STEP: The Brazilian Experience

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to study the music and culture of Brazil. I spent two weeks in a Brazilian culture class at The Ohio State University Columbus campus. Then I went with the class to Salvador and Rio de Janeiro. I learned about the cultural traditions practiced in Brazil, and furthermore I learned things about myself and the individual’s role in culture. I also learned many songs, dances, and stories that have enriched my life.

Being welcomed into a new culture allowed me to experience the rhythm of being in their group. There was one cultural practice where a group of us gathered in a circle and two-stepped in rhythm. We were tasked with keeping our feet and minds in rhythm with the group while our hands clapped interlocking, opposing rhythms. This task in itself took focus and an attentiveness to others in the group. Our focus was put to the test when, the leader of the group approached each member of the circle, clapping extraneous rhythms with the presumed intention of distracting us. This exercise allowed me to become more aware of the depth and intensity of focus. It was our job to look straight through it and focus unwaveringly on the task at hand, relying on our friends to help us stay in control. Then, when another was faced with that distracting force, it was our turn to help them by being steadfast in our roles. In doing this, we could be resilient against distraction and focused on contributing to the whole greater than the individual. There were many meanings that I took away from this exercise. We were all united by the groove, but we had distinct roles within it. The lapse of an individual’s focus could cause the group’s rhythmic structure to collapse. These roles required our individual focus to succeed.

In general, the people I encountered in Brazil seemed more laid back than most Americans. In the grocery store, cashiers chatted with their patrons while slowly scanning items. On the street, shops were lined with people hanging out outside. In the town squares, locals played samba music on various percussion instruments. I was fortunate enough to meet and play with a bunch of local musicians throughout the trip. Learning to be in a culture by experiencing and understanding its music and dance is very welcoming and personally rewarding.

In addition to learning more about Brazil’s music, I was able to see its beautiful landscape and plant life. I walked the length of Ipanema Beach and Copacabana Beach. I toured the some of its magnificent churches with glimmering walls lined with gold.  I looked out upon the vast city of Rio de Janeiro from the pedestal of Christ the Redeemer. It was truly wondrous. I visited public schools with few resources, but a great amount of determination and talent in their students. I met with a dean the day his classes were forced to be cancelled due to a protest about the price of oil. I witnessed religious ceremonies and watched traditional martial arts. The weeks I spent in Brazil were filled with rich experiences which have become fond memories, and I am for those extremely grateful.

Genocide and its Aftermath in Rwanda

My STEP signature project was the Genocide and its Aftermath in Rwanda education abroad program in the Sociology department. The program consisted of lectures in the classroom focusing on Rwanda’s cultural, political, social, and colonial history, the genocide, and how it has developed and changed since 1994 as well as testimonies and talks from Rwandans who survived the violence of the genocide, rescued others, and participated in it. We also explored the cities of Kigali, Huye, and Gisenyi throughout the program, engaging with the Rwandan community and important sites across the country.

During my time in Rwanda, my worldview was transformed on many levels. I became more critical of my Western viewpoint and was encouraged to recognize the significance of context when analyzing a situation and the responses to it. I was also strengthened in my belief of the importance of acknowledging and appreciating diversity and working to better understand differences in culture, religion, and ethnicity rather than ignoring them. I found that failing to dismantle the false, negative perceptions people have of the other and burying hostile feelings is problematic because the root of conflict goes unresolved. Finally, I further recognized the importance of responsibility and accountability. There is a thin line when it comes to the role foreign powers should play in other countries but when violence pervades and foreign powers have the ability to put an end to it, intervention is necessary. It is paramount, however, to seek to understand what a particular country needs before aid is provided. I plan to incorporate what I learned in Rwanda into my studies and future career.

During the program, our class visited a women’s cooperative where we heard from women whose husbands were killed during the genocide and whose husbands had participated in the violence. They shared their stories about how initially they were unable to even come into contact with women from the “other group” due to fear, anger, sadness, and shame. Over time they realized the need they had to be able to communicate and live together in their community peacefully. They spoke of the meetings they held and the help they received from a priest to encourage them to engage in conversation and work through their pasts. Over time they became able to speak and work with one another, eventually forming a cooperative together, creating strong relationships. Hearing their story of struggle, pain, persistence, and peace was inspiring and reminded me of the power dialogue can have in a community and the good that can come of speaking to one another, bringing down barriers, and understanding other perspectives to work through difference.

As we visited more organizations and heard the stories of Rwandans, our group became very close and engaged in conversation surrounding what we were learning and being exposed to during our time in Rwanda. On one particular day, Dr. Brehm organized an activity where she read various statements and each person had to decide whether they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed, or strongly disagreed with that statement, moving to a respective corner of the room to convey their response. This activity triggered some strong reactions and conversations surrounding the issues of identity, race-ethnicity, education, and diversity, pushing us to see and understand the perspectives of others in our class and the speakers who had shed light on their experiences during the genocide and in Rwanda since the period of violence. This activity allowed me to see beyond my stance and recognize the importance of context. I began to detect the Western viewpoint I hold on politics and society and was encouraged to consider the statements from a viewpoint unattached to my experiences to better understand why particular policies were in place and why people held certain notions.

Our class also visited four major genocide memorials and learned about the colonial history of Rwanda from both Dr. Brehm and Rwandan scholars. The role that colonial or foreign powers played in Rwanda was emphasized in memorials and lectures, demonstrating the negative influence they had on the region. We discussed the role Belgium played in transforming the social classes in Rwanda to ethnic groups and how this created arbitrary yet strong divisions on the basis of physical appearance and assumed characteristics. Feelings of hatred were cultivated between the groups in large part due to colonial actions and rampant, false propaganda was spewed forth from the government, pitting Hutus and Tutsis against each other. Many factors, including this growing ethnic tension and fear that the other group posed a threat to well being and safety led to the genocide in 1994. A couple of the genocide memorials chose to outline this history and also shed light on the absence of foreign intervention in the country during the time of the genocide. I became increasingly angered as I uncovered more about the lack of action Western powers took to end the violence in Rwanda despite being aware of the events that were taking place. Foreign power was integral to the creation of division and tension but remained on the outside when this violence came to a head. As I reflected on this, I realized how important it is for countries in power to take responsibility for problems they create and intervene in a positive way when necessary.

The transformation I underwent over the course of my time in Rwanda is valuable to me because I began to recognize my interest in foreign policy and rediscover my passion for learning about and appreciating diversity. As I work with my fellow board members to lead our student organization, Allies for Diversity, this upcoming year, I hope to encourage people with various backgrounds and perspectives to engage in conversation on social issues prevalent in the world today and highlight the differences in culture and experiences people have to promote acceptance and appreciation. Following graduation, I hope to gain experience working for an international NGO and work in the realm of human rights to better understand how they can be applied at an international scale and work through the complexities that come with this. My experience in Rwanda has sparked increased interest in these areas of identity, diversity, and human rights and I will bring what I’ve learned and been exposed to with me as I move forward.


Class Blog:

Education Abroad in France and Morocco

Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

My STEP Signature Project included traveling to France and Morocco for three weeks in the month of May. The first week consisted of touring the most prestigious and well-known landmarks of Paris. For the duration of the second week, I traveled to three cities in southern France and for the third week, I traveled to four popular cities in Morocco. While traveling to these destinations, I participated in approximately 3 hours of class each morning that allowed me to learn about the history and significance of the culture and community that I would be submersing myself in for the day.

What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

              After having the amazing opportunity to be one out of twenty-five students that were accepted to go on this study abroad trip to France and Morocco, I have to say I learned things about myself and the world that I was not cognizant of before. First of all, I never thought I would be able to survive a ten hour plane ride, so, I proved to be way stronger than I thought. But, more importantly, I learned that reality is so much different than what you learn from textbooks. Yes, textbooks provide a basic foundation, but I never realized how basic the foundation was until I was consumed in a foreign reality I had only dreamt of. To know that the Eiffel Tour sparkles on the hour is way different than witnessing it happen. It is the most beautiful thing. And the Africa I traveled to was not even remotely comparable to was is portrayed in the media. It is a stunning place full of so much culture. This trip eradicated all misconceptions I held before embarking on such a journey. I left the trip with so much knowledge and cultural appreciation that I would otherwise not have. I am so beyond grateful that I was able to see these parts of the world in a capacity that many people do not have the opportunity to witness.

What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

To say that I fell in love with the community of Sidi Moumen would be an understatement. Being able to see hundreds of people’s lives changed by the work of one man was truly amazing. Many times the more “fortunate” or well off people tend to neglect those who are victims of less fortunate socioeconomic circumstances and, as a result, they never give those people a chance to show that, they too, are human. The story of Idmaj and the success that they have achieved is so awe inspiring. And to think that it is all because of one person’s desire to help the community and provide them with some hope and opportunity is incredible. Mr. Boubker Mazoz is truly a hero. I have never been a part of an experience like our visit the Sidi Moumen Cultural Centers. I have only seen such acts of humanitarianism and philanthropy on a television screen. From the young to the old, the love that the community holds for Boubker Mazoz was pervasive throughout every speech that was given. Unfortunately, I was so captivated by their speeches that I only remember their stories and not their names. But the very first two girls that spoke, were so charismatic and so ambitious that it almost brought me to tears. Both of them talked about how they could barely speak any English when they first came to the cultural center and now they possess vocabularies that are more vast than some Americans that are their age. And the eloquence throughout their speeches was beautiful. One of the girls is going to Chicago for a summer convention and she wants to be an engineer. The other girl talked about how she explored dancing, singing, art, music, etc., but realized that her true passion was public speaking and now she is an aspiring public speaker. Of course, in America, these are normal ambitions; however, in a country that considers women to be second class citizens, it was moving to hear these girls say that they have such goals. They would not even have those dreams and opportunities if it wasn’t for Boubker Mazoz.

The older woman who gave the very last speech, also had a huge impact on me. She talked about how she was in a very dark place after she lost her husband. Through profusive tears, she was brave enough to admit that she neglected her kids and herself for so long before meeting Boubker Mazoz, who turned her life around for the better. I was so inspired by the twenty-year-old who gave her speech about traveling to the White House, meeting Michelle Obama and receiving a phone call to be a part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s movie about the women of Sidi Moumen. I wanted to ask her for her autograph so bad but I did not know how to go about that without it being weird. I just have this intuition that she is about to be something so great in the future. I could honestly go on and on about my experience in Sidi Moumen and I am finding hard to put into words how much I was positively impacted by the community. For Boubker Mazoz , to be supplying such opportunity and instilling such hope and promise into a community, such as Sidi Moumen, is beyond remarkable. The classrooms, the music room, the computer lab, the preschool rooms, the room filled with recycled creations, the classroom for the moms to learn English and French, the outside gym, the drums, the dance routines, and everything else was beautiful. And the fact that these resources are free to these people is truly extraordinary. One of Boubker Mazoz’s ending remarks was that he hopes that his legacy will live on forever. And I truly hope, with all of my heart, that it does.

Another aspect of the trip that will have a lasting impact on me is this conversation that I had with a guy in France who approached me to ask me if I was from the United States. When I told him that I was American he proceeded to say, “I have been to your country! I love your country! Yes, I know that there are police killing Black people all the time, but it’s worth it. Here, in France, if you are Black, you will not get hired anywhere. Tyra Banks was famous here only because she was American. Our Black people have to go to the United States to even have a chance at becoming famous because there is no way they can become anything here.” And when his friend walked over to us, he introduced him by saying, “This is my friend. He is a true French. You see his skin? White.” As our conversation continued, I began finding myself having to fight back tears. It is heartbreaking for me to be forced to realize that the United States is only one country in the world and everyone has not gotten past the stage of racism in the way that America has. For some reason, I truly believed that the entire world was just as progressive as the U.S. in terms of race relations. And to hear this man say that seeing Black people get killed by the police everyday is worth it speaks volumes about racial equality and struggles of Black people in France. Not only that but for him to believe that the only acceptable way for a true French person to look is to be white, is just so sad. The psychological oppression that he exhibited was just so devastating. The conversation was much longer than what I included in this journal entry but it was one of the most eye opening conversations I have ever had. To see how far the U.S. still must go until racism and prejudice in America is gone (racism and prejudice will never be gone) and then to hear that France is in the same place that America was in decades ago is an emotion I had never experienced before. And I don’t think that I have ever had a conversation with such a passionate person before. He was so convinced that all the bad racial relations in America were so much better than the racial relations in France. I wish I could accurately convey how I felt during this conversation but I don’t think that words can do it justice. But it was definitely one of the best conversations I have ever had.

There were so many awe-inspiring moments that I had on this trip. But these were the most impressionable moments that I will cherish for a lifetime.

Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

This transformation is significant and valuable to my life because I now how adopted an adequate international perspective of the world and created new points of view based on personal experience. I have grown more than I could ever imagine after going on this trip. Personally, I have learned that putting myself in uncomfortable situations is imperative to growing as an individual. For example, I had never studied French before I traveled to France so the language barrier made things complicated but overall, it facilitated a greater understanding and appreciation of the French culture. Not only was I able to flourish personally, but this trip has a myriad of positive implications for my future professional goals. As a prospective physical therapist, it is essential to have an appropriate understanding of different cultures because my patients will be from diverse backgrounds. Obtaining a global mindset will enable me to communicate better with my coworkers, and ultimately help me foster more professional relationships with my patients. This experience has also left me with a better understanding of the differences among cultures, especially in medicine and the health field, which will better assist me in providing the most beneficial treatment for all of my patients. Diversity is an important aspect of my future career and being a part of this study abroad trip has further instilled in me a passion for appreciating and understanding other cultures.


Semester at Trinity College Dublin

I spent Spring 2018 semester studying abroad at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. The experience was truly unforgettable and opened my opened my eyes to new experiences, opportunities and cultures. I took classes not only in my major, finance, but took classes in the international relations and classics schools. I was able to diversify my experiences, achieve personal goals and develop my understanding of Ireland’s culture, as well as my own and others’.

Having grown up traveling and even living abroad, I didn’t expect to be as effected by culture shock or the drastic changes to my schedule. I found it hard to adjust to the lax academic system and to the disappearance of my support system. Threw this experience pushed myself socially, emotionally, financially and academically, growing every day. Socially, I lived outside of my comfort zone. I pushed myself to interact with those that lived in my building and took my classes. By pushing myself, I developed lifelong friendships with amazing people from around the world. Emotionally, I left my normal support systems. I left my family, my friends and my peers, to travel across the world and essentially start over, alone. I have traveled and lived abroad when I was younger, but didn’t realize how much I relied on my family when moving for traveling. During this time, I learned a lot about myself and about my strengths and my limitations. I learned that while I am an extrovert, I am not afraid to travel alone and that while I rely on my support system, I can also be a support system for others. I struggled financially. It was difficult not have job–not just because I lacked a paycheck but because I lacked structure and accountability. Finally, I had to adapt to the different academic structure at Trinity College. I found that classes at Trinity were aggressively independent and lacked accountability; grading was arbitrary and classes were unstructured. The transition from OSU to Trinity was challenging but I was able to adapt to the system that required me to be self-accountable to motivated.

Following my love for travel, I took advantage of Ireland’s location and Ryanair to travel to some dream destinations: Greece, Morocco, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. I was able to use Ireland as a leap-pad to experience even more cultures and further develop my passion for traveling. I am excited to visit my friends at their homes in Australia next summer.

The interactions I had, the relationships I built and the traveling I did shaped my exchange and my life (my thoughts, perceptions and goals). The family I created for myself in Ireland will also connect me to the country and to the people. For five months, my friends were my family and I will always think of them as such. I interacted with them, with my peers, with the country and finally with myself. The best part of my exchange may have been the friendships I made. My close group of friends were from different countries and different majors but found ourselves connected by a love of travel and new experiences. Together we made dinner together almost every night, we travelled Ireland and Europe and shared an experience that will connect up forever.

Being in Ireland for five months, I spent a lot of time around the Irish. I experienced some of the nation’s most important holidays and some of the most important historical memories. Living there I was not a visitor or a tourist but I became a local. The employees at my favorite coffee shop knew my name, I knew all the local haunts and made friends outside of my living environment and my university. I quickly learned to navigate the city and was able to act as a tour guide for all those that visited me.

Traveling has always been a passion of mine. I have traveled to 35 countries and my passion shapes many of my personal and career goals. I seek to understand new cultures and perspectives, to see new landscapes and to eat new food. Traveling with my friends was an experience I will never forget. I was able to engage in experiences that were important to others, experiences that I may not have even thought about and to experience the passion of others. Traveling while on exchange reinvigorated my love of traveling and inspired me to travel as much as I can before starting a real “adult” job. Through my STEP experience, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I can be extroverted, but can also be introverted. I learned that I am not afraid of new experiences and that I actively seek them. Finally, I realized that international experiences are not only something I want more of, but I am not considering a requirement to my life.

More that every I am pushing myself to seek out new experiences, to challenge myself and to challenge others. I become comfortable living outside of my comfort zone and realized that an important skill is continuous development–always seeking new experiences that develop me personally, socially and professionally. Through my STEP experiences, I not only achieved life-long goals, like studying abroad and having geographically diverse friends but I also developed new goals and expanded upon new ones. The goals I was able to achieve are just as important as the goals I created for my life moving forward. My STEP experience was an amazing milestone and I look forward to the milestones to come.


The Canadian Parliamentary Internship Program

My STEP Signature Project was an education abroad opportunity to intern at the Canadian Parliament. This involved direct engagement with the House of Commons and the legislative process as an unpaid staffer in an MP’s office as well as access to multiple networking and career-building opportunities on Parliament Hill.

I interned with an MP from a rural and primarily French-speaking riding in Quebec. During this internship, I was tasked with responding to constituency mail, attending House committee meetings, assisting in research, and other miscellaneous tasks. I also went out of my way to work with offices that represented my interests in immigration, foreign affairs, and indigenous populations.

Being given an opportunity to be immersed in the federal politics of another country was a unique experience. It not only provided me with the opportunity to view U.S. politics from a different lens, but also motivated me to get further involved politically. The way constituencies, albeit large or small, influence structures of power fascinated me. In Canada’s case, the transparency that Trudeau’s Liberal government had with its citizens as well as profound acceptance of multiculturalism heavily impacted the relationship between Members of Parliament and their respective ridings (districts). I also felt very inspired and represented seeing the number of Muslim or South Asian or women MP’s there were. Seeing the diversity of perspectives and communities represented in the House led me to feel optimistic about the future of government.

These experiences to learn about francophone culture in Quebec paired with exploring a multitude of global issues were distinctive from what a textbook could have provided me with. To even sit in on meetings that would make the news the next day or meet important figures daily in both social and political contexts was something I will never forget. I left Canada feeling inspired and fortunate enough to have the capability and the resources to pursue a career in law and one day enact change.

Additionally, the duration of this internship aligned completely with Ramadan, a month of fasting for Muslims. Because of this, several Parliament iftars (dinners where people break their fast at sunset) were hosted. When I attended some of these, I was in awe at the number of Muslim staffers, MPs, and Ministers as well as the number of non-Muslims that came to eat in solidarity. That community not only made me feel at home and welcome but also gave me the conviction that it was extremely possible for me to be successful and included in politics.

Another experience that really impacted me was being able to witness a lagre group from the Wasagamack First Nations people arrive at Parliament and meet with their MPs to discuss issues plaguing their communities. They had walked for three months from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Ottawa, Ontario to raise issues about drug abuse and the systematic injustices that they face daily. Their resilience and strength is something that I think about often now. To be at such a disadvantaged position in society and still be able to fight for yourself is something that I have identified with for most of my life, since I grew up as an undocumented immigrant. This group that had just arrived included people of all ages, in search of better prospects for themselves and their children. Those are the people that I would like to help and fight for one day.

This experience was integral to keep me motivated to follow my goals. Witnessing the ways in which policies affect various communities opened my eyes to effective governance strategies. I want to become an immigration lawyer and provide legal services to communities in-need, seeking asylum or sanctity in the United States. How this opportunity broadened my horizons and exposed me to so many incredible people in both social and professional contexts is something that I will carry with me always. Because of this, I am more confident about my skills, my career path, and myself.

STEP Project, Study Abroad in Dublin, Ireland

1.       Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.


My STEP project involved me studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland at Trinity College

through the Fisher College of Business for an entire semester. I applied and had been accepted

to the program, and I went Spring semester in 2018 from January to June. My goals were to

diversify my knowledge base of business and solidify both the American and European way of

conducting business.


2.       What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.


While completing my STEP project in Dublin, Ireland, many things changed with myself, assumptions, and my view of the world. First, with myself, I changed for the better. This was the first time that I had to travel on my own, live in a different country, go to a different country for that matter, pack five months’ worth of my items into two suitcases, finance myself with no job, and much more. After the completion of my five-month STEP project, I was, and am, a world travel expert. I learned the ups and downs of traveling, and even the needs verses the wants of traveling. I learned that I needed to eat healthy, rest well, and take care of myself while I was traveling. I never understood what it meant to live well until I went abroad. I also learned how to travel in a different country, and even countries with a different language. It was a challenge at first, but by the end, I knew my way around the European travel system. Living in a different country I discovered the true meaning of loving your home and family while you are away. I changed in a way that now, I know it is important to keep in touch with family and friends no matter where you are. As for packing, you really learn the true value of what “stuff” you need while you are abroad versus having access to everything while you are home in the United States. Lastly, Financially, it was difficult at first to adjust to not having a job, however, I transformed myself into a budgeting expert. Now, I am better than ever at budgeting my money.


Assumptions and view of the world is a very important transformation when you study abroad. I went into my STEP project with assumptions of the cultures that I hadn’t lived in before. However, my view and assumptions of the world changed when I lived in a different part of the world to experience it for myself, not with assumptions. I learned that it is extremely important to not make assumptions or be biased about someone or a culture, just because your culture teaches you to do so. My mind was transformed to accept the world for its beauty and differences it has to offer. The differences of everyone and their culture is what makes the world so special. When all the cultures are blended together, you will lose the uniqueness, and I think it’s important to understand and accept the differences in our world.


3.       What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.


Starting with my change in becoming a master traveler, I had many events, interactions, relationships, and activities that led to the success of my foreign travels. For events and activities, I traveled almost every weekend. I had a lot practice with both English and non-English traveling which allowed me to understand traveling and navigating a city even more. With relationships, with my two good travel friends, we worked together in order to achieve being a master world traveler. Sometimes it was very difficult to navigate a foreign country, so when you work together and put your heads together, you can learn a lot more. Lastly, with interactions, we interacted with many locals of the country in order to find our traveling legs. This was an important step in order to finally learn, because sometimes the best way to learn is not only doing it on your own, but having the perspective from the local.


Next, I had the transformation or realization of the importance of family, friends, and where you came from. This is an important thing to know and understand as you study abroad. With different relationships I made while abroad, I came to realize that there was so much diversity in this world that it is important to keep it that way. For instance, sharing my home culture with someone else in the world is something special and exciting, and without diversity we wouldn’t have so many different backgrounds, stories, and cultures. This also had to do with different interactions I had when I was traveling across Europe, it was interesting to compare my home life to the culture and history of Europe. This made me realize that it is important to cherish your family, friends, and culture.


Lastly, with assumptions, I realized the importance of this when I made different friends from all over the world. When you first meet them, you have your assumptions about that certain country. For instance, one of my good friends was from the Netherlands. They said that on American television, they heard that a few rumors we were spreading about their country were untrue. I, growing up with those assumptions, was shocked. That was the first time I experienced the importance not listening to assumptions or gossip about a culture, because there are two sides to every story. With my friends and relationships that I made, I grew in diversity and understanding of the world.


4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.


This change is valuable in my life because I had the opportunity to accomplish academically the chance to learn from a different culture’s perspective. I know every country has a different system of learning, and I found it interesting to compare the United States and the Irish school system.

Professionally, expanding my global network and connections is very beneficial to my career. This enhances my global networking and meeting people around the world can really give someone a worldwide network of business contacts you can utilize through your life. Also, meeting new people can bring you to new realizations and ideas you may have about your career path.

Lastly, I learn by experience, not just sitting in a classroom. I learned the culture through the people and the experiences I had while abroad.  As one of my favorite quotes states: “Better to see something once, than to hear about it a thousand times.” I made my study abroad experience a way in which I took the things I have seen or heard about in my education, and learn and experience it while I was there.


My STEP Experience in the FCOB Sustainable Global Lab

Abby Shuga

Education Abroad


For my STEP Signature Project, I participated in the Fisher College of Business Sustainability Global Lab. The two-week program included a series of company visits and lectures in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Stockholm. Along with various cultural tours, the business conversations focused on sustainability and how it is treated in European versus American companies.

Over the course of this program, I was introduced to a new, more integrative view of sustainability within business that is adopted by many European companies. I learned to more critically evaluate the sustainability goals that companies introduce; sustainability has become a hot topic in business and I’ve learned that many companies will try to portray their actions as more “green” and beneficial than they really are. Many of my previously held assumptions were challenged, and I found myself considering many new career paths that I never saw myself pursuing prior to this trip. Through this program, I developed a new view of sustainability, and with that a new outlook on my career plans.

A common thread that I did not expect to encounter was the difference between the American and European consideration of sustainability and its benefits. Professionals from many of the companies I heard from made the distinction that in Europe, and especially in countries like the Netherlands and Sweden, sustainability is ingrained as part of the culture and is strongly supported by both the business community and the government. In American companies, sustainability is pursued mostly as a means for better performance through improved reputation, risk avoidance, and cost savings. In gaining a clearer understanding of this distinction, I am better able to analyze the sustainability initiatives of American and European companies and understand their varying levels of success.

Over the course of this education abroad experience, I discovered many more lenses through which I could view and analyze sustainability. The most notable of these was around the idea of the “voice of the beneficiaries”. First introduced when I visited the Rotterdam School of Management, I had never considered the lack of consultation with people directly affected by sustainability actions. In order to implement truly beneficial and sustainable action, all stakeholders need to be involved in the decision making but very rarely are. By understanding this idea, my ability to critically evaluate sustainability and CSR goals is now much stronger. For instance, during one of the company visits with a burger chain, the spokesperson told my group all about how they were planting trees to offset their carbon emissions. I would have been interested to know more about how much the company consulted with the local communities near which they were implementing these projects.

The companies that I visited on this trip opened my eyes to a variety of opportunities I was previously unaware of or uninterested in. For example, I had never considered a career in a foreign country, figuring that the language barriers and cultural differences would be too drastic a change. However, in speaking with the Chief Operations Officer of AkzoNobel, an American professional who has been working in Europe for several decades, my views were altered. He noted the importance of learning the local language as a gateway to adapting to the culture, but also stressed diversity as highly coveted in international business and a way to discover better solutions. Seeing how successful he and other Americans I spoke with have been in their careers in Europe have definitely made me more open to the idea of living and working abroad. In this program I visited companies that ranged from large multinationals, to two-year-old startups, to marketing firms with less than ten employees. Seeing this variety made me aware of all the paths involving sustainability that are open to me.

This program also provided me with ample opportunities to working on my skills and my confidence in networking. I have often found myself to be the type of person who shied away from asking questions during or after a presentation out of fear of looking uninformed or unintelligent. Throughout my company visits, I pushed myself to actively listen and ask questions during every presentation, getting my name and my face out there and providing further opportunities to network in the future. I pushed myself to speak with all of the presenters and lecturers and made contact I wouldn’t have been able to before. This has not only helped me be more confident in networking within my current internship; I also believe it will make me a more successful candidate when I begin interviewing for full-time positions.

Before this trip, I could describe my involvement with sustainability in business as an area of interest at most. I now believe that I can participate in intelligent discussions about sustainability and its current position in business, and use this to my advantage when speaking with companies as a potential employee. I have gained skills in evaluating sustainability initiatives for potential greenwashing, a skill I believe will help me in making decisions as a consumer, as well as searching for a company I want to work for. In my prior vision of my future career, I had never strayed from the idea of working for a large, for-profit corporation. But in speaking with different types of companies and professionals, I’ve learned that there are many more paths out there. I could work for a think tank and promote the idea of urban planning from the perspective of young girls in order to improve safety for all. I could work as a consultant and advise other companies on their own sustainability efforts and drive an eco-conscience throughout the business world. The contacts that I have made and the knowledge I have gained are invaluable to my professional and personal development as I prepare to graduate and enter a new phase in my life.


Knowlton School of Architecture Rome Program – Architecture and design in the Eternal City

1. For my STEP Signature Project, I lived in Rome, Italy for five weeks through the Knowlton School of Architecture Rome program, studying the architectural sites and designed landscapes. We used sketching as a way of analyzing the layers of Rome and the current built environment. We produced two projects consisting of experiences studied in the field of Rome’s major architectural sites.

2.  While trying to order my first cappuccino, knowing little to no Italian, I realized how insecure and foreign I felt. I realized that the next five weeks were going to be challenging and I would have to step out of my comfort zone in order to interact with my surroundings and embrace the differences. Once I decided not to let my insecurity of being an outsider get in the way of my experience, I noticed that I became more willing to explore and take advantage of my time abroad. I focused on observing the differences in our culture and trying to experience a new way of life. Over the course of five weeks, I grew into a more open-minded and independent individual because I was able to step out of my comfort zone. Allowing myself to embrace the cultural differences and not always compare them to my routine at home.

During my time in Italy, I also saw myself grow as a student and a designer. We visited many architectural sites and landscapes that are very different than what we are exposed to in Ohio. We focused primarily on improving our drawing skills and being able to translate our observations onto paper. We studied these sites through analytical drawings and tried to recreate the space in our notebooks. My sketches improved because I was willing to take risks on the spaces and objects I decided to draw and pushed myself to constantly find new perspectives.

3. One of my biggest fears before traveling to Italy was the language barrier. I had never studied Italian, similar to most of my peers on the trip, and was afraid of interaction and being disrespectful. Simple phrases and greetings that I usually never think twice about, were one of my biggest fears abroad. I was hesitant at first to jump into the language and nervous for the way they would respond. Although servers would often talk to us in English, I pushed myself to try to interact with simple greetings. Once I forced myself to say as much in Italian as I possibly could, I felt even more connected to the locals. Even though my Italian was very minimal, being able to connect and interact with people from a different culture really helped me step out of my comfort zone of feeling like an outsider.

Being stationed in Rome for five weeks and living among the locals really helped me embrace the culture. I passed the threshold of being a tourist and started living as though I were a true Italian. I lived in one of the residential neighborhoods, went shopping at the corner grocery store, commuted alongside the locals on the underground metro, and indulged in traditional cuisine. I am very thankful for the opportunity to live in an apartment and navigate my way through a typical Italian residence. Many things such as the laundry, showers, and sleeping arrangements were very different than what I was used to. Living in these apartments helped me realize the drastic differences there are living in a city versus living in Ohio. My experience was very different than a typical tourist who may have been staying in hotels. This experience helped me understand their daily lives and exposed me to their culture in ways other tourists have not been able to.

In my studio at Ohio State, I often work on the computer and avoid drawing whenever I can. Being able to draw your ideas and communicate them with clients is a very important and useful skill in landscape architecture, but is a skill I never felt confident about. Before this trip, I had never practiced sketching in my free time. I always wanted to become a better sketcher and I think this program really pushed me to constantly practice. We were taken on tours four days of the week, and were required to have our sketchbooks handy at all times.  Although I would get discouraged when my drawings would not come out how I imagined, this trip encourage me not to give up. I realized that my drawing skills are only going to improve with practice and I saw a significant development in my ability to draw by the end of the trip.

4. This transformation was valuable because I became more willing to take risks and interact with situations I am not familiar with. Traveling and studying abroad not only exposed me to very important and significant architectural precedents that will relate to my educational and professional goals, but it helped me grow as an individual. I became comfortable with embracing the differences and similarities in order to understand a new way of life. It is easy to live inside your comfort zone and fall into a habitual routine. I learned that in order to grow as an individual, one must walk a path they are not familiar with to understand differences and look at the world with new eyes. Traveling abroad encouraged me to observe my surroundings in a different way. I think this is important especially in the design world. Being able to walk around sites that many people only have the opportunity to learn about in a classroom was really rewarding. Stepping outside of my comfort zone moved me into a learned zone. A space where new ideas and experiences can be observed, internalized and integrated into new ways of thinking and doing. These are lessons both essential going forward personally and professionally.


Project 1 : Piazza Della Minerva analysis drawing

Project 2: Santa Maria in Aracoeli: Cosmatesque

Patterns and Disruptions (hand drawn)

One of my favorite pictures I took during

my time in Rome : The Colosseum

Between France and Morocco: Diversity and Inclusion in the Francophone World

For my STEP Signature Project, I spent the month of May traveling the countries of France and Morocco along with other Ohio State students through a Study Abroad trip. The program traced the evolution of cultural, religious, racial, and national identities in France and Morocco, focusing on shared histories between the two countries and the challenges of practicing inclusivity and respecting diversity in these countries. The first week of study introduced us to the history and culture of Paris. For the second week, we made the small Southern city of Aix-en-Provence our base to explore France’s gateway to the Mediterranean. And lastly, we spent the third week visiting the historic cities of Marrakech, Rabat, Fez and Casablanca in Morocco.

Experiencing traveling abroad has definitely changed my view on the world and certain things I happen to take for granted. This trip was the epitome of transformative for me, I now view study abroad as of the most educational experience of my college career so far. I did not just learn about surface level subjects while on this trip, this experience allowed me to learn about two completely different cultures in a deeper way than what I am normally accustomed to…I experienced. We delved into those surface level topics that seem taboo in their cultures which gave me a deeper connection and a different perspective to understanding the cultures. As this trip officially stamped my first time ever going abroad I not only learned a lot about France and Morocco, my eyes were opened to view the world and my place in it quite differently. France and Morocco increased my passion for learning, as a result of this trip I have a better understanding that learning does not always have to be measured by a numerical score on an exam or a letter grade on my transcript. Life is full of opportunities to learn new things, this experience has not only proven that but has also changed my worldview, educational drive, my mind has been opened and my determination to make an impact on this world beginning with helping those in my community is at its peak.

Morocco and France. After experiencing these two very old countries both rich in their distinctive religious and political traditions, there are many similarities but nonetheless apparent differences between them. France today is of the most modern countries in the world and is a leader among European nations. However, with the French culture primarily centered around knowledge of the language and correct dialect, citizens have to assimilate in order to truly feel like they fit the criteria of what it means to be “French”. Assimilation usually results in losing one’s original self, and with a country as diverse as France, there must be a change to secure the opportunity to be multicultural and French simultaneously. Comparatively, Morocco who is still developing as a country is currently making strides to increase their economic growth, and confront other issues including the struggle to even find a true national identity. As a multilingual society, where many languages compete for social, economic and political capital, Morocco faces much conflict and tension within its borders because of the lack of an official language. Overall, concepts and views on religion, diversity, language and sense of national identity are all dissimilar points when comparing these two nations.

After exploring these two societies, one difference that stood out to me was the difference in views on religion. Overall, the differences in the views on Islam and Muslims were very apparent. In France there is definitely evidence of Islamophobia, as its roots were greatly explored throughout this trip. The history behind this phobia relates back to French colonization. Today, there are about five million Muslims living in France. This is almost 8% of the population, and although this may not seem as much, it’s the largest percentage of any country in Europe. Historically, Muslims came to France following the French colonization of North Africa. Hence, the modern relationship between France and its Muslim population should be described as “an underclass” since its centered around the components of “imperial history and economic exploitation.”Muslim repression in French culture seems to be primarily grounded in secularism, republicanism, and feminism. Regarding the political aspect of secularism, it is organized in the famous 1905 separation from church and state law. With this law having such deep roots in French life it was originally put in place to prohibit the Catholic influence over the government, “state” . In schools, teachers are considered “agents of the state” and are prohibited by that law to display any religious identity openly. And on the other hand, students have been threatened by this law to do the same. In 1989 there was an attempt to ban young girls from wearing the headscarf in schools, but this ban was rejected by the courts. However, as a response to the “war on terror” and the 9/11 U.S. attacks, the 2004 legislation “banned religious symbols” in schools. This law essentially is the forefront of Islamophobia. The “conspicuous” religious signs might as well be “any Islamic signs” since the law specifically excludes certain members of the public and was not intended to be applied equally. From headscarves to long skirts, this was a specific targeting of “separation of church and state” for adolescent Muslim women. The hypocrisy of this law and its position as a tool of Islamophobia are quite obvious. This type of legislation is essentially using education as form of repression and tyranny towards certain groups. So much so that teachers were required to actually report students who showed any signs of support for Islam after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, further providing evidence of the law specifically targeting Muslims. This all goes to show that the French school system’s actual purpose is more so the molding of students in order to assimilate into French society

During our time in Rabat, Morocco we had the pleasure of a guest lecture, Professor Youssi who was a professor of linguistics and highlighted the linguistics problems in Morocco. In, Morocco there is no set primary language of the country as Moroccan Arabic, French, and Berber dialect are mainly spoken. Having no common language of the nation, with very few communities confronting this communication problem, makes this situation very complex. Languages change to meet the communicative needs of the people and as a result there must be a push for a universal language in the country so that the people can properly communicate and overcome the struggles of this complex situation. It’s very interesting that in a way, the middle class has managed to have slightly alleviated this problem (found a solution) by sending their children to foreign schools, in Morocco such as French, American, Spanish schools, and even some Moroccan private schools emulate the foreign school’s tactics. However, they have not found a solution for the lower class who can’t afford to send their kids to those different types of schools reiterating the socio-economic barrier. Experiencing and witnessing this dilemma really opened my eyes to how valuable education really is and how powerful it can be.
In Casablanca, Morocco we had a chance to visit the Sidi Moumen neighborhood gave us the insight that socio economic rankings and standpoints are very important. On May 16th, 2003, the instance of Morocco’s version of 9/11 occurred with 15 perpetrators being responsible for this act of terror. These individuals all came from the Sidi Moumen neighborhood which resonated a message that there may be an underlying relationship with their upbringing and mindset that led up to those occurrences. The impression of the Sidi Moumen neighborhood was tarnished. These tragedies not only changed Morocco’s view towards terrorism but also sparked the idea of creating centers to better the community and its residents helping to recreate a new positive outlook of the neighborhood. Meeting owner of community center and seeing how his passion has affected the women, children and families of the community in a substantial way through their testimonies was very inspiring. Experiencing this trip showed me especially that we should aspire to be the change we want to see in this world. And I will always remember that…

It is my strong belief to live by the mantra, “Never stop wondering and never stop wandering.” With the world’s population clock ticking past 7.6 billion people, I wake up every day seeking to encounter new people and lands that will help shape my destiny. Studying abroad has always been an experience I have longed to take part in while attending college. After being afforded this opportunity I have achieved my goal of widening my field of vision. Overseas travel provided me with a broadened perspective on how people live and experience culture in other parts of the world. I gained knowledge of how those in French and Moroccan culture face life’s every day challenges and make quality decisions. Additionally, I learned how to appreciate and value things and objectives using a more global approach.

In my quest to serve my community within the healthcare field, I became aware of research studies stating that valuing diversity, inclusion and cultural competency are important elements needed to provide high-quality patient care. Those factors were among the reasons I wanted to gain the experience of studying and living abroad. This unique opportunity aided me in cultivating a more global mindset and outlook on diversity in the world and how other cultures handle the subject as compared to the American culture. Reflecting back, this program was essential for my personal and professional growth as a student within our multifarious world. It is important for me, as an aspiring leader in the medical field to remain passionate about serving others but to do that, I must be able to understand others, their struggles and their perspectives. Being inclusive and respectful of the cultural practices, backgrounds and experiences of those patients I serve will be imperative qualities I must possess when providing care.



Study Abroad – Milan, Italy

Noelle Zies

Study Abroad

For my STEP Signature Project I participated in a study abroad program hosted by the Department of Design entitled, “Exploring the History and Future of Design in Milan, Italy.” This program was a 3 credit hour course focusing on the design culture in Milan and touching on architecture, product design, fashion trends and visual design in relation to the city.

Over the course of this program, I was able to learn a lot about the relationship of design to other cultures and spaces. I learned how other people in diverse cultures interact with design and how valuable it is to them. My greatest takeaway is that I learned not only how to be independent, both as a designer and as a person, but that I am completely capable of being independent. This allowed me to see every location I visited in a new way and it gave me the confidence to explore.

When I first got to Milan, I felt like one number of a pack, sticking with the group and following the leader. It was imperative that I keep up, pay attention to what was happening and watch every move of the instructor to make sure that I wouldn’t get lost. There were a couple of instances when members of the group did get separated and I remember feeling completely terrified, “What if that were me? I would never be able to find my way back.” I was in a new country, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city and unable to speak the language. I felt like my life depended on staying by the instructor’s side and following his lead.

Originally, it seemed like a month wasn’t enough time to learn my way around the city, let alone the metro system. But much to my surprise, I had it down after the first week. Staying with the group that first week really helped because we created a routine and I was able to remember all of the landmarks along the way to each of our excursions. The first time I led the group through the underground I felt so proud of myself for being able to do it. By the third week I felt like a local. I knew where the coffee shops were, how to read the metro maps, where the ATM’s were and I was shopping at the market up the street every couple of days. Even though it wasn’t home, it felt familiar and it gave me the confidence to explore more of the city.

With my newfound confidence I didn’t mind leaving to go explore on my own. I would wander into shops or stop to sit in a park without worrying that I was alone. It was such a proud and freeing feeling to know that I was halfway across the world, in a foreign country, strolling around on my own and soaking in all the city had to offer. I think part of what drew me towards gaining this independence was the need for alone time. Being on a study abroad trip with a small group of girls was a great way to get to know each other and make new friends. But It also made it very hard to spend quality time appreciating all of the breathtaking sights surrounding us because there was always a destination we were trying to make it to as fast as possible.

This change was very important for me to go through. My entire life, I’ve been under the impression that I needed to get permission or approval before trying something new. I had to rationalize with myself whether I should take the leap, put myself out there and explore the unknown. I felt like I needed someone there to hold my hand before I could take a risk. At 21 years old, it’s very important to be able to do things on my own.

Overall, this change was most helpful for personal growth. However, I’ll definitely be able to use these new feelings of independence and confidence to better my design work. Instead of needing approval from my professors or someone to hold my hand throughout the creative process, I can take risks on my own and trust myself to find the right path.