Haley Spiron- Education Abroad Reflection Post

For my STEP Signature project I chose to participate in an education abroad experience. During the Multicultural Histories and Legacies of Rome and London education abroad experience, I got to travel to Europe for the every first time and was able to immerse myself in culture and life in two very distinctly different cities. This education abroad experience delved my fellow students and I into culture, religion, art, and everyday life, in history and in present time, in Rome, London, and their surrounding areas.

Throughout the entire study abroad experience, I took a lot of time to personally reflect on how I was feeling and thinking about what I learned and what was happening. Day after day I experienced prior assumptions I had about the places we were visiting being challenged and changed with the incoming information. As an example, when we traveled to Pompeii in Italy, my prior assumption that the people and city were destroyed by the lava from the volcanic explosion was proved to be false, and rather explained to have been a result of the toxic gases and ash that caused suffocation. Another example is that in London when we learned about torture I assumed that hundreds or thousands of people were tortured, but it was explained that only about 80 cases of torture were recorded.

In addition, I formed close relationships with the other students on my trip that will encourage me to reconnect with them when we are back in Columbus to continue the learning we began back in May during the Multicultural Histories and Legacies of Rome and London experience. The close experiences with the professors that led my trip will also aid in furthering that learning.

I quite enjoyed learning something new everyday and having my ideas and views challenged, whether about a piece of history or about a group of people. I feel that my personal experiences on the Multicultural Histories and Legacies of Rome and London broadened my knowledge base and appreciation for two new places greatly. I know more, care more, and experiences more in the two cities we visited than I could ever have imagined I could. I feel that through this study abroad experience I truly got to be a part, or at least observe, two distinctly different cultures that were created by two vastly different histories and legacies. I think this experience will help me to connect what I learn in a classroom setting in the future to the experiences and lessons I learned while on the education abroad. I can pull from what I learned about myself and the world in my future academic endeavors.


My Time in England…

I am so thankful to STEP for helping me fund my Global May Great Britain Experience this summer! The program consisted of a 2 hour class Monday-Thursday in the heart of London, with daily excursions to sites around the city. The program also included a weekend trip to Glasgow, Scotland. After our course was finished, I stayed and explored England for 10 more days.

I thought I had experienced a large change when I moved from my small town in Virginia to a capital city of Columbus but that was nothing compared to the experience of moving to a global city like London from Columbus. At first I was overwhelmed by how big London is, and how fast everything moved.  It felt impersonal and I didn’t think that I would be able to find my way — I quickly learned that London was much different than I expected. The architecture in the city of London was probably one of the first things that stood out to me, especially that first day traveling to class. My eyes were looking up the entire walk from the Tottenham Court Road tube station to our classroom in Arcadia University (exactly what my Dad told me not to do when he gave me a speech on pickpockets) and I was obsessed with taking pictures of every building we passed. I loved how the city is a mix of old and new- architecturally, and in other aspects as well. Another initial thought I had was how much more diverse it was in London than in Columbus or my hometown. It was great to walk down the street and hear 3 different languages in one short walk to the tube station.

I would describe London as the New York, Los Angeles, and Washington DC of the United Kingdom. It is all at once the finance, fashion, arts, and political capital of England and truly is a global city. Over the course of my program I learned so much about many different aspects of London. It was one of the reasons that I chose this specific program, so that I would come back to the United States and have broad knowledge about another culture and country. While in England we experienced many things that I do not normally do, truly expanding my horizons. One of my favorite excursions was when we saw Twelfth Night at the Globe. It was so cool to be there and really feel how a “groundling” would have felt in Shakespeare’s time. After the play was over, a few friends and I waited near the actors’ exit, and I got to meet and take a picture with the actor who played Duke Orsino, Joshua Lacey!

My first exposure to the Camden Market was the final Thursday of class, during a music tour! It was so much bigger than I had thought, so I vowed to go back and check it out thoroughly. On my last day in England I went back and spent the entire afternoon, and too many pounds, in Camden Market! I loved that the market was outdoors and had such a huge variety of vendors. There were many different food and dessert stalls, as well as home decorating shops, souvenir places, and clothing / tapestry stalls. I still didn’t see everything in my afternoon there.

One of my favorite nights from this entire experience was in the first week of class, just sitting down in the 2nd floor kitchen of our house with my new friends and planning everything we wanted to do and see throughout the next month. I loved it because we used a Google calendar to keep us organized and we made solid plans, so that we felt like we weren’t wasting a single moment. It was great because I had been hanging out with another group and then transitioned into this one where I fit in much better. I think it was because our travel styles and budgets meshed. During the month we followed this calendar and constantly added to it whenever someone mentioned something they wanted to see such as a new musical coming to the West End or when someone had heard about a great ice cream shop in SoHo.


I was surprised to see two dogs in a pub that we went to in the first week. Upon further observations, I continued to see dogs on trains, in coffee shops, and in restaurants. I really liked how dogs were welcomed everywhere, even on the tube! After my program was over I stayed with my friend Holly at her house at the University of York for a few days and I had the pleasure of sitting next to a cute Cocker Spaniel puppy on the train journey back to London. This is something that I definitely think that the U.S. needs to get on board with, more dog-friendly areas!

The tube was similar to the Metro in D.C. but I can say with one hundred percent certainty that in my 20 years of living less than an hour away from Washington D.C. I have never taken the subway as much as I have in the last month in London! One difference I found between the Tube and the Metro was that in D.C. they had metro card machines on either side of the turnstiles and in London they only had them on the outside. These were irrelevant for me during the program because we had travel-cards given to us but afterwards I got an oyster card to travel around the city. I found that if I did not put enough money onto my card then the turnstile still let me through but the next time I would have negative money on it and would need to pay that and more. In D.C., the turnstiles don’t let you out unless you have the money on your metro card so that was a big change for me. Also in London, public transport was huge! In Columbus I rarely take the bus, I just walk everywhere but in London I felt we mostly used the tube to get around, and then the bus sometimes.

While staying at my friend’s houses and my Airbnbs, I noticed that it was very common thing for a host to offer their guests some tea, and because of that I drank a lot of tea while staying at those places. I intend to take this back with me to America and plan on drinking more tea with my mom as well as offering it to guests in our home.


This experience has already impacted me greatly. At the Ohio State University, I will remember my time in London and I plan to connect it to my studies. In the spring semester, I took a Linguistics in Advertising course, and so during my time in London I paid special attention to the advertisements or adverts as they are called in the United Kingdom. While abroad I was able to apply the concepts we learned in class to the adverts. And so I could figure out why the advertising agencies behind a certain campaign chose to use certain language. I really loved being able to connect what I had learned to what I was seeing in England. I imagine that it will be similar to how I will connect my Maymester in London to my next few years at Ohio State. There are a few political science classes (focusing on American as well as Foreign politics) I plan to take and I believe I will have an interesting perspective when we discuss topics such as Brexit or the Prime Minister Election of June 2017. I also feel that going on this study abroad will help me in my International Business course next semester.

This study abroad opportunity will also have an impact on my social circle at OSU. I have been exposed to so many new and wonderful people that I probably would not have met if it weren’t for this class. I met people from years above and below me and in every type of major you can imagine! It was also really great meeting girls from other sororities because I feel like a majority of my OSU friends are either in my sorority or not in Greek life at all. Now when I see them at various philanthropy events or at combined study tables I’ll have a few friends I can make sure to say hi to. The girls in my group and I have already made plans for a few London reunions during the Fall semester including a trip to a tea place in Columbus, which we are all very excited about!


Through this experience I have learned a lot about myself, travel, and traveling by myself. I’ve learned that although I have immense love for London and I like to think I am pretty independent, I would not want to travel alone in the city again. I have learned that who you’re with is a huge part of travel. That is why I am so thankful for the amazing relationships I’ve built over the past month.

Now, after about 6 weeks in the United Kingdom, I do see myself living there for a period of time. I definitely want to go back to London and share it with my family and other friends. I think it’s a great city that everybody should see at least once in their lifetimes. After I graduate from Ohio State I can see myself pursuing an internship in England, specifically in London. I would be very interested in a marketing or advertising position there.

Engineering Castles and Cathedrals of England and Wales–Step Reflection

In the study abroad program Engineering Castles and Cathedrals, I was assigned the medieval castle Conwy located in Wales, which I researched and presented on to the class. Then we traveled over England and Wales, saw the historic site, as well as the others that classmates were assigned, and each student acted as the tour guide for their site, giving historical and engineering facts on the building and how it was constructed.

During this trip, I was sent to a country I had never been to with 19 people I barely knew. I had always considered myself a more reserved and quiet person, so I was a bit nervous about the trip and not knowing anyone. As it turns out, I should not have been. The group was fantastic, and I felt like I made instant friends which doesn’t happen that often. This trip also made me really appreciate Wales. I feel as though Wales is this country that gets forgotten, because I got a lot of questions like, “Wales? Where is that again? Why are you going there?” from friends and family who I told this trip about. However, Wales has such a rich and interesting history along with very friendly people and gorgeous scenery. You can look out one way towards the coast then turn around and see mountain peaks behind you, separated by lush, green fields. It’s one of those moments where you actually have to stop doing everything just so you can take it all in. Also, experiencing London and seeing first-hand so many places I had heard and read about was such a thrilling adventure. This experience overall has led me to grow as a person in more ways than one.

First, the instructors of this program are fantastic, and made the experience so much better. Dr. Hempson and Jamie showed such excitement for all these locations we learned about and visited (reasonably so), which just hyped everything up and made it all so much more exciting. They were like the cool aunt and uncle that let you have fun, explore, and learn as long as it’s not at the expense of you falling off the top of a castle or mountain or something. They made sure we immersed ourselves in the unfamiliar culture, urging us to try the country’s staple dishes and talk to the locals.

Visiting all the sites and learning the histories behind them is something that I will always cherish. The views looking out from the tops of castles, or up into cathedral spires, or down from the top of the Great Orme are indescribable. How they were created in the times they were and have lasted hundreds of years is even more mind-boggling. While it might not necessarily be knowledge I use as a biomedical engineer, learning about the purpose and meaning of Edward I’s iron ring of castles, or how the flying buttresses supported the weight of the cathedrals, or the significance behind Stonehenge’s location are tidbits I will never forget, not just because they were so interesting to learn about and see in person but because the people there with me, presenting and listening and commenting and asking questions have become such good friends.

As I mentioned earlier, going into this trip pushed a lot of boundaries for me in terms of friendships. From the end of the trip looking back, I was nervous to start, but soon realized I shouldn’t be. As the trip progressed, I forged new relationships and enjoyed all of these adventures so much more because I was experiencing it all with friends. These are life-long relationships I’ve formed with people I plan to hang out with in my remaining years of school and keep in contact with afterwards.

Now, from the end of the trip looking forward, I have this newfound confidence with which I approach life. Don’t be afraid to explore, to learn, to experience things and change with those experiences, even if they may not pertain to what you want to do with your future. These moments are the ones that define you as a person, that you will look back on forever and say to yourself just how happy you were that you decided to push your boundaries and do things that not everyone does, regardless of the opinions of others. If it’s something you’re passionate about, pursue it, and I guarantee you there are others who think it’s cool you can befriend along the way.