and without diversity we wouldn’t have so many different backgrounds, stories, and cultures. This also had to do with different interactions I had when I was traveling across Europe, it was interesting to compare my home life to the culture and history of Europe. This made me realize that it is important to cherish your family, friends, and culture.


Lastly, with assumptions, I realized the importance of this when I made different friends from all over the world. When you first meet them, you have your assumptions about that certain country. For instance, one of my good friends was from the Netherlands. They said that on American television, they heard that a few rumors we were spreading about their country were untrue. I, growing up with those assumptions, was shocked. That was the first time I experienced the importance not listening to assumptions or gossip about a culture, because there are two sides to every story. With my friends and relationships that I made, I grew in diversity and understanding of the world.


4. 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.


This change is valuable in my life because I had the opportunity to accomplish academically the chance to learn from a different culture’s perspective. I know every country has a different system of learning, and I found it interesting to compare the United States and the Irish school system.

Professionally, expanding my global network and connections is very beneficial to my career. This enhances my global networking and meeting people around the world can really give someone a worldwide network of business contacts you can utilize through your life. Also, meeting new people can bring you to new realizations and ideas you may have about your career path.

Lastly, I learn by experience, not just sitting in a classroom. I learned the culture through the people and the experiences I had while abroad.  As one of my favorite quotes states: “Better to see something once, than to hear about it a thousand times.” I made my study abroad experience a way in which I took the things I have seen or heard about in my education, and learn and experience it while I was there.


My STEP Experience in the FCOB Sustainable Global Lab

Abby Shuga

Education Abroad


For my STEP Signature Project, I participated in the Fisher College of Business Sustainability Global Lab. The two-week program included a series of company visits and lectures in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Stockholm. Along with various cultural tours, the business conversations focused on sustainability and how it is treated in European versus American companies.

Over the course of this program, I was introduced to a new, more integrative view of sustainability within business that is adopted by many European companies. I learned to more critically evaluate the sustainability goals that companies introduce; sustainability has become a hot topic in business and I’ve learned that many companies will try to portray their actions as more “green” and beneficial than they really are. Many of my previously held assumptions were challenged, and I found myself considering many new career paths that I never saw myself pursuing prior to this trip. Through this program, I developed a new view of sustainability, and with that a new outlook on my career plans.

A common thread that I did not expect to encounter was the difference between the American and European consideration of sustainability and its benefits. Professionals from many of the companies I heard from made the distinction that in Europe, and especially in countries like the Netherlands and Sweden, sustainability is ingrained as part of the culture and is strongly supported by both the business community and the government. In American companies, sustainability is pursued mostly as a means for better performance through improved reputation, risk avoidance, and cost savings. In gaining a clearer understanding of this distinction, I am better able to analyze the sustainability initiatives of American and European companies and understand their varying levels of success.

Over the course of this education abroad experience, I discovered many more lenses through which I could view and analyze sustainability. The most notable of these was around the idea of the “voice of the beneficiaries”. First introduced when I visited the Rotterdam School of Management, I had never considered the lack of consultation with people directly affected by sustainability actions. In order to implement truly beneficial and sustainable action, all stakeholders need to be involved in the decision making but very rarely are. By understanding this idea, my ability to critically evaluate sustainability and CSR goals is now much stronger. For instance, during one of the company visits with a burger chain, the spokesperson told my group all about how they were planting trees to offset their carbon emissions. I would have been interested to know more about how much the company consulted with the local communities near which they were implementing these projects.

The companies that I visited on this trip opened my eyes to a variety of opportunities I was previously unaware of or uninterested in. For example, I had never considered a career in a foreign country, figuring that the language barriers and cultural differences would be too drastic a change. However, in speaking with the Chief Operations Officer of AkzoNobel, an American professional who has been working in Europe for several decades, my views were altered. He noted the importance of learning the local language as a gateway to adapting to the culture, but also stressed diversity as highly coveted in international business and a way to discover better solutions. Seeing how successful he and other Americans I spoke with have been in their careers in Europe have definitely made me more open to the idea of living and working abroad. In this program I visited companies that ranged from large multinationals, to two-year-old startups, to marketing firms with less than ten employees. Seeing this variety made me aware of all the paths involving sustainability that are open to me.

This program also provided me with ample opportunities to working on my skills and my confidence in networking. I have often found myself to be the type of person who shied away from asking questions during or after a presentation out of fear of looking uninformed or unintelligent. Throughout my company visits, I pushed myself to actively listen and ask questions during every presentation, getting my name and my face out there and providing further opportunities to network in the future. I pushed myself to speak with all of the presenters and lecturers and made contact I wouldn’t have been able to before. This has not only helped me be more confident in networking within my current internship; I also believe it will make me a more successful candidate when I begin interviewing for full-time positions.

Before this trip, I could describe my involvement with sustainability in business as an area of interest at most. I now believe that I can participate in intelligent discussions about sustainability and its current position in business, and use this to my advantage when speaking with companies as a potential employee. I have gained skills in evaluating sustainability initiatives for potential greenwashing, a skill I believe will help me in making decisions as a consumer, as well as searching for a company I want to work for. In my prior vision of my future career, I had never strayed from the idea of working for a large, for-profit corporation. But in speaking with different types of companies and professionals, I’ve learned that there are many more paths out there. I could work for a think tank and promote the idea of urban planning from the perspective of young girls in order to improve safety for all. I could work as a consultant and advise other companies on their own sustainability efforts and drive an eco-conscience throughout the business world. The contacts that I have made and the knowledge I have gained are invaluable to my professional and personal development as I prepare to graduate and enter a new phase in my life.