Thinking Big, Thinking Small

Name: Hazel Black

Type of Project: Artistic and Creative Endeavors

Dance Denmark was a five-and-a-half-week program that included performing and teaching throughout the country, collaborating with Danish dancers and choreographers, and participating in multiple excursions to various historical and cultural sites. Our repertoire, which was choreographed collaboratively, included tap dance, hip-hop, body rhythm, and classical and contemporary techniques. Most of our trip was spent at a Gerlev, a sports academy in a small town called Slagelse, but we also performed as international guests at the National Sports and Culture Festival in Aalborg and immersed ourselves in the lively culture in Copenhagen.

When asked what I was most looking forward to in the weeks before I left The States, I often responded with excitement about visiting the least stratified country in the world. During spring semester, Social Stratification: Race, Gender, and Class dominated my interests and passions and led me to declare Inequality in Society as my minor. As my understanding of America’s social structure broadened, my frustrations with the systems that breed inequality within it broadened as well. I fantasized about an America where higher taxes meant healthcare and education for all (instead of just for those who can afford it), and where every skill and interest has equal value (resulting in relatively equal income and status for everyone). People in “that America” aren’t forced to build impossible bridges to cross the gap between poor and rich, can freely decide a profession without the crushing thought of financial failure pulling their hair and pinching their neck, and can go to college without hesitation—never even considering the possibility that their future might be burdened with debt.

Social Stratification also taught me that Denmark’s government supported the social systems I believe in. As indicated in my proposal, I anticipated that “spending six weeks in a country with completely different systems than those I have lived in for nineteen years (would) expand my sociological knowledge and advance my interests in creating better systems that work for people despite their gender, class, and race.” My prediction held true, but I also came to realize that no matter how sound a governmental system is, or isn’t for that matter, flaws are inherent even if they are not evident. My sociological knowledge expanded in an unexpected way: I realized that while government support is important, the most valuable work I can do for my country is on a much smaller scale.

With the hopes of learning more about Danish culture, history, and politics, I spent a great deal of my time (after classes) in the lounge with a few of my American peers and the Gerlev students—a family of Danes, Germans, Czechs, Spaniards, and Icelanders. Sitting on the old (but quite comfortable) green couches and soaking in the rosy light of the sunset, I had numerous conversations about the differences between Nordic and American Society. My new friends were incredibly open about the politics and societal aspects of their countries and were interested in my opinions about what they shared.

Some dialogues reassured my passions about shifting the United States structurally:

Upon introduction, I talked to three Danish dance students about education for a full hour. We spent much of our time on the topic of higher education and its cost. I wrote about this experience in a feature in one of the Dance Denmark newsletters: “They were astounded by the cost of our tuition and empathized with my grief about our generation’s impending fall off the cliff of financial stability and into the pit of life-long debt.” When I converted the cost of my tuition at Ohio State into the Danish currency, they stared at me in disbelief for several seconds before realizing I was serious. In Denmark, a bachelor’s degree at any University is free, and a student can pursue their master’s for as little as a grand (that’s without countless hours of applying for scholarships)

Other interactions caused my hope for change via social systems to falter:

After one conversation about Denmark’s somewhat inconspicuous resistance towards accepting refugees and tolerating their cultures, I realized that its systems work so fluently partly because the country’s central issue is class. Unlike America, Denmark is not bred from an elaborate lattice of intersecting issues of race, gender, and class, and the government and its citizens are resisting that possibility where they can. The country’s size and population works in favor of equality because there is a general absence of diversity. This, of course, is quite the opposite of the structure of the United States. In a bittersweet moment, I was overwhelmed by adoration for the melting pot of my country’s people and the art and music that is a result of its cultural fusion, while simultaneously concluding that the vibrant variation I love so much would disrupt the systems that work so well in Denmark, making them merely mediocre in America.

Although my general opinions about society remain the same, since going to Denmark, there has been a shift in how I cope with the amount of inequity that exists in the world, and my method of stirring change has transformed. A new perspective forced me to face what I have always known to be true but have struggled to accept: I cannot help everyone—no one can. In high school, I remember being flustered by a Mother Teresa quote my sociology teacher was so fond of: “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.” I didn’t understand why this was such an important concept then, but it finally makes sense to me. Right now, there is little I can do to change the social systems in America. If I truly want to make a difference, I should focus on helping the community around me.

In addition to teaching and performing, I kept a photo journal on the program website:

STEP Final Reflection

  1. For my STEP signature project I participated in the education abroad program. I went on the Film and Art in a Global Context program and traveled to New York City, Athens, Paris, Berlin, and Venice. This program also included an art class, Art 5797, as the education aspect.
  2. Before beginning my program, I had only been out of the country once, and it was with my high school. I had not ventured too far without my family, my friends, or even just one person I knew. However, when I arrived in New York City, I knew no one from my program nor had I ever taken an art class in college. Over my time abroad I found myself becoming increasingly outgoing and comfortable “going with the flow” and trusting my newfound friends. I found our group bonded incredibly quickly and that my anxiety over dealing with new people and places was gone. I believe I grew a lot and overcame many of my assumptions that I would be nervous or feel unsafe in foreign countries with new people. I also found myself enjoying taking an art class and found that I knew very little about the culture and world of art. It was an incredible experience to be able to learn all of this by seeing some of the greatest art in the world, and I will truly take my newfound interest with me in life.Building upon this, not only did my view of the art world change, but my view of our world changed as well. I think there are a lot of preconceived notions that Europe is dangerous, there’s a lot of pickpocketers, and people don’t like Americans. And while maybe I had to carry my purse a little farther in front of me, I felt completely safe and welcomed while I was abroad. I feel much more comfortable and excited about traveling after being able to go and experience so many different cities on one trip. My understanding of myself as someone who is a little introverted, thrives on routine, and likes to have everything planned, was completely thrown out and I am very content with this transformation and will continue to build on it in the future.
  3. The program I participated in was focused on film and art in a global context, therefore we spent most of the trip traveling to different cities to attend the most prestigious art festivals. As these shows, galleries, and collections included artists from all over the world and many different periods of time, I was able to gain so much cultural knowledge and awareness. For example, in Paris, we visited the Foundation Louis Vuitton which had an exhibit focused on African art. For someone who is not incredibly familiar with the art world in general, I was not only able to see incredibly art from artists I had never heard of, but I was able to learn a lot about the history of Africa and its current state. Art is very symbolic and political so being able to see art from all over the world really allowed me to learn so much about political and economics states of other countries.In addition to being able to see art from all over the world, I was also able to travel all over Europe. This allowed me to experience many different cultures first hand as well which is a unique experience in itself. I was able to see how poor and harmful the economy is in Athens, I was able to see how culturally diverse Paris is, I was able to see the history of my ancestors in Berlin, and I was able to see the effects of mass tourism in Venice. Each of these cities were so vastly different but I felt safe and welcomed in each one. I didn’t feel the fear that was instilled in me by apprehensive Americans before I left. I was able to interact with many different people from all walks of life, and also relied on many of these people to help me get around. My tendency to be introverted and nervous to talk to strangers or employees was quickly overcome when I realized that English would not get me extremely far in these places. I became accustomed to asking for help and being much more self-reliant than I ever had at home. I believe I truly overcame a lot of my personal fears on this trip and I am very grateful for it.

    I, as science major and person through and through, was also incredibly nervous to take an art class and be thrown into a whole new world. I felt scared in the beginning that I had gotten myself into something I was unprepared for and would fail. However, as the trip went on and I was constantly being exposed to some of the greatest art in the world, I found myself developing my own personal taste and becoming more versed in the commonalities of the art world. The peak of my feelings was in Berlin at our pop-up gallery show. I created a piece of art that included photography and a poem I had written. During the show a local artist who had walked in off the street to see our show, asked for me, and came up to tell me he really liked my piece and thought it was very well written. I was shocked that someone who considers themselves a professional in the field could really like and appreciate something I, who hasn’t taken an art class since middle school, made. I felt like I had really come a long way with my learning and growing on my trip in that moment and It truly made it all worth it.

  4.  The transformation I experienced while abroad is one that changed me as a person, and will forever influence how I live my life. I believe as someone who considered themselves an introvert, it is very uncomfortable and difficult to overcome the struggles and fears that accompany it. However, pushing myself so far out of my comfort zone to leave the country with only people I had met once or twice, traveled to cities where little English was sometime spoken, and truly having to rely on others to get through the day was one of the best things I could had ever done. I had no choice to be introverted and shy because I had to get out of my shell and work with others in order to have a successful and safe trip. This is so valuable for me in the future because I came home feeling none of the anxieties over these things that I had felt and struggled with before. I am able to be much more independent and comfortable which is key in being a successful adult. In addition, my academic and professional goals for the future are to obtain a PhD and work in research. A lot of this work is based on teams and collaboration so my increasing comfort with meeting people, trusting in others to collaborate, and being able to be relaxed and go with the flow will be crucial traits to be successful in these fields as well.

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.

European Architectural Studies

Name: Becca Schalip – European Architecture Studies Tour

Type of Project: Study Abroad

My STEP Signature Project falls under the category of study abroad. The 34 day experience consisted of traveling through six countries to visit over 250 significant architectural sights. While in Europe we taught our classmates about the buildings we previously researched back at OSU. Our primary assignments while in country were sketching exercises multiple times a day to document and analyze important aspects of the structures we saw in country.

People kept telling me before the trip started that it would have such a huge impact on me and that we would see and experience an incredible amount of things, but I didn’t fully realize the extent of the impact the trip was having on me until towards the end. Not only did I learn about and become immersed in the culture and architecture of the places we went, but I also got to meet so many new people within the architecture school. I can’t wait to see their smiling faces around Knowlton when the semester starts. I feel so confident going into the school year having so many more connections. These connections are essential to becoming successful in the architecture field. I was able to gain insight on my upcoming undergraduate school years, what to expect when applying to graduate school, and even finding a job after school in the real world competitive environment.

Throughout the trip the entire group of 34 students became very close. We ended up going out together after program hours and exploring the cities as a group without being required to. I think this was really what brought us all so close together towards the end. We even have had a pool party reunion since we got back to the states. The building book we made before the trip and my sketchbook are my favorite souvenirs. I have used my sketchbook countless times to show people when I got home what I did and saw while I was in Europe and I am excited to use my building book to reference during studio when I need inspiration. The entire trip was uplifting, inspiring, and just plain fun. I didn’t think I would ever be ready to go back to school in the fall, but this entire experience has been so inspiring that I can’t wait to get back into studio and start creating and designing again.

I didn’t realize how important or handy connections in the architecture world could be until I was talking to one of my friends I made on the trip. He said that one of our professors that was leading the trip helped him to get an internship for the summer. I had been trying for a while to obtain one for the rest of the summer following the trip and hadn’t considered my professors as an approachable resource. After gaining confidence and guidance from my new friend, I talked to my professor about my options and he said that he would look into a couple firms he has good relationships with. He was able to recommend me for a position at an architecture firm for an internship. I ended up getting an interview and then the job. Recognizing that my professors and fellow classmates are the biggest resource I could possibly have was a turning point for me that has continued to open up so many more possibilities and allowed so much more access to ideas and options that I wasn’t aware of before the trip.

Gaining sketching skills through making quick as well as detailed sketches of the buildings we saw was so important to my transformation throughout the trip. Essentially these exercises gave me more confidence to communicate my ideas and actually be able to talk about the different aspects of buildings in a more advanced and technical way that I was not capable of before this experience.

I know that I now have a huge advantage in my upcoming theory class next semester. This class leads discussions on many of the topics we talked and debated about while in country. The class covers many theoretical ideas related to most of the architects and buildings that we covered while abroad. I will be able to transfer my knowledge of these buildings to further study these topics and become even more educated on these important ideas that the architecture world seems to revolve around. I am excited to tie my findings from these daily history lessons from the trip excursions and apply them to new and innovative strategies for building, creating and designing in the future.

I now have so many precedents archived in my mind that I will be able to pull out and reference for my upcoming projects during my studio classes. I was almost overwhelmed after our first week because it was starting to hit me that all of these buildings I had only seen previously in history class on PowerPoint slides were actually real structures in front of me that had three dimensions. I was in awe to be occupying the space of these buildings that had inspired me before, but were beginning to inspire me on a whole other level because of the personal engagement I have with them now. I understand what it is like to be in the environment that these buildings create and I have come to discover that I have started to develop my own opinion on what makes a building great. I went into buildings such as the Church of the Autostrada and decided that this was the type of building I want to create. This building and the entire trip gave me direction and drive and now I have a focus to start figuring out what I truly want out of my degree and even on the path to figuring out what I want out of my career as an architect.

STEP Signature Project Reflection

Our Folklore presentation at the library

Cutting 6 crew

Medieval Earscoop and Toothpick

Laura Ruffner

1. My STEP signature project was going to Trim, Ireland and working with the Irish Archaeology Field School to excavate the Blackfriary. We learned about monastic life and how to dig on an archaeological site. It was also a great opportunity to learn more about folklore, because we worked on researching how stories surrounding the site were influenced by the Blackfriary.

2. Excavating the remains of a medieval monastery makes you feel very small. So many people lived before us and being able to see remains of their daily life is really special. It makes them seem so real and so human and not this hazy figure in the distant past. Archaeology was this amazing tool that I could learn to make the past real. It was hard work and it was tiring but at the same time it meant so much to be a part of the discoveries made.

I realized myself how much I can grow when put into a situation like this study abroad. I was with 15 other students from Ohio State that I didn’t know and didn’t necessarily have a lot in common with. It made me get out of my comfort zone and make an effort to get to know the rest of the students. I had to defend my views more than I had ever had to, but in that I also got to see where people with different views than me were coming from. It made me realize more than ever how important it is to have an open mind. While you need to stand by what you believe in, if you never hear what other people think then you will never get anywhere. It was great to realize that no matter how hard it was to speak up sometimes, my faith is important enough to defend

3. The first thing that made the archaeology very real was troweling up a medieval ear scoop and toothpick tool with the Irish field school. At first I had assumed it was just another nail until we looked at it again and realized  it was something different. Once the Irish Archaeology Field School figured out what it was, it was so exciting. Not only because we had found something medieval but because it was such a personal tool. This wasn’t just one of their floor tiles or nail, it was something someone would have held and used. For me it made it so much more real. We were excavating someones home, really someones life.

Another thing that really brought about my transformation was how different most of the other students in the group were from me. At Ohio State I have found a strong faith community to support me and help me grow. It was an adjustment to be taken out of that and be with other students that didn’t necessarily agree with my faith and didn’t think it was important. It forced me to take a step back and decide what my faith meant to me alone. Interacting with people that were making choices I didn’t agree with made me have to decide how responsible I was for saying something.

During my closing interview with the instructors they helped me remember that I wasn’t responsible for everyone elses actions. Talking to them about the month made me realize how much I learned and grew from the experience. Even though this was something run through Ohio State and wasn’t faith based it made me grow in my faith. I had to work to put in prayer time. I had to work to stick to my values and figure out when I needed to speak up to defend those values. Talking to the instructors of the course made me realize all of those things. They were very supportive the whole time, helping me find masses and feeling like I could fit in. This month in Ireland was way more transformative than I ever thought archaeology could be.

4. This was very significant for my life. I realized there are a lot more ways I can grow in my faith to be more comfortable talking about it. It also was a good practice for the rest of my life. There is a very good chance that in whatever Logistics Management job I get I wont be surrounded with people that have the same values and beliefs that I do. I need to be able to hold up my relationships with the people around me and my faith.

I also realized that I love troweling and that is significant because I went out on a limb and tried something completely different. It was a great decision because I learned so much and got to do a lot of work. The best part about the archaeology was that it was pretty easy to see the transformation we had made. You could see how much soil we had taken away and how much we had uncovered. It was amazing to be a part of and amazing to see.