My STEP Signature Project was a semester abroad at Bocconi University in Milan Italy. I was able to spend 4 months in Europe, traveling, learning and embarking on a continuous journey of self-discovery as I faced new challenges and new experiences.
I had always assumed that I had become a pretty independent person. I moved 10 hours from home for college, I was always working, and I saved up enough to go abroad for a whole semester. Little did I know there was an entire world out there waiting to tell me, “you’ve seen nothing yet.” A 10-hour plane ride suddenly feels like a world away from home. And then they don’t speak your native language; moving away from college didn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.
I was constantly reminded of the privilege I have being born in America. Living with those from all around the world, how it was harder for some to travel, and certainly harder for some to get to Italy. But on the other hand, I learned to slow down. European culture although “easy” to adjust to is so different from what I have lived in the past 20 years. I was constantly reminded to take a minute, look around and remember the history that you are surrounded by. Europeans live differently, and have given me a more appreciative outlook on life.
The relationships I gained shaped every experience I had while abroad. The people I was able to see the world with, made a world’s difference. I did not know anyone going into this trip, other than vaguely knowing the other few Ohio State students. We went to dinner that first night and invited everyone that walked into the local pizzeria looking a little lost to sit with us, assuming they were other exchange students. Those connections, made on the first night lasted 4 months as we traveled to 14 different countries together. From freezing trips to Germany to laying on the beaches of Barcelona, we did EVERYTHING together.
It was with them that I was often reminded to slow down and take everything in. One friend of mine, she always wanted to talk to the locals. It didn’t matter where we went, or how bad the language barrier was, she made an effort to talk to anyone and everyone. We then were able to enjoy so many local restaurants and activities that allowed us to feel fully immersed in European culture.
The moment I truly realized how different European culture was, in the sense that they seem to just enjoy life more, was when we walked into a local pub in Dublin. Everyone was laughing, sitting back and enjoying fresh, locally brewed Guinness awaiting St. Patrick’s Day. There was a genuine feeling in the air you just don’t always feel in America. So we joined in on some conversation, and felt right at home.
It was always the little things like that, meeting locals, finding local places, and exploring the cities that affected me most. Not touring the museums, going in the palaces or to a touristy restaurant. But the free tours by locals, and random churches where the back doors were open or the restaurant that didn’t even have a sign outside.
Recently I started my summer internship. Working 40 hours a week, a set schedule, and really, it’s the beginning of the rest of my life. This semester could not have had better timing. I was able to have a transformational experience right before I settled in to what the next 40 years of my life just might look like. Things will change, I know, but for the time being, this feels like the start to forever. I needed to be reminded there is a world out there to see. That there is always more to discover, and learn. Professionally this development has given me the confidence and drive to continue to seek experiences abroad, it is so important especially in business to have a global outlook and I feel having developed one, I can continue to use it to my advantage.
And academically? This was the most challenging semester thus far. Bocconi University is probably the most well-known business school in Europe. Balancing school and my experience abroad was an extremely hard challenge that took a lot of time management skills. It has given me the confidence that I will be able to accomplish anything.