Human and Animal Interactions Study Abroad Program

Kady Davis

Type of Project: Education Abroad

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

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

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

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

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

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


Human & Animal Interactions in Ireland

Study Abroad

By: Kaci Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STEP Reporting Back – Jacob Mountain

Jacob Mountain

Education Abroad


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Human-Animal Interaction in Ireland

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

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

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


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


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

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

Cliffs of Moher

Fota Wildlife Park

Semester Abroad in Paris, France: Reflection



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

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

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

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

grading system or even exam dates ahead of time.

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


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



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

Service Learning Trip to Kpando,Ghana- Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Human and Animal Interactions in Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


STEP Reflection for Chile (2018)

For my STEP signature project, I choose to do a study abroad trip to Chile that focused on the agroecosystems and agroeconomics of the country. We visited a lot of different farms and agricultural facilities where I got the chance to learn about Chilean culture and agricultural practices. We also got the chance to see a large part of the country ranging from Puerto Varas to La Serena.

This trip allowed me to see into a whole new world allowing me to grow in my understanding of the world around me and myself. One assumption about the world that this trip changed for me was that climate change was a touchy subject, like it is in the United States, all across the world. While I was in Chile, I found that climate change to Chileans was a simple fact that everyone believed was impacting their life in major ways. Another personal area of growth was my ability to communicate with others. Going into the trip I had only ever been to one other place that spoke Spanish as their main language and that was four years ago. Upon arriving I realized that my Spanish was a little rusty but as the trip went on I gained confidence in my abilities to communicate with the Chileans. I got the chance to learn more about agriculture and sustainability through visits to farms, fruit production facilities, research stations, and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

These transformations happened throughout the entire trip. The largest impact was caused by my fellow travelers. Through the trip we had multiple different Chileans from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile join us. The Chileans from Pontifical Catholic University of Chile not only helped plan what we were doing throughout the trip but also gave me great insight on many different aspects of Chilean culture.

Throughout the trip, we also visited different types of farms with some amazing tour guides. I learned so much about different sections of agriculture, including the dairy, fruit, and vegetable productions. We even went to a fruit research center that had a bunch of different types of fruit ranging from common fruits in the United States, such as oranges to fruits found only in South America such as cherimoya and loquats. One interesting thing that the research center was working on was the best ways to grow oranges. We also visited a dairy farm where they were using the milk of their own cows to produce dulce de leche and cheese. The tours that we went on allowed me to gain more knowledge and a deeper understanding of the agricultural industry.

Overall, the country was just breathtaking, everywhere you looked there were mountains and volcanos. In Puerto Varas, you could see three volcanos across the lake from the city. The southern parts of Chile were so lush but as we traveled north this changed to desert-like conditions. The Northern parts of Chile were still home to many different plant and animal species. This trip was the first time I had ever been anywhere close to a desert. In my mind, a desert was barren and unbearably hot but the lower edge of the Atacama Desert was nothing like that. While driving we saw a lot of different animals ranging from guanaco to goats. Also, there were a lot more plants than I thought there would be.

This trip was significant in many ways both academically and personally. Academically, I learned a lot about agriculture and ecology that I did not know before taking the class and trip. This knowledge can help me to communicate with some of the other specializations within my major. Personally, I got to experience a new place and meet new people that have helped to shape who I am today. Growing up, it was always a personal goal of mine to do an education abroad in college. I will never forget the beauty of Chile and the amazing people that I met along this trip.


Fisher College of Business Student Exchange to Madrid, Spain- Reflection

Name: Michaela Santalucia

Type of Project: Education Abroad

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

My STEP signature project fell into the education abroad category. I spent four months studying at a university in Madrid, Spain. During my time there, I not only took business core classes, but I also gained a deeper understanding of Spanish culture outside the classroom.

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

Two major things happened while going abroad: I gained a deeper understanding of my own personality and preferences and I realized that the world is more similar than anyone or any news outlet wants you to think. While abroad, I had a lot of free time outside of classes due to the limited amount of available extracurriculars and my inability to work. This gave me opportunities to go to places (restaurants, festivals, museums, etc.) that I would have not had a chance to go to in the U.S. Since my spanish was not completely fluent (and neither was my friends) I ended up going a lot of places that I was not 100% comfortable with going due to my perceived inability to ask clarifying questions. However, with four months on my hands, I refused to hold myself back. I tried so many different foods and restaurants, visited tons of new places, and took the metro places by myself to explore the city. Before going to Spain, I wouldn’t have dared to go to a restaurant or event without a friend, but now I don’t even second guess it. This has been extremely beneficial to my personal and professional development because I can try things I am interested in without boring my friends or being scared of looking like a “loser” attending an event by myself.

The other major transformation I experienced while abroad is that the world is more similar than we are different. Oftentimes, it seems like the United States is the only country struggling with problems like immigration, refugees, the path to citizenship, drug crimes, etc. The media oftentimes demonizes the U.S. by saying our policies are significantly worse than other countries, which in a lot of cases they are. However, before going abroad I didn’t realize that many other countries have the exact same problems as us. A lot of European countries have much more stringent policies than those of the U.S., for example, in many countries, being born there does not make you a citizen. Additionally, even Spain has some issues with disliking foreigners. A lot of older Spaniards would be visibly annoyed by myself and my friends speaking English, and some would even say things under their breath about how we should speak Spanish in Spain and that we are all dumb Americans. With the recent increase in non-native English speakers being accosted for speaking their home language in the U.S. it was enlightening to be on the receiving end of such hatred, and realize that most problems are worldwide.

  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?

Two major things contributed to my deeper understanding of myself while abroad: travelling completely by myself and dealing with a plethora of various problems outside of my control. I was the only student from Fisher to go to Madrid for the fall semester. This meant from the time I left the airport in my hometown, to the moment my plane landed back in the U.S. I was completely by myself. Although this scared me at first, looking back I would not have developed as much if I could’ve used other OSU students or advisers as a crutch while abroad. By being alone, I was forced to do things I wasn’t initially comfortable with: going to orientation events alone, eating by myself, and visiting sites in Madrid by myself. In doing this, I was able to meet other people at the university and form friendships. However, by the end of the experience, even though I had the option of going places with friends, I would sometimes choose to go somewhere by myself because I learned to enjoy my own company and how I processed my surroundings. By the end of the semester, I felt confident enough in my own abilities to travel to Berlin by myself for four days (I don’t speak German) because I knew I could have fun by myself and felt confident in my ability to manage the trip.

The second reason I experienced a transformation was due to some problems I experienced early on in the trip that made me feel like a warrior. First, I almost lost my phone getting in the taxi on my way from the airport to my new apartment (I already thought I was going to die being in a country alone and this did not help). Next, my apartment manager was ten minutes late to the apartment leaving me outside with all my luggage and no cell reception. Instead of freaking out I ran down the street and stood outside a building that said free Wi-Fi and called them on WhatsApp to check their location (I thought that was pretty creative problem solving after 16 hours of travel and my first 2 hours in a new country). After I got settled into my apartment, I decided to leave the next day. I got locked out of my apartment and had to ring multiple doorbells to assist me with the ancient key I was given for my apartment. Fifteen minutes of me and another woman trying to unlock my door later, and I was inside my apartment with my landlord still not answering. I then spent the next three days inside my apartment without leaving because I was afraid of getting locked out again. I think this three day period was when I wanted to go home the most during the trip because being trapped inside my apartment was not what I thought Spain would be like. A few other minor things happened (toilet breaking, broken balcony, missing my trains) during the trip also. However, having to solve these problems without my parents, my friends, or OSU there to help me made me more independent and competent than I was when I left the country, and I am forever grateful for the lessons I learned.

In terms of realizing that the world is very similar in terms of political problems, two main things influenced my experiences: interacting with other exchange students and being confronted on a train. During my time in Madrid, I met students from all over the world (mainly North America and Europe) because my university had an incredibly vibrant and diverse exchange program. Over the course of the semester we were able to discuss major political and economic events in our classes, and learn more about each countries’ policies. It was at this point that I realized every country is dealing with difficult to manage issues, but media reports from a U.S. and worldwide perspective often focus on U.S. policies due to their influence on the world. However, countries like Denmark have even stricter immigration and citizenship policies than the U.S., but it is never discussed. Learning about these differences helped me to understand the U.S.’s place in world politics much better and realize that a lot of today’s problems affect everyone worldwide.

One specific realization of these similarities happened when I was travelling back from a trip on a train with two other students from the U.S. and one from Mexico. We spoke English to each other because it was easiest for most of us and the girl from Mexico (my roommate) wanted to practice her English with us. Out of nowhere I hear her start practically yelling at  the group of people sitting in front of us. Since she was usually incredibly quiet so this was alarming, and the people she was yelling at look obviously bewildered. It comes out that that group of people had been saying things like “If you’re in Spain, you should speak Spanish”, “Dumb American girls don’t even bother to learn English”, etc. Since our brains were in English mode, we didn’t hear these people talking about us, but my roommate did and stood up for us. Once she told us what was going on we all spoke back to them in Spanish because they didn’t believe that we could speak/understand Spanish and we felt the need to stand up for ourselves. Although this is the only time I had ever been accosted for speaking English, it gave me greater insight to how many non-native English speakers are treated in the U.S., and that this problem is not specific to any one country.

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

My major goal of going abroad was getting a deeper understanding of myself and becoming more independent. Since my hometown is only an hour away from OSU, I always felt like if the opportunity arose to live/work in another area of the country, I would be too afraid to take the plunge. Going abroad as the only OSU student at my institution helped me to conquer these fears. Not only am I confident that I can keep myself alive (remembering to eat and other basic things), I can travel and manage myself independently. I funded my entire experience abroad by myself through scholarships and financial aid, made friends and connections in the country by always networking and attending social events, and learned a lot about myself because I was not influenced by anyone who knew me before. Oftentimes, you become who people tell you you are (you grow up around your parents and are influenced by their opinions on your character for example) but being abroad releases you from that. I was able to see who I was in an entirely new environment filled with new people and an opportunity to recreate myself if I so chose.

This trip allowed me to realize that when/if the time comes I will be able to take the plunge and move away from everything I’ve ever known. However, the trip helped me affirm my decision that Columbus is the place for me for a few years after graduation, and that has lifted a major weight off of my shoulders.


To see more photos from my trip visit the Fisher Go Global Instagram to see my Instagram takeover from December 10-December 12. CLICK HERE to visit their Instagram.

Human-Animal Interactions in Ireland

My STEP Signature Project was an Education Abroad program to various parts of Ireland which provided a plethora of experiences with the different types of human-animal interactions that they have to offer. The trip included visits to agricultural and production farms and facilities, zoos, and companion animal shelters.

This project really helped me better understand myself and what I am capable of, and it helped change/adjust my world view. With every day being packed with activities and an itinerary that could be changed at any time, I was able to see how well I adjust to unforeseen circumstances as well as enhance my ability to do so. I also gained a lot of confidence in my ability to explore and operate without much but a set meeting time, because when we were given some free time to explore the different cities we were in, I was somewhat surprised to find that I found it exciting rather than daunting or scary. The environment of this education abroad and the people that I was with really put my mind at ease, so I was able to enjoy all Ireland had to offer and gained a lot more confidence in my ability to experience new things with an open mind, while still being able to stay safe in a new environment. With that, having an open mind also helped me to see the differences in culture and animal practices that they have in Ireland and to accept those differences, thereby widening my world view and allowing me to see other ways of running animal facilities.


There were numerous activities, events, and interactions during my STEP Signature Project that led to those changes/transformations. We visited some really unique places like the Dublin Falconry and Fota Wildlife Park where I was able to learn a lot about the different approaches and perspectives Ireland has for their animals. Along with these interesting locations, we also visited the Glendeer Open Pet Farm. This was a last-minute change to the itinerary that we had to adjust for. While most of the scheduled activities did not change, many of the times differed as travel times were adjusted after we were there. So, every day I had to be prepared to possibly stray from the itinerary and keep track of meeting times both for the morning and throughout the day when we were given some free time to explore some of the more historic spots on our own. This really helped me with time management as well as feeling more comfortable with being able to adjust and be prepared for changes that could happen at any time due to unforeseen circumstances.

We had some free time in a lot of the cities that we visited, which gave us a chance to sort of break off into smaller groups and explore. I was able to be with some great people that made me feel a lot more comfortable walking through those busy cities. With my worries aside, it was much easier for me to really enjoy and take in the cities and see all they had to offer. This time also gave me the chance to try some new foods, which I made a point to do rather than just eating things I could get in the U.S., and I think that having people around me that felt the same way was really helpful. As the trip went on, I could feel myself getting more and more comfortable with trying new things and really embracing the culture as much as possible with all the stops we went to. The more cultural/historical stops we made, especially the group dinners, gave me some of the best cultural experiences I have ever had, and I feel like I was able to learn and experience so much at each one. The group dinners also gave me the perfect opportunity to try traditional Irish food while also getting to experience traditional storytelling, music, and dances. It definitely helped to expand my world view and see how our differences in culture can be really cool and beautiful to see.

Along with the culture, I was able to learn a lot about the different animal practices that they have in Ireland. We visited the Dublin Zoo, Fota Wildlife Park, and a few farms that definitely had some different philosophies and goals than what I have seen in the U.S., but I was able to go into each of those facilities with an open mind and without judgment. They were all pretty fantastic facilities, and though I sort of disagreed with a couple of the practices they were doing, I was able to look at them objectively and take into account the budgets they had, their land, the weather differences, etc., which I have not had much experience doing. It really helped me develop a skill of looking at the whole picture and realizing that there are different ways of doing things, which can be just as good as the way I am used to seeing them done. It was interesting to see so many new perspectives on animal care, some of which I never would have thought of, so I am glad that I was able to experience so many unique places that all had new ideas to share. They really helped me open my mind and learn how to look at different world perspectives in a better way.

This transformation is valuable for my life, because it shows me that I am capable of being flexible and of going into new situations with an open mind. It also shows me that I have the ability to look at the whole picture without just making snap judgments because I disagree with something. I feel that these skills are especially important with the line of work that I want to go into as an animal cruelty investigator. Being able to adapt to quick, unexpected changes can be a very important quality to have when on the job as the animals I will be encountering, as well as some of the people, can be incredibly unpredictable and being able to make quick changes to the plan without stressing out will be very helpful. I also feel that having an open mind could be very useful, because with my future career, I could see it being easy to judge before learning the facts, and I think that I would have a much better experience if I put my judgments aside until I have all the information about the situation. These experiences I had in Ireland gave me more confidence in myself and helped me see these qualities in myself. I hope to be able to expand on them and continue my transformation to be the person I want to be both personally and in my future career.