For my STEP signature project, I chose to study abroad in London, England. I selected the Global May Britain program offered through Ohio State to complete this project due to the freedom it allowed students to have within the city as well as multiple excursions lead by tour guides. The purpose of this trip was to gain a well rounded knowledge of London while at the same time immersing myself in the city in a way that would allow me to feel as though I were living there.
I had never been out of the United States before this trip. I had been to several other states, but never an entirely different country, let alone continent. I was terrified. I had no idea what it would be like once I landed in Heathrow airport, and I was very timid at first. I didn’t know any of the people with me in the class with me, but that would soon change. The first week I was on edge. I didn’t’t know where I was going or who I was with, but I was along for the ride. It took a few days and a trip to Scotland for me to fully realize I was in a different country and I better take advantage of it while I could.
I made friends with people who had similar interests as me in the group, and together we treated London like Columbus. We tried new restaurants in parts of town he had not been to and foods we couldn’t pronounce. We laughed and danced the night away in pubs with locals who were interested in where we were from. Most importantly, I realized that I wanted to adventure. I wanted to have endless nights like those and days spent on impromptu hikes. I felt comfortable in my skin for the first time in a long time, and it took me going to another country to do so. Going to London, Glasgow, and parts of Wales ignited a sense of adventure in me that I didn’t know I had.
Overall, there were many experiences that contributed to the changes I saw in myself throughout the duration of the trip. I found myself becoming more and more interested in the city I was living in and less and less hesitant to explore it. Instead of seeing the city as a big place for a person to get lost in, I saw it as a playground.
One experience in particular that stands out to me when I think about this change is when the class took a tour of the Shoreditch area of London. It was covered in graffiti and art, but overall did not give off a warm and welcoming feeling. As we walked down Brick Lane, we saw food stalls and shops selling goods from all sorts of different cultures. I tried Curry for the first time there, which is something I would not have tried under any other circumstances, but I was in London, on a part of Brick Lane named “the Curry Mile”. I jumped out of my comfort zone and discovered something that I enjoyed, and from there on I realized that maybe getting out of my comfort zone didn’t have to be scary.
Memorial Day weekend occurred during our trip, and due to this we had a Monday off from class. Many other members of the class were traveling to Paris for the weekend, but a few classmates and I decided to explore Wales for that weekend. Booking train and bus tickets along with rooms in hostels was not difficult and before we knew it we were on our way. I was nervous to be completely without adult supervision for the weekend. Once we arrived in Cardiff, we were immediately drawn to the castle ruins located in the city’s center. Old and new clashed in this location, and we were able to explore it all. After Cardiff, we headed north to a coastal town called Lluanduno. It was very small, but this is were I learned the most about myself.
Lluanduno is nestled at the foot of a mountain. This mountain was nothing like any mountain I had ever seen. It towered over the town in a very peaceful manner. After we had spent the afternoon combine the rock covered beach for sea glass and having lunch on the pier, we realized we wanted to climb that mountain. As we approached it, we saw that there were two paths to take. One was paved and winded up the mountain gently. The other was a straight shot up the mountain, overgrown with weeds and long grasses. Due to the looming rain clouds, we decided to go for the overgrown path. Most of the way up I kept thinking to myself that I wouldn’t be able to make it to the top. However, I kept pushing and pushing until I had reached the top – and it was the most amazing sight I had ever seen. I could see the entire town as well as the ocean straddling the land on each side. I didn’t think I had it in me, but I had proven myself wrong.
This change in me is extremely important and relevant to my life. As a future educator of the sciences, I want my students to be adventurous and curious. I cannot teach and encourage students to let go of their worries and explore, however, if I could not have learned that on my own. I was a timid person before this trip, but now I understand that I need to push myself out of my comfort zone if I want to have new and incredible experiences in life. I cannot just sit by idly while the world rushes past me, I need to go and explore it myself.