For my STEP Signature Project, I traveled abroad with the program Ancient Rome: Approaches to an Ancient City for spring break. The week-long program was coupled with a spring semester class that focuses on Roman mapping, topography and movement through these spaces. Throughout the semester, we have learned about different ancient sites and different authors’ views on them. While in Rome, we were able to visit some of these places and museums as well as give presentations while on the actual site. Some of the main sites that we visited and discussed were the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the Museum of the Imperial Forums, the Ara Pacis Museum, the Vatican, the city of Ostia Antica, and a few contemporary art museums as well to further draw connections between the ancient and modern world.
As for my understanding and view of the world in general, I feel noticeably more confident about my abilities to navigate new places and to engage in discussion about more than just my home in Columbus, Ohio. I had never traveled abroad before, let alone with classmates that I had just met this semester, so at first there was some anxiousness. However, I learned a lot about myself and how I am more open to new situations that are out of my comfort zone than I thought I was.
There have already been instances while at home that I have been anxious about a presentation or situation at work, but I can reassure myself more now because I know I have handled much more before. Going along with that, my view of the world and my perceptions of problems have changed a lot. By exposing myself to a culture and country on the other side of the world, I learned there is so much more to the world and its people than just the lives that we live in America.
The interactions and relationships that I have had with my classmates both in the city of Rome as well as in the classroom have definitely helped change my outlook while back at home. As the program was established by the Ohio State Department of Classics, many of my fellow students chose to be enrolled in the program due to their history or classics related majors. I am a Social Work major, so at first I thought I would be left in the dark about a lot of the topics and conversations that we would have in the program. However, I was able to find a lot of interest in researching more information on my own that I would not regularly study. This helped me as a student in learning how to adapt to certain coursework that I am not familiar with.
I also made connections with my classmates that I never normally would have just by being in the classroom at school. The ability to explore an unknown city and see first hand the different things that we had learned about in class was very exciting and inspiring. This was unlike any other experience I will have with my classmates in my major coursework, so this is a way that I could connect with this class even though we had different backgrounds with our majors.
The different activities that we took part in, such as visiting different museums, eating group meals together, and trying to speak in Italian, all allowed me to truly step out of my comfort zone more than I ever have. Due to our coursework, these were also all experiences that I had appreciated and understood so much more than I would have if I had just taken a vacation to Italy. These experiences helped me see just how small my world view used to be. Now, I am even more interested in learning more about the history of ancient Rome and want to educate myself more about the different places I will visit in the future.
The experience of traveling to Rome, Italy with my classmates has undoubtedly made a significant impact on my life. It has opened my eyes to having a much wider worldview, but also allowed me to see that the world and all of its cultures may not be so different and distant after all. By traveling abroad for the first time, I was able to immerse myself in the Roman culture and take the time to see similarities as well as differences between Rome and the United States. This was valuable to me and my personal and professional goals because I plan to be a mental health counselor working in the social work field, and I place great emphasis on trying to understand individuals’ backgrounds, cultures, and ways of life that affect their behavior and well-being. I believe that this is the best way to start empathizing with individuals and truly learn a lot about them in order to help them. I was very grateful to be able to see a new country that differs from the United States, but also allowed me to appreciate finding common ground areas that I could relate to.
Bridging the gap between cultures or people is something I am always working on in my coursework and plan to do in my career, so it was enlightening to actively be thinking about the importance of this during the trip. Going along with that concept, I also benefitted greatly from the requirement to keep a journal of each day in Rome, specifically highlighting different sites or experiences from historical, personal, and social perspectives. This was another great example of how I was able to critically think about how different people, historians, and myself would respond to the different sites and museums in the city. The act of regularly keeping a journal was also very helpful for me in the sense that I became more mindful and insightful of what I was seeing so that I could thoroughly write about it. I plan to continue using these insights and the practice of journaling to become more mindful in my everyday life. Also, once I was able to present to my classmates while in Rome on a subject that I had previously known nothing about, I instantly felt more confident in everything I did. I now continue to remind myself of my ability to pursue difficult or unknown areas in my education, which will help me in the long run as I work towards my degrees.
I always knew that Rome was the one place that I would go to if I could go to any other country, but I had no idea that I would gain so much insight into my education in the classroom as well as my own personal life. I will always be grateful to the Ohio State University and the STEP Program in particular for giving me the chance to fulfill this dream for me and granting me with an abundance of memories and experiences I never would have had before.