STEP Reflection: Western Europe Architecture Program

Emma McMonigal

Type of Project: Education Abroad

This summer STEP helped me fund a month-long trip through five countries in Western Europe that opened my eyes to the amazing works of architecture and the unique culture each country had to offer. We traveled through several cities where we participated in discussions and sketches in order to fully analyze and respond to the architecture presented to us throughout the trip.

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

After my trip to Europe, I feel like I look at the world around me in a new way, mentally and architecturally. This program gave me a great opportunity to challenge my self-reliance. By spending a month in Europe with limited connection to my support system back home, I discovered a level of independence and confidence that I had not previously felt. I’ve now developed a skillset that can help me tackle new experiences and help me push outside of my comfort zone. Therefore, I experience less terror at the thought of failure and I’m more willing to try things that I will not excel at right away.

I also used this trip as an opportunity to develop new skills that could help me become a better architect and designer. I feel like after this trip I have become more inspired by the ways architecture can define a country and embody the personality and culture of places. After this program, I now have a new view of the world of architecture. Nowadays, I look at the world around me as a collection of experiences that could one day inspire great designs. I also take the time to analyze the spaces around me, using the skills I have studied, to develop a catalog I can pull for my own projects. The knowledge and skills this trip has allowed me to develop have already influenced my thoughts and views of the world and will continue to do so for several years.

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

The responsibilities and new conditions I had during the trip helped me develop my independence and confidence. Throughout the trip, I had to interact with locals who did not speak much English, keep myself on a budget, and learn to navigate completely new cities every day. Those undertakings were almost as foreign to me as my surroundings, however, I slowly developed the skills to become more self-confident. Being responsible for myself was not a wholly new concept as I have been doing so in college for many years, but the everyday tasks that seemed ordinary in the US became a new challenge to tackle in the foreign countries. I’m normally a very shy person around strangers and find it difficult to be assertive in new situations. Not being able to read signs or even most menus gave me several opportunities to communicate with locals who didn’t speak much English. These instances forced me to step out of my shell so that I would know where I was going or what I was going to eat for dinner. I learned to conquer my fear of speaking out and to take charge of a usually daunting situation, which helped me acquire a new confidence in myself to handle novel circumstances in the future.

This trip was also about developing new skills that could help me become a better architect. Throughout the trip, we all learned to sketch the architecture we were visiting. Before I even left the US, I was terrified of failing at sketching or not knowing enough about architecture to keep up with the graduate students and even my peers. The fear of failure made it difficult to start my first sketch, but the encouragement from the graduate students helped me push past that anxiety. I will admit my first couple sketches were a complete mess and it was a struggle to sketch at all knowing they would not be the best. However, pushing myself to keep practicing and using the advice all my peers collected allowed me to finally draw some beautiful sketches that I was extremely proud of. All the work that went into developing my sketching skills made it that more meaningful to me when I got to a point where I enjoyed sketching and liked my final products. It has been a long while since I have pushed myself to develop a new skill and I have been stuck in a bit of a rut where it has been hard to try new things. This program allowed me to discover the joys in sketching and the benefits of stepping outside of my comfort zone. It also reminded me that even if I’m not the best person for the job in the beginning a lot of hard work and help from others can lead to success later.

Seeing the architecture I have been studying in my major and developing the skills to analyze architecture further has given me a greater appreciation for my major. I’ve learned to see architecture in a new light and I enjoy trying to unearth the core design elements used in buildings. Learning about architects from the past and the different processes used to inspire all the unique designs really changed my outlook on architecture. I now see that architects can be inspired by almost anything and the best work is born from strong inspiration from the world around us. While in Paris, we saw a gallery featuring the architectural ideas of a Japanese architect who had strong influences from nature. His bold designs and use of nature throughout his work were simply elegant and something I hope to use as influences of my own designs. That gallery gave me a great opportunity to appreciate the work of an architect I have never even heard of and it was only one of several architectural works that I hope to emulate in future designs. This trip gave me a ton of inspiration and made me excited for this upcoming semester where I can hopefully use this newfound interest to create designs not typically seen in the US.

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

These transformations in myself are valuable for my future as they have helped me grow as a person and as an architect. The confidence I have in myself will definitely make it easier to tackle new challenges in my life, like interviewing for internships next summer. This trip also made me want to try to learn new skills, such as baking or writing. If I can learn to sketch in a month, a world of possible talents is open to me. Also, the knowledge and inspiration I have gained from this trip will hopefully transfer into better designs in the future. This trip has allowed me to gain confidence in myself, to develop a greater interest in designing, and to be excited about all the new skills I can develop if I just give myself the time to learn them. I feel enthusiastic for the last two years of my academic career and where I could go from there. A lot of that awareness comes from the encouragement and inspiration I found from this trip. I hope these skills I have developed will last throughout my life and keep pushing me out of my comfort zones to become a stronger person professionally and personally.

One thought on “STEP Reflection: Western Europe Architecture Program

  1. It is clear that you found much value in this trip and the experiences that it offered. You seem very inspired to move forward in your OSU career. Thank you for sharing.

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