Arcadia STEM Summer Abroad- Limerick, Ireland

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

Summer Arabic Language Program – Amman, Jordan

STEP Reflection Prompts

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

Name: Johnna Coffin

Type of Project: Study Abroad

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Trip Half Way Around the World: Completion

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

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

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

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

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

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you?

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

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

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

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

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

Caught in a typhoon

Finally completing the route to 胥门(xumen)

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

Marcie Rotblatt

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

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

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

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

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

Valparaíso, Chile (ISA) STEP Signature Project Experience

My STEP Signature Project consisted of a study abroad program at Pointicia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, in Chile during the summer of 2018. During this time, I resided with a host family and attended classes to work towards earning my Spanish Degree. After my classes were completed, I spent an additional month volunteering in a medical clinic, where I spent time interacting with patients and assisting local medical staff.

My STEP project dramatically increased my world understanding, giving me a new found cultural competency and allowing me to understand and experience first-hand what it takes to be a global citizen in today’s world. I believe that my STEP project, aside from transforming my language skills, gave me the tools to understand and relate cultural and social differences to different practices and ways of life observed that may be very different from that of my own in the United States. With the help of my host parents, fellow Chilean students, and other students that were a part of my experience, I was really able to open my mind, hearing about new ideas, political views, ways of life, etc. My STEP project made me realize, and appreciate the amazing diversity of the world, and the diversity that exists on my own college campus as well. I was able to observe and have a deeper appreciation for diversity of thoughts, cultural backgrounds and ideas in all faucets of life, but my favorite was in the clinic setting. As a pre-med student with hopes of heading to medical school, being able to observe medicine in an additional context was invaluable to me as I prepare to apply to medical school. I truly believe this, and the personal growth that accompanied my experience will allow me to excel as a physician who is able to break down language barriers and offer a pathway to better public health for immigrants here in the United States.

I believe that the most important and influential influences in my personal growth and transformation during my STEP signature project are as a result of the amazing people I was able to share my experience with, so I would like to take this opportunity to separately address all of the special people who made my experience amazing, and aided in helping me discover so many things about myself that I never knew before.

For starters, my host family who so graciously welcomed me into their home for the three months that I lived in Chile and treated me like their very own daughter. When I received my host family assignment I was honestly a little worried.  Many of my friends’ families were younger, had children, and lived in lovely homes.  My host family on the other hand was an older couple that lived in a lovely, but modest home.  Little did I know that my host Mom and Dad would come to impact my life so dramatically.  Upon my arrival, they showered me with love and affection until the moment I left them.  Every day they went above and beyond to help me adjust to life in Chile and essentially adopted me into their family. My parents taught me Chilean slang, fed me traditional Chilean food, and taught me about history and engaged me in conversation. They had a huge part in m y cultural integration and language learning while abroad. They really showed me that love crosses all cultures and helped me to understand the importance of being able to communicate with all people.

My friends and the fellow students on my trip also helped me to appreciate the diversity that exists not only in Chile but between college students inside of the United States.  I met many students from the United States, from Argentina, and Chile. I even met students from Ohio State that I hadn’t known before the trip, but now consider them to be some of my best friends here on campus. I am so grateful to have met so many amazing people from all over the US and really see the diversity that makes out country so great in action. Through this diversity, I was able to explore many new ideas and points of view. On one occasion, I even went and had coffee with another student from the United States just to have an open chat about some current issues.  I’m not normally one to go out of my way to discuss sensitive issues so it was a little uncomfortable to me but in the end I was glad I did it. I grew a tremendous amount in this way and as a result, feel that I am much more open to different views and opinions and have a new appreciation for diversity.

Lastly, my coworkers at the clinic that I volunteered showed me so much kindness and helped me grow as a person through learning and service. One of the things that I learned from my time in the clinic was that the Chilean healthcare system is very different from what we have here in the United States.  In some ways, their healthcare system is perhaps a little less developed.  One example of this is one day we had a very long meeting about the use of alternative medicine.  In other ways though their healthcare system seems to work better than ours.  One example of this is that all Chileans have a booklet that they keep with them that contains all their medical history and medications.  Also, during pregnancy woman can attend informative meetings about how to have a safe and effective pregnancy and if they attend enough events they have their delivery paid for. From this exchange of ideas and learning more about different health care policies in Chile, I was able to see the importance of being a global citizen because we all could benefit from an open dialogue that focuses on the exchange of ideas and information worldwide.

I believe this change that I observed in my personal, academic, and professional life through my STEP signature project will be absolutely monumental in my future endeavors in all realms of my adult life. I believe that the skills and confidence I gained while studying abroad, combined with the new and deeper global competency and intercultural understanding, I believe that my future holds so many possibilities with these valuable lifelong skills. Not only did my Spanish improve tremendously, I am more confident, and am able to engage people of all different cultures and backgrounds. I believe all these skills will serve me in having a more fulfilled personal life, as well as propel my academic and professional career in medicine where I will be able to better serve my patient population and strive for groundbreaking discoveries in patient care. I believe that this experience will help me reach my ultimate goal of becoming a physician who is able to break down language barriers and instill confidence and trust in their patients through a diverse understanding of culture, language and identity of which is not my own, but still a huge part and influence on the person I am and the story of my personal journey, which was largely influenced by my STEP signature project.

STEP Post Reflection

STEP Reflection


  1. I went abroad to study French language in Quebec for five weeks. I specifically studied French phonetics, grammar, and oral expressions.
  2. When I first got to Quebec and arrived at the university of Laval, I was given my French class placement. I tested into a much higher class than I was expecting to. I doubted that I would be able to pass my classes being at that high of a level because I doubted my abilities to speak French so fluently. I was also shocked by how little English was spoken when I first arrived in Quebec, and that frightened me too. I was expecting most people to be bilingual in French in English, but I found myself having to speak mostly French in order to communicate with others.

These two aspects of my study abroad trip frightened and worried me at the beginning because I did not believe myself capable of speaking French well enough to get by in this foreign region nor in my classes. However, I found that over time, I noticed my French speaking skills were quickly improving and speaking the language became more natural. I started feeling a lot more confident and secure speaking French. I realized that I was far more capable of getting by in a foreign country and speaking French than I had originally anticipated, and now I am more sure of myself when I go to speak in my French classes here at OSU.

  1. The simplest interactions that are easily overlooked when in your home country, are the interactions that made the greatest difference for me in improving my French speaking abilities and in becoming more confident in my abilities. Everyday interactions such as going to the grocery and speaking with the cashier, or asking coherent questions in class, or directing a taxi cab driver originally were very difficult tasks for me.

As the five-week trip progressed, these interactions became significantly easier for me and I gained confidence when communicating with others in Quebec. These interactions may seem simple, and while they were in a way, what made them difficult was the fact that I would have to struggle to form coherent sentences and phrases when conversing with native, fluent speakers.

As I became more comfortable and confident speaking French, I began to feel like I fit in with the native Quebecois people. This also helped me develop a better understanding for the Quebecois culture because they have their own way of speaking French that is different from what I have learned in class previously. Therefore, on top of just learning the language, I was also learning how the language was spoken within the Quebecois culture.

This made my experience a bit more difficult, but also more rewarding as I have now learned how to use French lingo, slang, and common phrases that are used by native French speakers. This makes me feel more like a native French speaker, and like I have developed more of an understanding for the French and Quebecois culture.

  1. Now that I have studied abroad, I am using the credits that I earned abroad at Ohio State to put towards what is now my second major, French. I was originally minoring in French language, but since returning from Quebec, I have now changed my minor to a major, and I aspire to get my bachelors in both French and in my second major, molecular genetics.

Summer French Language Program at Université Laval

Name: Kate Bliven

Type of Project: Education Abroad

For my STEP project, I enrolled for a 5-week intensive French language program at Université Laval in Québec City, Québec, Canada. I took 3 courses throughout the week (6 credit hours total) and participated in a diverse array of activities, all of which were completely in French. The courses allowed me to complete nearly all my requirements for my French minor and the immersive quality of the program greatly improved my French language abilities.

The most obvious, and initially anticipated change during this program, was my ability to comprehend and express myself in French. I have been studying the language for over 6 years but rarely had the opportunity to practice it in a setting with native speakers or for prolonged periods of time. Over the years, I have taken several of French classes, but none like these which did not include the translation aspect of comparing French language to the equivalent English. I also took a pronunciation and phonetics class which I had never taken in my traditional USA schooling.

The other changes and transformations were much more difficult to grasp initially. This was my first time travelling alone and I have never been somewhere so far away for so long without others who I knew that I could rely on for support and familiarity. I lived in a room alone, had to cook meals for myself, figure out transportation, and problem solve when things did not work out by myself, all in language that is not my mother tongue. Adjusting to this new regular was difficult the first few weeks, but I was able to navigate it and eventually find purpose and enjoyment.

I had many new experiences while in Québec. My favorite activities were seeing different parts of the city and surrounding areas with the other students and the animateurs. While they we simple trips, the fact that we were practicing and learning French while doing something fun greatly improved the experience. Learning a foreign language is extremely beneficial if it can be directly applied to life. The classroom aspects were necessary to teach the semantics of language, but the real-word is where it becomes applicable. Associating words and sentences with visuals and emotions is a priceless way of learning.

This program also exposed me to a variety of different people. A majority of the other students in the program were young adults, mostly from other Canadian provinces. These Canadian students attended the university with a scholarship given to them by the Canadian government to promote the bilingualism of the country. There were also other students from the USA and other countries as well such as Mexico, Germany, China, and many others. I loved hearing the different reasons for attending and the backgrounds of my classmates. Some had been in French immersion schools their whole lives while some arrived having never taken a French class. This notion that a language can unify so many different people is fulfilling.

I wish that more people had the opportunity to learn a language and then actually get to apply it the way I did. It is one thing to learn a second language in a classroom and something completely different to learn it in a real-life setting. I found myself thinking in French and having to remind myself that I could not text my friends or call my parents in the same language that I was using every day for 5 weeks. This program made me understand the true meaning of language. It is for communication. Language is not perfect and those speaking it are not perfect either. There were times I became frustrated or compared my abilities to others, but in the end, I improved, and I communicated.

My French, no doubt, improved and I am excited to continue practicing and using it while at OSU, in travel, and hopefully my career. The personal skills are applicable to so much of my future. I know I will have much more confidence and positivity when it comes to facing similar obstacles. Resiliency is something that can only be gained from doing and I am proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone. I know I will carry and use these skills for the rest of my life.Image may contain: sky, cloud and outdoorImage may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing, sky, child, mountain, ocean, cloud, outdoor, nature and waterImage may contain: one or more people, people riding bicycles, bicycle, outdoor and nature
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Elizabeth Russ–Arabic Intensive and Peace and Conflict in Amman, Jordan and Dublin, Ireland

  1. This summer I participated in an immersive international studies and Arabic language education abroad experience: The Conflict and the Struggle for Peace: Explorations in Ireland and the Middle East with Arabic Language. This program was a two-month long program that examined two of the most well-known ethnic conflicts of the modern world: the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and the Arab-Israeli wars, along with a 4-week Arabic Language intensive program.
  2. When I look back to my arrival in Jordan, I can picture myself—eyes wide with excitement, in awe of the size and the dense traffic of Amman, eager to read the Arabic letters written on street signs, and simply happy to have been given the opportunity to travel to the Arab world. I remember taking pictures of everything, even a random advertisement, simply because I had not seen Arabic written commercially before; even after studying the language for two years, it was still so new. I spent the firsts month in Amman studying Peace and Conflict Management with former Jordanian Ambassador to Israel, Dr. Omar Rifai. As an aspiring diplomat, I highly value Dr. Rifai’s instruction, insight into the ongoing conflict between the Arab World and Israel, and especially his stories of his time as the Ambassador. Although brief, the time spent with Dr. Rifai has further sparked my interest in the politics of the region, and inspired me to pay more attention to my country’s (USA) policy choices here in Jordan—and then the Jordanian public’s reaction to these decisions.
  3. Following Dr. Rifai’s course on Conflict Management, I dove into my Arabic classes head first. When I decided to participate in the program back in the spring, I’m not sure I truly understood what “Intensive Arabic” meant. Now, with only three days left in the program, after 3 full weeks of Arabic, 5-hours a day, 5-days a week, I can say that the program—although draining—has been worth every second of exhaustion. My professors, Ustad Osama, Dr. Ali, and Ustada Salam have taught me more in three weeks than I learned the past year in a classroom in the states. The days have truly flown by. Outside of class, I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel to the Dead Sea, Madaba, Jerash, Petra, Wadi Rum (twice), Mount Nebo, and Aqaba. These trips, but especially the people that I have traveled with, have shaped my experience here in Jordan–my host family for their hospitality, my local friends for their willingness to include us foreigners, and my American friends for their (our) vulnerability. I strongly believe that the local people and the experiences you have with them, not the physical geography, is what makes a country special. For me, it’s what makes me want to return. As my time in Jordan comes to an end, I am finding it difficult to say good-bye. Inshallah, I will be able to return to Amman to continue my Arabic and regional studies. This time however, I plan to spend more than 6 months in-country. So, when I take off from Princess Alia airport in less than a week, it will not be goodbye (as I doubt I will be able to muster that anyways), but rather a goodbye-for-now.
  4. As I stated in the previous paragraphs, my STEP project has inspired me to return to Amman in the next few years to perfect my Arabic language skills. The connections I made in Jordan will, hopefully, remain for the rest of my life. Following graduation from Ohio State, I plan on either returning to the region or staying here in the US to work as an Arabic Linguist until I gain enough work experience to apply to be a Foreign Service Officer for the US Department of State. abroad_me-pfvseh

STEP Blog – Marketing Project Abroad

Project Description:

My project consisted of traveling to Vienna, Austria to assist a company in their marketing efforts to get their business sect of recycling out into the industry. We researched and studied the company, its current activities in this realm, its competitors and their activities, and more in order to make recommendations on how to improve. With the business operating globally as an industrial shredding market leader, the pressure was on and the scope of our project was quite wide.

Important Understanding:

I found that my reliance on my leadership skills helped me navigate the different culture of Austria. I pushed myself to take note of my surroundings and assimilate into the culture in order to gain a better understanding of how to work with it. I now feel that I am able to communicate with other cultures in a more professional and respectful way.

Interactions and Events:

Our company included lunch for our team each day. However, none of the workers in the cafeteria spoke English, and German is not a language that is easy to pick up on. The small language barrier concerning our lunch options pushed me to try a new dish each day, as I wasn’t ever aware of what I was eating. This was the small beginning to many more out-of-my-comfort-zone decisions that I made throughout the rest of the internship.

Additionally, my team’s in-country advisor was our age, making it easy for him to relate to us and answer cultural questions that we had. He was very useful when it came to informing us on how to act, what to eat, and important phrases to know. After a few days of his advice, I began to be able to pick up on other cultural trends strictly through observation, which helped me gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the Viennese culture.

Concerning events that impacted my cultural appreciation, my team and I travelled to other neighboring countries on the weekends. After being in Germany, Slovakia, and Hungary, I had a deeper understanding of European actions and relationships. Many actions are uniform across Europe, and not just unique to Austria. That came in handy when navigating around other areas that shared the same cultural elements (such as Munich).


Cultural appreciation and understanding is extremely important in the workplace, as you will work with people from all different backgrounds at different stages in your life. Being able to communicate with them in relevant ways (i.e. mannerisms, not just verbal communication) shows one’s willingness to learn about others. It is not only appealing in an emotional way, but it reflects professionalism and the ability to grow connections. I believe that everyone, if they are presented with the opportunity, should travel abroad for the purpose of reaching professional growth goals.

Transformational Experience:

As a sophomore, at the time of this project, enrolled in the Fisher College of Business, I didn’t have many professional experiences under my belt. In fact, I didn’t have any! This Fisher Global Project has been extremely beneficial to my professional transformation, as it taught be patience in dealing with cultural barriers, professionalism in working a regular 9 to 5 job in an office, and the importance of clear communication in the instances of describing and explaining our ideas for global marketing purposes. I was able to utilize skill sets that I had learned from Fisher courses such as BUSMHR 2292, International Business 2000, and all marketing courses. This experience has transformed my professionalism, and has been and extremely useful example to pull from during interviews and class discussions. From going from no professional business experience to being completely emerged in a foreign culture for business-related purposes, I feel that I have grown immensely on both a personal and a professional level.

STEP-Reflection Marine Research in the Turks and Caicos Islands

Name: Marissa Moran

Type of Project: Education Abroad

1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

This summer, I spent four weeks in South Caicos with the School for Field Studies where I worked alongside fellow students and faculty to develop a research project related to marine conservation. My research team focused on assessing changes in the abundance of queen conch and the types of substrate they inhabit in order to better understand the effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the local environment. After we collected our data in the field and analyzed our results, we presented our research at the end of the session.

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

For as long as I can remember, I had always dreamed of becoming a marine biologist. I have always been extremely passionate about environmental conservation and my interest in marine life dates back to when I was a young child. Since the opportunities for studying marine life in the Midwest are fairly limited, I knew that I wanted my STEP project to incorporate my passion for studying marine life because such an opportunity would be nothing short of a transformational experience for me. When I stumbled upon this program during a study abroad fair and did some further research, I knew that this opportunity would be a dream come true. I had always considered myself to be a fairly shy person so I knew that an education abroad program would be a dramatic shift out of my comfort zone. Although I was very apprehensive about traveling alone, this trip taught me that I am actually much more eager to try new things and it also gave me a newfound sense of confidence and self-realization.

Life as a marine biologist in the field is not easy. The days were long, the data collection was exhausting, and the research analysis was often tedious and frustrating. However, I loved every minute of it and embarking on this trip helped to re-solidify my passion for marine conservation. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

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

One of the most impactful activities during my STEP Signature Project was learning how to snorkel for the first time and being able to see firsthand how wondrous marine ecosystems truly are. I hardly ever swim and had never swum in the open ocean before but once I learned to adjust to wearing fins and a mask and snorkel, swimming in the ocean felt so natural and fluid. Since the majority of the trip was spent collecting data on boats or swimming in local reefs, I felt like I had the perfect opportunity to utilize my newfound love of snorkeling. Since the Turks and Caicos Islands are home to some of the best coral reefs on the planet, my appreciation of how lucky I was to be on this program helped contribute to my newfound confidence and my desire to immerse myself in every new experience. This confidence allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and contributed to my overall excitement to explore the environment. 

Getting to know the faculty and the other students participating in this program was another impactful factor that contributed to my overall transformation. I was one of 24 student participants and even though we had different backgrounds and spanned from all walks of life, we quickly bonded over our shared love of science and environmental conservation. Although we only knew each other for four weeks, I consider the people on the trip some of my closest friends and we still continue to stay in touch. Every night, after all of our work for the day had been completed, we would lounge near the hammocks and picnic tables and tell stories until late in the night. Since South Caicos is a fairly undeveloped island, the lack of light pollution meant that the night sky looked spectacular. Small, simple moments like this are memories that I will treasure forever. Additionally, the faculty leading the program were phenomenal and it was incredibly inspiring to learn about the types of work and research that they were involved in. I felt like the faculty truly cared about each student on the program and they really took the time to get to know everyone and be accessible. When the program came to a close and we all had to part ways at the airport, there was not a dry eye in sight. I honestly believe that the friendships that I made while abroad have made me even more environmentally conscious and motivated to achieve my career goals.

A final interaction that contributed to my overall transformation was getting to know local residents of the island through  community outreach activities that took place every Saturday. Even though South Caicos was hit by two devastating hurricanes in 2017 and much of the island was still in disarray, everyone that I talked to was extremely optimistic and had a very positive outlook on life. Additionally, the locals that were always willing to help us students or answer our questions in spite of the overall lack of resources and the poverty on the island. This welcoming atmosphere was surprising to me and I was also surprised by how happy these people were in spite of having so little. I realized that material things are not important to having a happy and fulfilling lifestyle. What matters most are the kinds of people that you choose to surround yourself with. I also realized that even though my time in South Caicos was limited, I wanted to do whatever I could to help support the local community. As a result, I plan on fundraising and sending donations back to the island because I want to help make a difference.

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

I had an absolutely incredible experience and I firmly believe that my time abroad will be very beneficial for my academic and professional goals. Although this study abroad program was run through a third-party provider and not Ohio State, my advisor was able to get the credit hours to transfer as elective credits towards my major. As a result, I am one step closer to completing my Bachelor’s of Science in Zoology. Additionally, this program has motivated me to get my SCUBA certification which could open countless doors for me if I choose to pursue a career working in a zoo/aquarium or with a conservation agency. Additionally, I plan on sharing the findings of the research that I conducted this summer with faculty at Ohio State University as well as potential future employers because the research we conducted is important to help further people’s understanding of how climate change and natural disasters affect marine life.