Study abroad in South Korea

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

My step project was a study abroad in Seoul, South Korea. I spent six weeks in Seoul, taking two classes for six credit hours. There were also weekly excursions included through Korea University and ISA. I spent time visiting different districts and temples.

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

One of the essential things I understood about myself is that I have a great ability to adapt. I also realized how scary it could be to be in a new country when you don’t understand the language. I also gained a greater appreciation for knowing English. Even though the primary language spoken in Seoul is Korean, there was still English around. From signs on the subways and coffee shop menus. Also, that South Koreans aren’t that worried about North Korea. Compared to the United States, who like to talk about their nuclear weapons or their dictator.

  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 reasons, I realized that I have a great ability to adapt is that my first day in Seoul, I took the subway by myself. I used my google maps, and that helped a lot. But I had to find this store, and I got a little lost. I stayed calm and looked around, and I eventually found the store. When I saw the item I was looking for, I had problems at the self-checkout. But the cashier was able to help me despite the language barrier.

Another reason is that I quickly learned the subway routes and how to get to different districts in Seoul. I also noticed the local customs. Such as allowing older people to take your seat on the train. I realized that eating on the train is not permitted after I ate on the train. I made that mistake once and never made that mistake again.

I went to a Korean BBQ restaurant with friends. The waitress insisted on helping us with everything. She helped us cook the food. She even scolded me for slightly burning the meat. She was very nice and welcoming. A couple of office workers showed us how they drink in Korea. You pour your friend a drink and then pour yourself one. Or your friend will pour you a glass. In a lot of restaurants and stores, I visited the workers were all very helpful despite there being a language barrier between us.

My experience with this language barrier made me think of my university and my country. I know that at OSU, we get a lot of international students. I feel that I can understand them a little better. The confusion they have about where to go and how to get around. I understand now — the feeling of fear of being made fun of for not pronouncing words right.

There is a massive assumption that in the United States about North Korea. We call Kim Jong Un crazy and worry about their nuclear power threat. Yet I learned that most South Koreans don’t pay attention to the missile launches. They don’t go crazy over what North Korea is doing.

  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.

The experience of living in another culture was significant. It helped me to notice the cultural differences better. Such as how the Korean people dress, eat, and interact with each other in public. To work for the peace corps, it is essential to understand and know their customs. While I may not agree with some of the traditions in South Korea, it is crucial for me to not to judge from my American point of view. For example, they emphasize caring for the elderly, pregnant, or young. If the subway is packed, then a younger person would give up their seat for an older adult. They even have designated seating for pregnant women, elderly and injured people on the subway. It is also custom to show all elders respect even if they are disrespectful to you, which goes against what I learn as a child that you give respect to those who give it back. Yet this is helpful to remember that the American way is not the right way.

I would say that this trip has motivated me to travel more and see more of the world. I was only in Seoul for six weeks, and I don’t think that was enough time to understand the culture truly. You can read about other countries all you want, but you don’t learn anything until you go there for yourself.

Exploring Japan through Sport

My STEP project included traveling to Japan with a group of OSU students and professors to learn about culture and attend a seminar. During the seminar we got the chance to grow in our fields and make international relationships with other students.

I think that this was a very transformational experience for me. Personally I really grew. I was able to step out of my comfort zone and try a lot of new things and meet a lot of new people. I formed relationships that will last a lifetime as we shared such special memories.

Career wise I grew as well. This experience gave me a real chance to get a new perspective of my field as well as other fields and how they interact. Also learning about a new culture will make me a better professional for my patients and co-workers, with is an important part of my field. Being in Speech Pathology, nonverbal communication is a big thing and being the one unable to communicate was a big challenge and something that I can take to work and help me better understand others.

I think that having so many people from all around the world together and speaking the same language really altered the way I looked at language, speech and communication. So much more than words go into communicating. We all had to use facial expressions, hand motions, circumlocution to talk to each other. Also just because someone has an accent doesn’t mean they are speaking incorrectly, just differently. It was interesting to see what common and not so common words are used among us all.

It was also interesting to see how different the culture in Japan is regarding people with disabilities. Disability studies is an interest of mine so a lot of this stood out to me. The way they have access for everyone in public is very impressive. One example is a guide in the sidewalk for the blind. They also have great adapted physical education programs. This gave me great ideas for my career.

Having the ability to be in such a different place with all new people really made me grow as a person. I had to branch out and make new connections with people. We had a lot of opportunities to try new things like meditation, new sports, new food, etc. I think that all of these opportunities really enforced how good it is to try things and grow. One spiritual experience of growth for me was going to the temples and having to “cleanse the soul” before entering; this to me was very special.

These changes matter because they have helped me grow for the better. I will always remember these experiences. They will be references in my academics, career, and personal life. The changes I have made throughout this journey have helped me to see where I want to be later in life. I have gained more clarity on not just the world broadly but on my own distinct path.

 

Studying Abroad in Québec, Canada

For my STEP Project, I studied abroad in Québec, Canada for 5 weeks. I was in the classroom every weekday learning French and explored Québec City at night and during the weekends. I was able to sight see in historical Old Québec, hike and view beautiful parks and waterfalls, try new and different foods, and speak the native French language daily.

 

During my STEP Signature Project, I realized I did not know very much about Canadian and Québec culture. I found this surprising because I have been studying French culture for many years, but it was still much different than what I had learn in my classes. I always thought of myself as someone who was aware of the world and how different some countries could be; however, this was not true. I barely knew anything about the closest country to me! This realization humbled me and allowed me to respect those differences and also made me curious about other countries and their cultures.

In Québec, I found it very difficult to speak French fluently and to interact with the native people. This made me very uncomfortable, but it forced me to learn and truly immerse myself in the language and culture. This made me gained a great respect to those who have learned English as a second language. I never realized how hard it can be to adjust to living in a new place that speaks a different and difficult language.

 

Although they are small, the differences in the way I talked about weather, prices, and directions was interesting. I had to adjust and talk about weather in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit. I had to talk about prices in Canadian dollars not US dollars. I also had to change how I talked about directions from miles to kilometers. I was expecting the culture to be different, but I never thought about how many little things were different.

During the program, I met a lot of new people and we did basic introductions asking questions like “Where are you from?” After a couple introductions, I realized I knew nothing about Canada geography. I knew where Toronto was along with Vancouver. I did not even know their different areas were called provinces. I found it really interesting that many of the people I talked too knew where Ohio was. This was a prime example of ignorance that I did not realize I had.

As I explored Québec, I tried my best to speak French. Many times, a native person would talk French back to me and I could not understand it. They were either speaking too fast or using vocabulary that I did not know. After they realized I could not understand them, they instantly switch to speaking English. It was so bizarre to me that everyone in Québec knew English but many people visiting there could not speak enough French to interact with them. I thought this was disappointing and I realized this is how it is around popular tourist spots around the world.

There are so many more things I learned when I was studying aboard in Québec, but overall the things I learned humbled me to realize I do not know much about different countries and cultures but it is something I want to invest my time and money into discovering more.

 

Although speaking French does not directly relate to my future plans to be a dentist, this program changed the way I will see people. Many people in the United States have learned English as a second language. These people have struggled to learn the difficult language but still try their best. I feel as though many people get frustrated when someone cannot speak good English or speak with a very heavy accent. When I had difficulties in Canada to speak French, I felt like I understood this struggle. I feel more empathetic to people who struggle with English. I feel like this a great life lesson and one that I can apply to my future plans to be a dentist. I will be communicating about very important topics with my patients and I must have the patience to explain things that people do not understand.

Five Weeks at Universite Laval

My STEP signature project was an education abroad program in Québec City, Québec. I studied through the Français Langue Étrangère program at Université Laval, intended to complete my French minor credits and, at STEP dictates, expand my horizons and my personal comfort zone. During my five-week stay in Canada, I attended classes and other program-related activities, but also found new friends and explored beautiful Vieux Québec in my free time.

As a direct result of this program, I am more independent, less self-critical, and a more forgiving person. My language skills are vastly, stunningly improved. Five weeks navigating a new city brought me farther out of my shell than I thought possible. While I was previously concerned about looking out of state for grad school, this program (although this wasn’t even remotely the intent) showed me that I am capable of living and even thriving in a strange place.

Those five weeks were the longest period I had ever spent away from home. At first, I was FaceTiming my family every night, nearly in tears with homesickness. I had made very few friends the first week, and I was missing home dearly. Eventually, I found quite a few wonderful new friends, but the first two weeks were difficult. The biggest change came when I fell ill early in the third week and had to navigate the ER and medical care in French. My brand-new friends came together and welcomed me back to class, and I finally realized that I was loved just as much in Canada. As the program continued, we went on adventures together and learned as much as possible about our temporary home.

I feel comfortable now describing myself as bilingual, because I have a fundamental grasp on this beautiful language that I dedicated 10 years to learning. The immersion experience catapulted my French abilities into high gear, and the out-of-class activities gave us a chance to practice those skills in new, welcoming settings. Despite the challenges we faced adjusting to Francophone classes at first, it was a phenomenal exercise in flexibility and personal boundaries. We could choose to enforce a strict “French at all times” attitude or give ourselves a break occasionally and speak English with our friends. It required a deeper understanding of our own ability to understand and process conversations in French if we truly wanted to improve.

Being separated from my family by sheer distance rather than time zones made this trip especially difficult. In the past, on trips to Europe, the 6-7-hour time difference kept me from missing home too much since we had a very short period of overlap. In Canada, I could stay in contact all day but never went home to them at night like I was accustomed to. I learned how to become independent while keeping in touch just enough, since they came to expect regular updates. By the end of the trip, I was a confident, fearless traveler with a few more language skills than I came in with.

Although I currently have no plans to use French in my career, it is very much within the realm of possibility that I find a job in a Francophone country or in a plant that employs French-speakers. Beyond the vast contribution to my language level, this program taught me independence, flexibility, and an uncanny ability to find bus stops in downtown Québec. Merci pour tous, ULaval, et à la prochaine!

Michael Cypher-Tierney’s STEP Post-Project Reflection

STEP Reflection:

  1. Using my STEP disbursement funds, I was able to spend six weeks studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain.  I took classes, stayed with a host family, and was able to immerse myself in Spanish language and culture to drastically improve my Spanish language skills.  Additionally, I received nine Spanish credits that will go towards my Spanish minor.
  2. Little by little, everyday, I was beginning to understand the language, culture, and history better.  I remember the first day I met my host family and how I could understand them talking to me, but when they spoke to each other, I couldn’t since they spoke so fast.  By the end of the six weeks I was able to follow along in their conversations.  This was the kind of transformation that I was hoping to see throughout this journey.  Additionally, everyday, I was immersing myself into the social norms of Spanish life.  I was developing my own identity and independence by living abroad.
  3. First, living with a host family totally facilitated my transformation.  At first, I was nervous about living with a host family because it was going to take me out of my comfort zone and challenge me in a way I’ve never been challenged before.  However, after I got accustomed to living with a host family, I realized how much of a rewarding, authentic experience it allows.  Living with a host family allowed me to be fully immersed in another culture and help me understand the language, culture, and history in an amazing way.

Secondly, attending a Spanish institution and taking classes in Spanish drastically helped in the improvement of my communication skills.  Because there were students from all around the world in my classes, all the classes were in Spanish, and I was able to meet people from all around the world.  Also, attending Spain’s oldest university allowed me to gain incite into the history and culture of Spain that I might not have been able to receive at other institutions.

Lastly, the ISA program, the directors, my group, etc all pushed me to grow and get as much as I can from the experience.  My friends and I created unforgettable experiences together.  ISA provided multiple excursions and events for me to go to to expand my knowledge in an experience based way.

4. In terms of professional development and future goals, things like international experience, communication and social skills necessary for a study abroad are incredibly important for my future goals.  Having studied abroad only increases my scope of where I can work.  Now that I can speak the language much better, I can expand my job prospects to the entire Spanish speaking world.

Furthermore, the study abroad provided me with a framework of understanding differences in cultures and how that is necessary in the globalization of the 21st century in understanding and solving global problems.

Semester Abroad at Peking University – Calvin Spanbauer

During the spring semester of 2019, I had the opportunity to participate in a student exchange to Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management. As one of the most challenging and enjoyable experiences of my undergraduate career thus far, my semester abroad was filled with thought-provoking academic classes, new friends, and exciting experiences around Beijing and greater China.

While completing my semester exchange at Peking University, I noticed that many of my views and assumptions were challenged and transformed throughout the experience. As I had previously traveled to China and studied Mandarin for the last several years, I was already accustomed to many of the significant cultural differences between China and the US. However, traveling through and living in a country have innate differences. For example, while living in China during the semester, I learned how to use digital applications like Taobao (a consumer goods delivery network), order food off of E le ma (a food delivery platform), and how to pay for my apartment utilities over Alipay (a digital money transfer application). I found that learning about and adapting to these processes provided me with a deeper perspective into daily life in China – an insight that I had studied in class or read about in articles, but had never experience first-hand. I found struggling through these processes and other challenges in China to be personally rewarding. I enjoyed working through the adaption process and seeing how many of China’s methods can be adapted to impact other parts of the world.

Towards the end of my semester at Peking University, I participated in a Global Solutions Festival. This competition was open to university students and young professionals, and the focus of the festival was to create a business model that would further the UN Sustainable Development Goals. My group decided to focus on finding a solution related to energy and environmental issues, and we spent the weekend designing a system to utilize predictive technology to better understand and optimize energy usage within a residential setting. At this event, there were a number of industry mentors present. I met several different mentors throughout the event, I was continuously impressed by their experience and knowledgeability. This event opened my eyes to Beijing in terms of professional opportunities and China’s growing innovative role in the world.

My weekend participating in the Global Solutions Festival and, more broadly, my semester at Peking University has served as a significant transformation point in my undergraduate career. On a personal level, my semester abroad pushed me to grow in many new and unfamiliar ways. My peers challenged my ideas, my Chinese language skills were put to use daily, and I gained many life lessons along the way by encountering new and unfamiliar scenarios.

As a rising senior at OSU, I am beginning to consider my next steps after graduation. Living in Beijing for six months expanded my understanding of Chinese society. However, I also gained a new perspective on paths for me to engage with China in the future. I have a personal interest in impacting the world’s most pressing environmental issues, specifically working within the energy industry to create collaborative low-carbon energy solutions. On a professional level, my semester in China provided me with the opportunity to meet many experts working within this scope, both at Peking University and across Beijing. In the future, I have full confidence that I will leverage my experience gained during my semester at Peking University.

Racism in Italy!

Mi piacciono the Obamas!” Meaning “I like the Obamas!” were some of the the first words that came out of my host dad’s mouth. I noted this mentally but brushed it off as him trying to make me, a black woman in a majority white country, feel comfortable. Eventually this seemingly nice sentiment would come back to haunt me. After meeting my host family and roommate, I went into our nearly 90 degree room to drop off my luggage and get somewhat settled before our welcome dinner. Little did I know this distressing study abroad experience would change me for the better.

As I got into the groove of things, I got use to my daily activities which included learning the Italian language through classes taught entirely in Italian and volunteering. As I volunteered with the locals, it allowed me to truly learn the language and slang. Speaking with the locals, it also allowed me to understand that staring isn’t seen as rude. In the small Italian town I was in, walking to class everyday was accompanied by stares as I was usually the only black person. Luckily in the program there were 2 other black girls, one of which I related to often before her time in the program ended and I was left to be the only black person in the program.

This was my first experience in a foreign country and it allowed me to learn about myself more. I am extremely close with my family and in my times of debilitating homesickness, I learned that traveling only made our bond stronger and that my host family, like any other had their problems. At least once a week, my roommate and I would hear them arguing, either in front of us at the dinner table or in the late hours at night. On top of their arguments, the host dad increasingly became more and more irritated and irritating. One time arguing with me because I’ve never heard of a particular Italian dish. Everyday after dinner I would take a walk and call my family, telling them how much I missed them and how my day went.

Confiding in the friends I made in the program allowed me to discover another part of self that was more vulnerable. I came out of my shell and learned to be less shy. In addition, I saw that Italians are very nice people that are open to talking with strangers. These transformations fostered interactions with locals and the improvement of my Italian. The locals were very helpful with me by being very patient when I spoke my Italian. They corrected me nicely and were very interested in America and for the most part, I was happy to have conversation with them. An experience I had was on the beach with the other black girl I had gotten close with. For fun we decided to build a sandcastle and as we were talking, we spoke about our hair, the songs our family played at cookouts, and the soul food we missed so much. While we were building, a man came up to us and asked us about politics. He asked us if we voted for Trump and we said no and then proceeded to tell us that he was going to win the next election. We were dumbfounded and angry that he said this. This was one of the many microagressions that I’ve experienced throughout my time in this country.

Through strained conversation, speaking with my host family everyday improved my Italian immensely. If my host dad wasn’t telling me how much he loved Michael Jackson or the Obamas, it was him keeping me updated on the latest person of color that was shot by the police in America. Everyday I would speak with them during dinner and I would also listen to the conversations and pick up slang from them as well.

The improvement of my Italian over the course of 6 weeks gave me enough confidence to not be scared to make mistakes. I would be able to order food or ask for things with ease and confidence. After having my hair touched without my permission twice, I had gained more self-assurance and sternness in saying “no.”

This transformation is valuable to my life because I would to become an interpreter and a translator. After the hardship I faced, I want to help marginalized groups like the immigrant population in Italy. For the past year I’ve studied Romanian as a part of my Romance languages degree because Italy has a high population of Romanian immigrants. To be a translator or interpreter you need an intimate knowledge of the language and this study abroad experience is a step closer to my goal. Being up, close, and personal with the natives allowed me to pick up colloquialisms and words and phrases I wouldn’t pick up in a strict classroom setting. I am very fortunate to have had this opportunity.

Danesha Allen STEP Reflection.

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

My step project was a study abroad in Seoul, South Korea. I spent 6 weeks in Seoul, taking 2 classes for 6 credit hours. There were also weekly excursions included through Korea University and ISA.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the

world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?

One of the major things I understood about myself is that I have a great ability to adapt. I also realized how scary it can be to be in a new country when you don’t understand the language. I also gained a greater appreciation for knowing English. Even though the primary language spoken in Seoul is Korean there was still English around. From signs on the subways and coffee shop menus.  Also, that South Koreans aren’t that worried about North Korea. Compared to the United States who like to talk about their nuclear weapons or their dictator.

  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 reasons, I realized that I have a great ability to adapt is that my first day in Seoul, I took the subway by myself. I used my google maps and that helped a lot. But I had to find this store and I got a little lost. I stayed calm and looked around and I eventually found the store. When I found the item I was looking for, I had problems at the self-checkout.  But the cashier was able to help me despite the language barrier.

I went to a Korean BBQ restaurant with friends. The waitress insisted on helping us with everything. She helped us cook the food. She even scolded me for slightly burning the meat. She was very nice and welcoming. In a lot of restaurants and stores, I visited the workers were all very helpful.  Despite there being a language barrier between us.

My experience with this language barrier made me think of my university and my country. I know that at OSU we get a lot of international students. I feel that I can understand them a little better. The confusion about where to go and how to get around. The fear of being made fun of for not pronouncing words right.

 

  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 experience helped me to understand others a little. Which is important in the international field. We only think about our experiences and we often think it’s the best and the right way. My study abroad showed me that there is a whole new culture and views that are very different from the American viewpoint . For example, they place an emphasis on caring for the elderly, pregnant or young. If the subway is packed, then a younger person would give up their seat for an elderly person. They even have designated seating for pregnant women, elderly and injured people on the subway.

I would say that this trip has motivated me to travel more and see more of the world. I was only in Seoul for 6 weeks and I don’t think that was enough time to truly understand the culture. You can read about other countries all you want but you don’t learn anything until you go there for yourself.

Andrew Capozzi – Dresden Summer Language Program

With utmost gratitude and modesty, I was rewarded the opportunity to participate in an immersive and transformational experience this summer as a participant in The Dresden Summer Language Program offered through The Ohio State University’s Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures. This STEP Signature Project I participated in was an eight-week academic and language intensive program that focused on providing German language students with an opportunity to improve their language abilities, study the prior and recent history of Dresden and Saxony in general, as well as to experience complete immersion in contemporary Germany life and culture alongside native speakers and locals. The Dresden Summer Language Program additionally permitted students to explore a wide array of historical and cultural sites all across Germany, in cities ranging from Weimar to Berlin. While based in Dresden at the Technische Universität Dresden (TUD) campus, students were able to strengthen and develop our language skills while engaging with coursework that enhanced our experiential travels.
While traveling abroad and participating in the program, I had come to understand various personal changes and transformations that had occurred from my engagements. Through these travels and experiences, I was able to motivate myself outside of my comfort zones, find opportunities to learn in every circumstance, and grow tremendously as a person in terms of improving my skills of independence, adaptability, resilience, and confidence. Various experiences had challenged me to seize these skills and further my personal growth while abroad. Despite the short duration of the program, I found myself challenged by the ephemerality of each moment. Through this, I have gained a greater appreciation for each experience, living in the moment and cherishing what is happening in the present.
My view of the world also transformed as I was able to visit various locations throughout the study abroad experience. Not only were my travels around Germany with the program, but additionally I sought to independently explore the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, Slovakia, Ireland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Navigating many of these countries and indulging in the cultural customs and beliefs broadened my appreciation and awareness for diversity. Furthermore, conversations and spending time with locals provided insight into the human condition and how even if we are separated geographically or linguistically, we all experience much of the same understandings and emotions. Even upon my return to the United States I realized that I had obtained a newfound appreciation for Germany and all of its unique aspects.
Immediately upon arrival in Dresden, I was already tasked with acting independently: needing to purchase my textbooks, grocery shop for the week, and navigate my way around the new city, all while speaking in the target language. It was necessary to be self-reliant during the program: managing a budget, coordinating daily activities effectively, preparing meals, adhering to a course schedule, and cleaning when necessary. All of these activities required active attention and consistency in order to ensure that I was properly acclimating to the new environment and sustaining an engaged lifestyle.
Although hesitant and nervous at first to speak in the target language, I began to grow in confidence through experience and braving my approach to each conversation. One of the metric activities of the program was to attend a meet-and-greet with students local to the Technische Universität Dresden (TUD) institution. For almost two hours, other Ohio State students and myself were required to facilitate conversations with the array of peers from the hosting university to discuss ourselves as well as prominent topics in German society and culture. Although anxious before the undertaking, I was reassured by my peers that sufficient experience and appropriate practice had prepared us for the event and that simply communicating with other individuals is nothing to fear. The encouragement of my peers as well as self-motivation promoted going outside of my comfort zones to maximize my experiences while abroad, even when it came to events such as kayaking the Elbe River, touring the Berlin Underground, and visiting Auschwitz. If it weren’t for overcoming my apprehensions, I would’ve missed out on extraordinary opportunities with extraordinary people.
Whether it was approaching conversations with grocery store attendants, interacting with locals at the various sites we visited, or engaging in discussions with my professors; pushing myself to converse in the German language and advance my skills significantly granted assurance that I could utilize them effectively.
Adaptability is certainly a skill that I have come to harness during my time abroad. Being level-headed, open-minded, and flexible to adjust to unintended circumstances or obstacles that arise comes with practice and exceptional experiences. On a free weekend during the program, I met a fellow Ohio State student in Austria and Slovakia during her independent study abroad. As we parted ways and she returned to Poland, I had boarded my train to return to Dresden. Shortly into the journey, the train had broken down and I was required to get off at a station outside of Brno in the Czech Republic. Immense confusion plagued all of us that were aboard the train destined for Germany. Perplexed by the lack of presence by a central authority, I found myself required to interact with countless strangers to understand what was happening, where I was to go, and when I was to get there. Many people I tried to engage with were not English nor German speakers, complicating my situation furthermore. Despite being alone, I had to reassure myself that being level-headed and optimistic are necessary to calmly resolve the situation. Patience was crucial too as I was unable to obtain the information necessary to continue my journey until about two hours beyond the train’s unexpected halt.
It was during this unforeseen journey that I met an elderly British couple that assisted me with planning an alternate route we all had to venture on. During the remainder of the journey to Germany, we were able to have an array of discussions, ranging from our recent travels to our youthful upbringings. United by the irony of a train breaking down, we were able to converse for the extent of a cross-country travel, exchange stories and life experiences, and share countless laughs. Moments like this enhance my appreciation for the human condition and the associated occurrences, involvements, or emotions that everyone experiences. Despite having experienced very different pasts, currently having very different lifestyles, and intending to have very different paths ahead, we were connected by the sheer bond of humanity and contagious optimism. The unsettled attitude and confusion that resulted from the unfortunate circumstances that had delayed my travels was easily remedied by simple human interaction and compassion.
Augmenting my German language skills, expanding my cultural awareness and understandings of contemporary German life, and exploring my identity as a global citizen and Ohio State ambassador have proved advantageous in my growth towards my future ambition of becoming a pharmaceutical sales representative. These advancements will certainly progress my prospective ability to network globally and to market emergent therapeutic products in western and eastern European markets within the pharmaceutical sales market. Noting the multitude of advantages that accompany proficiency in a secondary language, in addition to opportunities for growth, transformation, and cultural understanding, I pursued the transformational experience that would enhance myself personally as well as in being a candidate that can adequately communicate and ensure that the therapeutic is appropriate for the market. Additionally, I believe that I have found such a strong passion outside of my central pharmaceutical studies. My program director, Dr. Spencer, emphasized that it’s essential to have a passion outside of one’s core studies as it enriches life and gives a unique dimension to one’s interests.
The Dresden Summer Language Program has certainly contributed to significant personal development and growth in providing a greater understanding as to how the United States is viewed by European countries, what contemporary German life and culture is like, and how my German language skills would be able to be advanced. The opportunities offered by the program, Ohio State, TUD, Dresden, and even Germany as a whole allowed for the furtherment of my understanding of the Germanic language and culture, the development of a stronger relationship with myself as well as my peers, the growth in my ability to break out of my comfort zones, the exploration of a historically and culturally unique city as well as many others abroad, and the ability to understand the magnitude in which I may be able to contribute to society. Having resided in a new location, cherished new experiences, developed several lifelong friendships, and having pushed myself outside of my comfort zones has permitted for transformation that is essential to my development and growth as a unique individual in a diverse, global society.

Familiar Places, New Outlooks: Living and Studying in Bonn, Germany through STEP

With funding from STEP, I spent the spring and summer of 2019 studying abroad in Bonn, Germany, with other students from Ohio State and beyond. The program entailed taking classes through the University of Bonn’s international office, and during my time there I also participated in two university seminars with native German students. It was an eye-opening experience that gave me insight into living in a foreign country, interacting with people of different backgrounds, and studying at a European university.

As a history and German double major, I had known since the beginning of my freshman year that I would study abroad in Germany. I had been there on exchange before and was eager to return with fresh eyes and in an academic context. My previous experience in the country mitigated some of the challenges that come with transition into a new community. However, my time in Bonn was anything but predictable. The friends, places, and experiences that made up my time abroad ultimately had a vast impact on my worldview and my understanding of life in other countries. Taking classes and making friends with native German students, I picked up on differences within German society. Like the US, it is a decentralized and diverse country that is home to many different identities, dialects, landscapes, and cultures. Learning about and visiting many parts of the country, I acquired an understanding of Germany that I never could have without living there. The same is true for other countries I visited more than once over the course of the semester, including Spain and France. My experience abroad taught me to be cautious with preconceived notions I might have had about a given place, as it is impossible to truly understand a culture without experiencing it firsthand.

That said, it was not only the places that opened my eyes to new ideas. Someone who impacted me greatly during my time in Bonn was a university student and aide to the exchange program named Jacob. Born and raised in China, Jacob was enrolled in boarding school in the US as a teenager and moved to Germany to pursue a masters’ degree in political science. By moving frequently between such distinct places, he has acquired a level of assimilation and identity in all three countries and is fluent in all three languages. What Jacob taught me was to move past my preconceived idea of assimilation. To me, it was always an end goal. By learning the language fluently, I would fit in perfectly, or so I thought. Jacob’s story taught me that integrating into a new culture has no limits. There is always something more I could learn to better connect with native speakers. Similarly, my fluency and knowledge of colloquial language can always improve to sound more natural. And finally, I learned that by continuing to think of the country as foreign, it will remain just that. It is by establishing a life and valuable relationships somewhere that a place has its most meaning.

Another important takeaway from Bonn was that the most valuable experiences came from stepping out of my comfort zone. Before studying in Bonn, I took two months to conduct independent research in Berlin and Madrid. Arriving in Berlin to begin my work in the archives, I realized I had never done anything like this before, let alone in a foreign country and language. What started out a taxing and nerve-wracking responsibility became an incredibly rewarding experience that has since taken center-stage in my academic career as I now begin to write my undergraduate research thesis. The lesson I learned was not to miss out on something just because the setting is not as comfortable as it could be. Conducting archival research is hardly a glamorous process, but as someone truly passionate about history, I can’t imagine having missed out on it. Additionally, without being comfortable in the unknown, I would not have made the lasting friendships that I did. Being adventurous was an important and valuable component of the experience.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I learned that most of my experiences in life are in large part what I make of them. There were of course difficulties, from roommate issues to cultural faux pas to work overloads, and it’s easy to get bogged down in the negative aspects of anything. Still, during difficult moments, I realized that I only had so much time to be living in Europe. Pessimism can be overcome by getting out and keeping things exciting. Exploring a new part of the city, trying a new activity, or even doing something familiar in a new setting were all ways I determined to make the most of my semester abroad every day.

The time I spent in Bonn will continue to serve me as I finish up my undergraduate career and begin my next phase of life. I already have begun finding opportunities to continue my education abroad, whether in Germany or elsewhere in Europe. While in Bonn, I achieved a high enough score on a language exam to pursue a master’s degree at a German university, where I would study in German with other local and international students. I also have now come much closer to finishing my German major, and the research I conducted abroad has been integral to my thesis, the cornerstone of my undergraduate academic career. Lastly, the relationships I made with both German and other international students have continued to last and are a cherished takeaway from my life in Bonn. I know that I will never forget the impact of my experience abroad, and I hope that other students discover the same is true for them.