Siena Italian Studies — Reporting Back

Name: Sarah Robinson

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.

I studied with the Siena Italian Studies program in Siena Italy, attending class 5 days a week and living with a host family. In my free time outside of classwork and studying, I traveled to a total of 7 other countries, experiencing as many different cultures as I could.

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

I gained a greater understanding of the English language through learning to speak Italian. As we were learning different grammatical rules, our professors would explain concepts in English when necessary, but one of our classmates is from Ecuador and her first language is Spanish. She described her experience very differently than we did, because while she was fluent in English, she was learning a new language through the lens of her second language. It gave me a greater appreciation for learning a second language as facilitated by my native language. 

Furthermore, my experience in teaching english unofficially to my host sister gave insight to how the English language is learned in comparison to how I started learning Italian. I learned just how complex and varied the English language is, with all the grammatical rules being broken half the time. All this, however, is to say that through my experience analyzing the learning processes for learning a new language, I realized a greater empathy for people who live in a society that speaks a language other than their first language. Even after years of practicing, there are things that evade you, or references that don’t make sense, and the native speakers of that language will certainly treat you different than their peers or those who grew up speaking their language.

3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

Living with a host family for three and a half months definitely affected my perspective on language and culture. The family had a lot of similarities to my own, and though they occasionally functioned in a different way than I have observed in the United States, there were far more similarities than differences, despite the use of a completely different language. Teaching my host sister English on occasion changed my perspective o

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n the language learning process— my interactions with her, a woman of roughly my same age, showed me the value of learning another language in a perspective I had not considered— she wanted to learn English so she could move to London to find work, because there are perceived more job opportunities there than the small Italian town in which my host sister lives.

The other students in the program with me also affected my cultural perspective on how non-Americans view Americans. To my surprise, there were a few girls in my program who felt very very strongly about the “superiority” of the US over all other countries, and who took offense whenever our country was the butt of a harmless joke. Their actions and attitudes towards others and towards the culture of life in Siena was appalling, and made me realize that people like that are the reason non-Americans dislike American tourists. It made me re-evaluate my own actions and attitudes, and I tried to be more cognizant of how my actions might affect the citizens of Siena and the other countries and cities to which I traveled. My belief is that I was a guest in the country, in the cities, and I should act as a good guest should; that is I should be gracious towards those who made accommodations for me, but should not expect every door to be held open and the red carpet rolled out before me. I felt I should try to experience the cultures in which I was, by trying new foods and drinks, by not infringing on private spaces for a photo, and by trying to learn what I could about the area.

Finally, my wide travels across the European continent affirmed my belief that in order to be a good citizen of the world, one should travel as widely as they can and experience as many different cultures as possible. There is so much of the world to see, so much history to learn and phenomenal people to encounter. I want to continue to travel and appreciate different parts of the world, from the ancient ruins to the modern installations. I also realized I would love to learn more languages and be able to communicate with people from not just English speaking nations.

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

As a student, I know after graduation I will have a job in which I will have to interact with people— all jobs have that to some extent of course. I do not know whether I will need to travel for work, or if I will stay at the same location. I do know, however, that the interpersonal skills and appreciation for culture that I developed while abroad will help me in my day to day interactions with coworkers and bosses, and will help me to build strong relationships in the company for which I will work. If I do travel for my future job, then I already have the necessary skills to keep calm and collected on my journey, and to be able to be a gracious guest of wherever my work will take me.

In my future life, I plan to travel more and experience as much of the world as I can. Now that I have good traveling skills, and the ability to independently solve problems and think on my feet, I feel much more able to do my own traveling, and to encourage others to do the same, to hopefully cultivate the same level of appreciation for other cultures that I have developed in my time abroad.

Human Animal Interactions

My STEP signature project was a study abroad focusing in Human and animal interactions in The Republic of Ireland. During the trip I visited many different farms and research areas to see the different management systems that were used due to the unique climate of Ireland. While at these places I also learned about how current political events were affecting these businesses.

The inter-relatedness of politics on the Ireland was very different compared to the United States. Also, the unique climate allows the farms on the Island to keep animals out longer and give a food source we don’t use much in the Unites States. However, the climate also raises several problems that we do not have here in the United States.

The Republic of Ireland has both its own rules for livestock and animal but also has to follows rules put in place by the European Union. One of the main topics that was reoccurring was Brexit. Many of the farmers were concerned about their supply chain and product prices since they freely traded with the United Kingdom. Several farmers were concerned about what kind of boarder would be installed because they took animals to processing plants in Northern Ireland and some processing plants in The Republic of Ireland harvested animals from Northern Ireland.

 

In the Republic of Ireland, the climate allows for them to grow grass almost all year. This lets the farmers have a longer grazing season than the United States and have a cheaper more abundant food source for their livestock. They actually had a research facility and worked with the farmers to have sustainable grassland management and livestock food supply.

The climate on the Island gives the farmers unique issues with their livestock. With the very wet and muddy environment the farmers have to run all hoofed animals through a foot bath with regularity. This prevents and treats infections in the hoof instead of using antibiotics right away since the European Union has strict laws on the use of antibiotics in animals.

The new outlook I have after this trip will be incredibly helpful in my current job and future career working in animal medicine. Working in a medical field will expose me to many cultures that are different then mine. I feel this experience has truly help me better other stand the complexity of other cultures and help me interact better in my future career.

Human & Animal Interactions Study Abroad 2018

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.
I chose an education abroad as my STEP Signature Project. I went on a 10-day study abroad during winter break in various counties of Ireland, exploring human and animal interactions at different farms, agricultural settings, and other unique animal encounters.

2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?     Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.
I am hoping to become a large animal veterinarian someday and thought it would be beneficial to work on becoming more globally minded and globally engaged in animal agriculture worldwide. This trip allowed me to experience animals from a different cultural perspective. I learned so much about Irish animal industry and how important agriculture is to the country. I gained a better understanding off the workings of different livestock industries and learned about the current “hot topics” in Irish animal news. Becoming more aware of the similarities and differences between US and Irish human and animal interactions will help me to become a better agricultural stewardess, and hopefully a better veterinarian as well.

3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.
The interactions that left the biggest impressions on me were ones that involved talking with local farmers about their animals and their time in that sector of animal agriculture. The two farm visits that stick out most to me are the ones where we talked to a beef farmer and a sheep farmer. In my opinion, there is no better way to learn about an industry than from someone who is in it for a living. These farmers cared an awful lot for their stock, and it showed in every word they spoke to us. They taught us about industry specifics, animal husbandry, and animal welfare topics.
These visits were most valuable to me because I share similar experiences with local farmers around home. These people are full of knowledge and wisdom that you can’t get from a lecture or just a tour of a facility. They were incredibly willing to share those things with us and were completely transparent in doing so.
I hope to apply the animal-related things to my career as a veterinarian. I also hope to apply the cultural-related things I’ve learned (such as open-mindedness, acceptance, adventure, and awareness) to myself as a person in general, a student, and an agricultural stewardess.

4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.
This experience has been very transformational and valuable to me. I chose this education abroad to expand my understanding of human and animal interactions, animal agriculture, and cultural awareness, and this trip exceeded all of those expectations. I feel like through this trip I have grown as a person, having experienced a different country and its culture for an extended period of time. I feel more culturally aware and I think that as a student, that is a good thing to be. This allows you to be more open-minded and to thing about things in a bigger scope. With the goal of becoming a large/food animal veterinarian, I thought this trip would be a great opportunity to experience agriculture from a different point of view. From this trip, I have a better understanding of beef, sheep, and swine industries from a different perspective. I hope to apply the things that I’ve learned to my future endeavors as a student, person in society, person in agriculture, and as a future veterinarian. Overall, this was a great trip and I got a lot of really great things out of it.

Human and Animal Interactions Study Abroad Program

Kady Davis

Type of Project: Education Abroad

On the Human and Animal Interactions study abroad trip to Ireland, activities included visiting a wide variety of livestock farms and tourist locations such as the Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle. The experience also gave me the opportunity to dive into Irish culture through traditional food, music, and dance.

Visiting Ireland allowed me to learn about the country in a hands-on way and also understand just how diverse the world is. I went into this trip with an open mind and knew it was going to be very impactful. While in country, we learned a lot about why agriculture is such an important piece of their culture and way of life. I was also able to learn about current agriculture legislation and research that Ireland is working on. Learning Irish culture during the trip allowed me to dive deep into the lives of those who live there. Through the ten days of various learning opportunities in Ireland, I now have a broader understanding of the world and a greater appreciation for global agriculture. Going into the trip, I was a little hesitant because of the large number of students that were traveling, but it turned out to be a great advantage. I was able to form great friendships during the trip that allowed me to come out of my comfort zone and grow as an individual. This trip has transformed me into a more globally conscious citizen and agriculturalist.

There were many things that lead to my growth as an individual and global citizen, but a few visits that come to mind first are the sheep and beef farms, Blarney Castle, and the traditional Irish group dinners. Visiting a sheep and beef farm allowed me to see global agriculture first-hand and be able to compare Irish production practices to those in the United States. It was interesting to learn how Ireland’s climate plays a role in their production management and the programs they have in place to help improve farm efficiency. The interactions with each of the farmers were great as they were able to share their experiences and what they do on a daily basis. They were very open to answering any and all questions about their operations and why they do things the way they do. On these farms, it was interesting to hear their welfare practices and the legislation in place surrounding welfare issues. These farm visits allowed me to understand the diversity of agriculture and learn the challenges associated with production.

At Blarney Castle, I was able to learn about Irish culture and history through a tour of the castle and gardens as well as kiss the Blarney Stone. Kissing the Blarney Stone is said to give the gift of eloquence, or gab, although I haven’t seen that effect on me yet. The castle’s stonework and unique design were remarkable to see. Touring the castle and reading what each room was used for was a really fun way to learn about historic castles and their uses. In the gift shop, I was able to find an information card that included my family’s Irish history and heritage which was a really cool addition to the experience. Blarney Castle gave me a great appreciation for historic Irish architecture and culture.

The dinners that we attended as a group were some of my favorite experiences. Most included some kind of Irish folklore, singing, dancing, and all included traditional Irish food. The study abroad program had an agriculture focus, but it was nice to have a well-rounded experience of the country during our short time there. I was able to try foods that I normally wouldn’t order off of the menu, such as lamb stew, and was able to learn and sing traditional songs with local Irishmen. The group was told stories about fairy trees and the significance they play for landowners in Ireland. During our last night in country, we were able to watch Irish dancers perform which was a great experience. These group dinners and performances allowed me to experience Irish culture in a fun way and will be something I’ll never forget.

This international experience is very valuable to my academic, personal, and professional goals. Although it allowed me to receive academic credit, the experiences were so much more important than a receiving credit for a three-credit hour course. Personally, I have become more globally aware of current issues and also have a deeper understanding of global agriculture. I have been able to grow individually through experiencing Irish culture and traveling with 45 other students. I was able to come out of my comfort zone to take full advantage of the experience. This international experience has given me a broader perspective that will serve useful in my professional career and future plans. No matter where my future plans take me, I will constantly reflect on my experiences through this study abroad and use for my betterment as well as the betterment of others.

 

Human & Animal Interactions in Ireland

Study Abroad

By: Kaci Way

For my STEP signature project, I chose to travel to Ireland on a Human and Animal Interactions study abroad trip. As an animal science major, this trip not only sparked my interests in the unfamiliar field of animal welfare, but also was valuable in terms of enabling me to receive credit towards my major. The trip consisted of traveling to six major cities/towns within Ireland, along with visiting production farms throughout the country.

Before going on this study abroad my view of the world was pretty slim as I have never traveled out of the country before. Traveling to Ireland opened up the opportunity for me to learn about and compare cultures as well as agricultural practices and regulation. I have no doubt that this experience has allowed my viewpoints of the United States and other countries to grow and within that, so have I as an individual. I have been transformed from the perspective that I have experienced history, culture and developed new friendships with people I never would have met without this study abroad.

I have developed a few relationships through this trip that never would have occurred if I were not in Ireland. For example, I met a contact while in Ireland at the Swine Research Center that they have at Teagsac. This would not have been possible without this trip and it may lead to potential internship and career opportunities. The friends that I have made on this trip are irreplaceable and I am so thankful I had their guidance and friendship while exploring this foreign country. I also met an amazing friend that was my roommate while I was there. I could not have found a better person to live with for ten days.

A few certain places that I visited that were important to my development as an individual while abroad include the swine research facility, Blarney Castle and the Cliffs of Moher. At the swine research facility, I was intrigued by learning practices in Ireland. Some of these things included not castrating pigs, harvest age, and enrichment, as these are practices that really are not used in the United States. Blarney Castle was very interesting and I have always wanted to visit an ancient castle. This one was from the 1300s and I was surprised to find that it was much smaller than movies make them out to be. Nevertheless, it surpassed my expectations and it is now something I can check off my bucket list. The Cliffs of Moher were also a sight that I have always wanted to see. The fact that there are things this beautiful in our world boggles my mind each time I experience it. Looking off the top of a cliff into the ocean allowed me to experience feelings of freedom and being blessed in ways that I cannot describe on paper. But it was something entirely irreplaceable, and I hope that I can see them again someday.

Interactions with Irish culture are the final part to this adventure of transformation. Visits to countless pubs with locals, and interacting with farmers on their farms or sanctuaries are things that I will never be able to experience again in that same space. One of my favorite interactions, though, was during our time at our night with a man where he told us Folklore & Fairies in his pub. Learning of these stories truly allowed me to experience a background in what Irish culture is based on and if lead me to understanding the “why” behind the way some things are done in their culture and throughout their history. For example, some roads were built around trees because they were expected to be fairy trees. This made me begin to think of why we do certain things in America the way we do them. Why are we taught to believe that some things are only able to be done one way or that it is the best way? This interaction has truly transformed me in the way that I am questioning more things that we do, the way we do them, and why we do them. I am thankful for this analytical ability that I have been given, because without it, how are we ever really going to change for the better as a people? I guess this is the way we start. By exploring. By questioning. And by observing.

Finally, this trip has been truly valuable to me as an individual. Not only was I able to explore human and animal interactions within Ireland, but also as a pre-req, I was able to experience Zoos, The Wilds, Dog Shelters, and many more places through a viewpoint and unique opportunities that I would not have otherwise been given as a normal citizen. I now have a better appreciation for animal welfare, and all that it stands for, and I will do my best as a producer to carry out welfare practices to the best of my ability. With way agriculture is going and where consumers are pushing it to go, animal welfare will be important to my future, and since, a lot of what we do in agriculture reflects the U.K. this trip is an important snapshot of what our future may look like.

Following this trip, I hope to continue traveling, with my new goal of visiting at least 6 of the 7 continents over my life time. Sites like castles, the Cliffs of Moher, and sight-seeing while traveling on a bus throughout Ireland have only inspired me even more to see more places throughout our amazing world. But I want to make one thing clear, I have no intention of seeing just the touristy, pretty places, no. I also want to travel abroad on service trips and see the dirty, needy places, in order to work towards helping people, hunger, and living conditions, especially since all of these things revolve around my future, which is agriculture. Ireland was just my first stop. I have every intention of making an impact and as of know, I hope to be doing this through research upon completion of graduate school. After which, I will be working, traveling, and paving my own path in this amazing world.

STEP Reporting Back – Jacob Mountain

Jacob Mountain

Education Abroad

 

For my STEP signature project, I studied abroad in Dijon, France. My time in Dijon was spent at the Université de Bourgogne in the Centre International d’Études Françaises. This program was focused on acquisition of the French language through intensive language building study which included: oral expression, oral comprehension, written expression, written comprehension, and grammar.

The most transformative aspect of my STEP experience was being fully immersed in French culture. I have studied the French language for seven years now and it has been one of the most important parts of my life throughout that entire period. I first fell in love with the language and the process of language acquisition as a freshmen in high school and it is something that I carry with me today as I am currently a Romance Studies major with focuses in French, Spanish and Italian. It was a dream come true to finally have the chance to live and integrate myself among the French in Dijon and finally see how accurate all the culture I have learned in class was; and it all was completely accurate. In particular, I would say my conception of the world is the thing that changed the most while I was there.

In the United States, we are rather isolated from the world at large. Sure, we have two neighbors to the north and south, but how often are Americans going to Canada and Mexico if they are from the midwest? Not that often. However, while I was in France, I was only a train away from a plethora of countries and I think that is something that gives one an incredible sense of perception. It showed me how interconnected everything truly is and the ways in which we need to preserve that unity. It showed me that there is nothing to fear when you meet someone in Dijon from Germany, England, Russia, or even South Korea. It showed me that there is more that unites everyone in the world than there are things that divide us and it is our job to enable those uniting features within our daily lives. More importantly I would say even more transformative was finding the career path I want to follow. Living outside of your home country and reading the news and getting perspectives from people outside your country helps you to greatly critique and find the flaws o your country and you are able to see how other countries avoid these things and the way you can help enact them in your country. A universal problem, I found, was the influx of migrants and refugees, more pronounced in Europe than in the United States. Although there are those in Europe who are anti-immigrant, the majority of them accept people without hesitation and that willingness opened my eyes to what I want to do: be a refugee and immigration lawyer. I think that this is something I would be able to do well and it would be my way of unifying people rather than sowing divide.

One of the key events of my experience abroad was getting to travel as much as I did. Specifically the place I traveled to that changed my global perception the most was Istanbul, Turkey. While abroad it is almost assumed that one will travel in some capacity out of their host country. Typically, people like to stay in western Europe, where it is deemed “safe”. Imagine the surprise in my mom’s voice when I told her I had bought a ticket to Istanbul. When I landed in Istanbul, I was actually in Asia. After trying to figure out the bus systems, eventually giving up and calling a cab, I made the hour long drive from the airport to the city center. Immediately I thought that I may have bitten off a bit more than I could chew. After managing through the hustle and bustle of Taksim Square, I made it to my airbnb and called it a night. The next day, fearful after the craziness of the night before, I felt a little uneasy. I sat myself down and told myself that if you don’t put yourself in situations that challenge you then you will never grow as a person, and with that I set off for the day. I was surprised to find that not only did the vast majority of the Turkish people speak English they were all overwhelmingly hospitable and extremely helpful in helping me navigate their enormous city. I met a man in the Grand Bazaar who told me he was a refugee from Syria and has been living in Istanbul for the last five years. He told me about how horrifying it was to be in Syria when the war began and how difficult life has been for him in Istanbul due to legal reasons. It was this conversation, on my very first solo trip, that changed my entire perception of the world. It struck me as frustrating that this man, only wanting to better the lives of his family and children, had to jump through so many hoops just for temporary residence in a country he did not know. I realized that I needed to use the opportunity ad privilege I have been given in my life to help those in situations like his. It was extremely unfair, in my opinion that I was always in the same place my entire life, with no threat of forced migration.

Another extremely transformative event that happened to me while in Dijon were the Yellow Vest protests that occurred throughout France. As an American, protesting isn’t something we tend to do with a lot of vigor and force. That is not the French way at all. Instead, when the French dislike something in their society they set out and actually change that which they don’t like. I found that even if they had different politics, the French were still able to come together and find common ground the better their society in a constructive, mostly peaceful way. It showed me that everyone has the power to change the world around them whether they believe it or not. If someone wants to change something, all they have to do is use their voice; you’re bound to find someone who will agree with what your trying to accomplish.

These two events really helped me to clear up alot of the issues I felt in my life regarding my future plans and my career options. It showed me also that there is a lot more to the world than what we see on TV and that for us to understand the world around us we need to see the world around us.

I would say that is why this was such a transformative experience. I learned that I am capable of whatever I put my mind to and that I can continue to learn new things every day. It showed me the value of the education I am receiving and how I can use that education to positively impact the world around me. It showed me the value of language learning and how knowing multiple languages gives you a lens through which you can understand the struggles of persons or of a country. The time I spent in France and the friendships I made there will remain with me for a lifetime. I am so appreciative that this trip was able to occur with assistance from the STEP program.

Human-Animal Interaction in Ireland

For my STEP Project I attended an educational abroad program in Ireland. The subject was Human-Animal Interactions, a program specifically in my major. While in country we visited farms, zoos, animal sanctuaries, and even the University of Dublin.

This was only my second time abroad, but each time I grow as a person. It is very humbling and eye-opening to experience another culture, especially in terms of the subject I am studying. I realize how much there is to learn every time. Animals are extremely important to humans, not just here, but around the world. A lot of the things I assume are the norm because that’s what I see to be true here in the U.S., are not the same elsewhere. Even in another developed country like Ireland. But most importantly I realized that as a world we need to learn from each other. Why keep making the same mistakes when we can move forward together.

There are so many small and large interactions and moments while abroad that impacted me. The very first one though is the first hour after we exited the plane in Dublin. In that time, we saw our first interactions of the Irish, met our bus driver, and started to see the city. There was just a feeling that we were in a different place. But what struck me most was the history. Right off the bat we were seeing buildings and hearing stories of things several hundreds of years older that the U.S. That same night we had our first “real” interactions with the locals. It was interesting, to say the least, how they interpreted Americans. It made me escape my bubble and realize how the rest of the world feels. It really started to turn the critical thinking wheels in my brain.

 

My next impactful experience had to be the first farm we visited, which was a sheep farm. As someone with an interest in animal agriculture, this was the first time I was able to compare what I know about raising livestock with what they do. There were some differences that I didn’t like, mainly because they have very strict regulations, but also things I did. Some of the ideas the farmers implemented or are doing going forward, are things I would love to take back to the United States. Meanwhile there are some things I would love for them to try that we do.

 

Looking back, it is very hard to give one experience a higher value than another. Every moment there was worth something to me. Every little experience gave me a broader aspect on the world. But mostly, it just left me with a desire to do more. To travel more, and to learn more. If I could change that much in one week in one country, imagine how I could be impacted if I went all over the world.

The main reason I went on this trip was for personal goals to see the world. But it truly is so much more. As a professional I will be better able to understand the world of animal sciences. Especially because it opened my eyes as to how the industry changes from country to country. I hope that someday I can work with international colleagues, to bring out knowledge of the agriculture industry and veterinary medicine together.

Cliffs of Moher

Fota Wildlife Park

Semester Abroad in Paris, France: Reflection

 

 

For my signature project I spent fall semester of 2018 studying abroad in Paris. While abroad, I took courses in French at a French university, the Catholic Institute of Paris (ICP) and lived with a French host family. The goal of my project was to improve my French language skills.

Over the course of my project I was challenged in many ways. It was difficult assimilation into a country where I had a limited knowledge of the language and culture, especially because I was on my own, far away from any friends, family, or classmates, for the first time. This forced me to be more confident, open, independent, and accepting of failure.

Living with a French family and learning how to communicate with them was challenging at some points. I had to patient and observant in order to adjust to their different lifestyle. The experience offered a great window into life in another culture, something I wouldn’t have truly been able to understand without having being immersed in it for an extended period of time. My time in the house was also very beneficial to my language acquisition, as it was great way to practice my speaking and to learn more common and colloquial phrases that aren’t always taught in class.

Studying at a French university was also an unexpectedly a new experience for me. The French university system is much different from the U.S., with a lot less technology involved and a bit lacking in organization. This required me to be more flexible and willing to ‘go with the flow,’ as you could not expect as much structure from French courses as you would typically expect here at OSU. For example, no French courses offer any form of syllabus of course plan, and professors do not always announce things like

grading system or even exam dates ahead of time.

One of the most beneficial parts of my time in Paris was the ability to explore the city and make it my home. I became a regular at a boulangerie near my school, where I would get lunch everyday between classes. I learned to easily navigate the city without using Google Maps, and even gave directions to tourists on many occasions. I frequented museums and other cultural sites, and was able to experience first hand French culture and lifestyle. I had classes at the Opera and the Louvre, the largest art museum in the world, and even had the opportunity to give a presentation, in French, at the Louvre.

 

I also had the opportunity to take many weekend trips to other parts of France and nearby countries. I traveled to London, Amsterdam, Brussels, and many parts of Switzerland. I saw the beaches of Normandy and the South of France, and swam in the Mediterranean for the first time. On many of those occasions, I was traveling by myself. I needed to be resourceful and adventurous to find my way around countries where I didn’t speak the language and have the confidence to explore on my

own.

 

Overall, this project was a great period of growth for me. It had made me more confident, independent, and open to new experiences, all of which will help me moving forward. My French language skills have improved massively, allowing me to complete my minor in French, which compliments my International Studies major. I am not entirely certain yet what career path I plan to pursue after graduation, but I am certain that this skill set will make me a better candidate for any job and will make me a better individual in all other aspects of my life.

Service Learning Trip to Kpando,Ghana- Reflection

For my step signature problem I attended a trip to Kpando, Ghana for an engineering service learning trip. Myself, along with a group of 14 other engineers, spent several days in Ghanaian communities studying water and food issues. The trip took place from December 27th, 2018 to January 6th, 2019.

When I first arrived in Ghana, my immediate assumptions about Africa were changed radically. The city we landed in, Accra, resembled some of the cities that could be seen in the United States. After traveling to our community, Kpando, I began to explore all of the facets of Ghanaian culture that were unknown to me at the time. As myself and my group interviewed people about their food issues, I gained a better understanding and appreciation for a community that operated differently than the one I had grown up in. Throughout the trip, there were many instances where I needed to stop and process all of the events that I had witnessed along with all the amazing people that I encountered. Thinking back before my service learning trip, I realize that I possessed a narrow viewpoint of the world, which in turn created a disconnect between what I expected to see and what I actually saw.

During my trip, I also gained an appreciation for the engineering process and how difficult it is to apply abroad. Going over the interviews that I participated in, there were many instances in which confusion about what the community wanted occurred. Many times, we were surprised by the issues that were brought up by community members. For example, most people complained of the lack of vegetables during the dry season. While the group knew of this somewhat through research, we were not certain that this would be a main issue in Kpando. Trying to find solutions to problems that are unknown makes the job of an engineer taxing and complicated. However, being able to spend time in the community and make observations has helped me to understand the importance of involving the community in the solution process.

One of the most unforgettable moments that I had while in Kpando was visiting the market. When I thought of a market, I assumed that it would be a small block of vendors in the middle of town. However, I could not have imagined the sheer size of the market and the amount of people shopping there. The vending stands were placed tightly next to each other and as you walked people called out to you, trying to grab your attention. People were moving at a fast pace from stand to stand and I easily became overwhelmed with the amount of things occurring around me. There were fish, eggs, clothes, toys, rice, and a number of other items that I could not keep track of strewn over the while market. My perception of a market and how it could be operated changed dramatically after my first visit to the market.

Another event that deeply impacted me was seeing the fisherman at Volta Lake. Being the second largest man-made lake, it was a beautiful site to behold when my group visited a fishing village right outside of Kpando. Talking to the people their, I learned about the many different fishing processes such as salting and smoking. I also observed several fisherman returning from a trip out on the lake. The group learned of a community that lived across lake a few minutes from where we were. One of the villagers there rowed use across the lake. As I sat there in the boat, I could not believe the sheer beauty of the lake and its surroundings. It amazed me to think that some of the people that lived their relied solely on the lake for food and income.  After arriving at the community, we investigated some of the fishing and farming practices that were utilized. Many of the things that I saw were highly inventive and it surprised me to see some of the engineering feats that the fishermen had accomplished.

The final place that impacted me and changed my perception of Ghana was the children’s home. Most of the people we interviewed were farmers and buyers, mostly adults. Therefore, getting a perspective from the children seemed important to the team. After arriving there and taking a tour of the home, several children were interviewed to see what they knew about food practice and health concerns.The children the group talked to seemed to understand the importance of fruits and vegetables along with the challenges of storing them. My assumptions about how much the children knew were quickly proved false when they told us about barns and pointed out a picture of an irrigation system. The fact that these children were aware of farming technology shows that the future could hold many changes for farming in Ghana.

In terms of my personal/ professional goals, this service learning experience has been eye-opening. After coming to college, I had considered a career abroad where I could become immersed in a different culture. This idea has been reinforced by this trip and I believe that it has steered me in the direction of developmental work. Engineers need to understand the importance of an international view of problems and I want to be involved in helping others not only in America, but the rest of the world. Seeing Africa for the first time has introduced me to a whole new set of cultures and experiences that I would not be able to have here in America. This service learning trip has widen my view of my influence as an engineer and reinforced my inclination to at least volunteer abroad in the future.

 

Human and Animal Interactions in Ireland

For my STEP signature project I traveled abroad to Ireland to study Human and Animal Interactions. I participated in a variety of opportunities including a behind the scenes keeper talk at the Dublin Zoo, a visit to a local falconry, a donkey sanctuary, multiple farms, and various colleges and research organizations. Along with animal themed activities, we also had a lot of time dedicated to exploring the history and culture of Ireland. We had multiple culturally themed dinners, and visited places like Blarney Castle and the cliffs of Moher.

My main goal prior to the trip was to have a meaningful experience full of learning and adventure. That goal was met over and over again. I was able to have unique animal interactions that I could not find in a classroom. It was particularly interesting to learn about the perspectives of the Irish people and how they view animals. The Irish people were so kind and welcoming. I learned many things about myself as well. I learned to appreciate the hard work and dedication it takes to work with agricultural animals, something I previously had no experience with. I learned how to branch out and make lasting connections with people from different backgrounds from myself. I also showed myself that I am capable of making it on my own in an unfamiliar country with little supervision or guidance. I even prevailed against a touch of the flu halfway through the trip and was able to take care of myself.

Participating in this Human and Animal Interactions trip to Ireland allowed me to discover another country and a topic I am passionate about while also discovering myself. I was nervous going into the trip because my major is Zoology, but nearly everyone else on the trip was an animal sciences major. They all came from agriculture backgrounds, and since we were visiting many farms I was nervous. Even though I was unfamiliar with much of the typical protocol or behaviors, everyone was eager and willing to explain them to me and did not treat me poorly because of it. Many of the people who taught me about the agricultural side of things, ended up becoming my friends too. Overall, it was interesting because I was basically learning about the practices in Ireland and the United States at the same time.

For instance, when we were at Sean Hayes’ Beef Farm, it seemed like there were a lot of cows in a very small space and they looked very dirty. Not knowing if this was normal or not, I asked around about it and found out that it would be unusual to see conditions like that back here in the States. This bothered me ethically, and it seemed hard to justify keeping them in this condition to me. It was also pointed out to me that his farm had slits in the walls and ceilings used for ventilation in order to keep the barn fresh and dry. I thought this was cool and wish it could be implemented in more places both in Ireland and the US. Experiences like these taught me to look at situations objectively, and consider all points of view before making a conclusion.

I also loved the companion animal side of the trip. We visited Dog’s Trust, which is a rehoming center for dogs. What I liked the most about them was that their long term goal is preventative maintenance through education. This aligns with my core beliefs and career goals. I want to be a zoo veterinarian because not only can you help an individual animal, but they can be an ambassador for their entire species through education. While there, they said it takes two generations to change a culture. Dog’s trust is taking the time to teach children how to be responsible pet owners, which inspires me to work hard alongside them to achieve these and similar goals. It was so interesting to me to see them taking programs to schools because I’ve never seen something like that here in America.

Someone had an interesting question about breeds available for adoption. In the US our shelters are over run with breeds like pit bulls. In Ireland, however, they have a big problem placing greyhounds and lurchers as a result of the high volume of retired animals coming from the racing industry. We had the opportunity to visit the Shelbourne Greyhound Racetrack. In the United States, dog racing is often seen as abusive, but in Ireland, greyhound racing is a social norm that enriches their culture. Understanding the role of the dogs in the culture is important, but I still think it is important to always consider the lifetime welfare of any animal we have interactions with.

Aside from the class aspects of the study abroad, I enjoyed the cultural events as well. We were given a decent amount of free time where we could make friends and go explore major cities by ourselves. What we did with our free time was completely up to us, and we had to figure out how to navigate the country and fit in with their culture. I tried as many new and traditional foods as I possibly could, and ended up enjoying almost all of them. We also had cultural dinners. My favorite was when we learned about the folklore of fairies in Ireland. The moral of most of the stories stuck with me, which is to be respectful of nature and one another.

This trip has helped me transform into the person I want to be both personally and professionally. I learned to step outside of my comfort zone. I met new people, experienced activities and subjects I had never been exposed to before. I also felt a sense of connection because there are people all over the world that are concerned and passionate about the same issues as I am. This is a relief because I want to work in conservation, which will ultimately require a global effort. This trip has prepared me for that by exposing me to new ideas and teaching me how to be a traveler in a new place. I am so appreciative that I was able to experience this opportunity to help prepare myself for what lies ahead of me!

-Alie