Lima, Peru Study Abroad Experience

Name: Pierce Ciccone
Type of Project: Study Abroad

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  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.

The first month of my STEP project centered on taking classes at a local university in Lima, Peru called Universidad del Pacífico. The second month of my time abroad was spent volunteering with an organization called Aprendo Contigo to provide educational opportunities to children in two separate hospitals within the city.

  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.

My view of the world and of myself grew and matured immensely during my time in Peru. For example, while in Peru I had to learn and utilize public transportation to go to and from my service-learning site each day. This was something I was not used to and rarely did in the United States. In addition, I had to experience for the first couple weeks what it felt like to struggle to communicate with a majority of the people there due to the language barrier. I now realize and can empathize with people from other countries that immigrate to the United States but have difficulty communicating to others. In regards to myself, I learned about my ability to handle challenging situations and my capacity for empathy, both very present during my time volunteering in the hospitals with the children. One of my responsibilities was helping to teach the kids basic educational concepts in math, science, reading and communication to keep them on track to continue school after they had healed. However, at times it was difficult to properly explain what I was trying to say and had to ask the children for help by giving them context clues and by finding an alternate way to express my idea.

  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.

There were three main aspects of my time in Lima that led to these transformations of thought and feeling over the course of my two months there. They were: the Peruvian friends I made in university, the children I served and my trip to Machu Picchu.

First, I made multiple lasting friendships in Lima with students from Peru attending those universities. What strikes me the most now, as I sit here reflecting on how our friendships were forged, was that even though we had our differences, we were also very similar. For example, they would ask about the United States and our culture because they were naturally curious (if they had not already traveled there to visit family or for vacation), just as all of us were about the culture in Peru. They had strong beliefs and attitudes about the corruption and poverty facing their country as we have similar sentiments with issues closer to home such as immigration and the economy. They taught me to keep an open mind and pushed me to get out of my comfort zone by trying new foods, going new places and most of all, talking in Spanish. Even though at times we had some trouble communicating, we could still hold conversations well enough to make each other laugh and have fun, which demonstrated to me just how easy it can be to meet someone you might not think is possible before it’s done.

Secondly, the children in the hospital showed me and told me many things about their life that made me realize things about my own. For example, some of the kids would talk about their inadequate living conditions, but yet were always grateful to be in the hospital where they were going to “get better”. Their parents shared the same idea; they would not complain about having to sleep in a metal chair alongside their child for nights in a row or how overcrowded the hospital was. They would only thank me for everything that I was doing and say how grateful they were to be there. It gave me some perspective into what I have to be grateful for here living in the United States, where the healthcare conditions in public hospitals are much cleaner. Working with the kids also taught me empathy, for their were days that even when communicating with each other was difficult, simply doing a puzzle or playing a game was enough to entertain them for a couple hours. They showed to me how to welcome someone completely new (me as an American) into their lives and want to understand where they come from. Their curiousness and resilience will be traits that I remember and try to better in myself for the rest of my life.

Lastly, the other students in my program and I took a weekend excursion trip to Manchu Picchu. This trip revealed to me my love for exploring other cultures and their historic roots. It also convinced me to return and travel to other parts of South America in the future. While there, I decided to dive into the unique culture of the Incas in Cusco. I tried “Cuy” which is guinea pig. I witnessed a parade that occurred in the streets for two days straight and most importantly, I realized something that significantly impacted me. It was a thought that just because something is different, that does not make it worse. For example, just because you cannot flush the toilet paper, this place is not worse than the United States; the conditions are simply different. This idea has stuck with me ever since I left and will be with me moving forward in college and afterwards.

  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.

These changes are very relevant to my academic and professional goals in the future. For example, I want to attend medical school after graduation and eventually become a doctor. I then want to move to South America for an extended period of time (over a year) and provide service to those that may not have as great of resources or access to resources as we do here in the United States. I also want to continue learning Spanish and diving into the culture of Peru and any other country I decide to visit. The natural curiousness, the empathy, the ability to think through challenging situations and find innovative solutions to problems and the resilience that I have learned from not only the children I served but everyone I met during my two months in Peru will carry over well into my professional career as a doctor but also in my quest to become a more globally conscious citizen. Whether it be through my efforts in the hospital or those in the classroom, Peru was the opportunity of a lifetime and will continue to be my inspiration long into the future.

Summer Research in Australia

Morgan Everly

8/16/18

My STEP signature project was in Brisbane, Australia where I completed research at the University of Queensland. For seven weeks, I stayed in South Bank and took a bus to The Pharmacy Australia Centre of Excellence (PACE or UQ School of Pharmacy) and completed a research project under my supervisor and graduate students.

By completing this project, I learned a lot about myself. I have never traveled abroad by myself before and it was scary because I didn’t know what to except. This was way out of my comfort zone because I tend to dislike change especially when the change is occurring, but I don’t know exactly what the ‘change’ will be until I am already there. So, I was able to learn that change is not always bad. I am more in touch with who I am. I think this is because I had to find my interests in a new city while meeting a lot of new people and making friends. It reminded me of my freshman year of college but on a bigger scale. The things I learned about myself during this project will definitely help me if I am relocated for graduate school or a job. It’s all about putting yourself out there.

The entire 7 weeks I was doing research at PACE, I was out of my comfort zone. Even the 20+ hours of travel to Brisbane, I was way out of my comfort zone. I was very nervous to go into a lab and complete a research project when I didn’t have any previous research experience and I had to learn all of the background on the project in about a week. However, during my seven-week adventure, I learned that it wasn’t that scary. Everyone is there to help you. You just cannot be afraid to ask for it. That is probably the biggest thing I learned during this research project. It also doesn’t hurt that I was asked back in the future if I’d like to do further research in the lab.

The first encounter I had with the other students in the program was when I first landed in Brisbane. With the more outgoing people, it was easier to have an idea of who they are and what they are interested in. I am always immediately drawn to the quieter people because that is more my personality and I like the mystery in figuring out who they are and what they’re into. I was able to form many new relationships with people who also go to OSU and with people who go to different colleges. I am hoping we all stay in touch and have a reunion because I will always remember them. This project was a very significant event in my life.

The reason I chose this specific program was to become more familiar with research. I have been considering graduate school since my sophomore year but have not had any research experience. This project allowed me to become fully immersed in a research environment to make sure it was something I wanted to go further into. With this project, came two lessons. The first lesson is that the type of research I completed was not something I would be interested in pursuing. Everything I was doing was on the nano scale and I prefer being able to see what I’m creating or changing with the naked eye. The second lesson I learned is that I like the research environment. It is very laid back but also busy at the same time and everyone in the lab is there to help. By completing this program, it has confirmed my decision in applying to graduate school.

 

STEP Reflection

Step Reflection

Mallory Geresy

8/2/2018

 

  1. My step signature project was a study abroad trip to Australia. For three and a half weeks I traveled through the coast and islands of North Queensland with 20 peers and two professors. I earned 6 credit hours studying sustainable development and conservation through field work and classroom-based lectures.
  2. Traveling around Australia taught me a great deal about how environmental issues impact different cultures and countries as well as how to work with peers. It can be difficult to travel in large groups such as this, but I learned that I respond well to group situations and was able to find my place. I also learned that sustainability is a passion of mine and it is a new career direction I would like to explore. Australia has a very interesting approach to handling environmental problems, as well as a different attitude. It is more common for environmental protection to be enacted into law, and the two main political parties both agreed climate change was an issue that needed to be addressed, they simply disagreed on the best ways to handle it. It gave me new perspectives and insights about environmental policies and how they can be implemented.
  3. As we traveled, we met many entrepreneurs and professionals who were pursuing their endeavors in the conservation and ecotourism industry. The first destination we stayed at was owned by a man and wife who started their own self-efficient hostel. They supplied all of their own energy with solar power. I found this fascinating and learned that I might like to pursue a career in the sustainability arena.

 

I also participated in many resume builders, such as planting trees in a wetland restoration area and researching fish species on the Great Barrier Reef. This led me to solidify my passion for conservation and sustainability. Because of this realization, upon my return home, I got a job at Ohio State’s sustainability office.

 

Within the group of people I traveled with, I made many close connections with my peers. I found a group of friends that continues to enjoy each other’s company in the United States. This has allowed me to grow a network of people all in different areas. I have two friends in business, and several in environmental fields. I have grown both a professional and social network.

 

 

 

  1. These experiences have allowed me to grow and find direction in my life. I have recently decided to continue my higher education and pursue a graduate degree in sustainability. From this, I plan to open my own sustainability consulting firm with a close friend. Studying abroad allowed to explore my passions and meet a group of people who will continue to impact my life forever. I feel that I have the experience and determination to do this because of what I learned about myself in North Queensland

Global May Bolivia Study Abroad

 

Bolivia Global May

For my transformational project, I traveled to three cities of Bolivia: Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, and La Paz. There, we studied the culture, history, politics and economics of the country. We took classes and first handedly experienced the diversity of Bolivia through museums, cultural outings, personal interactions and teaching from our Bolivian instructors.

As I reflect on the two weeks we spent traveling around Bolivia, the word that continuously comes to mind is diversity. The United States is often called a melting pot and is rapidly becoming even more diverse. In Bolivia, I saw diversity in the wide range of geographical regions, cultures, languages, political views and economic exports. It was so interesting to me to take classes and learn about everything through lectures and then see the obvious diversity while even walking the streets. The range of geographical regions was pretty similar to the diversity found in the United States. In the US, one can travel across the country to see the dry, hot grand canyons, cold snowy north east coast and down to the hot, humid south east. Similarly, in Bolivia, we saw the most extreme geographical regions from the hot, humid lowlands in Santa Cruz to the cool, dry highlands of La Paz then onto the tropical regions of the Yungas. The difference is that all the geographical diversity in Bolivia is concentrated into a smaller country which made it so fascinating.

Another comparison is while in the US we have a large cultural diversity, Bolivia also has this diversity but among indigenous groups. We traveled to Lake Titicaca and learned about the Tiwanaku people, we saw women throughout Bolivia dressed in beautiful clothes signifying whether they identified as Quechua, Aymara, Chiquitano, Guaraní etc. We also could hear languages being spoken that were not Spanish and we learned that Bolivia has over 30 different official languages. In the US, it is evident that there is a similar sense of a melting pot, however a difference we discussed is the sense of nationalism. We examined in detail during our lectures the controversial topic of Nationalism within a country of outstanding diversity. While the US has its issues in terms of nationalism, I also found this in Bolivia, even talking to the locals. Several of our lectures dealt with the growing diversity of cultural backgrounds and identification. With such different beliefs, languages and traditions, it can be hard to come together politically to create a national unity.  On our free day, we traveled to the top of La Paz by teleférico and on the way back, it stopped several times which prompted us to converse with a woman accompanying us on the trip. Earlier that day, there was a beautiful festival throughout the streets with music, dance and many costumes. We asked her what the meaning was and she explained that it was an Aymara festival with pagan traditions and we could feel the animosity she had to this indigenous group.

Towards the beginning of the trip, I felt discouraged as I went to use my “years of Spanish” and ran into problems communicating effectively. The past Spanish class I took was intermediate composition which was less focused on verbal communication and more so on written. I learned a lot in the class but I wasn’t as confident in my fluency as I tried to communicate with the locals. The times I felt I best could practice my Spanish abroad was during free time. When we temporarily got lost, I was forced to use my Spanish to get us back to where we needed to go; when we went shopping, I practiced my Spanish to barter; and when we got stuck on the teleférico, we had a very interesting conversation with the woman on board with us. This trip fueled my goal of becoming fluent in Spanish and desire to communicate effectively in a non-English speaking country. It made me also realize the long way I have in becoming fluent and reminded me of the work that goes along with constantly practicing to keep up with it. It motivated me and I want to practice a lot in this upcoming summer through online apps and discussion. One day I hope to become a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and with the constantly growing Spanish speaking population in the US, being fluent can help immensely in providing competent care. This trip allowed me to practice and encouraged me to continue practicing.

Another transformation that occurred during this trip is confidence while traveling. Normally when I travel, I go in groups and/or family. While this trip was organized with a group, we had some free time to travel alone in the evenings and one day empty to explore the city of La Paz on our own. The first free evening, I was a little unsure of what to do or how to best see the city spontaneously. By the end of the trip, when we had our entire day of travel, we independently navigated our way through taxis and telefericos all the way up to the top of the mountain to explore that part of town and watch the sunset. This independence made me feel like I could truly experience the country on my own and gave me the confidence to take on traveling in small groups.

I have a passion for Latin American cultures as they are so diverse and oftentimes not commonly discussed in US schools. Before going to college, I had limited knowledge on the continent but after taking university classes and now having traveled to two South American countries, I have learned about its uniqueness and want to share this knowledge with fellow OSU students who might not know anything about it. I will present this trip with confidence and persuasion because it was an incredible trip to learn about such an underestimated and under discussed country. I reached this trip by chance but I want others to learn about it so they too can experience Bolivia.

 

 

 

Trasimeno Archaeology Field School

For my STEP project, I lived and studied in the small town of Castiglione del Lago in Italy for six weeks. During the program, I took classes on Roman and Etruscan History while simultaneously working on an excavation of a Roman villa near Lake Chiusi. Our field work and classes were also complimented with field trips to museums and a weekend trip to Rome.

Going into this experience I didn’t really know what to expect. My goals were to gain confidence in myself and academic abilities, further my interests in archaeology, and foster connections with the people in my program and Italy. Beyond these goals, studying abroad caused me to grow in many areas of my life and has changed my view of the world. This experience has given me a greater understanding of myself and how in the past I have prevented myself from going into uncomfortable situations out of fear. Ever since I started college I was unsure of what I wanted to do and switched around my major a good amount. Because I was always starting out with a new major, I would always stop myself from applying to jobs or internships because I was worried I wasn’t qualified enough. I had the same fears about doing field work and feeling further behind than everyone else. But when I got there I soon realized that my classmates were from all different majors and levels of experience. This was all a story I had been telling myself just to avoid my fear of failure.

Another assumption I had going into this program was that it would help me narrow down my interests and clarify my career path. But, I have come back with new interests in areas that I never expected. While this is not what I had expected the outcome of this trip to be, it has opened up possible career paths I hadn’t considered before. I now have many new ideas about how to integrate all of these new areas I am passionate about into my future and career. This has changed my preconception that my career needs to be focused on one field or subject.

The process of breaking down my fears happened gradually throughout my trip. When I first left for Italy, I honestly felt very nervous and scared, which are two feelings I never usually have or admit to having. I’ve always been very adventurous and independent, but travelling for the first time to a foreign country by myself made me super uneasy. Just being able to make it through both of my flights and navigate through multiple airports was such a huge step in being able to know that I can take on things I have not done before. And throughout my trip I continued to gain more confidence as I was often put in situations where I was uncomfortable and seen as an ‘outsider.’ Things as simple as going to the grocery store or doing laundry were at first anxiety provoking, but soon as I got more comfortable in the town I was living in I began to make connections with the people living there. In addition to being anxious about simply living in another country, I was nervous that I was going to be behind my classmates with experience in field work and that I would not be able to handle how challenging the program was. Excavating a Roman villa while simultaneously taking classes, was probably one of the most challenging experience I’ve had in my life, it showed me how much I can accomplish when I am determined to succeed.

This trip also introduced me to fields I never thought I’d be interested in. I have always been interested in Roman history but had not explored the mixture of Roman-Greco culture. Through class readings and frequent museum trips I soon learned how intertwined the two cultures of these classical civilizations were. I took a particular interest in how Greek mythology manifested in Roman art, this was largely a result of going to the Palazzo Massimo museum. During this visit, I was astounded by the large collection of mosaics and statues that included a myriad of Greek motifs. I decided to make this museum trip the subject of my blog post that was required for this class, and delved into researching this topic even further. Even after my trip I have continued learning about Greek mythology by beginning to several books such as the Odyssey, and one on Classical Greek Mythology. I also found a new interest in museum exhibits and how they come to together. During the course we not only got to see a variety of different museums designs we also designed our own panels for a future exhibition for our site at the museum in Castiglione Del Lago.

During much of my time in Italy, I was often reflecting on the cultural differences I saw between Italy and the U.S. Living in a town where most people spoke very little English, opened my eyes to the way immigrants, living in a foreign country feel every day. Except the big difference I noticed was that most people were very willing to deal with our broken Italian. In the U.S most people are expected to speak flawless English or otherwise most people get frustrated. At the core of this, I think this stems from the belief that our certain behaviors in our culture should be in everyone’s culture. This was also apparent in the way I saw many American tourists behave themselves while I was touring throughout the country. Many would frequently complain about how slow the service was or other behaviors that did not fit their standard was. It was honestly very upsetting to see other American’s lack of awareness and respect for others cultural differences. I think this self-awareness and respect of others needs to be more engrained in our culture.

This transformation has already been significant in how I live my life. As I am rising senior, I have to start thinking about post-college plans and what I want to do for a career. This experience has given me the confidence to think big about my future plans. I am very eager to learn more from doing, and therefore have started to apply for several internships in the fall. These vary widely from a museum internship to a marketing internship for a health company. Both are fields I am passionate about, and no longer see these fields as mutually exclusive. Either internship will surely give me useful skills for the future. I also want to make inclusion and diversity a proponent in career. From what I saw during my program, we still have a long way to making our culture an understanding and cultural aware. Overall, this program has been a great experience. It has transformed the way I see myself and the world, and opened up many new possibilities for my future.

 

 

STEP Reflection

My name is Nicholas Spoelker and for my STEP project, I participated in an architectural study in Europe. For one month, I travelled through numerous cities and countries in western Europe and experienced various architectural sites. My fellow students and I learned about the history and architectural styles of each of these locations while making notes and sketches of our own.

Before I went on this trip, I already had a few preconceived notions about architecture. My understanding was that architecture took many of the concepts and ideas that my area of study, engineering, dealt with and applied them to art and aesthetics through building design. My visit to older locations upheld this preconceived notion; for example, in many of the gothic cathedrals that I visited, the flying buttresses served to hold the building together while also adding to the aesthetic of the church.

My preconceived ideas of architecture did transform when I began experiencing the more modern locations. Many of these building seemed to adhere more to the idea of “form following function.” Initially, I thought this style was taking the creativity out of architecture and disliked the works that followed this mantra. However, as the trip continued, I realized that there was indeed artistic expression in these works, albeit subtler. My view of architecture changed after this realization; one can make the function of the building into the aesthetic itself.

My view of architecture has changed due to many of my experiences in Europe. As the only non-architecture student on the trip, I was initially out of my element. Many of my peers were far more comfortable with the subject matter, but they welcomed me with open arms and began to open my eyes to the complexities of the various architectural schools. Modern architects such as Le Corbusier were initially enigmas to me, as I failed to see the appeal of his seemingly bland style. Now, while I still dislike the modern art style, I can understand its appeal to many of my colleagues.

One of the key activities that changed my view of architecture were the sketch activities. During many times of the trip, we were told to sit down and sketch the buildings that we saw before us. This activity forced me to engage with my surroundings on a deeper level and compelled me to see the true complexity and meaning in seemingly basic structures. I was able to grasp the subtler nuances of the modern style buildings and see their relationship with the structural makeup of the buildings.

I think that my newfound appreciation for the subtler modern buildings will help me greatly in my future studies. While as an engineer, I am not primarily concerned with the appearances of my work, I will be able to see what I create in a different light; I believe that viewing my own work from different perspectives will allow me to maximize not only the efficiency of my work, but its appeal to others as well.

Overall, I look forward to applying my new outlook in my field. I feel that I will now be able to bring to the table an outlook that many of my engineering peers lack: an understanding of the aesthetics of functionality and their appeal to others.

Fundacion Ortega y Gasset

Kate Fowler
Education Abroad

 

 

1. My STEP signature project wasa 6 week education abroad in Toledo, Spain. I took two courses in Spanish (architecture and anthropology) and stayed with a host family. The school I studied at, sponsored by Fundacion Jose Ortega y Gasset, was an institute for foreign students to immerse in the language and culture.
2. Before I left for Spain, I expected Spain to be a completely different world. I expected to face extreme culture shock and struggle every day to perform day to day functions. This ended up not being the case. Of course, the first few days I was there things seemed different (the diet, language, and schedules are very different), but after a few days I started to realize that a lot of things were very much the same. At first, it was weird to hear when older people spoke Spanish (of course they speak Spanish!) It was “cute” to hear little kids talking in Spanish. But after a while, I figured out that everything is the same. They speak a different language, and they do things a little differently, but at the end of the day we’re all the same. I knew that all along, so I don’t know why I was that surprised. I’m a big preacher of equality and acceptance. I always believed that we should accept everyone for their differences, but I just didn’t realize there aren’t that many differences.
Everyone has a job (or they don’t), there are kids, there are adults, there are elderly people. People have to get to work in the morning, go to school, and have problems. They get divorced, go to the grocery store, go on runs in the morning. It’s all the same. I guess I expected to go out of the country and find some great difference between my country and theirs. And at first I did, but at the end of the day what do those add up to? Nothing, really. We all have the same DNA. We all have the same needs and physiology. Why should we be any different, really?
And I think if I went somewhere else that was a little bit more “different” from the US maybe I would get a bit more of what I had expecting, but again, at the end of the day I think we’re all the same, so it wouldn’t have made a huge difference where I chose to study abroad.
3. Staying with my host family was what really made me see all of the things I discussed in question number two. I lived with a 38 year old divorced mother with her two daughters (7 and 3 years old). While I traveled with friends over the weekend, I lived with the family during the week and was with them almost constantly when I wasn’t in class.
The little girls weren’t around all of the time because they spent a lot of time with their dad so I spent a lot of time with just my host mom. I really loved getting to know her. We had a lot of different views and because of this were able to have a lot of conversations and about values and what we believed in.
She helped me integrate into Spanish culture and after a while I got really comfortable and felt like I was part of her family and really lived in Spain. This is what made me realize that things weren’t that really different between the US and Spain. We had a lot of conversations about culture and came to a lot of understandings, and despite the slight language barrier, we were able to see that we weren’t that different after all.
4. This understanding has helped me not to be afraid of new situations and new people. I have a deeper understanding that people all are all the same at heart and want the same things. This will help me because as a nurse I will be taking care of a wide variety of people. I now understand that these people likely have different customs and beliefs that need to be respected. I also understand, however, that I don’t need to be afraid to find out more about them because while they have a different culture, customs, and possibly language than I do they have the same desire to be happy and healthy.
This experience has also improved my Spanish language abilities. It is really cool to see how much my language abilities can improve in just six weeks. I would love to go back to Spain or another Spanish-speaking country for a longer period, so I can become fluent. It would be amazing to be able to speak to some patients who would otherwise not be able to communicate with their health care providers!

STEP Signature Project Reflection

Levi Prudhomme

Education Abroad

During my STEP Signature Project I traveled to Barcelona, Spain with International Studies Abroad. In Barcelona I took two classes at a satellite campus of the Universidad Internacional Menendez Pelayo, a school known for working with international students.

In many ways UIMP felt like a little cocoon inside of Barcelona, as I was surrounded by Americans even in Spain. That tiny bubble of familiarity made it easier to form relationships within the group, and I found myself approaching more and different kinds of people than I would have at home. There was no choice but to be confident abroad, especially in a city known for its pickpockets and pushy street promoters, and at UIMP that additional confidence led me to friendships I want to preserve here at home.

After being away for so long I did miss the United States, but there are a few lessons I will keep from my time in Spain. Although it seemed jarring at first, the Spanish way of living involves a lot of social time and relaxation that we can lose sight of in the states. My days were fuller than they had ever been, as the five hours of class I had in the mornings were dwarfed by time spent getting tapas, exploring parks, and hanging out at the beach. It was a beautiful balance between work and play that made me feel more fulfilled than I had in years.

An event in which I felt the fulfillment that I had been lacking was in the simple task of going to the movie theatre in Spain. When I am among my friends I tend to succumb to the pressures of the group: to do whatever the others are doing and just follow the crowd. Sometimes when you spend enough time listening to others your own voice can get lost. In Spain I was suddenly surrounded my more groups than I knew what to do with, and in learning to move between them I found some independence. So one day I went to the movie theatre.

I didn’t initially intend to go alone, in fact I messaged into two WhatsApp groups about my plans, but for the first time in a while I had my own plan. I went to see Solo: A Star Wars Story, albeit dubbed in Spanish, and every step felt like a victory. It seems silly, but just finding something that I wanted to for me, and doing it alone, made me so happy. What was a very mediocre story brought me to heights of laughter and lows of tears as I totally committed to the interstellar tale among a bunch of Spanish strangers.

During the rest of my time in Spain I went to the movies a total of three more times, and two of those actually with my friends. The act was symbolic more than anything else, as the movies themselves weren’t anything special. It was establishing a habit of doing something that I liked, whether the crowd followed me or not. I think that really summarizes my time in Spain: it was a place in which I learned to pursue habits that were important to me, whether the crowd followed me or not. While I was there I wrote, drew, and explored to an extent that I’d ever hoped that I could before. Spain forced me to reevaluate my opinions of myself.

From a mental health standpoint I feel like I have come back from Spain in a place so much better than the one I started in. I am confident that people will like me if I approach them, and also that I can survive and be happy on my own. I am coming back to the states with habits a far shade from the daily procrastination that I lived in before, and something closer to the kind of active life that I’ve always visualized. Professionally I feel inspired to get out into the world and pursue my wants. Aside from the practical development of my Spanish, I now have the confidence to tell employers what I am good at and why they should let me do it. I have come home a fuller person than before.

The Eternal City: Drawing Rome

My STEP Signature Project was a study abroad experience in the beautiful city of Rome. Ten other students and I spend five weeks exploring the culture, history, and social dynamics of one of the oldest cities in the world. During the program I was enrolled in a drawing course that allowed me to study the city in a more intimate way than I had expected.

Through participating in this program I grew exponentially as a person in a variety of ways. The life experiences gained from completing my signature project are some of the memories that I will treasure going into my professional life. Initially, I had a limited understanding of the world as a global dynamic and an even more limited perspective on my own ability to navigate such a dynamic. Through my project I understood better the capabilities I have as a single individual in such a vast world, as well as the value in living in such a globalized society. My project also taught me the value in forming global connections and to view the world as is, not as I want it to be.

At first, I had been apprehensive about venturing into an environment that would be wholly unfamiliar to me and had doubt in my ability to navigate without a firm understanding of the language. Living in a Roman neighborhood where we were the only foreigners, and having to navigate basic day to day tasks was at first daunting but, after the initial culture shock I was able to better appreciate my surroundings and their authenticity. I found that while sometimes I felt frustrated or embarrassed at my lack of knowledge, being able to learn more phrases and understand the cultural nuisances was more valuable.

As the program went on I found that I became more comfortable interacting with everyone around me and sought out ways to make conversions with natives, or ask the questions that were on my mind. I felt more connected to the world, and through that connection become more aware of the passion I have to better understand it going into the future.

The environment that facilitated these changes spurned a great deal from my interactions the professor of the course I was enrolled in, the places I had the opportunity to experience, as well as the moments I got to experience the city alone. Rome, as vast and full of life that it is was a city full of little moments that changed the course of my life.

First, to credit the amazing individuals I met while on my trip. My drawing professor, Fabio, had without a doubt one of the biggest roles in creating these changes. The first day that we had class on site at the Pantheon, he engaged me with the passion he had for Rome, as it exist in both the past and the present. While he conveyed the great love for the city he was born and raised in, he also had no issue in addressing the issues that existed in the society, and hopes he had for the future. He could find beauty in things that seemed mundane and had a story for every moment. While taking this course with him we never once sat in a classroom, instead he would take us to his favorite spots in Rome, sometimes busy areas like the Fountain of Four Rivers, or sometimes in little corners that he wanted to share.

I was apprehensive about taking a drawing course since art is not something I have experience in. The way Fabio taught the course encouraged us to be comfortable in our skill set, and to understand that the greater purpose of the course was to engage in our surrounding and truly take the time to study and experience the city through our drawings. This change, to be able to truly take in understand history and art in a more impactful way and to be comfortable in navigating unfamiliar territory was such an incredible skill to gain.

Another experience that contributed to the changes I experienced was visiting other places and being faced with how different the reality was from my expectation, and through that learning to approach situations with a more open mind and the appreciate realism over idealism. While in Rome, the program coordinated a time for us to meet with some of the refugees in northern Italy to learn more about their stories. Through this meeting I learned a great deal about how often that freedom of movement for purposes other than survival is taken for granted. The stories of the refugees, some who had not been back to their homes in decades was inspiring because of their resilience to survive even when faced with political and social turmoil from both their homelands, and their current home.

This interaction changed me because the initial glamour of being in a new place, full of different traditions, and social norms had given me a false sense of the country being without flaw. Through this interaction I better understood that you can appreciate the beauty of a place, and the richness of the history while also holding yourself accountable for being aware of the social and political inequalities the place might also have. The idea of being abroad is sometime veiled by the excitement of exploring a new place, and this interaction allowed me to see Rome in all facets of its beauty flaws and all.

These changes are significant in my life because they inspire me to travel and learn more without fear or reservation and to be more aware of the reality of the world while still holding an appreciation for all the wonderful things it has to offer. It allowed me to see the value in forming personal connections abroad and be better connected to places through those relationships. The things I saw and learned in Rome are moments that can never be replicated and even now remind me of how important it is to allow yourself to experience something without fear in order to grow.

STEP Reflection: Studying abroad in Barcelona

STEP Reflection Prompts

Name: Erica Nymberg

Type of Project: Study abroad

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.

For my STEP Signature Project, I studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain at the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo for the month of July. During my four weeks in Barcelona, I earned six credit hours by taking two courses: Spanish Art & Architecture and Spanish Cinema. In addition to completing my Spanish minor while abroad, I also took full advantage of my time in Spain by traveling each weekend and fully immersing myself in the Spanish culture.

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.

I grew a lot during my month studying abroad in Barcelona. I’m in recovery from an eating disorder, and this trip showed me how far I’ve come in my journey. For starters, I had to adjust to a completely different lifestyle in a very short amount of time. From the moment I landed I had to embrace new foods, adapt to a new routine, and practice being more flexible. These are all things that have always been very difficult for me to do, let alone do them all at once in a foreign country with neither friends nor family nearby.

I felt very apprehensive in the weeks leading up to the trip. In fact, I even wanted to cancel my trip and stay within the limits of my comfort zone. I remember thinking, “I’ll just stay here- there’s nothing wrong with the way I live now, right?” While technically true, my past has led me to develop rigid schedules that, at times, leave little room for spontaneity. This amount of inflexibility is not conducive to a balanced lifestyle, which has always been a goal of mine. I’m proud to say that over the course of the month I showed myself that I am capable of trying new things. From trying new foods to engaging in new activities, nothing has to be off limits. Studying abroad was, as I like to think of it, one big exposure experiment that showed me how liberating life can be when you step outside of your comfort zone. Now when I’m faced with something that challenges my recovery, I think “If I could handle xyz in Spain, I can handle this.”

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.

Thinking back, there were three main things that helped me grow as a person and strengthen my recovery. First, and most importantly, I met some amazing people in my program who turned out to become great friends. I was worried about not finding a group where I could be myself, but what happened was the complete opposite. Even though we had all just met, it felt like I knew them for years. I even felt comfortable telling them about my past and my recovery journey, which is something many of my friends at Ohio State aren’t aware of. I know I wouldn’t have been able to make as much progress as I did if it weren’t for the friend group I made while abroad. They couldn’t have been more supportive or understanding, and I’m so glad that they all go to Ohio State. It’s ironic how sometimes you have to travel across the world just to meet people who go to the same school as you!

The second thing that helped me break out of my comfort zone and become more self-confident were the excursion activities. The excursion activities were a key part of my experience due to their inherent need for flexibility. During the excursions, there was little to no planning that I could do beforehand. For instance, I had no idea what restaurants would be nearby when we were given free time. Also, since we often had to return by a certain time, there wasn’t any room for being picky. The second big excursion was the most difficult. However, it was also the excursion that I think I grew the most. When I think back on that excursion, I remember all the things I did that I would’ve never been able to do in the past. While that experience challenged me on so many levels, I am so grateful that I was still able to truly have a good time. That excursion will always serve to remind me how strong and capable I am, regardless of what my inner critic says.

The third major part of my STEP project that aided in my transformation was my decision to stay with a host family. Although every fiber in my body would have felt more comfortable staying in an apartment, I knew that staying with a host family was a crucial part of my “exposure experiment”. After all, if I stayed in an apartment I would’ve quickly integrated as much of my regular U.S. lifestyle as I could. By staying with a host family, I completely immersed myself in the Spanish culture. For example, most nights my host mom served dinner around 9:30pm (which she considered early!). Not only could I not control the time we ate, but I also had to relinquish my control over what we had for dinner and how it was prepared. Due to my eating disorder history, those are some of the most difficult things for me to do. However, like the excursions, those dinners with my host mom were some of the most memorable experiences during my time abroad. Unlike meals in America, meals in Spain focus much more on the social aspect, rather than on the food. I could tell this difference almost instantaneously, both with my host mom and in restaurants, and it led to a very refreshing change in perspective in how I view meals.

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.

The personal growth I made while studying abroad made a huge impact on my life. Before my trip, I would cancel plans in favor of staying within the comfort of my rigid routine and I would get very thrown off when things unexpectedly altered my schedule. Even though I’ve only been back a week, I can already feel a difference in myself. I now have so much more self-confidence and can embrace change. A balanced lifestyle has always been a goal of mine, but I could never relinquish my old patterns. Studying abroad pushed me in ways that wouldn’t have been possible in the U.S. and opened so many possibilities in my life. Things that used to throw off my entire day now barely even phase me. This change is so important not only for my daily life, but also for my long-term goals. I feel confident that I can transition to graduate school and handle the hectic schedule of a physician assistant program. I am forever grateful for this experience that was made possible by STEP.