STEP reflection

Jenna Zhu

Study Abroad

Over this past spring break of 2019, I took part in the study abroad program “Biology 4798: Scientific Roots in Europe” through the Office of International Affairs. This program involves a 3-credit hour spring semester course that meets for 80 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday, inviting various guest speakers to speak about their fields of interest and how it relates to historical discoveries and figures that contributed to science. Through this program, I have been able to expand my knowledge on the history of scientific discoveries beyond what has been taught in my core science courses.

While completing my STEP project, I think my views on the world and how different cultures are were transformed. It was amazing to see both the British and French culture and customs over the span of one week, and be able to compare them with each other as well as the American culture and customs. While they are pretty different compared to the American culture, they were not as different as I expected them to be. Both London and Paris are very tourist-heavy areas, so I was able to get around everywhere by speaking English. However, as we entered the outskirts of Paris, that English-speaking population started to diminish. I was also surprised by how easy it was travel within both London and Paris. Both have a metro system, which I was afraid I would not be able to figure out, nonetheless the map all in French in Paris. However, the process was very easy to learn, and I was so excited to have learned how to work both metros.

This program was also socially expanding as I got to know my fellow classmates better with the smaller class scale setting, as well as my two professors, Dr. Cogan and Dr. Breitenberger. I also gained connections to all the professors from OSU that come to our classes as guest speakers, expanding my social network in the science departments of OSU. We have had speakers from many departments of OSU, from the physics department to the geology department. Our class involves a talk, ending with questions, making this class very interactive with our guest speakers.

During the trip, we visited many museums and historical sites that transformed the way I viewed science. Some incredible discoveries were made on the spots on which we stood, and it made me realize how incredible those scientists were able to make their discoveries despite the lack of resources or materials they had available. It also made me more grateful for the technology we have today.

One key part of the trip was the tour of the Darwin house. This was the house in which Charles Darwin and his family resided, and their yard included their family’s grave, minus Charles’ grave which is located in Westminster Abbey. It was incredible to imagine the lifestyle of a man whose discoveries transformed science tremendously to this day. We got to see the room in which he wrote his famous Origin of Species, and the books and notes he used. Another key part was the Louis Pasteur Institute, where we were able to see Pasteur’s home and labs he used to discover the principles of vaccination and pasteurization.

I also was able to engage in some conversations with students in Paris that were my age. I learned about how in Paris, students don’t typically attend an undergraduate university for four years, but instead attend the professional school for the occupation they want to go into. For example, one could graduate high school and go directly to medical school. It makes me wonder how efficient and worthwhile the American education system is, because oftentimes people graduate with a degree that they may not even use in the career they end up with.

Outside of the scientific portion of this course, I went and saw the play Mousetrap in London. This was the oldest running show on the British version of Broadway, and I really enjoyed it. I haven’t seen too many plays in the US, but with the ones I have seen I can say that it was executed just as well. Mousetrap was a murder mystery, and this play was unique in which the ending is supposed to be kept secret from the general public as well.

This program is in concert with my aspirations, talents, and passions as I have always been intrigued in the evolution of science. Centuries ago, people thought the world was flat. With the major technological advancements, I find it fascinating to see how far we have come throughout the most recent centuries and even decades with technology and science. And with that being said, this course gives me a great opportunity to learn about the timeline of these scientific developments through major groundbreaking scientific discoveries in the last century.