A month In London

Name: Gale Collins

Type of project: Study Abroad

 

  • Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

My study abroad trip was a month long stay in London, with visits to Edinburgh and Oxford.  Our class was focused on the history, culture, and politics of the UK. as part of the class I attend a several performances, including a musical, some slam poetry, and several plays.

 

  • What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

I have traveled a lot in my life before this, including all over the US, 2 trips to Canada, and a trip to Romania, and every place I go has taught me a lot. I also have been interested in one day living outside the US, so being able to have a trial run, where you have to manage traveling overseas, getting to class on time in a brand new city, budgeting for your own food and supplies, all mostly on your own was really helpful. This was the longest I had ever been away from Columbus before as well, so it helped me get a real feel for what it would be like to live in another country, even one relatively similar to my own. It helped me feel more confident in my ability to be a functioning independent adult.

 

  • 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?

Being able to navigate my way around a city as big and crowded as London was a challenge for sure.  It was a confidence boost once I felt confident in getting to where I needed to go (class or an event for class, or someplace during my free time) and managing to reroute as needed if there was a tube closure of delay, and still getting to class on time. It was sometimes stressful, but the longer I was there, the easier it got.

 

Another thing I had to navigate was the language. Even though they also speak English, and I had watched plenty of British TV shows, the accent and dialect was still somewhat difficult to navigate. Often when ordering food, or if i was just talking to someone I had met, I would need them to repeat something they said so I could understand it. I think it helped thought that my accent immediately let them know I wasn’t British, so they knew I might not know all their slang.

 

I think the thing that was most important however was having to budget money and time to do things like eating, or buying any supplies I needed. I had to track down the nearest grocery store, and find things in my budget to eat. Most shops tended to close a lot earlier that I’m used to, so I also had to make sure I didn’t put it off til the last minute.  Weekly shopping (as opposed to every few weeks here) was really different, and making sure I bought good food without having to carry too much back to the dorm.

 

  • Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

Learning to sustain yourself in a new place, especially a new country I think is an important skill,and one that isn’t really taught. I think traveling abroad has helped me feel more independent, and has given me confidence to work towards living abroad in the future. I have lived in Columbus my whole life, but but by traveling I have been able to experience things I never could have here, and become an individual with more worldly experiences.

A picture of the London Eye on a nice day   A picture of one of the halls in the British Parliament building. there are chandalier and art on the walls, where are very ornate

A Trip To Barcelona

Name: Ruchin Patel

Type of Project: Education 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.

My project was a study abroad to Barcelona through a program with ISA. In this program we took classes in Spanish about the art and architecture of the country and its cinema. We also traveled to different parts of Spain to get a feel for all that the country had to offer.

  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.

When going to Spain, I was immersed in a completely new culture and experience. Much of what I experienced was completely new to me. In this new environment, I found that throughout the world, there are many different outlooks on life and how people understand things. It was neat seeing the vibrant culture all around me that was so different from the one I am used to. This experience gave me a great interest in understanding how different experiences and histories of people can affect a people and their culture.

  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.

One of the first things that I noticed in Barcelona is that while I was in Spain, many of the signs were in 2 different languages-Spanish and Catalan. The people of Barcelona are part of the autonomous region of Cataluña. They have their own language and a slightly different culture from that of those from the rest of Spain. This was very obvious when I saw yellow ribbons painted everywhere and Catalan flags hanging from windows. These were symbols of their identity. These people were historically part of a different kingdom before the Spanish kingdom annexed them. It is this history that has lead them to have the cultural identity that they maintain to this day.

Another important experience I had was seeing all of the buildings of the city. The buildings were very interesting as there were historical buildings that were still being used for commercial and residential. Others were used for their original purposes, such as the Cathedral. Another portion were used as museum spaces such as the underground Roman ruins. But there were some historical sites that were just part of the city, almost like decorations such as the ruins of the Temple of Augustus. These buildings were next to the buildings of more modern eras juxtaposing the Baroque and Romanesque with the Modern and Contemporary styles. This really highlighted how the rich history of the area was still a part of their culture and daily life still effecting the people living there

Probably one of my favorite things was the food of Spain. Each region of Spain has slightly different cuisine, but you can also find many common dishes. You can also find food from all throughout Europe and even the world. Through the cuisine of the area you can appreciate the influences that have shapes the people and their culture. From the types of paella to the prevalence of Italian and Middle Eastern cuisine, the food really reflects the environment, culture and history of the country.

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

This understanding of how important these different factors influence a people, their culture and their beliefs has helped me understand how better to understand and relate to other peoples. As one of my goals is to work with people from all around the world, it is critical that I be able to understand them and their cultures. By going on this trip, I was able to expose myself to people and cultures unfamiliar to me and learn to understand them. It is this newfound ability to recognize the influences on a culture and its people that will help me in my future as I try to understand people from around the world.

University of Oxford Pre-Law Study Abroad

Julia Cash- Study Abroad

  1. My STEP signature project was a five-week study abroad program in Oxford, England. It was a Pre-Law program that provided classes and lectures about the Anglo-American Legal System. In addition, we also went on several field trips to places in England with legal or cultural relevance.
  2. When I was traveling to England, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had only been out of the United States twice and I had never been anywhere near Europe. Upon arriving in England, I quickly noticed some small differences to the U.S. Yet, after a week or so I became very used to all of these differences; minus the lack of air conditioning. I soon realized how quickly it felt natural, and I was able to adapt to these changes. I also go to travel outside of England for a few days on a trip to Scotland and saw how a few hours on a train can lead to a whole new place. I was able to see Oxford, London, Scotland, and Bath. All of these places were incredible and beyond anything I ever expected when I signed up for this trip. Traveling frequently as well as living away from home gave me a feeling of independence and reassurance for my future.Getting to study at the University of Oxford was a privilege. Early on during the trip we had a lecture about the University and its academic rigor that amazed all of us on the program. The lectures were vastly different than any class I had taken at OSU and the professors were unique and incredibly well spoken. Once class in particular, taught by Professor Whelan, changed my thought process on particular subjects and challenged the whole class’ way of thinking. Overall, I learned a lot about legal practices and ethics as well as a lot about myself while studying abroad.
  3. I had some pretty phenomenal teachers while studying in Oxford. Each day we had a lesson from Professor Jordan who teaches at Moritz College of Law. Her job was to give us a glimpse of what law school would entail. Her class solidified my intentions of attending law school and made me excited to attend class. A couple times a week, we would also receive a lesson from Dr. Whelan who teaches at the University of Oxford. He was a great speaker who kept all of us engaged and created the most productive classroom setting I have ever been in. By making us “imagine the following scenario…” he changed the way we all arrived at our opinions and made us question what are morals are and why they are important. These two professors in particular helped make my experience as transformative as it was.In addition, we had several guest lectures such as Dr. Holmes and Dr. Goold who spoke about more narrow subjects like Brexit or issues in medical law. They engaged the class in conversation and I was able to learn a lot about topics I hadn’t anticipated. When writing my research paper, I got to work with a teacher named Nomfundo. She was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met and truly impacted my educational experience in the best possible way. We also traveled to lots of different places such as the Old Bailey and Parliament. We got to watch a trial as well as attend a talk from MP Robert Courts. It was an activity that contributed to my college involvement in a way I couldn’t have ever imagined.

    On top of all of this, I met some amazing students while abroad and made a whole new group of friends. I not only learned from the professors, but also from fellow students as they shared their thoughts in class. Additionally, traveling with them meant that I got to experience all of these new wild places with other people who knew what home was like and understood the differences. These people made my time abroad so much fun.

  4. Getting to experience the culture of England was valuable because it made me less ignorant to the rest of the world. You can read about things all you want, but experiencing them is a whole other ordeal. The experience made me more confident in myself and in my abilities to make quick connections with other people. Also, the classes solidified my goal of going to law school. In all, it made me appreciate academic culture more and made me excited to get back into classes here at OSU.Pictures from my trip:

              

A Summer in Québec City

Name: Sera Kitchen

Type: Education Abroad

I spent five weeks this Summer studying French at Université Laval in Québec City, Québec through the FLE program (FLE is a French acronym that translates to French as a foreign language). The program consisted of mostly Canadian students, but I was one of the many international students. As a part of the program, I was enrolled in three different French classes that totaled to six credit hours. I was in class Monday-Friday for approximately four hours a day, and I participated in many different activities and excursions each day after class and on the weekends.

Prior to this program I had studied French since I was in kindergarten, but I had never heard the Québecois French accent or been to a Francophone area. Additionally, I had never been to Canada. When I arrived, I was extremely anxious about speaking French to the locals. I could not understand half of what they were saying, because they pronounced their “r” sounds differently and had an entirely different type of French slang that I had never heard. I felt like an outsider, and I was struggling to communicate in situations that seemed so simple – it took me 10 minutes to translate my order at “Café Starbucks” the first time, because I didn’t know if it was customary to translate each component of my order or just to pronounce the English terms with a French accent. Because I had lived my entire life in a society where I could speak my first language, I had never been in that position before.

The foreign language education system in the United States is not the greatest, and I realized throughout the program that most of my French education had been written. I placed into a fairly high level in the program, but I felt that my grammar and written skills were much higher than my listening and conversational skills. I struggled a lot in conversation, and it was very difficult for me to adapt to the Québecois accent. I made many new friends through the program, however, and we helped each other practice French even in our free time. We would often speak to each other in “Frenglish” and give each other vocabulary and grammar assistance. Additionally, interacting with locals in Vieux Québec and around the malls, restaurants, and grocery stores also helped us to improve our French.

By the end of my time in Québec, I became much more confident in my French. We were required to speak French at all times during class and other FLE activities, so I learned how to communicate what I was trying to say in French, even if I couldn’t say it exactly the same way I initially wanted to. Especially during the beginning of the program, the locals would automatically switch to English if we were struggling. This happened often in the Vieux Québec region, because it is known for tourism and many of the workers know enough English to communicate. However, by the end of the program, I was able to make it through extensive conversations in French with locals without them having to switch languages.

Being from the United States, I learned a lot about both Canadian and Québecois culture. Even though we often assume Canada is very similar to the United States, there are many qualities that set it apart. Poutine is everywhere. Even McDonalds and Tim Hortons have poutine in Canada. Canadians also stress the difference between “College” or “Cegep” and “University”, whereas we use the terms interchangeably. In Québec, the laws and customs are designed to preserve their Francophone culture as much as possible. Students in Québec must attend French schools throughout their education, unless they have a valid petition indicating that one of their parents attended English school in the province. Additionally, all of the signs for every restaurant, store, etc. must be in French or have a component in French that describes the establishment. There are no longer pennies in Canada, and there are federal and provincial taxes on everything, including food. Traditional Québecois music sounds like bluegrass with a Celtic influence, and nearly everyone uses public transportation and brings their own bags to the stores.

I have been studying French for 15 years, but this was my first experience actually being immersed within a Francophone society outside of the classroom. I am currently a French minor, and the credits I received at Laval will be applied as 6 credit hours towards my minor. Being in an immersive language program showed me the importance of immersion in acquiring a second language, and I would like to continue to improve my French throughout the rest of my life. I hope to eventually become fluent enough so that I might be able to live or work in a Francophone society.

Reporting Back-London Theatre

This past summer, I spent a month living in London, U.K. for a program centered on experiencing theatre. London is probably the theatre capital of the world, and produces more new work than anywhere else. During our trip we saw 28 plays, some new, some classic, and experienced the vibrant theatre-going community of London, and the culture of the city at large.

I’m currently studying theatre, but before my trip to London, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do in theatre. I enjoyed acting, was interested in design, and was itching to try writing and directing. I also didn’t have a clear idea of my personal taste in theatre, what my teachers would refer to as the “theatre I wanted to make.”

During the London trip, I was exposed to dozens of brand new plays, often written by playwrights barely older than myself. Some were extraordinary, which made me think “I wish I could write something like this,” and some were extraordinarily bad, which made me think “I could write something way better than this.” Both of these feelings were useful in my discovery that I was most interested in playwriting above all other aspects of theatre. While in London, I finished a first draft a brand new play, which one of the Ohio State professors on the trip helped me edit. By the time I came back to school this fall, I had a finished play, which I directed and presented in cooperation with the Ohio State Theatre Department. Both nights we performed sold out.

Before the trip, I had only a vague idea of my “favorite” kind of play. I knew I liked comedies, and didn’t like musicals, I knew I enjoyed Shakespeare, but also work by young playwrights. But the “theatre I wanted to make” still eluded me. More or less, I enjoyed watching all theatre, did that mean I didn’t have my own personal taste or style? I wasn’t sure. But, while in London, we were seeing shows basically every day of the trip, and it was interesting to see which shows resonated with each student. Some of my friends loved the big-budget West End musicals, like Hamilton, others remembered slapstick humor. Others, absurdism, others Shakespeare. I realized that while I enjoyed watching everything, very specific styles of theatre resonated with me and inspired to make my own art. These were shows that blended comedy with drama, particularly with dark humor, shows with a nonrealistic acting style, and shows that commented on social issues. After thirty or so shows, I began to see my own taste emerging, and learned both how to embrace shows that I knew were “for me,” and I learned how to distance myself from it when it came time give a critical eye to a show that wasn’t within these parameters, i.e. “Although this show wasn’t my taste, it did interesting things in its design/acting/direction/text/etc.”

While seeing the plays was obviously influential, my favorite parts of the trip were actually my free time, when I could explore London on my own, my own way. London’s public transportation system is incredibly easy to navigate, so I gained confidence in getting around a big city, and owning my own space while doing so, something I’d probably need to learn anyway if I want to continue work in theatre, which basically only functions as a business in large cities. I also learned how to be independent in a new city, something that was terrifying at first but by the end of the trip made me feel more grown up. Throughout our month, I would sneak away by myself to explore a public garden, or a hidden museum. I learned how much I enjoy spending time with myself, with helped me to make the realizations about myself I mentioned earlier.

The most influential parts of my trip actually came from people who came with me from home. My trip professor, Jennifer Schlueter, was our guide through the London theatre landscape, and in class discussions encouraged us to think about what a show made us feel, but also why it made us feel that way, and urged us to consider all elements of the theatre making process, including writing, acting, directing, design, and dramaturgy. I learned to critically analyze the theatre I was seeing, and how it was delicately designed to effect me, while simultaneously embracing the emotional immersion that happens whenever a person sees a play.

The other people who deeply influenced me were the new friends I made while on the trip. It’s easy to say “I made new friends,” and while it sounds sweet, it doesn’t really capture how deeply I connected to these people. I was lucky in that I found three people I immediately clicked with, and throughout the trip we shared our passion for theatre, our doubts, and our dreams. They became a support system while living in a culture that is surprisingly different from our own, accompanied me when I wanted to try something new, and made the trip a blend of fun, learning, and risk-taking.

This trip showed me what I want to do within the theatre industry, and because of London’s particularly hospitable climate for new playwrights, encouraged me that my career path really is possible. I discovered newfound confidence in my chosen path of study, and was spurred into creative action by the most personally inspiring art I saw. Without London, I don’t know if I would have finished my first play, much less directed it and presented it to an audience. Since London, I have grown more precise in my artistry, more confident in my own work and thoughts, more independent as an individual, and more cognizant of the culture of my art form internationally.

 

 

Summer Studies in Siena

Over the summer of 2018, I was provided the opportunity to live and engage in the community of Siena, a city in the Tuscan region of Italy. My program lasted a total of eight weeks. All classes and experiences were taught and completed in the Italian language.

What I found rather transformative about this program was how the people can really impact the overall experience. I had completed a program last summer in Spain, yet I found that my experience in Italy was infinity better and more satisfying than the previous one. The more obvious transformation was my acquisition of the Italian language. Learning more about the language in such an embracing community was such an enriching experience, because almost every Italian was thrilled to help you use the language “in the wild.”

The most notable relationship that contributed greatly to my STEP project experience was with my Italian host family. I was paired up very well with a family that was extremely interactive and interested to learn more about my culture as well as making an effort to use any language but English in the house. This family was perfect for me since I speak both Italian and Spanish since all of the family members were fluent in both languages. It was through them that I was able to learn more about the Italian language (my host mom is a teacher) and was able to apply what I was learning in class in discussions at home.

Another aspect of my program that distinguished it from other programs were the classes I took while attending school. In addition to an Italian language class, I studied Italian linguistics and the history of Italian emigration and immigration. Honestly speaking, I do not think the information presented in the latter class would have been as relevant if I had taken it anywhere but in Italy. It was an incredible experience to learn about the current immigration situation in a context where it was very relevant. In fact, the university where I took classes offered Italian classes to refugees that lived in the city.

In a more general overview, I think the city of Siena is what allows this program to flourish. The city itself boasts a rich culture, especially in the summer with its annual Palio horse race. It was fascinating to watch the city change and see the true colors of the Sienese people as they represented one of the 17 neighborhoods in the city. The city is large enough to always find something to do yet small enough to get acquainted with in just 2 months time. It is incredibly safe since there are not as many tourists as the nearby city of Florence.

Completing this type of program has contributed so much in terms of my knowledge about Italy as a country and has helped raise my awareness about more prominent issues throughout the world, especially that of immigration. Since one of my degrees specializes in languages, I am honored to have been able to spend eight weeks fully immersed in the Italian culture and to be able to engage with the community in multiple aspects, not just those brought to light by the directors of the program. I have made connections in Italy that I know I will be helpful in the future. I was able to make musical connections that will help in my career in the future, and I cannot wait to visit Siena to see the people I have met and come to know during the duration of my STEP project.

Arcadia STEM Summer Abroad- Limerick, Ireland

During two months of the summer, I was a participate in the Arcadia STEM summer abroad in Limerick, Ireland which was made possible through STEP funds. I worked in a Biomedical Engineering lab at the University of Limerick studying the mechanical properties of the meninges and the role they play in concussions. During this project I found that my understanding of my project, career selection, and myself grew.
As a premed student at the Ohio State University I have only really viewed concussions through a clinical lens. With this project I began to see different sides such as the mechanical sides which gave me a more holistic idea of the worldwide problem of concussions. I worked alongside engineering PHD candidates who showed me how to mechanically define basic medical things like tissues. They gave me a more fundamental understanding of how biologically human bodies function.
This experience helped me narrow down my academic goals. I already knew for the most part what direction I wanted to go in, but working in a Biomedical lab showed me that first I don’t want to be an engineer, though I was able to develop an appreciation for what engineers do. I worked with many engineers and know that I can understand them, but I preferred the medical side of things. Second, my experience confirmed that I want to continue working in a lab. I enjoy the area where innovation roams freely and has the ability to be developed to impact lives. I plan to continue the pursuit of medical research with the remaining time I have left at the Ohio State University and hopefully into the future as well.
Throughout my experience in Ireland, I felt like I became more of an independent person that was able to explore and meet other cultures of the world away from my own family. I was the very first student to do the Arcadia Stem summer program in Limerick, Ireland. It was very unique because I felt like I had a bit of reign over how I wanted my program to be. The lab I worked on had a main goal, but I was able to decide what exact role I wanted in working towards that goal. I choose this program because of the project and really enjoyed learning the role meninges have in concussions and in recovery. The people I worked with were inspiring in their innovation. They had ideas that could impact the world that they would share and invite me to work with them on in order to share their vision. I am truly grateful to all the people who I had the chance to work with and made my experience so amazing.
The most valuable thing I learned from this program was learning how to be independent out in the rest of the world. This included figuring out what exactly I want to do with my life as well as making a plan as how to accomplish my goals. Goals start with the small things like planning trips on the weekend and increased to the project size I was working on or even larger to life goals. This program gave me confidence to try new things such as traveling new places and it was up to me how my experience could have been.

Summer Arabic Language Program – Amman, Jordan

STEP Reflection Prompts

As you may recall from your STEP signature project proposal, your STEP signature project was designed to foster transformational learning—that is, learning that challenged you personally and helped you gain broader and deeper understandings of yourself, others, and the world around you. Please address the following prompts to help you reflect on your experiences completing your STEP signature project; please give careful and critical thought to your responses.

Name: Johnna Coffin

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.

This summer I attended a study abroad in Amman, Jordan through CIEE program. I took two classes while there in both Modern Standard Arabic and Colloquial Arabic. I also took cultural trips around the city and lived with a host family in order to further improve my Arabic language and cultural knowledge.

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

I wouldn’t necessarily say that this trip transformed me while I was there. This is the third time I have studied abroad in the Middle East and so I didn’t really go in with any false ideas or stereotypes. However, I did learn a lot while I was away. Jordan is a very interesting country, because it is right in the middle of many different conflicting countries. Israeli and Palestine, Syria, and Egypt are just a few. And in the midst of all these wars and revolutions, Jordan still remains an independent and peaceful country. I also got new insight on different conflicts happening in the Middle East. For example, I got to hear a different side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I learned about the Jordanian government and military as well as how Jordanians live. I especially enjoyed living with a host family. One thing I learned is that there is no water in Jordan, so all water is imported and therefore there is a water shortage. Each family only gets a limited supply each week. This experience taught me to be humbler and appreciate everything I have.

  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.

My host family was a super big proponent in my transformation. They showed me how to live in a developing country. It was a crazy experience. I have been used to taking all things for granted. However, I learned here to appreciate every little thing. Not only do people here live with limited resources, or more limited than in the US, but they also live in constant political fear. As I discussed above, Jordan is surrounded by many warring and dangerous countries. And while the people and country have avoided a conflict of their own for this long, they live in constant fear that the wars and fighting will catch up to them. This kind of political insecurity and worry taught me to be thankful for everything I have in the US.

  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.

I think that this study abroad really advanced my academic goals. During this trip, I discovered just how many paths I can take with my major. I have discovered that I may want to think about going to law school and continuing my future in this way. I can also work in the government or as a translator. I have discovered so much about my future and how many different career paths I have.

A Trip Half Way Around the World: Completion

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

This summer I traveled 7,000 miles from home to participate in OSU’s study abroad program based in Suzhou, China. For 8 weeks I took part in an intensive study of the Chinese language, met local Chinese persons and discovered Chinese culture first hand.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

I am a natural worrier. I worry about all types of things; from people to plans. You name it, I have probably worried about it. There were many fears that I had when it came to prepare to travel abroad to China. I was so over prepared and over packed that when I finally got on the last plane before landing in Shanghai I was mentally and physically exhausted. But there was still an underlying worry about how I would react to living on my own, 7,000 miles away from my support system. I was also insanely curious about how I would adapt to the daily life of China. Many people I had talked to told me about how different Chinese life is compared to how we live in America. After visiting I can attest to this with much experience

Surprisingly I had no trouble adjusting to living in China. It was easier than transitioning back to living in America. I quickly found that I had nothing to worry about, almost all of my worries were reduced to nothing as I started my studies in China. Thanks to a previous intensive study I found the class work manageable and even light at times. My depression was gone, I didn’t have my usual problems sleeping at night, I was able to have a diligent and efficient study time everyday and as a person I grew tremendously. Life is China was laidback and convenient, our language partners were training to be Chinese teachers themselves which made it easier for us to lean on them for help. I personally became close friends with both of my language partners and still to this day video chat and message with them. This trip has given me new friends, both in America and in China, renewed my drive to do well in school, enforced the goal of living in China and helped me focus in on the part of business I would like to work in.

  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?

               One of the most impactful parts of the trip were the times that you would stop, look around you and realize that people live their whole lives surrounded by the beauty of China. One of the most beautiful sunsets I saw in my life was laundry day for a woman washing her clothes in the lake. Every day we were greeted with more examples of the appeal of China and was astonished by the number of locals that passed by without a care. One of the more rememberable experiences was when some classmates and I were walking around the ruins of the wall around the old part of Suzhou. We were at the top of Shumen gate surrounded by over 600 years of history. But the locals only wanted to look at us and take pictures of us. It was mind blowing that they could not see the beauty of the world around them and would rather stare at us. Being there made me want to live in China, no matter what I was doing there.

The first time I bonded with my language partner I was in an almost delirious state of mind. I had been in the library café for 6 hours that night, we were trying to get through all of the homework before heading to dinner. Admittingly I am not the best at listening comprehension and so tensions were high between my language partner and me. Both of us were frustrated with the other and at one point I remember being close to tears. But as the hours dragged on I started to realize that I could understand bits and pieces of her speech and therefore start to understand her, and the other language partners that would come to ask if we wanted to go eat or go have fun. I started using English less and less to describe what I wanted to say and by the tail end of it all leaned over to my classmate to complain about how tired I was in Chinese. English felt foreign to use, Chinese coming most naturally at the time. When we finally wrapped up and went to have food, even though I felt so odd I was able to hold a decent conversation all in Chinese where we explored the difference in customs between us and our language partners. To this day I am thankful for that day that jumpstarted my comprehension of my language partners Chinese and our friendship.

I have been completely and utterly lost on the idea of where I want to head with my career. I have explored a few areas within my major, but on a whole I didn’t know where to start. So, when we were tasked with a research project with individualized topics, I was a little lost on where to start. I started off really broad, but as I continued to narrow down the questions to ask people I realized that all of my questions were business related. As the project continued to change I realized the direction I was headed: China’s E-Commerce. I had had a small amount of exposure to this topic before but conducting research in it was something I had never done before. However, by the end of the summer I gave a 30-minute presentation on my finding of the subject and answered questions from my classmates, all in Chinese. This has given me an understanding of where I want to go with my career as an International Business student and has opened me up to the pathway of research and possibly graduate school.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?

I like to think that this trip was 6 years in the making; from the first day of Freshman year of High School to the day that I landed in China. The Chinese language and culture have become such a significant part of who I am and helped broaden my views on the world around us. In a way this trip marks an end to something that has been a big part of my life, but it also marks the beginning to the next stage. I have clear goals for what lays ahead of me, a renewed vigor to achieve them and a sense of confidence in my abilities to accomplish what I have put my mind to. For the first time in a long time I feel certain of who I am and who I want to be, and I know I won’t stop until I can make my dreams a reality.

Caught in a typhoon

Finally completing the route to 胥门(xumen)

STEP Study Abroad Reflection: CIEE Summer Arabic Language Intensive in Amman, Jordan

Marcie Rotblatt

This summer, I spent eight weeks studying Arabic in Amman, the capital city of Jordan. I learned both Modern Standard Arabic and the Jordanian colloquial dialect and was in class for about five hours a day, learning about one year’s worth of Arabic. In addition to the class time, I also stayed with a host family and was able to travel around Jordan to learn more about the country and its vast history.

I entered this experience knowing very little about Jordan and only having a basic understanding of Arabic. I felt wholly unprepared for spending the summer in this country, not only because of my lack of cultural knowledge but also the intensity of the academic aspect of the program. Although I was out of my element in Amman, by the end of the summer the city became my second home. Because I was able to fully immerse myself in the culture and daily life, I gained a much deeper understanding towards Jordanians and the differing mindset of the Middle East. I believe that Jordanians are some of the most hospitable and welcoming people, not only towards foreigners but also towards each other. It was a common sight to see multiple people stopped on the side of the road to help someone with their broken-down car, and everyone I met was incredibly kind-hearted and generous. In addition, I was in Jordan for the last two weeks of Ramadan and was able to experience the holiest month in the Muslim calendar with my host family. Living and studying in Amman gave me a deeper cultural understanding and appreciation for life in the Middle East, which is vital for my personal and professional development as I hope to one day work in the Middle East. I grew personally and academically and maintain that living in Amman left me a more open and driven individual.

I find it difficult to pinpoint the single most influential experience of my summer in Amman, because it was the culmination of each minor experience that led to my personal growth. Through the program I was given the opportunity to learn more about Jordan’s history and culture through trips to ruins and religious sites such as the Jordan River and King Al-Hussein Mosque. I gained a much deeper appreciation for Islam and the individual religious experience, as well as a further understanding of ancient Roman, Ummayad, and Ottoman history. We also spent time at a Bedouin camp and learned about how they live and thrive in the harsh Jordanian desert. Most importantly, I was able to experience the vastness of our world and complexities of the individuals who live there, especially when pertaining to often-simplified conflicts and stereotypes of the Middle East.

I truly grew as a student during my summer in Amman through the academic rigor of the program and the different teaching style used in Jordan. The Arabic intensive was easily the hardest academic endeavor I have ever pursued, especially because the instructors held very high expectations towards everyone’s academic performance and growth. Class in Amman is a much more formal affair than in the United States, though the professors were also more willing to help with comprehension because of this. Further, Arabic is an incredibly difficult language for me and studying the contrasting formal and colloquial languages in a country which primarily speaks Arabic forced me far out of my comfort zone. Being thrust into this situation certainly helped my understanding of the language and furthered my appreciation and ability to use Arabic in daily life.

Because I was given the opportunity to spend a summer immersed in Arabic and Middle Eastern culture, I feel much more at home in Amman and am eager to work in the Middle East in the future. I found it necessary to study in the Middle East because academically I am focusing on international relations and human rights within the Middle East. I do not want to approach this with my Western perspective but rather with an appreciation and mindset appropriate to the culture of which I am focusing. I now feel much more prepared and well-equipped to appropriately reflect upon and represent the region. In addition, this summer has significantly improved my understanding of Arabic and has allowed me to continue pursuing the minor. My summer in Amman allowed me to become a more understanding and adventurous individual and I would not have changed this experience for the world.