Name: Gretchen Kesler
My STEP project consisted of me living and working in Warsaw, Poland for Summer 2018 as an intern at the Institute of Aviation. I worked as a materials engineer on additively manufactured crash landing gear during the week and then travelled to various countries on weekends.
I had the opportunity to gain a better understanding of “how the world works”- Something that I was taught from a very young age is the importance of good manners and proper etiquette. Seeing the importance of that this summer in action was really neat. Little things like seeing Polish children well behaved instead of running up and down trams like I often see on the COTA busses in Columbus took me by surprise. The things my parents taught me that seemed to never fit in in the US and especially college became really relevant in Europe (don’t draw attention to yourself by being silly, you don’t need to talk at the top of your lungs, how to use a full dining set etc. ). It’s partly what you know but more so who you know. Networking, making connections, and real relationships is essential professionally and personally.
My cultural identity and value system was also evaluated during this experience- this is the one of which I am the most appreciative. Under stressful situations and growth opportunities I learned what matters most to me and how not to get stressed out over little things. Traveling this summer also exposed me to so many different cultures which taught me about myself and gave me a greater appreciation for being a US citizen but also having the ability to live abroad for a long enough time to truly feel a part of Poland.
Travel wise my favorite memory is hiking to the Matterhorn base camp in the Swiss Alps. It was something entirely outside of my comfort zone. Most people I met on the trail were either French or German and spoke limited English. It was cool to talk to people in French on the trail and then once making it up to the camp drinking hot chocolate and taking in the sheer vastness of the world.
Professionally my favorite experience would either be the first time I got my model to work after waiting 13 hours for the computer to run the simulation or having the opportunity to go a palace dinner for the joint Ohio State/ILOT conference. I was able to eat dinner in a palace with the Polish minister of commerce which was such an amazing opportunity.
It was really nice to apply things I’ve learned in class during the internship. Knowing that what I’m learning is relevant is really nice. It was also really nice working on safety features for planes because I really like knowing that I can help provide a direct impact to passengers.
It is helping me satisfy my Go Global option for the College of Engineering, which is an accolade given to College of Engineering students who go above and beyond to incorporate global studies and experiences into their coursework. I would like to live abroad again, perhaps as part of a Fulbright program. Living abroad helps establish connections and my competence in being able to handle living abroad again.
I’ve met so many outstanding people at ILOT, OSU, and through the conference or traveling. Having the ability to meet so many people of diverse backgrounds has helped me get a better feeling for what I want in the future professionally.