Global Project Program Nonprofits: London, England

Name: Gwen Sieman

My STEP Signature Project was completed while doing the Fisher Global Project Program Nonprofits. During the Fisher Global Project Program Nonprofits I spent the Spring semester learning about consulting and the nonprofit I was working with in May. During the May term, I was able to go to London, England and complete work with my designated nonprofit organization. I was able to work with Soles4Souls which is an international nonprofit that helps distribute shoes and clothing to disaster relief and developing countries for those who wished to start their own business.

First, I learned so much about myself and the business world. More specifically, I learned about being a woman in business. Before going to England, our primary contact at Soles4Souls was a woman, who was very nice and helpful. Since I was the project manager I was responsible for leading the discussions and contacting companies before we visited while in London. During the trip in London, it was very interesting to watch the dynamic between men and women in the office setting. More often than not I was more dresses-up in business attire than the men in my project group, and I often talked more than the other people in my project team. However, regardless of how thoughtful or in depth my questions were, if a woman was conducting the meeting she would make eye contact and listen. On the other hand, if I was in a meeting with a man he would often pay more attention to the males in my group regardless of the content of their questions. I did not think about it until the last week of the project, but it was something I had to keep in the back of my mind. Since I am a woman in business I am likely to be encounter this behavior where men I am working with receive better treatment or more eye contact.

Second, my view of time changed during our stay in England. As Americans, we want everything to be given to us now and on time. On the other hand, in England things are slower and people are less rushed. During a typically dinner at a pub, it would easily take more than two hours. Rather than sitting down and ordering a drink right away and then the bill coming with the food, British people allow people to take their time. It was a strange adjustment since you must allocate more time in your days for meals. However, it was very nice to know that you can sit and enjoy your food. It taught me how to savor things and really enjoy the moment.

The first transformation I discussed above was my view on how I need to conduct myself in a business setting. As a woman, I need to be forceful because what I have to say is important and can be helpful. However, I also need to be sure that I am not being offensive or over bearing. If there is a male in charge rather than a female I may need to change my behavior depending on the situation.

In addition to how I conduct myself, I learn that as a project manager I need to change my leadership style. I believe that I lean towards being a consensus leader, who makes sure everyone’s voice is heard. I believe that everyone has something important to say, and their opinion should be valued. However, at times in business there need to be hard decisions made. In a group of thirteen in London, it was at times difficult to come to a group decision. It was more chaotic preparing for business meetings because people would fail to do so regardless if I reminded the team multiple times. I realized that I cannot be too nice as a leader, and some times decisions need to be made that are not consensus. For example, the night before a company visit I reminded my team to research the company and assigned tasks that needed done. However, some did not finish the assigned work. In the future, I plan on being more direct and stating what needs to be done rather than lead those in my team not do their work.

The last transformation I wrote about was living in the moment and taking your time to complete a task. My team went on a visit to a company that we thought would last around two hours. However, it ended up being closer to four hours. The man conducting the meeting was very knowledgeable and interesting, so asking questions was incredible. During the meeting, he often stopped to let people go to the restroom, but also gave out snacks, coffees, and water. It was nice to sit in the long meeting, but relaxed and in an environment that was timed to be relaxing. He knew when to take breaks and enjoy the time we had as a group. While the meeting group have been long and tiring, it was interesting and captivating. I realized that things do not always need to be quick like meetings or lunch. It is so much better to enjoy and sit back and listen.

I am currently a finance major with a minor in nonprofit studies. The Global Project Program Nonprofits was an incredible experience for me to receive some hands-on experience in the nonprofit sector. However, since it was a nonprofit organization working with for-profit companies it was very interesting to see the relationship between the two and the business interactions. I learned about how to interact as a business professional, send professional emails and follow up emails, as well as polish final reports for companies.

I learned so much about being an effective project manager and leader, which I am excited to bring back to campus and use within SCNO, an on-campus student organization. In addition, as a woman in business, the project has prepared me for the future in a variety of ways that I will undoubtedly require. Lastly, I learned to cherish the moment, which will be helpful whether I am listening in business meetings or I am sitting around a table at dinner with colleagues or even family.

I am so thankful I had the opportunity to use the STEP funding to help with the Fisher Global Project Program Nonprofits. While I have only mentioned a few things that I gained from the trip, I have gained so many more invaluable experiences that I will be able to use as a business professional and human being for years to come.

Engineering of Ancient Greece Study Abroad

My STEP project was the Engineering of Ancient Greece program, a 12-day education abroad program in Greece. The program was May 12th through May 23rd with a 3-credit hour ENGR 5797.18 class taught in English as pre-departure course held at OSU. The week and a half in Greece consisted of traveling to notable engineering sites built anywhere from 500 BCE to 1600 CE. The pre-departure class had group presentations on culture and other important information involved in visiting Greece as well as individual presentations on specific historical sites we visited.

A huge and controversial issue currently in Greece is the influx of Syrian Refugees and immigrants due to the Syrian Civil War. Not only was there a sizable Syrian refugee population but also refugees from other African countries. This was especially apparent in Athens where an incredibly large number of people were homeless and on the streets begging. Seeing this really had a large impact on me. This was not the first time I had witnessed this issue, as downtown Columbus and Cleveland have homeless populations, but the size and scope of displaced people in Athens blew my mind. The unemployment rate in Greece is estimated at 20%, which is staggering percentage compared to U.S. unemployment, which usually hovers around 4%. The Greek government-debt crisis continues to hinder the Greek government’s ability to remedy the situation. Without funding for social programs, such as unemployment benefits and welfare, many Grecian residents have also lost everything. The combination of the refugee and the economic crises left Athens in chaos. I could not turn a corner without encountering a guilt-filled pandering.

From my safe “cocoon” in the United States, I read about these monumental problems facing the Greeks, but the information minimal effect on me.  Obviously, the United States has a significantly more stable economy and social programs to combat unemployment. Moreover, our country’s immigration policy and border security keep the refugee population in check. During the course of my trip, however, the stark difference in overall quality of life between me and many of the Greeks was disturbingly apparent. As a Christian, it is very hard for me to see the helplessness of so many of the people around me. My inability to truly assist the homeless and refugee people was incredibly troubling. While giving a few euros to people on the street may help in the short term, it is not a viable long-term solution. I would often see the same beggars using their few euros to purchases cigarettes and alcohol instead of food or other necessities. It was hard for me to not be judgmental about their purchases because I honestly cannot relate to the mental and physical stress many of these people face every day. This trip greatly increased my gratefulness to be an American and to have a stable life back in Ohio. The poverty of Athens put many of my own perceived problems and stress into a new perspective. Everything back in the US seems so minimal compared to struggles of so many people in Athens.

I owe much of this transformation to the interactions I had with locals in the cities we visited. I mostly interacted with people in the service industry: bartenders, waiters/waitresses and tour guides. These people were always willing to discuss their thoughts on both Greek and American politics and society. Everyone I talked to was incredibly friendly and open to my questions; my new Greek friends practiced their English while we discussed the similarities and differences between our cultures.

Two of our many tours guides were non-Greek natives. The first woman was an amazing tour guide we had on the island of Samos. She was born and raised in Australia and is an archeologist until the Greek Economic Crisis of 2007. Currently, she still lives on the island but gives guided tours of many of the amazing historical sites on Samos.  It was crazy that such a highly educated and skilled professional cannot perform her job in such a historically rich area because of the poor economy.  The fact that the economy has not recovered even after ten years after the initial recession was shocking. Nevertheless, our guide was optimistic about the future and hopes to return to working on archeological sites within the next year. She gave us extraordinary insight on the impact of the economy on a non-native. The second tour guide in Ikaria is a Chicago born woman who currently lives on the island and has two sons. She gave us a similar story and insight as the first tour guide, but I was very interested to see the similarities of the economic impact on the lives of people across the entire country.

The most impactful interaction I had was with a hotel bartender named Christopher. Christopher is incredibly friendly and relatable. A group of us talked to him for about two hours during our one night in Athens; it was an amazing experience. Christopher is a 26-year-old native Athenian, who did not shy away from talking about Greek politics and their economy with us. We shared details and thoughts on each other’s political figures, society and economy. The opportunity to openly talk with a native was an extraordinary experience. What surprised me most was the incredibly low salary he receives and the government tax on cars. Not only does collect a minimal paycheck, Christopher shared that only the American tourists tip. In addition, the government tax on cars is enacted on each household based on the number and type of cars they have. Christopher said an exorbitant amount of his salary goes to his car; either in gas, maintenance, or the end of year tax. Due to this he is forced to live with his parents and struggles to make any meaningful savings. Even though Christopher has a college degree and even played semi-professional basketball for Greece, he is trapped in a low paying job due to the poor economy and influx of unskilled laborers. Christopher went on to discuss the impact all the refugees have in Athens and he told us there are significantly more crime and narcotics issues in recent years.  My talk with Christopher gave me an amazing insight to the life of young people in Greece.

This trip was a truly an amazing experience for me and it had a great impact on professional goals. After a guest lecturer, the CEO of the non-profit A Kid Again, spoke in one of my business classes last spring, I have decided to pursue a career in the non- profit sector. I greatly enjoy working and helping other people in the world around me. I feel that this trip has solidified my aspirations to continue this sort of work both now and in my professional career. I plan to continue with my International Business major and Spanish minor throughout my OSU career so that I can expedite my ability to positively impact both people in the United States and abroad.



Sustainable Urban Practices Abroad Program 2018

Name: Hayleigh Coppenger


My STEP Signature Project was a 22-day long education abroad where I traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark; Malmo, Sweden; Berlin and Weimar, Germany; and Barcelona, Spain. Myself and 12 other students were assigned areas of the city to critically analyze the morphological, functional, social, and visual aspects of the space. We created a 300 page InDesign booklet to document our findings.

Traveling to these cities opened my eyes in the idea that pretty much everyone outside of the United States is bilingual. This shocked me and made me want to learn a second language. I learned how independent I could truly be. I thought that going on this trip would have this effect on me, since I would be traveling without the aid of my family. However, 2 weeks before I left, I broke my dominate hand and still was able to ride bikes in all 3 cities and travel by myself after the program ended. This showed me how if I put my mind to something, I can achieve it.

While abroad, most of my peers and I did not have phone service, so we had to create our own fun. This led to many goofy games being played and us truly talking to each other about our days and our experiences. This was great, especially since in the beginning, we barely knew each other. Having these 12 other students to lean on while abroad made my experience truly unforgettable.

I was also one of the members on this trip that had experience with the material, since this class was for my major. I therefore had the role of becoming one of the leaders on my smaller team and helping the other members when it came to writing their critical analysis. This helped me further my learning and also learn how to take initiative when it came to teaching the material and making observations of a space in a foreign city that I had just seen for the first time for myself.

Furthermore, as mentioned, my arm was broken for my entire time in Europe. However, I did not let this stop me from learning or enjoying my time abroad. I rode bikes in all of these cities and also even got in the Mediterranean Sea. Learning how to be flexible was a large part of this trip; because of my arm and because I was with the same people for 22 days straight. Learning how to get along with everyone definitely is a learning lesson that transcends into my personal, academic, and professional life.

Lastly, I learned to not only be a leader but also be a team player. I learned when it was my time to take a stand and when it was my time to sit back and listen. Having this balance of give and take was something I learned from working on this 300-page book as a team. I also improved my professional relationship with Dr. Lara; the faculty member of this trip. I proved to him my academic success in my critical analysis and also how flexible and mature I can be as I never slowed the group down due to my arm.


Psychology and Culture in Europe!

My STEP Signature Project was an education abroad trip to Cologne, Germany and London, England during the first weeks of May with 16 other students. As a group, we visited several sites pertaining to psychology (like Freud’s House and psychiatry museums) and the different cultures (like the National Socialism Documentation Center in Germany). The trip broaden my knowledge about history of psychology as I know it today.

London Eye

Psychiatry Museum in Belgium

Cathedral in Germany

Freud’s home in London

Coincidentally, we were learning about this while it was Mental Health Awareness month in the US and it was Mental Health Awareness week for London while we were there. The trip opened my eye to how the mental health stigma is treated at a global level. The contrast of dedicating a month versus a week to mental health awareness reflected the importance different cultures’ perspectives. I noticed on the trip many Europeans did not make it such a huge deal because they follow a philosophy that taking care of yourself in a holistic perspective starting with physical health will improve one’s mental health. Europeans are very actively and spend more time outdoors than I noticed here. I really liked their perspective and am trying to implement these aspects into my daily life, like being outside as much as I can and recycling. Also, this experience has shown me that mental health is just as important as one’s physical health. I plan on joining organizations on and off campus that help break the stigma and help those fighting the stigma.

Along this trip, I grew as a person- mainly as a leader. I discovered that I have natural leadership skills which I did not know I processed. Being one of the only students with a background German, I was the go-to person while we traveled throughout Germany. I embraced my role as leader and I really enjoyed it! I found that I enjoy helping people whether the task is big, like navigating through a train station, or small, like ordering food. I have had leadership positions before while I was in high school and have not had a chance to be a leader since arriving to college. This experience has boosted my self-esteem and confidence. Since the trip, I have gotten out of my comfort zone more; I am no longer shy. Just recently, I signed up to volunteer at a 5K which I would not have done previously without someone else coming with me. I hope that I continue to build myself up as time goes on and I have to thank this trip for starting this.


As mentioned before, I helped the group this trip by being a leader amongst the students. Germany had an obvious language barrier that many students struggled with and became nervous about. Luckily, I have taken German courses throughout high school and college, so I felt more comfortable than some. One day, we were traveling to Bonn by train. There was an announcement while we were waiting at the platform spoken in German. Typically, there would be an English speaker afterwards stating the same announcement, but there was not! So, the resident directors kinda looked at me for help. The announcement was said again and I listened over the roar of people around us. They said our train for Bonn would be arriving at a different platform, so we had to move there within the next ten minutes. It turns out that the new platform was right next to ours! I was glad I was able to help the group and we were able to have a safe trip along the train!

Another incident where I noticed my leadership skills shining through was in London the beginning of that week. This is a smaller example, but I still felt proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone and stepping up when needed. Our tour guide, Victoria, asked if anyone would like to be the leader for the day. Immediately, I felt an urge to raise my hand. However, I thought to myself: “okay, I’ll wait and see if anyone else wants to be,” because I did not want to take away the chance for another student. After about two minutes of looking around at each other waiting for someone to speak, I said “sure.” So, Victoria gave me instructions about which underground train stations we were to take to arrive at the first museum for the day. I memorized very quickly and we were off! Students asked me throughout the journey what station we were getting off at and what was the next step. Luckily, I navigated the group safely and did not loose anyone along the way! That day I realized I wasn’t nervous to step up and I felt more comfortable stepping up to help rather than keep to myself.

Traveling together as a group helped bring us closer I thought. We were all able to get to know one another while traveling and all able to help in our own ways. Several times throughout our stay in London, the other students looked to me for guidance while traveling the underground train system. I had downloaded an app that helped me route which tubes we should take and what would be most efficient. Because of this, many of the students would ask me how to get to place to place or would follow me. I did not mind this because the train system was overwhelming at first and the app helped me sort through the chaos. I became accustomed to the train system and helping other members in our group. My parents and family were very proud of me for helping the group and becoming a leader. I always knew I processed the qualities to do so, and this trip tested me- I think I pass haha!


I have always been known to be a shy person. I was the smart student who did not talk much in class, except when I rose my hand.  This always bothered me throughout my life. I was very talkative and energetic when I was with my groups of friends, but I was also reserved in large classroom settings or with people I didn’t know. While in high school, I decided I needed to start working on this quality about me. I joined different clubs and became very involved. This helped open a door for me. I noticed that I was gaining more friends and was more comfortable with myself, so I felt more comfortable with other people. Also, I was the marching band’s drum major which was a huge leadership role I took on. This was where I started to develop my self-confidence and leadership skills. When I arrived to OSU, I didn’t join many clubs and closed up. I noticed I was going in reserve. This trip helped me start to go in the right direction once more. I was with a group of students I never met before which I was nervous about. However, we all became friends by the end of the trip! Everyday I worked on talking to someone new in hopes this would help me overcome my shyness. I did not let myself become discouraged and tried to see everything in a positive light. This helped boost my self esteem which in return boosted my confidence. With both of those increasing, I was able to become a leader amongst the group and feel comfortable doing so. This trip has allowed me to feel myself again.

This project helped me gain the confidence I needed that will help drive me for my future goals. Throughout the rest of my undergraduate academic career, I plan on becoming more involved through joining clubs so I can interact more with fellow students. These interactions will me beneficial because I can gain more friendships which will be a constant test of the skills I have gained over the last month. Many employers look for applicants whom are well-rounded and feel comfortable in their own skin as it reflects on their work ethic. I am able to say that I am a team player and a leader. Neither side outweighs the other or conflicts. Also, I plan on continuing my academic career by becoming involved in research. This requires one to be able to work well as a leader to guide one’s group to finish the project. Without the qualities I have rebuilt through my signature project, I would not be able to fully compete my dreams to the best of my capabilities. I plan on not holding back and chasing down my goals because I know I can. I now see each day as a new opportunity to explore the world and my mind.

Reflection of Study Abroad with Rec Sports in London

Abigail Schmitt

Study Abroad With Rec Sports: London

STEP Reflection

This Education Abroad trip is focused on the culture of London, and the United Kingdom; however, it would not be farfetched to include European culture as a whole with how involved the continent is in athletics and politics internationally. The various tours, including the Olympic sites, Trafalgar square, athletic competitions, and theater, will provide an excellent in-depth presentation of a lifestyle different than what I have grown accustomed to in the United States.

While completing my STEP Signature Project I engulfed myself in countless experiences that I had never done before. These new experiences brought me to realize many new realms of my personality and interests that I had never given thought to. The most prominent self-discovery I made was my passion for immersing myself into environments that are extremely rich in diversity. I found that I was able to absorb so many different cultures and personal characteristics by simply being around other people different than myself.

Additionally, I was very surprised by how kind the majority of the people with whom we interacted from London were to our group. It is not uncommon to hear that others do not like people from the United States, however I was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming most of the people were to our group.

There were several different situations that had large effects on my ability to absorb different cultures. The hotel where our group stayed was located in an area that was surrounded by a very diverse population. On the street there were restaurants with cuisine from all over the world that gave an authentic feel in each atmosphere. Portobello Market, a street market close to our hotel, was a bustling area that had vendors selling anything from fine antiques to energy drinks. The high energy charisma of the area made it feel as though it was no longer in London. It made it possible to truly appreciate what different vendors work, which was often handmade, and what each individual had to offer without feeling pressed for time.

Also, with the Kensington Gardens within steps of our hotel, it was as if there was a literal gateway into London’s everyday life. For example, every morning there would be people exercising in the park or simply sitting to enjoy the morning. Having Kensington Palace so close and open to the public to walk up to the gates and even tour inside was shocking based on how different it is for government officials in the United States. My appreciation for the Royal family grew significantly when I realized how involved they are in the lives of the people of the United Kingdom, rather than a figure head as some have described them before.

Our formal tea was a prominent example of kindness we received from others. It was quite obvious we were tourists in most situations we were in, especially our afternoon tea. None of the members from our group had ever been to a formal tea party so we were unaware of the procedures and social norms that concerned the staff and service we received. Thankfully, our servers were very gracious and patient with each of us. They were happy to explain different items that we were served and the significance of different courses. In addition to tea, our multiple tour guides were all very kind and welcoming in each encounter. They took our questions happily and gave us praise for participating and expressing our interests in their expertise.

Following this trip it has become even more important to me that I continue to travel and see other parts of the world. The diversity in London was only a small look into hundreds of different cultures, and it only made me want to learn more. Travel has always had a strong resonance within me, however now more than ever I am looking to go to new places and jump into new experiences. With my academics, it has helped me realize how much my particular career field is involved with the rest of the world. Even something as simple as changing currency was an excellent testament to how great the effects of different economies around the world have on each other. It reinforced my desire to have a career that allows for me to travel for business so that I can have a firsthand look at what the work I complete is doing in the long run. Travel has the ability to change individuals in ways that nothing else can, this trip was no exception and has truly helped me grow as a person.







Epidaurus Theater


Meteora Cliffs, Kalambaka


The Parthenon, Athens



Name: Manjot Kalkat

Type of Project: Education Abroad

For my STEP Signature Project, I chose to study abroad in Greece. Here I was able to visit many of the ancient ruins found all throughout the country, and study how they were engineered. Most of these structures were built thousands of years ago, so the fact that they are still standing today shows how well planned and thought out they were during their time of construction. Along with this, I experienced the Greek culture through social immersion and great food.

Going abroad was a very transformative experience for me. This was my first time leaving the country where I could actually remember my experiences while there. Even starting with the first plane ride (of seven), I felt like I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone and truly going out into the world. I also got to see firsthand how the recent economic crisis has had a direct impact on every Greek citizen. Many of my tour guides were professional archaeologists who have come to Greece for the “digs”, but have been forced to find other jobs such as in tourism while the country slowly recovers. This changed my view of the world because I saw humans just like me have their opportunities cut short due to circumstances out of their control. On a more personal note, I also watched myself adjust to a different culture. At first I was a bit overwhelmed by the differences, especially after a long day of travelling. This made the experience unnecessarily hard to adjust to. As soon as I opened up and fully immersed myself I felt an immediate change. This was exciting and something I will definitely remember for future travel endeavors in my life.

There were a few key aspects that led to the transformative change I experienced while abroad. The first and most significant factor would be interacting with the local Greeks at each of the cities or islands we visited. Many of these interactions were not intended as part of the program, but happened anyways. Most of the locals I talked to would be waiters, tour guides, or shop owners. Each interaction on its own was typically small, but combined they were impactful. I spoke with one tour guide specifically who moved from Chicago to the Greek island of Ikaria. This island is known to be a “blue zone” where people live much longer than the average age. I was able to engage in a conversation with her about how she wanted to live and lead a more peaceful life. I really enjoyed speaking with her because her life in the states was something I could relate to, but her life in Greece was something different that I could then learn from.

Another transformative factor in Greece was dining there. Every place I went, except for two restaurants, I ate outside. The weather there was consistently beautiful and nobody ever thought to sit inside anywhere. This appreciation of the weather led me to look further into what was making Greek dining great. I began to look around and noticed that no one was ever on their phone during a meal. Every table consisted of individuals in happily engaged conversation. Meals were eaten peacefully and fully enjoyed. For me, this further gave me a chance to get to know the people that went on the trip with me, which was super fun. I feel transformed because I will take these simple life changes with me, to better my dining everywhere. Even after only two weeks abroad, I can feel the impact this had on me as I am home more relaxed than ever.

The last transformative factor has to do with majoring in engineering. It was super cool to see ruins that have lasted thousands of years. It made me value the discovery of new knowledge, no matter how small it may seem at that time. Many of the principles used by the ancient Greeks are still used today. One of the tunnels we visited was dug from two ends and met in the middle only a foot apart. This is incredible given that they had no technology for surface mapping. Scientists believe the tunnel was lined up with the use of a right triangle. This trip furthered my passion for engineering because it showed me how the impact of engineering is eternal. There is a chance that the things I work on once I am in the field will be studied by future generations thousands of years from today.

The changes studying abroad brought to me are significant in my life because this is one of the first times I have truly chosen to do something on my own and followed through. I signed up for the trip not knowing much more than what was on the OIA information page, and came back a truly changed and more passionate individual. I can now to relate to others who say they only way you can see the the world is if you actually head out there and go for it. I am very happy to have fully immersed myself in a different culture because I was able to learn from them. Any positive changes that I experienced abroad I hope to keep with me as I continue to live my life. This development matters to me because it is one example of where I am working towards my life goal of always being an open-minded individual.

STEP Reflection: Psychology and Culture In Europe

Marissa Farinas

For my STEP project, I participated in the Psychology and Culture in Europe study abroad program. Along with 18 other students majoring or minoring in psychology, we traveled to Cologne, Ghent, and London on a twelve-day excursion, exploring psychological concepts and cultural topics. We visited several museums directly related to psychology and mental health in addition to typical tourist attractions, including the British Museum and the Kölner Dome.

Studying abroad changed my understanding of myself and transformed my view of the world. Going to Europe made me realize how insignificantly small I am and that a whole other world exists besides my own, filled with different people and languages. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with common daily challenges, but traveling made me take a step back from school and focus on discovering new cultures while bonding with like-minded individuals. Even though we had assignments, it didn’t feel like I was there to do schoolwork. Learning in the classroom can become monotonous, so visiting museums and learning from tour guides made me better retain the information while giving me a life-changing opportunity to see artifacts I read about in textbooks.

The most transformative moments were standing in the places where well-known people grew up. For instance, we visited the Down House, which is where Charles Darwin lived and wrote On the Origin of Species. We listened to an audio-guided tour, so we could connect the recording to actual rooms and items inside the house. A similar feeling occurred when we visited the Beethoven House in Bonn; each room had a different story, and the audio tour played musical pieces too. The combination of music and description made me understand Beethoven’s life on a more personal level.

Another key aspect that led to my transformation was being in a group of psychology majors and minors. All the students in the group are amazing people, but I especially got closer to two other girls in the program, one of them being my roommate for the trip. Together we ate food, visited other museums and sites on our free time, and had deep conversations not just about psychology but life in general. Without them, I don’t think I would have found this experience as enjoyable as I did. We found it interesting that even within the program group, everyone automatically divided up into smaller groups based on their habits and personalities. This made for a better experience because we could analyze our trip in layers of perspectives. We understood each other on an individual level and also saw the differences between our small groups and the large group. I also appreciated that the other students were psychology majors or minors because we could go to a museum and be surprised or amazed by the same things. Sometimes its hard to get people who aren’t in my field to understand why I think something is fascinating, so it was nice to interact with people on the same wavelength as me. The same held true for museum shops, especially the books. At one point, I think all of us were crowded around the same shelves, which contained books on the mind and brain.

Another major part of the program that influenced my transformation were my resident directors and the requirements for the class. At first, I was hesitant that the trip would be fun because the main RD is more introverted and less bubbly. Over time, however, his awkward but funny personality shown through, and I don’t think the trip would have been the same without his opinions. My second RD was a graduate student and the complete opposite of the other RD, and she was able to incorporate some of her youth and curiosity into our thinking. In all, they balanced each other out, and together they created an entertaining but focused environment. I was also grateful for the structure of the class. We were required to blog every day, talking about what we did that day, things that surprised us, and how it connected back to a theme we chose at the beginning. At first, I wasn’t excited about blogging because I’ve tried journaling before and didn’t enjoy it. To my surprise, I was quite happy about blogging. I was able to go back during the trip to remind myself of what we did, and in the future,  I will be able to read my posts again. It was also an effective way of staying in touch with my parents. On some days I was so tired I couldn’t call them, so I referred them to my blog.

The transformation from this study abroad program is important to me personally because I learned more about myself and my place in the world, and it is influencing my perspective on my professional goals and future plans. Experiencing new cultures makes me appreciate people in the United States, and, more specifically, international students at Ohio State. The language barrier in Germany was my biggest culture shock; I didn’t realize how hard it was to ask if people spoke English or order something at a restaurant. No one was ever rude to me when they had to conform to speaking English, and their skills were much better than my German skills. Last semester, I took an English class with a lot of international students, and when we had to read a book out loud, I would get annoyed because they read slow and pronounced several words incorrectly. After visiting Germany, I realized how terrible my though process was, and now I have a more positive outlook on non-native English speakers. What they are doing is incredibly brave; I learned it’s terrifying to speak a language you didn’t grow up with. I only had to communicate with German people for a few days, but international students must communicate using English for years, possibly even the rest of their lives. Before studying abroad, I thought I was above average for accepting people unlike me, but I realized I was flawed, and now I see people in a new light.

Professionally, I hope to bring what I learned about psychology into my future research. As a neuroscience major, I focus on specific biological aspects of the brain. I am pursuing a psychology minor because I like how the subject looks at the brain from a broader perspective. Psychology studies how brain processes drive behavior, so with the larger goal in mind I can look at the specifics more efficiently. When we visited psychology and psychiatry museums, I saw a lot of overlap between neuroscience and psychology, and I was able to connect what I learned in my neuroscience classes to psychological concepts and reasoning. Being able to do this makes me think more critically, and it will help prepare me for graduate school and a life of research.

Finally, my experience abroad has inspired me to travel more, even if it seems frightening or out of my reach. Only a few days into the trip, I knew I would want to come back and see places I didn’t have time for on this trip. If anything, this program has made me more curious about the world, and I want to learn more about other cultures. We only traveled for twelve days, but even this short amount of time was enough to make a lasting impact on my life. Who knows what I would be able to see and accomplish if I made more time to travel? Maybe this perspective will help me find a cure to a neurodegenerative disease, my ultimate goal in life. If not, I will still learn more about myself, relationships with other people, and the endless amount of cultural nuances that exist in different countries. My transformation is fresh in my mind, but I know with more persistence, I can make that transformation bigger and help me reach goals I didn’t think were possible.

The Kolner Dome; Cologne, Germany

Original patient records from Bethlem, a psychiatric hospital; London, England

Check out my blog:

Psychology and Culture In Europe 2018

Katie Boehmer

My education abroad experience was a two-week program to Germany, Belgium, and London.  During this time, we had the opportunity to enrich our psychology knowledge as we toured museums, churches, and more looking for ways to tie psychology into each day. This was a wonderful way to learn more about how psychology is connected to almost anything and learn how psychology is similar and different in the United States compared to other countries.

Prior to this trip, I was very hesitant about traveling alone outside of the United States.  Even though I have been to other countries with my family numerous times throughout my life, I was nervous about trying it on my own for the first time.  However, once I boarded the plane out of Columbus, I never looked back.  Every day was a new adventure and I really feel like I was able to see myself grow from this experience.  I found myself being a leader as we were walking the streets of Germany and London during our free time.  In addition, I gained the confidence to be able to use the underground subway system in London, the Tube, which is something that I was not sure I would be able to master in just a few days.  From a personal standpoint, I have learned that I can successfully travel abroad on my own.  The world seems a lot smaller from this trip and I can’t wait to explore more of it in the years to come.  Another transformation I saw throughout this trip was how much appreciation for history and museums I gained.  In the past, I did not enjoy looking at monuments and going to museums, but by the end of the trip, I really looked forward to being able to do these things. Lastly, another change I experienced was my ability to make several new friends during a short period of time. With Ohio State being such a large school, I always try to get involved in activities like these to be surrounded by a smaller group of people.  I find this an easier way to make friends and once again this experience proved to be a success as I return home with friends that I plan to spend time with once classes begin again.

One key aspect of this education abroad experience that played a role in this change was our assignment of writing a blog each day about what we did, one thing that surprised us, and how the activities from that day connected back to psychology and the specific topic we chose for the course.  These blog posts contributed to my transformation because prior to this trip, I had a hard time finding the value in museums and monuments.  I would always hurry through the museum in order to see more of the city.  By giving us this assignment, it gave me the chance to really focus on what our tour guides were teaching us and kept me interested throughout the day because I knew that at the end of the day I would need facts that I would be able to write about in my blog.  I especially saw this transformation after I came home and was able to remember a lot of the things I learned as I was sharing with my family all of the places we went.  In the future, I hope to continue to use a blog to write about my international experiences because this was a quick and easy way to share my experiences from each day as well as give my family at home something to read too.  The link to my daily blog can be found at:

Another part of this trip that led to these changes was the relationship between the students and professors on this trip.  This became very important during our free time, as they were very flexible with what we chose to do as long as we told them where we were going first.  By allowing us to explore the cities in smaller groups after completing our itinerary for the day helped me gain more confidence in my ability to navigate cities that I had never been to before.  I saw an even bigger change while in Germany, as I was able to successfully travel throughout Cologne even though most of the signs were in German. Although we did not experience the language barrier in London, this was another city where a lot of transforming took place due to the size of it.  The size of the city required everyone to quickly learn and understand the Tube, which is something that I will be able to bring back with me as I travel to larger cities in the United States and use their subway systems.  Lastly, having free time each day helped me see changes in myself because some of the days I would need to just follow the group instead of doing the things that I wanted to do.  Being able to be flexible and go with the flow is something that is very important in everyday life and I think that I continued to work on this skill over the duration of my education abroad experience.

Finally, a third key part of this experience that changed me was taking us to places where English is not their first language. Although I have had this experience in the past, this was different because we were interacting with people a lot more on this trip compared to my other experiences.  This helped me change because it showed me that I really want to practice learning other languages in my spare time.  I have always enjoyed learning and taking Spanish, however, I want to try to pick up a few other languages so that I can be even more confident next time I travel outside of the United States.  In addition, I think this will be important because I was able to notice that when we did try to use German, the people we talked to could tell that we were trying and this made it a more enjoyable experience.  This will only have positive benefits in the future as I hope to travel as much as possible to different countries.

These changes and transformations above are valuable to me for many reasons.  One reason is that traveling is something that I have always enjoyed.  From this experience, I now have the confidence to travel alone and even use the train systems to get from country to country.  This is something that I would have never imagined doing prior to this trip. Another way that this experience was valuable was that I hope to do another education abroad in the future. I think that this is a wonderful way for me to grow academically as I found it incredible how much I was able to learn in just two weeks.  Lastly, this experience helped develop my future goals of planning an international trip for my family to go to several different countries.  Just a few months ago, I would not even know where to begin with this task, but now I feel confident that I know what resources I could use to make this trip a success.

Image of the Dr. Guislain Museum in Belgium

The famous couch that Sigmund Freud used when treating his patients

My Experience in Ireland

Vince Bella

My STEP Signature Project was capped off with a trip to Ireland to study the writers James Joyce and William Butler Yeats in their native country. During the 2018 spring semester, I was enrolled in a class where we read Joyce’s Ulysses and Yeats’ poetry, as well discussed many aspects of modern Irish culture. At the end of the semester, we spent ten days in Ireland, visiting locations mentioned in the texts, the James Joyce Center, and the hills of Ben Bulben under which Yeats is buried.

Me at the Martello Tower, the location of the first chapter in Ulysses

While completing my STEP Signature Project, I learned much that I did not know before about Irish and European culture. Before this year, I had never left the United States. I needed to apply for a passport, learn how to convert U.S. Dollars into Euros, and pack a suitcase for ten days of travel. I was not sure what to expect once I arrived in Ireland. I knew much about Irish politics up to about the mid-twentieth century when Yeats and Joyce stopped writing, but the modern social scene was not my area of expertise. I was also not confident with my ability to travel alone; although I was in a group of eleven other students, the transportation to and from Ireland—and in many cases, within Ireland—required me to be on my own.

My STEP Signature Project was transformational in many ways. I had assumed about myself for many years that I did not like to travel long distances, mainly because I had not traveled far in my lifetime. Flying on airplanes, while not something I did often, was my least favorite method of transportation. I also had never considered traveling abroad while in college. I had incorrectly assumed that I would not find a source to fund one of these trips, and thus did not believe that I could ever participate on one. STEP allowed me the opportunity to challenge the misconceptions I had about myself and the wide variety of life experiences within my grasp.

Personally, I changed my own understanding of how much I like to travel. Although I still do not love flying in airplanes, I developed new strategies for making myself more comfortable. After all, the flight to Ireland was about 8 hours long, so I had plenty of time to make adjustments. As long as I drank enough water and did not sit with my neck in an odd angle, I was much better prepared to fly. I also discovered that an education abroad experience was within financial reach. Thanks to STEP, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the wide range of opportunities available to Ohio State students. I changed from someone who stayed relatively secure in his comfort zone to someone willing to see the world and take full advantage of the time that I have as an undergraduate student. The interactions and relationships I had with faculty mentors were able to precipitate this transformation.

I don’t know that I would have even considered the Literary Locations: Dublin experience without being urged to apply for the program by my English professors. While in a survey British Literature class during the Autumn 2017 semester, my professor, Clare Simmons, encouraged my to apply for the Literary Locations trip to Ireland. She would end up being the faculty advisor who accompanied us on the trip. During my time in Dublin, Professor Simmons acted as a valuable resource for travel tips in Europe. Without Professor Simmons’ guidance and leadership, I would have had a harder time navigating the streets and bus routes of Ireland.

Another faculty member that assisted greatly in my preparation for the project was Professor Sebastian Knowles. Professor Knowles taught the course on Irish literature that I was enrolled in during the Spring 2018 semester. In that class, we read extensively from Joyce’s Ulysses and Yeats’ poetry. Professor Knowles is an expert on all things Joyce and Yeats–he has published multiple volumes of literary criticism about Joyce’s Ulysses. Having someone as well-versed as Professor Knowles guide me through a text as massive as Ulysses made my experience in Ireland much more meaningful. He fostered a great community in our Ireland cohort, and that we tackled the lengthy novel together was a more profound accomplishment than if I had tried to get through it on my own. Professor Knowles taught us how to be readers of Joyce, which was extremely useful when visiting the James Joyce Center in Dublin.

To help me overcome fears of flying and any uncertainties of traveling internationally, I credit the help provided by Louise Yahiaoui from the Office of International Affairs. Yahiaoui visited our cohort in the Literary Locations course several times during the Spring 2018 semester. She gave us many valuable pieces of information, like how to apply for a passport, which sites to buy a plane ticket from, and how much money to bring with us. Yahiaoui mapped out the most effective way to maximize my brief experience abroad. While the Literary Locations course equipped me with the “book smarts” to appreciate Joyce’s Dublin, I earned my Irish “street smarts” from Louise Yahiaoui.

Of course, the STEP cohort meetings themselves provided me with the most transformational connections and relationships. Led by Dr. Scott Jones, my STEP cohort met every other Wednesday and was composed entirely of people that I had lived and worked with my Freshman year, as we were all Arts Scholars. Dr. Jones’ meetings gave us a space to voice ideas and seek advice from each other. After learning about the Literary Locations course, I asked my fellow Arts Scholars if this experience seemed like a good fit for me. We worked through the all of the STEP application processes together, and if not for the guidance and direction of Dr. Jones I would have had a much harder time vocalizing why an experience such as this was important to my personal and professional development.

Over the course of my STEP Signature Project, the most prominent personal discovery was that I have a great passion for studying literature outside of a traditional classroom–particularly in the real locations in which the novels are set. Reading Ulysses in Dublin is an experience that cannot be emulated anywhere else in the world. Particularly, the visit to the Hill of Howth (where the final chapter of Ulysses is set) was the most transformative moment of the entire trip.

After a long and exhausting day traveling through Dublin on foot, I needed some inspiration. The weather was unseasonably hot for Ireland in May, and although I was happy that the infamous Irish rain decided to pause for a day, a thorough walking tour of the city called for some serious cooling off. We were to make an excursion to Howth, a hill overlooking the Irish Sea on the northeast coast of Dublin, but we ran into some transportation issues. The train that was supposed to take us directly where we needed to go was under renovation; the bus stop that we thought was right was wrong; the bus was hot and crowded. This hill had to be worth the hour-long commute—and it was.

While hiking along the coast, we paused to enjoy the view of the sea and the clear skies. We read the final passage of Ulysses, and I gained a deeper understanding of not only that scene but the entire novel. Dublin, an old city with a history of tension and occasional tragedy, has its moments of indescribable beauty—just like Joyce’s novel. This transformative experience simply could not have happened in Columbus, so far from the epicenter of the novel’s action.

Howth, the location of the final chapter in Ulysses

As a student of English Literature, I have recently been spending much time discovering my area of specialization. I know now that I best enjoy studying modernist literature, which is spearheaded by Joyce’s exemplary novel Ulysses. The more I dive into my study of Joyce and his writing, the more I appreciate my experience in Dublin. I had the chance to walk the same streets as the characters in the book—as Joyce himself did while writing. Professionally, I gained an understanding of the work I want to do as a future educator. As a result of this experience, I began conducting my own independent research on James Joyce. On November 17, I will be presenting a paper on my findings at the Midwest Modern Language Association Conference. To have conference experience as an undergraduate student is valuable, and this is another opportunity that would not have possible save for my STEP Project and all of the transformational mentors I encountered along the way. As I continue my journey as an undergraduate student, I will always value this experience in Ireland. I am extremely grateful to Ohio State and the STEP Program for making this trip to Ireland possible.