STEP: Study Abroad in Rome

For my STEP project, I traveled to Rome, Italy in order to take a history course, known as “Modern Life in the Eternal City.” Over this 5-week course, I toured different parts of this eternal city, as well as the history that makes up its present day culture.


Prior to going abroad, I was very nervous about a number of things that I anticipated I would bump into whilst in a foreign country. For starters, there was the language barrier, which I tried to prepare myself for by using the Duolingo app. In the past, I have experienced minor language barriers when our home hosted foreign exchange students or when I traveled to foreign countries with my father. However, the extensive amount of time I spent abroad meant that certain aspect of traveling to a foreign journey would be heightened to levels than I was not really used to. I came to learn more about what it really felt like to be a ‘foreigner,’ rather than just a tourist. I felt disconnected from the rest of the world at time because of all the differences in culture, lifestyle, and most pointedly, the language. While I learned more about what it felt like to be a foreigner, I also learned a lot about how independent I could be, and how much humble observation could help in a new environment.


Before I actually started my history course in Rome, I took a moment to explore other parts of Europe, such as London and Prague. While there was no language barrier in London, I underestimated how vast the cultural difference would be. Buildings were smaller and yet more bunched together, streets were more compact, and traffic was insane. I arrived and had to figure out how to get to the place I was staying via “the Tube,” the most common form of public transportation in London. While this subway was very efficient and well organized, I was not at all well enough acquainted with London that I felt confident navigating it myself. But navigate it myself, I did – or at the very least, I tried. I ended up getting lost during my first connection between subways, during which time I hauled my 50-lb suitcase up and down several flights of stairs as I searched for the station I was meant to go on. Finally, I deemed myself helpless, and realized I needed to seek outside help. I approached a seemingly friendly middle aged couple with two children and asked them for further instruction, showing them screenshotted directions on my phone, so that they’d have something other than me to work off of. Luckily, they knew just where I had to go, and I finally made my way to the correct line, heading in the correct direction.


This narration depicts just one of the several times I ended up getting lost in London. The city life was one I was just not used to, and much less the European life. However, while you may expect that my trouble with navigation would only increase once I reached a country where they spoke another language, it actually got much better. Realizing that my biggest problem with navigating had simply been my lack of preparation, I made a point to note every detail I would need to know in order to properly and efficiently travel around, as well as potential alternate routes should everything not go according to plan, as it often didn’t. And so, my navigating in Rome actually went by seamlessly, and I even managed to plan a solo trip to Nice, France, where I did not get lost a single time, and managed to make it everywhere I wanted to go without a hitch! I grew to become much more comfortable traveling new places I was not well acquainted with, even if I knew there was going to be a language barrier. Before this trip, I had always been scared of going to other places on my own, especially if it was a place I had never been, discounting any form of communication barriers whatsoever. My confidence and comfort levels in other foreign places increased significantly with the experience of traveling around to new places with such varying cultural differences through this experience I could have only gotten with STEP.


My program in this study abroad was very small, especially in comparison to other programs, coming in at a count of 10 people total for the entire Rome program for our session. To make matters even smaller, this group was divided into two for the classes, meaning only 5 people were in my class. Coming from Ohio State, this class size was practically microscopic. However, this was not necessarily a bad thing. I had not had a class size that small since one of my Latin classes in my junior year of high school, and so it was nice to revel in the intimacy that came from having such a small class size. I was able to become much more well acquainted with my professor than I had been able to for my undergraduate career. The class was strongly based in direct immersion; every day for class we would all walk around different areas of Rome, and learn about the history behind them. Through this classroom style, I was able to feel connected to the material I was studying, and also view the city from a completely different perspective. This experience encouraged me to learn more about the background of any place I go to, as it ends up shaping the cultural, political, and social design of a city, much more so than I ever understood before. Huge shoutout to my professor Dr. K for opening my eyes to that entirely new perspective. I will seriously be forever grateful for everything she taught me in those five weeks.


I will say that the class size reaped many good things, but also a few bad things. Unfortunately, I did not necessarily mesh very well with a couple other students in my class. This is not to see that we got in fights or disagreements, but rather that the ways we approached our study abroad program were different. Some may say converse, even. With our varying interests, I had to get comfortable doing more things by myself. However, because of this, I, again, became more comfortable figuring out what I would want to do, advocating for myself, and making it happen. One time, when our group went to Florence, I made it clear that I would want to go see the statue of David, and actually ended up getting everyone to come to the museum with me. While they only stayed 30 minutes total, and my friend and I ended up staying triple that amount of time, it was still nice of them to come, even though I knew many weren’t really interested. Through this trip, I improved my leadership skills, and became more comfortable doing the things I knew I wanted to do on my own.


While I grew and further developed during my temporary stay in Europe, the changes I underwent proved to be permanent and will remain with me in America, or wherever it is that I end up going next. My perspective of Rome shifted as I learned more about the significance behind the architecture, and the richness of the history associated with all the beautiful places I saw. My professor would constantly push us as a class to step outside of our comfort zones and open our minds up to new parts of Rome that only a true inhabitant of Italy could show us. Through this trip, I learned more about what it means to be independent, and further developed my leadership skills. All of these skills will enable me to step into the world, and peer at it from a new lens acquired in Europe. I have a newfound hunger to learn more about world history, and want to start right here in Columbus. It was crazy to me how much there was to learn about Rome, and it occurred to me that I knew next to nothing about Ohio’s history. I am eager to listen, learn, and experience more than ever.

Study Abroad, Valparaíso– STEP Reflection

This semester, I studied abroad in Valparaíso, Chile. I stayed with a host family with whom I became very close, made Chilean friends, learned about Chilean politics and social movements, and had the opportunity to take engaging classes about Chilean history and culture alongside Chilean students.

I come from a bi-cultural family, my mother being a Chilean and my father American. When I was growing up, we visited my mamá’s family in Chile a lot, she spoke to us in Spanish, and showed us Chilean music and games and rhymes and recipes. Because my mamá shared her culture with me and my sister since we were very young, I always felt very acutely that I was partially Chilean. Before I left to study abroad in Chile for the semester, many people would ask me why I had chosen Chile if I was already familiar with Chile and had visited before. It’s true that my study abroad experience was quite different from the typical one, where students immerse themselves in a completely foreign culture, many times not being able to speak the local language fluently or even at all. But that doesn’t mean that this experience wasn’t just as important in my life as study abroad is to any other person.

Living in Chile for five months in a city where I had no previous connections has made me into a person who is very confident about my Chilean identity. I feel that living there for a time as an adult was crucial to be able to fully mature the connection I’ve always felt to my Chilean heritage. This connection will always be thanks first and foremost to my mamá, who worked hard despite the many challenges immigrants face to retain and pass on their heritage and language. However, throughout this semester abroad, I feel that I have developed my own relationship to Chile and to Chileans that I feel very comfortable with. This growth feels perhaps most important to me on a personal level, but I believe that this development has had reverberations that go beyond the personal, into the intellectual, the academic and the professional.

When I first arrived in Chile this semester, I was able to spend time with my family who live in the South of Chile. I helped make porotos granados with my abuelita, played dominos with my abuelito, and learned how to drive manual transmission with my aunt. It was my first time visiting my Chilean family without my mamá, but I felt warm and at home, and I felt like I was really just another member of the family. A few weeks later, I arrived in Valparaíso to start my semester at Pontífica Universidad Católica de Valparaíso. My host mother was a woman who, like me, is very interested in leftist social and political issues. We talked for hours on that first day about the very thing that most Americans swear is taboo at the dinner table—politics! The rest of my time in Valparaíso, I sought out conversations like these, and this led me to make many friends who are interested in the same types of questions that I am—where do exploitation and oppression stem from, and what can we do collectively to put an end to these injustices?

During my time in Chile, I learned about my host mother, Myriam’s, work with families looking for the bodies of their “disappeared” family members during the time of the Pinochet dictatorship. I helped out at the soup kitchen Myriam founded with her late husband for low-income university students. While I was here, the students at my university and universities across the country went on strike against sexism and sexual assault in academia, and male-centered curricula. I was able to attend the assemblies where the students debated and planned actions for and during the strike. I joined a small weekend class led by a revolutionary Mapuche women who taught us the Mapuzungún language and about Mapuche herbal medicine, and my classmates and I often discussed the systemic violence taking place against the Mapuche people by the state and foreign industry in the south of Chile. My classes at PUCV were all about Chilean history, politics, and culture, and I felt very lucky to be able to learn about these subjects alongside Chilean students.

My class on “Mapuche Worldview,” taught by a revolutionary Mapuche woman at a local community center in Valparaíso

Apart from the opportunities I had to grow on a political and intellectual level, I also had the opportunity to make Chilean friends through music. I play violin, and was able to find a band to play with during my time here called Javiera y Lavanda. The band plays singer-songwriter music in a full-band format (guitars, voice, bass, and percussion). It was fun for me to participate in writing my own violin parts for the band, especially because the songs all had a very Latino feel to them, reminiscent of Latino pop-rock songs I used to listen to when I was little.

Recording session with Javiera y Lavanda, the rock band I played with in Valparaíso

During my time here, I was able to meet and have conversations with many people from the Mapuche nation. Through my discussions with them about the current conflict between the Mapuche people and the Chilean state, I have become very interested in the role that the Mapuche language of Mapuzungun plays in this conflict. Next year, I plan to pursue my academic interests in the politics of Mapuzungun and Mapuche liberatory nationhood as my senior thesis in Linguistics and Comparative Cultural studies.

This semester has also been transformative to me on a more personal level. While here, I was able to perfect my Spanish, and as I’ve mentioned before, I have grown much more confident in my own Chilean identity. I do not have definitive plans for after graduation yet, but living in Chile for a few years to study or teach seems like a very likely path to take after I finish undergrad. Having made many Chilean friends during my time here, plus having my Chilean family living here and always willing to receive me, would help with this transition for me. As my time in Chile comes to an end (for now!) I feel very lucky to be feeling so sad. The sadness I’m feeling upon leaving means that there’s a piece of me, a piece that is proudly Chilean, that will remain in Chile when I’m gone.

My Internship Abroad in Ireland

In the summer of 2018, I had the opportunity to travel to Ireland to participate in an internship as a part of the STEP Program at The Ohio State University. This internship was genuinely an experience of a lifetime, that included many trials and high points.

While completing my project, I learned multiple lessons and had a change in worldview. This project marked the first time that I ever flew in an airplane, but also traveled outside the United States. Since I completed this project alone, throughout this I learned to advocate for myself when things went awry, while also being responsible for myself and making my plans come to fruition. This experience also made me realize my own determination and perseverance. In addition, I was very surprised and grateful for kindness and generosity that I was shown by multiple people from various backgrounds.

As a result of the multiple trials and interactions that I experienced, I have developed the most personally. At the beginning of my project, I also experienced the mishaps of flying, including missed flights and lost luggage. I planned to travel from Cincinnati, Ohio to Newark Liberty, New Jersey to Dublin, Ireland. Unfortunately, due to unfamiliarity and miscommunication, I missed my flight from New Jersey to Ireland. To make matters worse, my luggage was already transferred onto my flight to Dublin. These events resulted in an enormous amount of stress, discouragement, and the need to rely on others. Thankfully I have a cousin who lives in New Jersey and was able to let me stay with her the night and drive me to the Stewart International Airport in New York the next day. I was informed that when I arrived in Dublin my luggage would be waiting for me, when I arrived I discovered this wasn’t the case. Through my frustration and worry, my host family and coworkers generously cared for me as I waited five days for my suitcase.

Another major issue that I faced was the severity and unpredictability of my asthma. Due to the several factors, including the environment and emotional stress from the previous days, my asthma started to flare up the day I started my internship. I believed once I became accommodated after a few days, my condition would be under control. Sadly, as the days went by, my asthma got even worse in which I experienced multiple asthma attacks and developing a horrible cough. The day I arrived in Ireland until the day I left, my asthma hindered me from fully enjoying my experience and completing my duties. Despite consistently taking medication and going to a doctor, my asthma continued to be life threatening forcing me to leave Ireland after 4 weeks. It was one of the hardest decisions that I’ve had to make, especially after all of the energy, money, and time, that I put into the project.

Even through these trials, I was able to learn from and interact with people from several places around the world with multiple backgrounds. Most of the people I interacted with, whether it was coworkers or a stranger, I was met with an act of kindness or nice word. I met people from all around Ireland, Germany, Italy, Denmark, France, Iceland, and throughout the United Sates, along with their cultures, languages, and perspectives. When I was coming back to the United States, my flight had a 2-hour layover in Reykjavík, Iceland. Due to a delayed flight from Dublin, Ireland, this became a 22-hour layover and in the most spontaneous series of events, I found myself exploring Iceland with four other strangers and it was amazing. Throughout this project, I realized that during times of stress and trial, one of the things that I was most grateful for was the acts of kindness that I was shown, whether it was sharing a cup of tea or being taken along on a mini road trip across Iceland.

Through the literal blood, sweat, and tears that I endured on this project, I gained a realization of my own perseverance, an appreciation for small gestures of compassion, and a better understanding of what the best career options are for me after college. Despite the discouragement and stress, I felt during and after the project, I know that I’ve become more determined because of it and that in the future I will be more prepared to cope with similar situations. Reflecting on how multiple deeds of kindness affected me, I realize how much of an impact they can make on others and plan on doing them more often. This project has given me a better understanding of what career path would be best for my health and has pushed me into exploring other careers within in my major.



Sustainability in New Zealand

Emma Noethen

Study Abroad

This past May I spent on the South Island of New Zealand studying the sustainability of the tourism industry in the region. Throughout the month, myself and 12 other students traveled through various cities and towns with a program that combined experiential learning with traditional classroom style learning. The main transformation I saw take place within myself was my view on sustainability. I was an Accounting major on a trip where most of the other students were environmental majors of some sort. I definitely had a steep learning curve when it came to the class content of sustainability, which is something I had previously given little though until coming on this trip. Sure, I try to recycle if it was possible, but had no idea how different most Americans view on sustainability was when compared to this area of the world. I spoke with a Kiwi who would not get “takeaway” coffee because they did not want to use a plastic cup. Kaikoura, a small town on the east coast, actually stopped collecting people’s trash. Instead, you would have to bring your trash to this site yourself and pay for each bag’s disposal. These are just two examples that show how different the mindset is in New Zealand on living a sustainable lifestyle compared to the one in the United States.

A key aspect of this transformation began before we even left for the trip. At orientation, our professor had us take an ecological footprint quiz. This quiz informed me that if every person on the planet used our resources like I did, we would need 4 earths to sustain everyone. This was shocking to me since I never realized how poor my sustainability really was. Something I realized that made my footprint increase was how much I travel on a plane. That was largely what my footprint consisted of. This was what first brought my attention to the heavy impacts on the environment that tourism can leave, since New Zealand is primarily accessed by tourists by plane. This helped bring my attention to something that was a key factor in my transformation before even leaving for the trip.

Another key aspect was when we first arrived in Dunedin. The activities conducted in this city consisted primarily of lectures from various professors and professionals as well as an example of a more sustainable version of tourism. The professors introduced several concepts that are relevant in New Zealand and continued to be brought up throughout the trip. These included the dangers of invasive species being introduced to New Zealand, the major impacts of tourism, and the importance of New Zealand’s Maori roots. These all combined to give a good basis on New Zealand’s view of sustainability. Being educated on the importance of sustainability from people who had dedicated their lives to it was another huge revelation to me. Dunedin consisted of our group going on a more sustainable tourism activity. This was wildlife encounters, a van that would drive around the coast to educate the tourists and help them get up close views of wildlife. Because we were visiting these animals in their habitat and from a safe distance, it was a bit like a flipped zoo, we were the ones kind of in a cage seeing the animals in their natural habitat. The result of this unique experience made me realize that there are more sustainable forms of tourism like this. Dunedin was also a host to a conference on the sutainability of tourism that was coincidentally going on the same time we were there. This further set the groundwork for the importance of sustainability and further contributing to this key aspect.

The final event that contributed towards my transformation on my attitude of sustainability was the visit to Kaikoura. Kaikoura is a coastal town towards the north end of the South Island that was the second to last stop on our trip. We focused most of our attention on the difficulties of the tourism industry here, which is primarily dependent on whale watching. Kaikoura experienced a devastating earthquake a few years back that isolated the town almost entirely for a short period. There tourism industry has not entirely recovered since that incident. You can still see some shops set up in shipping containers in the charming downtown area. Kaikoura stood out to me for two reasons the connection to the Maori culture and their commitment to sustainability. We were able to partake in a cultural tour of the peninsula lead by two Maori. This highlighted the value and connection that the Maori have towards the land. The guide could walk us through a forest and identify the different plants, their uses, and importance. He heard many of us coughing and recommended we take a few Kawa-Kawa leaves to make tea out of in order to heal our sore throats. This tied together the why of sustainability. It highlighted the importance of everything we had learned thus far on the trip. This could all be summed up in a Maori phrase that translated means “care for the land, care for the people, move forward.” It shows the connection people have to the land they lived on and why we need to care for it.

This transformation relates to academic and professional goals of mine. I always have prided myself in trying to be a well-rounded student. I try to take classes I am interested in rather than the easiest. This has lead me to pick up a minor in history as well as take classes in a variety of subjects such as astronomy, philosophy, and as of last May, sustainability. This was a subject I previously knew next to nothing about but was interested in challenging myself from academically. Professionally, this relates to overall success in a career in business. Sustainability is only going to become more important to most companies. I see it as very important to learn as much as you can about it as it is not going away anytime soon. The further ahead and more you can learn about an issue that is going to be so relevant in business in the coming years is helping me reach some of my professional goals.

STEP Reflection Post-Madison Brandfass

For my STEP signature project, I studied abroad in Lima, Perú for 10 weeks, what an experience. In Lima, I took two classes at a local university, Universidad del Pacífico, for the first five weeks of my abroad experience, and for the last fives weeks, I completed service-learning at a local organization called Tangram that works with kids that have learning and physical disabilities.

When I first got to Perú, I was terrified but incredibly excited. Especially since this was my first experience outside of the country and in a culture completely different than my own. This experience has taught me so much about myself and honestly taught me all the things I don’t know and still have to learn. This experience changed my outlook on life and other countries and really put what I consider “big” problems into perspective. The biggest thing that came out of this is recognizing that different doesn’t translate to bad. Just because things are different or the way people do things in a different country or culture is different, doesn’t mean that it is wrong. I think that going abroad, I went in with the mentality that the United States and Perú weren’t really that different because I didn’t want to go into my experience making assumptions about how different two cultures/countries, I didn’t want to distance myself from the country I was going to be living in by assuming that it was a completely different world. But what I came to find out and the mentality that I took on was that yes, they’re different, but it is in response to the needs and the situations, social and political, that make it different and that is okay. This way of thinking allowed me to grow as a person and the way I view the world. Recognizing that there are indeed differences allowed me to connect more with the culture and fully immerse myself in their way of life. By understanding why there are differences, ultimately helped me bridge the cultural gap between what I was used to, and what I was experiencing in Perú. Recognizing these differences made me realize that we really aren’t that different from one another which is what my original mentality was. But I needed to recognize the differences and why they were different in order to see the similarities between the two cultures. Although that may sound opposite, I see it more as everything coming full circle and taking me on a journey and changing my worldview to help me understand why there are differences and how these differences really bring us together and become similarities when you understand the reasons for these differences.

Honestly, what led me to this change and realization are the relationships I made with my host family and my service-learning organization. Not only did these things transform me, but also participating in everyday activities allowed me to engage with the culture and the people. My host family was amazing, outright amazing and had the biggest impact on me and my transformation. When I first arrived in Perú, living with a host family was my biggest fear. I felt that the whole concept was awkward and strange and didn’t know what to expect or how to act because I was trying to go into this experience open minded and not make any assumptions about the differences that there might be. But the relationship I made with my host family allowed me to recognize the differences, but realize that these differences really brought us together and made us closer as to where they became similarities instead of differences. They became my family away from home and helped bridge the cultural gap by incorporating me into their daily lives. They would invite me to go to local markets with them, invite me to go to the grocery store, and teach me how to cook traditional Peruvian dishes. All of these things helped me go through my transformational journey.

The second relationship that contributed to my transformation was the relationship with my coworkers at my service-learning placement. I spent five weeks with the Tangram organization in Perú that worked with kids that had physical and learning disabilities. I worked with a team of specialist that included a teacher, a psychologist, and a physical therapist that worked together to give four students the individualized learning and attention that they need. Of course, working with these kids that had different learning needs had a real impact on me, but it was the relationships I developed with my coworkers that really led to my transformation. They each had their own individual story that made them who they were and shaped their worldview, and helped me learn more about the different sides of Perú. But what struck me the most was my coworker who was an immigrant from Venezuela. Some people know that the political situation in Venezuela is horrible, there is no other way to really describe it. It is really sad and unfortunate for the people living there and many Venezuelans have left the country in search of a better life and better opportunities in neighboring countries. If I am being honest, I didn’t know anything about the political situation in Venezuela until I met this coworker of mine. As I developed this relationship, I started to learn just how sad the situation was and how much this girl sacrificed by completely uprooting her life and moving to a different country with little to no money. Learning about her life gave me a new perspective on life and how I viewed my own life and even the life I lived while I was in Perú. I realized how lucky I really was and how much I still didn’t know. Yes, traveling abroad helped me learn a lot more about different cultures and ways of life, but it also taught me one of the most important lessons of how much I still have to learn.

Immersing myself in this country by doing what the locals did really helped change who I was as a person and helped me realize all of the differences between the two cultures, but also helped me realize how similar we really are. Going to local restaurants and cities that strayed away from the tourist spots of Perú allowed me to “pretend”to be a local and at least engage in activities that the locals did. Although this seems like a small act, this really helped me in my transformation because a lot of my trips to these different groceries stores, restaurants, and cities were through local transportation which I did all by myself. Engaging in these types of everyday activities alone really allowed the transformation to happen because I was able to engage with the culture and people on a different level. It helped me recognize how our differences really bring us together and allow us to create similarities.

This experience has impacted my life in so many ways, both professionally and personally. One of my whole goals of traveling abroad was to gain a worldview that allowed me to have the perspective to create a culturally responsive environment for my future classroom. Because I want to become a Spanish teacher in the United States, I felt like it was crucial to produce an environment that promoted curiosity for other cultures and ways of life and how could I do that if I didn’t put myself in a culture and environment completely different than my own? I was always hungry to learn more about other countries but I feel like that type of curiosity is lacking in a lot of our schools today. Leaving the country for the first time ever for two whole months really allowed me to grow as a person, and really allowed me to gain the knowledge necessary to create a culturally responsive classroom. Recognizing that there are differences between cultures and countries allows you to grow as a person, but learning the reason behind these differences really lets you understand why these are differences and how they really bring us all together in the end. I am forever grateful for this experience to travel abroad and to have the experience of a lifetime that allowed me to grow personally and professionally. I cannot wait to incorporate everything I learned into my own classroom one day.

Reflection Post for my Education Abroad Experience in Spain

For my STEP project, I traveled on an Education Abroad trip to Valencia, Spain through International Studies Abroad (ISA) in order to study Spanish at La Universitat de Valencia. I was able to take two classes, Spanish Cinema and Spanish Culture: History, Art, and Spanish Tradition. My program granted me the opportunity to live in the home of a Valencian family and travel throughout Spain on various historical and cultural excursions.

My admiration for beauty and creativity in the world grew significantly while I was in Spain.  I did not realize how little I knew about Spanish art or traditions before travelling abroad, but once in Spain it was very clear that I had much to learn. Almost immediately after I met with my program group, we toured multiple palaces and art museums in Madrid. These activities instilled a perspective of curiosity in me from the very beginning of my time abroad. I took notice of many lovely elements while touring each place: the architectural styles of buildings, the colors used in paintings and sculptures, the attention to detail in baroque style buildings, the unique people visiting the same sites as my program group, and the mixture of languages spoken in each location. I believe that because I approached my travels in Spain with the mindset of a student, I continually put effort into discovering, admiring, and inquiring. My natural state was a state of active appreciation of all that I saw. My increased admiration for beauty and creativity carried over from appreciation of the fine arts to everyday objects and ordinary things.

Although I’ve enjoyed socializing and knowing people for all my life, I feel that after my study abroad experience I have grown in my ability to notice small, beautiful details during my interactions with others. This has helped me absorb more from ordinary occurrences in life. Before my classes abroad, I had not been knowledgeable about the various languages, accents, or communities in Spain. I had assumed that since Spain is a smaller country than the United States there would not be so many regional differences between the people, languages, accents, foods, and sports as there are in the US. My professors explained some main differences in the regions and I quickly learned to listen closely to people as they spoke to hear their pronunciation, word choice, and the pace of their sentences in order to determine which Spanish community they were from. By taking note of these small details, I developed a greater appreciation for the simple, beautiful aspects of my everyday interactions with others and the world around me. I picked up an ear for noticing variations in the way people speak, which has helped me appreciate the different ways Americans speak as well as the way communication works in general.

When experiencing something new, my first instinct is to absorb all that is around me and admire what I see. My study abroad program in Spain had a breathtaking beginning. My classmates and I toured the art museums Reina Sofía and Del Prado in Madrid on the second day of our program, which was an incredible introduction to the history, art, and culture in Spain. I had never seen any world class monuments or museums before travelling abroad, which made these museums so much more overwhelming. I was able not only to see the elegance and mysteriousness in Goya’s work, the complex relationships in Velazquez’s work, and the suffering and emotion in the work of El Greco but also experience the despair, warmth, and conflict of their paintings. I was also able to enjoy the beauty of La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell in Barcelona and La Catedral de Santa Maria in Toledo. I felt myself enter a vulnerable and malleable state in these places. The exaggerated details and emotions in the painting in Reina Sofia and Del Prado lead me to look for similar details in the people that I interact with. The visible tension between many of the figures in Goya’s work has allowed me to notice the complexities in relationships in my own life, which has been quite thought provoking. Our tour of La Sagrada Familia made a great impression on me. The cathedral has been described as a forest inside of a church by the architect Antoni Gaudi himself, which is a very accurate way to describe its structure. The architecture of the cathedral highlighted the stability of trees, the influence of natural light, and the wonder of colors. All of the monuments and museums I saw conditioned me to appreciate the relationships, expressions, and details of the people and structures around me.

My appreciation for relationships continued to develop through the members of my Spanish host family. It was eye opening to see the value they placed in having frequent family-time. Voices could always be heard in my family’s apartment, whether it be animated bickering between my host siblings or civil debates about education and politics. I greatly enjoyed seeing a family that was open and willing to share their most personal opinions with me. It was a beautiful thing to live in the midst of a supportive and loving family. The honesty and authenticity they have is not modelled so well in my own biological family. Although I do feel very loved by my parents and siblings, there are some aspects of openness that we lack as a family unit. Exposure to their genuinely close knit family helps me to see what it would look like for a family to share their lives openly with one another, and this gives me hope for the relationships of my future family.

I also had various interactions with Spaniards not in my host family which lead me to appreciate the intricacies of their language and relationships. Before arriving in Spain, I was very dubious of my ability to speak to Spaniards. I was unsure of my verbal, comprehensive, and conversational skills. I was also rather doubtful that there would be any Spaniards interested in talking with me about my life and experiences in Spain. Thankfully, my expectations did not match reality. I was met by patient and understanding people who gently corrected my grammar mistakes and readily taught me new words. I was so happy about this because I was able to grow my speaking skills, develop friendships, and learn about Spain all at the same time. I was often asked about where I learned to speak Spanish because I spoke with an unfamiliar accent. Although this confused me at first, I soon learned that there are many different way to speak Castilian Spanish. It delighted me to discover new things about the Spanish language and it helped me to see how many different ways people are able to communicate with one another.

To summarize the transformation I experienced during my STEP project, I developed my ability to recognize the beauty and significance of interactions with others. I think this matters a lot to my academic, personal, and professional goals as it has opened my mind and heart to the allure of this life. Academically, I believe my relationships with classmates will be able to flourish even more as I have grown in my ability to relate with others and communicate what I wish to express. I already valued relationships very much so this transformation has helped me to enjoy my existing friendships even more and look forward to future relationships. Personally, I feel as though I discovered the capability of my heart to experience love and appreciation for others. This sounds like a cliche, but to me it is very important to focus my mind on helping other people rather than being absorbed in my own needs. Professionally, I think that I will be able to apply the Spanish that I learned as well as the communication skills that I developed in Spain in order to better interact with patients in the future. Much of my career as a genetic counselor will involve informing patients about their genetic conditions and listening to their concerns about their diagnoses. I am very thankful that my STEP experience taught me to see the significance of the ordinary interactions I have in my life.

My internship experience in Sydney, Australia

  1. Brief description of STEP Signature Project:

My STEP Signature Project was the Summer Global Internship Program offered through Fisher College of Business. I was an environmental consultant intern at MRA Consulting, located in Sydney, Australia.

(Left: One of my favorite photos of Sydney I took, Right: Outside of the office I worked at)

  1. Understanding of self, assumptions, view of world:

Throughout this internship, a perspective I had before had changed in each of these sectors due to several factors. Not only was this my first internship which was relative to my career path, but it was also was abroad, in a country I have not previously been to. Around 30 students from Fisher College of Business participated in the Internship Program in Sydney, Australia, but because I am not a business major, I still felt as if I was fully immersed in a new environment and had a self-transforming experience. As my college career progresses, I am becoming more independent and confident in myself. However, working abroad by myself really tested this aspect, and I took an unexpectedly long amount of time to adjust to the new environment. However, because I felt isolated, this was an opportunity to truly reflect on myself and my passion. With limited contact with friends and family, I had time to self-reflect in terms of my future career path, as well as personal values.


  1. Events, interactions, relationships, or activities that led to transformation:

I decided to go to Australia out of the many countries offered through the program because it was the most environmentally conscious country out of the options. It was obvious that Australia’s values and morals were different from the United States, some visible through mple differences (for example, everyone here carries a “KeepCup”, a reusable mug for coffees. Most of the countless number of coffee shops offer a discount for using a reusable mug).

During my internship, I had the opportunity to attend the Waste Strategy Summit Conference, and heard many speakers from major companies (L’Oreal, IKEA, Lush, etc.) and local businesses on their waste reducing strategies. This event was a valuable experience as it was the first time I have attended a conference with important figures such as CEOs and other representatives. There were a couple of guest speakers from overseas, which shared how their countries managed waste, which made the conference even more educational and further widened my knowledge on waste strategies globally.

A primary interaction that transformed my thoughts on career paths was my supervisor. Because the work environment at the firm was very casual, I could easily approach my supervisor and coworkers for any questions or discussions. My supervisor was very considerate and helpful in trying to make my experience worthwhile. The activities and tasks I accomplished during my internship experience contributed the most to my perspective on the waste industry and environmental consulting. As an overall summary of what my experience was like: My first and primary task was measuring the firm’s carbon footprint. I also assisted coworkers on tasks such as researching and calling potential clients. I also assisted coworkers in an Illegal Dumping project for the local city government, including report writing and presenting to the board.

My main project during the internship was maneuvering the firm toward carbon neutrality. A document named the National Carbon Offset Standard for Organizations, offered by the Australian government was the only resource provided to me as a foundation. Using this document, in addition with many others which I have found, I calculated the current carbon footprint the firm is responsible for. This project took over the course of the entire internship due to a long wait time for information (especially for electricity, water and wastewater usage). There were many numbers that were estimated and conservative, but I believe I left a good foundation, in case they decide to re-evaluate their carbon footprint. I finished up the project with a short report on the process, results, and possible routes the firm can take toward carbon neutrality and becoming certified as a carbon neutral organization. Most of my time was spent assisting other coworkers in researching and calling clients. Whenever any assistance was needed, I received a quick debrief on their project and tasks that needed to be done. They were very concise with what they needed, so I had no problem carrying out the tasks, and it was a rewarding experience because it gave me an insight on projects my coworkers were working on. I took on a wide range of tasks and experiences, and grateful that my internship experience was interesting and provided different experiences outside of the office. Though my interactions with clients, and experiencing how environmental consulting is like, I was determined to pursue environmental consulting as a career path.

  1. Why the transformation is significant and valuable for my life

I believe this transformation in mindset was valuable and necessary because I developed academically, personally, and professionally. Through the many projects and tasks, I was exposed to many important topics and learned a great deal by researching and through difficulties that appeared during projects. I also greatly developed personally by placing myself in a completely unfamiliar environment. This gave me a chance to reflect on my career interest because I came to Sydney to get real-life experience in environmental consulting in an environment-conscious country. Although there were times where I found myself bored at my internship, but that was when I was doing busy work. Because most of my time in Sydney was devoted to the internship, the fact that I enjoyed my time there made me realize that I had a passion for environmental consulting. Finally, I developed in the professional aspect through my first internship experience, where I worked in a professional setting. In addition to achieving professional mannerisms, I had first-hand experience on the difference in cultures while studying abroad, and gained a larger perspective on how Australia handles waste and resources. I am very glad that my first internship was abroad, because I can apply the experiences and perspectives I had abroad to any future internships or jobs.

STEP Reflection: Environmental Studies: Ethics, Culture, and Sustainability

Name: Lauren Long

Type of Project: Education Abroad


My STEP Signature Project was studying abroad through the program Environmental Studies: Ethics, Culture, and Sustainability in New Zealand and Australia. This trip enabled me to join up with other students from around the country to study our environment and how we impact the world around us. My program included a large number of hands-on activities, such as hiking and animal interactions, to gain a deeper understand of the topics we were studying and discussing.

Going into my program,  I didn’t quite realize how much of an impact on our Earth I have as an individual. I thought I had a firm understanding on the steps I can take to live a sustainable lifestyle, but now I realize that there are an unlimited amount of little life changes we can make to care of our world. I learned how important it is to care for our world and everything that lives in it, from people to the tiniest of organisms we tend to forget about it. Not only this, but my trip abroad gave me new self-confidence and the belief that I am capable of accomplishing tasks I never believed I could before.

There were many key aspects of my signature project that led to these transformations in my life. First, spending a significant amount of time isolated in the nature over the course of my trip gave me time to grow more in love with our natural world. Having the time to spend camping and hiking without the distraction of technology and other man-made objects gave me the opportunity to realize how little of what we think we need to live (social media, air conditioning, etc.)  is actually needed. It also gave me the opportunity to reconnect with our Earth and see how much beauty and life there is in what is untouched by humans. It helped me to see just how important it is that we do our best to preserve it the best we can.

There were many places we stopped in both Australia and New Zealand to learn more about how to care for our environment and to live a sustainable life. One of the stops that had to most impact on me was Camp Glenorchy, a small resort in New Zealand that aims to be as sustainable as possible. They have showers that turn off automatically after seven minutes, everything is completely solar powered, and they use compost toilets. It helped me to see that you can still live comfortably while still working to care for our Earth. Another stop we made during the trip was to a Wildlife Habitat. This helped me to see our important it is that we care for the animals we share Earth with and how we need make it more of a priority to keep them safe and protected.

Many events transpired over my time abroad that helped me gain more self-confidence. While there, I was challenged to try things I have never thought about doing in my life. I stayed multiple nights outside without anything but a sleeping bag, rock climbed, and came in close proximity with dangerous animals. I even faced one of my biggest fears of bungee jumping with a few of the other students. These new experiences helped me to see that I’m capable of doing just about anything I set my mind to. Having the encouragement of everyone else on my trip and a solid support system that became stronger and stronger as the month progressed, I realized that I have the ability to make the most out of my life by facing my fears and challenging myself to become better every day.

This transformation is significant in my life on multiple levels. In the future, I plan to teach the Life Sciences at the high school level. Having a deeper understanding of how we impact our world and how to properly care for it will help me to show these values to my future students. Understanding how important it is to care for our Earth, and now understanding better ways to do so, will give me the opportunity to pass this knowledge on to future generations so they too can hopefully decide care for our world. Not only this, but my new-found self-confidence can help me in academics, professional settings, and everyday life. I now know how important it is to pursue what excites you, even if it’s scary at first. Whether it’s getting through a challenging class, going for my dream job, or any other task that is difficult for me, I’ll be able to overcome these challenges to face another day.


Hannah Reese: Montpellier, France

My STEP Signature Project was a four-week education abroad trip in Montpellier, France. I spent four hours each weekday in a classroom learning French with students from all over the world. Staying with a host family, I observed and truly absorbed some unique customs of this southern region.

While in Montpellier, my understanding of time and how it affects me was transformed. Time in France, I discovered, is seen as an “unlimited good.” In the United States, time is seen as a “precious commodity” (Paige, Cohen, Kappler, Chi, & Lassegard, 2006, pp. 64–67).  Therefore, the French follow a polychronic time orientation more so than we do in the United States. This American monochronic view of time I traveled to France with was noticeably altered after I lived as a member of my host family and culture. A couple weeks passed before I became used to the daily routine and expectations. Not only did the schedule differ greatly from home regarding times and durations of meals, but the enjoyment of time dedicated to loved ones seemed more significant. I felt deep appreciation associated with quality time in Montpellier and hope to create the same sort of experience for my family and friends back home.

One event that led to my time orientation transformation was a weekend getaway to Barcelona. Although this event did not occur in France, it proved to be a perfect opportunity to compare what I had been noticing in my host country with customs of a neighboring country. People in Spain seemed to view time as an unlimited good even more than the French. As an example, dinner happens around 8:00 or 9:00 pm in France but after sunset in Spain. Walking around the city with my friends at 11:00 pm, I caught a glimpse of a large family eating dinner, laughing, and engrossed in conversation. At this same hour, I saw young children journeying to the market with their parents.  Even my last moments in Barcelona were influenced by a difference in time orientation. I ordered an Uber to take my friends and me to the bus station. Our driver took twice as long to arrive than my Uber app accounted for, so my friends and I almost missed our bus back to France. Fortunately, this bus did not leave promptly at its departure time. We rushed from our Uber to the bus, luggage in tow, and miraculously boarded just before it pulled away from the station. My favorite part of the whole trip to Barcelona was these Spanish men yelling, “Run, Forest! Run!” as we frantically sprinted past them. The irony of this weekend getaway where I gained a new perspective on time was that we only had 24 hours to explore and were forced to hurry from place to place.

Another event that led to my time orientation transformation was an end-of-the-school-year festival that my host brothers’ school held. This festival happened on a Friday when I had a paper due. I did not finish my paper before I was summoned by my host brothers, as they were ready to walk over to their special celebration. I assumed that we would be home in two hours or less, so my paper could wait until then. To my surprise, the festival lasted for five hours. There was cheap food and live music, so parents chatted happily amongst themselves as their children played. It was a very entertaining occasion, and I met many kind and curious people. A couple hours in, I felt as if I should part ways and head home to finish my essay, but I did not want to offend my host mom. I feared she might misunderstand and think I was not having fun. Because we did not return home until after 11, I ended up falling asleep while typing. Finishing my essay the following morning, I turned it in with an explanation of my tardiness attached. The professor replied with enthusiasm, “You have just chosen to experience the culture in Montpellier! Congratulations! You have chosen to experience polychronic time (and jump right in), rather than go with a US style monochronic deadline!  Hooray!  This is very significant Hannah!” (B. Stone, personal communication, June 16, 2018). I felt encouraged and grateful after reading her response. There are so many possibilities beyond my limited view of time that I have not yet fully discovered but was beginning to taste.

A third event that led to my time orientation transformation was the most influential of all. My host family brought me with them on their mini-vacation to Collioure. This fishing village on the Mediterranean was indescribably and unbelievably gorgeous. The property where we stayed sat atop a mountain which was bright green with rows and rows of vineyards. We took a 40-minute hike into town and I snapped pictures that could barely capture the true magnificence surrounding us. In town, buildings had vibrant-colored shudders, doors, and flowers. The clear water reflected colors of sapphire, turquoise, and aquamarine all at once. Boats sailed near a rocky coast and hundreds of locals tanned on the sand. I was so in awe of everything around me and pleased beyond words for this opportunity, but I also had a moment of isolation and despair. My host mom, Olivia, needed to hike back and pick up our car, so she asked if I could stay with her sons for an hour or so. After she left, I realized how awfully helpless I would be if anything went wrong. I did not have the right vocabulary for any sort of emergency, or even to scold the boys when they acted out or fought. It was an hour of pure tension, so when my host mom returned, I went to the bathroom and cried. At dinner, Olivia saw my tears and reassured me that everything would be okay. Looking back, I realize that hour of pure tension was also purely beautiful. Instead of praying that the seconds would tick by faster, I could have focused on the sounds and sights of Collioure and the boys’ joy as they skipped rocks on the water. I could have focused on the positives of bonding with my host brothers and giving Olivia respite from their bickering. Although we spent that hour in such drastically dissimilar ways, it led Olivia and I to a closer relationship. I finally burst after bottling up my feelings, and Olivia showed me compassion. I learned to cherish time spent in hardship because of the good that can result.

Despite how it sounds, that weekend in Collioure was the highlight of my education abroad experience. In the aftermath of hopelessness, I gained a deeper understanding of myself and how resilient I could be. The weekend is symbolic of my STEP Project as a whole. I endured trials, adapted accordingly, and grew in spirit and confidence. The transformation that took place in me will be valuable for my future as a teacher. I will need to understand variations in time orientation for a diverse classroom of students. The students, especially my English Language Learners and students with disabilities, deserve my compassion and grace when they struggle and need extra time on assignments and tests. With a shift in perspective, I can see time as unlimited and students’ possibilities as endless.


Paige, R. M., Cohen, A. D., Kappler, B., Chi, J. C., & Lassegard, J. P. (2006). Understanding the ways cultures can differ in values. In Maximizing study abroad: A students’ guide to strategies for language and culture learning and use (2nd ed., pp. 63–75). Minneapolis, MN: Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, University of Minnesota.

Chris Humer STEP Reflection

  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 included interning in Madrid Spain with Deloitte. We worked with new technologies to try and help other businesses become more efficient.



  1. 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.


I transformed in a way I didn’t expect to while in Spain. I went on this trip not knowing anyone else in the group. That was a bit intimidating for me especially being in a country I’ve never been to before. What I learned is that I can go out of my comfort zone and make friends with new people while learning a new country. I put myself out there and met great people while exploring the country. I was nervous about it but it worked out very well. I was also able to adapt to the language barrier better than I expected. I didn’t know any Spanish before the trip but I was able to learn quickly and put in an effort while talking to Spaniards. Spanish became something that I somewhat learned but never expected to. I took French in high school so this was new to be and went better than I thought it would.



  1. 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.


When it came to meeting people, working with two other Ohio State students at Deloitte really helped. We became close when we took a work trip to Salamanca our first week there. We explored an entirely new city to all of us together. We also innovated together and came up with new ideas for the company for two days straight so we were able to learn about each other through that.


Another relationship that I built was with my roommate. We bonded fairly quickly and it made it easy to make a good friend in the beginning. We went to dinners together after work and saw Madrid. I was able to have that one person I could feel comfortable with in a brand-new city. We had a lot in common and I am glad we got to explore the city together. I know I will stay in touch with him after this summer.


A friend I made on the trip spoke fluent Spanish. She is from Colombia so she was an excellent Spanish speaker. When we would go out in the city she would make it easier for me to pick up on the language. I could observe her talking to Spaniards and then ask her afterwards what they were talking about. It was a good way for me to learn phrases and understand certain words and their pronunciations. She helped me adapt to Spain quickly and expand my knowledge of the Spanish language.



  1. 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 is valuable to my life because I will always need to be able to build new relationships. Something that I am not great at in the beginning but this experience improved that in me. I feel more confident meeting new people especially from different backgrounds. This will carry into my work life when I get a job or switch jobs. It will also help when I move to a new city and have to make friends there. I have a very broad perspective on different people around the world and how they live their lives. So I will be open minded when people have different ways of doing things or speak different languages. I respect that and will always want to learn more about their cultures and ways of life.