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.