I choose the History of World War II study abroad program as STEP Signature Project for the summer of 2017. In the program, Ohio State students including myself toured through Europe to visit and understand the impact of World War II at the home front. By the end of my time in Europe I had gone to England (London), France (Bayeux, Paris), Poland (Krakow), Germany (Berlin, Amberg, Nuremberg, Regensburg), Italy (Venice, Verona, Rome, Florence), and Switzerland (Zurich.)
Academically, I learned a lot about World War II while in Europe but more importantly I felt that everywhere reminded me of America and how it is hard to recognize how special it is to be in the moment. I thought when I landed in each place that it would be so different than America and I would be thrown into a completely different environment but other than the language barrier, I usually felt like everywhere resembled each other in a way.
I did not expect to feel like America and Europe were similar. Our first place on the program was London, England. Looking around I felt like it was Washington D.C. which makes sense since American colonists probably based their capital from what they already knew. Other than England, everywhere drove the same as America. I felt comfortable on the subways because they reminded me of New York or DC, the tram cars of Poland reminded me of New Orleans, buses between countries were like Greyhound from Ohio State to Philadelphia. Driving through Poland looked just like the beautiful countryside of Pennsylvania. Only place I might have felt was new was Venice because they travel by boat and I had never been on an island. Everywhere could be compared to America, it was not apples to oranges but rather a Fuji apple to a granny smith to a gala, etc. Once I did feel comfortable with my surroundings, it became a focus to find the differences and create memories.
Sometimes it is difficult to live in the moment and to choose new options. In every location, I thought, “Wow. I am in doing (blank) in (insert city, country).” For example, while on a boat tour of Venice I really appreciated the present moment and wanted to focus on how it was unique. As simple as eating in each place I tried to make special. I had some of my best moments abroad. While in Florence I had one of the best days of my entire life by driving a vespa for the first time and it was through the Tuscany countryside. The people in my group were wonderful, honey and cheese was served and trust me that is wonderful, being the leader of the pack on the vespas was scary but I didn’t crash. It really does not matter where you are but rather what you do there.
My favorite places were where I have the best memories, but memories can be formed anywhere. I always had a large feeling of discontent with my home town for being so small, but it’s the memories and the people here that make it better. To be honest I sometimes am not happy in Columbus, but there are so many opportunities there that I have not taken or have taken and forget to cherish. I don’t have to travel across the world for excitement but can find excitement anywhere.
Now how I see my future plans have changed because I can learn to be content anywhere. I might not be sure what path I am taking right now, but at least I know I can adapt to a new location. If I stay living and working in the North East even though I have lived here my whole life, I can make the best of it because I can put aside my idea that everything must be boring here. My location will change my happiness like how I first thought, and feeling that connection between all the places I have traveled to makes everywhere feel like home.