STEP Signature Project – Exotic Animal Welfare and Behavior Study Abroad

My STEP signature project was an exotic animal welfare and behavior study abroad in South Africa. Over the course of two weeks we visited many different environments where we were able to interact with and observe exotic animals in order to learn and understand them from all perspectives. We did so in both captive and conservation settings, as well as in their wild and natural settings which allowed us to compare the various behaviors and conditions we observed. This experience is one which helped me to grow personally, academically and professionally.

Prior to this trip I assumed that animals in zoos were not always an accurate display of the behaviors and characteristics that would be seen in a natural environment which I can now say is definitely accurate. Just as I expected, I got to observe many various behaviors and characteristics of exotic animals that I have never seen simply from watching them for a few minutes at the zoo. I also got to see how certain species interacted with each other, with their young, with their environment, and even with us at times. I expected the conservation and management setting aspect to look very different than the zoos that I am used to due to the difference in culture and society, and although there were some definite differences, it was not as drastic as I was imagining. The biggest difference I saw was just in the level of passion of the caretakers. I felt it was much stronger in South Africa than I have seen in zoos, which shows just how important conservation and management of these species is and should be regarded as.

I imagined the animals would be regarded much differently in most aspects of life, but especially in their management practices. This was correct in the way that animals are not appreciated very much by the people of South Africa, because of all the issues that arise from them being a part of their everyday lives. This was validated in the management settings as we saw that the people visiting the facilities along with us were also tourists and not the general public, which is very different when you compare it to the zoos of America which is largely supported by the general public. Before the trip it was difficult for me to characterize the challenges faced regarding management of exotic animals, but I now realize the plentiful challenges faced, including poaching, poisoning, snares, lack of funding, lack of public support, criticism of the media, and government interference to name a few. My expectations of the potential opportunities created by management of these animals however was further validated. It is obvious to me now that management is crucial to conservation of species, we saw this prove true time and again during our visits to John Hume’s rhino farm, the Moholoholo rehab center and the Hoedspruit endangered species facility. It is also very important for educational purposes, as we have witnessed firsthand through this class and the interactions and experiences we encountered.

I expected the animals we saw to have very different health care and welfare standards than I am used to which I think is pretty accurate. Exotics face many more unknowns and variable factors in their environments which a lot of times contributes to their health issues and overall welfare. Some of the factors that we saw that have an impact on the lives of these animals include food and water availability, the habitat they live in, and the threats from hunting and poaching practices. In an elephant museum we attended at Letaba in Kruger National Park, we read of many unfortunate poaching stories against elephants and as we know, they are not the only species that faces these threats. Rhinos for example are at very high endangerment from the illegal poaching of their horns. As I anticipated, we did get to see many various management strategies and systems. Each one has its own values and goals, but they are all usually striving towards a similar end goal of animal prosperity and preservation. I do realize that each practice is also very complex and calculated. One thing I did not expect was just how passionate the people are about these animals and their wellbeing. Everyone we encountered was incredibly passionate in their own ways and you could tell it was more than simply a job to them, which I was very pleasantly surprised to see and much of their passion and determination was contagious, and we learned to share in it.

I expected that I would gain a new insight that would allow me to form my own educated opinions and develop a personalized standpoint about exotic animal welfare and behavior which is probably the one that is the truest after the trip. I think overall my expectations of the trip were pretty accurate, however they were also mostly expanded on and I was able to learn a lot more than I anticipated. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to go on this study abroad and it is an experience I will definitely carry with me for the rest of my life and through my career, and I hope to take what I have learned and observed and go on to encourage and educate others on the importance of exotic animal welfare and conservation.

This trip brought me many new insights and perspectives that have transformed my view and understanding of exotic animal welfare and behavior. With a goal of pursuing a career in veterinary medicine, it is crucial for me to have an in depth and comprehensive understanding of the animals I could potentially be treating and working with. It is beneficial to both my current and future academic and professional endeavors involving exotic animals. This is a personal experience that will set me apart from others in my field, and allow me to share my experiences with others who are less informed. Overall, this study abroad experience that I was able to pursue thanks to the STEP program, will allow me to make an individual difference in the world of exotic animal welfare and behavior, and it is an experience I will never forget.

GVI Thailand Reflection

My STEP signature project was under the education abroad category through the organization GVI. The location of the project was Phang Nga, Thailand with a healthcare focus. The healthcare group mainly performed health checks in various locations in the community. We also went to a center for disabled children/ young adults in the community and performed various therapeutic activities with them.

My viewpoints and assumptions made about the world changed before the project officially began. While traveling to Thailand, I encountered flight issues and delays, but the kindest and most helpful individuals worked in the Hong Kong International Airport. Though there was a language barrier, they worked to provide the best service and treated me better than anyone from American Airlines in the United States. Once in Phuket, Thailand, I quickly realized why it has the nickname “The Land of Smiles.” From our taxi driver to local business owners, everyone offered a smile and hello. From past experiences in the United States, I was expecting Asian people to be more reserved and stand-offish. I was pleasantly surprised that my assumptions were wrong.

Throughout my time in Thailand, I realized the difference between wants and needs. For example, the program made it known that we would not have air conditioning at base. I was expecting this, but I was not expecting the lack of an actual shower or warm water. The longer I was there and saw the way native people lived, the less I cared about these frivolous wants. The people in Ban Nam Khem that were hit so hard with the tsunami in 2004 that they lived in humble homes often without doors. They were often surrounded by trash and chickens, and they used motorbikes to travel which became difficult during the rainy season. Despite everything, they were still happier and kinder than most people I encounter in the United States. This really made me reflect on my own desires for materialistic things that truly mean nothing.

The first interaction I had with the airport workers in Hong Kong made me realize my assumptions about their attitude was wrong. Once arriving to base in Thailand, I remember feeling like a celebrity walking around the community because every child we passed waved and said hello in English. It’s amazing how important learning the English language is to these people because it offers them better opportunities for jobs. The community of Ban Nam Khem was primarily a fishing hub. After the tsunami, almost half of the population lost their lives and most people lost their jobs.

Gay was one of the staff members in charge of the healthcare group, and she lived in the community where we volunteered. She is someone I will never forget. She was kind, compassionate, easy to talk to, helpful, and just an amazing person. It was evident that everyone around her loved her, especially people in the community. She taught us the difference between Chinese Thai’s and Buddhist Thai’s viewpoints on disabilities. Chinese Thai view disabilities as a blessing while Buddhist Thai view disabilities as punishments from a former life. She gave us a tour of Ban Nam Khem, taught us cultural beliefs, how to count in Thai, and simple sayings to get us through the community.

After learning this, I saw how these religious views transcended to the behaviors of the children at the center. One girl with Down Syndrome was Chinese Thai, and did little for herself and relied heavily on the workers because her parents treated her the same way. Two of the other children with Down Syndrome were Buddhist Thai, and they were extremely self-sufficient because they have had to care for themselves from a young age. It amazed me how much their religious viewpoints could differ and affect their lives. Gay also informed us that Buddhist Thai individuals that have children with disabilities often hide them or keep them away from other people as much as possible. This caused the Thai government to offer compensation for claiming such children. The goal is to raise awareness about centers like the one we were at, so these children have the opportunity to receive therapy and socialization.

Interacting with the children and young adults at the center was absolutely my favorite part of the entire trip that lead to my transformation. Yet again, these kids had little to nothing, but they were still so incredibly happy. From day one, they all welcomed us warmly and wanted to interact with us. It was amazing how close we got to them in just two short weeks. The center’s main caretaker, Soy, was another amazing Thai woman. I will admit that if I had to run after the kids there every day, I would be exhausted. She somehow always looked so at ease and genuinely in love with what she did. You could tell how much she loved all of them, and that left a mark on all of us volunteers.

I could have never anticipated the transformation that took place while I was there. For the first time ever, I decided to journal everyday about my experiences. Oddly enough, this became a religious experience for me. Each day, I was able to see God’s light through the interactions with Thai people and in the beauty of the land. I did a lot of reflection about what was most important to me because at the end of the day, these materialistic things that I prioritize mean nothing. I have always known that I am blessed with a strong family unit, financial stability, and every opportunity in the world. This trip, however, took this realization to the next level, and it made me want to appreciate what I have every single day and never take it for granted.

In terms of my academic and professional goals, the healthcare aspect of this trip absolutely solidified my choice in a career path. I absolutely loved having the opportunity to take people’s blood pressures and explain to them what healthy vs. unhealthy ranges were. I was able to apply my knowledge from the classroom to this community by completely organizing a basic head to toe health check. This excited me because I took a course last fall that was literally titled “Health Assessment” where we learned the proper way to assess anyone that first enters a clinic. My team and I did encounter some cultural sensitivities when asking certain questions, and the resources were limited. Despite our limitations, we put together the first health check GVI has ever given in the community. Hopefully our idea will continue to grow with future healthcare volunteers.

My Trip to Cusco, Peru



Using the funds from my STEP signature project, I traveled with 11 other Fisher College of Business students to Cusco, Peru as a part of the Nonprofit Global Projects program.  Split up into 3 teams of 4, we were tasked with helping GVI Peru and Centro Bartolome de las Casas (CBC) provide sustainable, profitable, and modern business solutions to numerous rural communities in the Chinchero region of Peru engaged in tourism.  My team specifically suggested charging higher prices more representative of the value of the communities’ tourism activities such as textiles, naturally cooked meals, and cultural integration.

Throughout the trip, I was able to further my understanding of my self as I immersed myself into Peruvian culture and the project at hand with a new group of fellow students.  Because this was my first extended trip abroad in a new culture, I learned that I enjoy throwing myself into uncertain and at times uncomfortable environments.  For example, I applied the Spanish I had learned in high school to start conversations with Peruvians in a language I am not as comfortable with and even started learned the native language of Quechua.

Furthermore, I acquired a unique perspective on the people living in the Andean region and on nonprofit work in general.  The people living in the Andean mountains with less technologically advanced institutions and devices do not view themselves as worse off than us students in America.  In fact, in many ways these people are far more advanced: Their ability to harness the surrounding natural resources into a sustainable and more natural lifestyle is impressive.  This perspective played a key role in our work as business partners with the Andean rural communities, because many of our initial ideas did not align with the desires and values of the people who would be putting them into action.

One key aspect affecting my described transformation was maneuvering the communication barrier between us and the Spanish-speaking and Quechua-speaking people we worked with as business partners.  Much of our time in educational workshops and presentations to the communities had to be allocated towards translating the message between the three languages and ensuring that all involved understood the ramifications.  I learned the importance of different communication forms and gained an appreciation for it; we take basic communication for granted as students at a major university in America.

Additionally, the various tourism activities around the city of Cusco and throughout the rural communities in Chinchero provided a new cultural perspective to me on the Andean world and its contrasting characteristics in comparison to America.  Learning about the history of the Incan empire, the arrival of the Spanish, and the cultural stories from each community helps explain many of the aspects of Andean society today and is much different than learning about the very brief time period of American history.  Visiting Machu Picchu particularly fascinated me, and it’s remarkable that the metropolitan city was able to survive up there so long unnoticed.

Finally, my interactions with specific members of the communities that represented our business partners left a lasting impact on me.  Seeing how excited they were to take in our ideas and perspective, as well as just get to know us as people, truly surprised me and left me leaving Peru with a new outlook on people in general.  The leaders of the communities were so grateful for the time we spent there and the impact we could have on their business, yet they did not look upon us as students coming in to do charity work, but as equals.

This personal and ideological transformation will yield significant dividends in my professional career going forward as business continues to become more global in nature.  Understanding different types of people and being able to work with them as business partners holds value in anything to be done in life.  I also made some lifelong friends on the trip from Ohio State that I can forever share my memories and images of transformation with.

Abroad in Prague

STEP Post-Project Reflection

In the Spring semester of 2019, I studied abroad at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. This past semester allowed me to completely immerse myself into a new culture, language, and way of life. I gained so much out of this trip that I wasn’t expecting, and I am so unbelievably grateful I had the opportunity to have an experience like this.


Studying in Prague was truly an experience I will never forget. There is no better way to learn about and understand a certain way of life until you live it. I always knew that I grew up in a ‘bubble’ so absorbed in my own world and only truly aware of life in the United States, therefore I was expecting to experience some culture shock. I really didn’t know much about the Czech Republic at all until I had the chance to live there. By simply studying in Prague, I was able to learn so much about the history of the country and culture I was living in for so long.

While completing my STEP project, I could appreciate the myriad of historic places to see in Europe. The Czech Republic is such a central location in Europe which provides people the chance to travel to other countries so easily and so cheap. I was able to go to Austria or Germany in no more than four hours by bus or train for less than $40. Flights were super inexpensive and quick as well which allowed me to experience so much more than I thought I would. I learned a different sense of independence because I had to figure out living on my own, traveling on my own, budgeting on my own, and so much more. I was able to work on my time management skills as well throughout the four months. Another thing that I found the best way to immerse myself into the Czech culture was by learning how to speak Czech. I took a two-week intensive Czech language course when I first arrived and absolutely loved it. I was taught a variety of words and sayings that would help me communicate and survive throughout the semester. After the course was completed, I continued my learning and took the second level Czech language course throughout the semester. At the end of this course, I was able to go to a Czech restaurant and completely speak Czech from the moment I walked in the door to the time I left. Now that was pretty cool.


Many interactions throughout my STEP signature project helped me grasp a new perspective on life in the Czech Republic. Faculty of Arts, Charles University was an amazing school to attend. This school is a very prestigious University in the country with beautiful buildings and very intelligent professors. I was able to share a building with and walk the same halls as Czech students my age which helped me gain a stronger idea of what the culture was like. All of my professors were extremely helpful in making sure we had the best experience possible by giving us recommendations on places to visit or taking us to their favorite spot in the city, or even letting us know what events are coming up that we should check out. I felt so lucky that I had the chance to be a student at Charles University.

One of my professors would take us on different day trips. We spent a class at Vysehrad fortress which is a beautiful site with a great view of the city. It was built in the 10th century and contains a Church and a Cemetery which contains the remains of various famous people from Czech history such as writers, actors, and scientists. She also took us to see a play which was performed in Czech to help us with our understanding of the language. During our unit on food and restaurants, we went out to her favorite local Czech spot to practice our language in real life. It was a great experience learning with professors so passionate about teaching.

The third-party program that I went through was so great and provided many optional excursions for their students. One optional trip which I took advantage of was a weekend in Krakow, Poland. I can confidently say that this weekend was one of the highlights of my semester. The weekend started with a heavy and emotional full day in Auschwitz concentration camp followed by Birkenau. This day was one I will never forget and is a visit everyone should experience. The rest of the weekend was spent touring and exploring Krakow as well as a visit in the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Why this trip was so amazing was because our tour guide, Eva, was incredible. She made the weekend so personal and impactful and told us stories that sparked interesting conversation. There were many other opportunities like this trip offered throughout the semester including day trips and tours throughout the city we were living in.


I am so grateful to have had this experience living and studying abroad in Europe. Looking back, it’s so cool to reflect on how much I’ve learned this past semester. I learned a great deal about alternative cultures, the Czech language, the history of the Czech Republic and so many other countries in Europe. I learned how to travel on my own and how to interact with so many types of people. Most importantly, this semester taught me so much about myself. I learned how to be more independent, open minded, and outgoing. I’ve interacted with so many different types of people and cultures that gave me a new perspective on the world. I am currently studying hospitality management at The Ohio State University. One thing that I’ve learned from my studies is that hospitality is everywhere. Most of all, the hospitality industry is all about talking to people, meeting people, and helping people from all over the world. I can confidently say that this semester helped me towards my future. I can’t wait to go back to Prague and visit my second home again soon!


STEP Reflection – Exotic Animal Welfare and Behavior in South Africa

For my STEP Signature Project, I went to South Africa on a study abroad through Ohio State. While there I studied exotic animal welfare and behavior. We spent time observing animals in a wild environment in Kruger national park and in a private game reserve as well as visited some captive centers.

This experience gave be a better view of the challenges and opportunities that exist in wild life management. Before visiting South Africa, my only real knowledge on the issues there was from my classes or social media. My experiences in South Africa allowed me to gain hands on insight to the challenges associated with the exotic animals that call the continent home. We learned about many of the issues facing each species in our pre requisite class, but seeing the animals in the habitat and seeing the people surrounding them really opened my eyes. This trip allowed me to have experiences I would not have had the opportunity for elsewhere. I now have a greater appreciation for the diversity, and complexity of alternative exotic animal management approaches on animals and their surroundings as well as for the people who put their time and money into this.

During my study abroad I had the opportunity to view various species in a more natural environment than what I have had the chance to see in the United States. My attitude toward how exotic animals are viewed and presented in the habitats we experienced has changed. Now that I have had the in person experiences I am able to make my own judgements. The animals that we encountered in more natural settings such as Kruger and the bush camp were all able to exhibit their natural behaviors. This was evident the most with the numerous elephants we came into contact with. When the elephants were unsure about our presence or decided they would prefer us not be there they would display behaviors such as lifting of one foot, putting their trunk over a tusk, shaking the head, and standing tall with their ears out. These are all behaviors that I had never seen an elephant in captivity do. However, as we discussed this doesn’t mean that the animals in captivity are any worse off just because they do not display these natural behaviors. After all, many of the behaviors I described above are displayed when an elephant is agitated. Therefore, you could infer that if an elephant in captivity doesn’t display these behaviors perhaps he is actually feeling more comfortable and safe in his environment than his wild counterpart. I believe that it is important for people to get to see these natural behaviors, but even more important for them to understand the context of them. Many people have probable at least seen a video of a lion roaring, but significantly less have heard the sound of a lion contact calling for other members of its pride.

The behaviors we witnessed and studied give me the ability to compare what I have seen in captive environments to a wild environment. There are many different benefits and harms that are associated with exotic animal management, welfare, and health in the observed habitats within and across South African and the United States. Many of the habitats observed in South Africa lean towards a more natural environment just enclosed by a fence. This is a benefit that South Africa has because it is the natural habitat for the exotic animals in question. Places like this include the national parks and private reserves. The large areas of land available in a large country allow for many of the facilities to cover hundreds or thousands of kilometers like the territory or home range of the animals would naturally do. This isn’t to say that smaller, less “natural” places don’t exist, as we saw with the rehab center and the endangered species center.

There are many negative views on exotic animal management in the United States. Many people with minimal knowledge about exotic animal welfare and behavior see an animal in a captive setting and automatically assume that they are worse off than their wild counterpart. However, as one of the articles we read on our trip said, and animals in a proper captive environment may only be missing their freedom to express natural behavior. In the United States most facilities have a zoo setting where they showcase the animals in a relatively small enclosure. Though these facilities have greatly improved over the years, there is still room for greater improvements to better the welfare of the animals. Some of the benefits of this for the animal’s welfare is that it tends to be a more hands on environment where if there is something wrong with an animal they will receive the best care they can get. As an example, while in Kruger we saw a few Impala who had been limping and appeared to be injured. If these were captive animals, they would have undergone an exam to determine what was wrong and if it could be healed. However, as animals within a hands of management zone, these antelopes were left alone to natures course of action. They are also going to have proper, though not necessarily natural, nutrition provided to them with minimal energy expenditure from the animal. Some might consider this a good thing, as animals in the wild spend a lot of time and energy feeding. When considering predators, this time and energy might not even lead to a meal, and could also lead to serious injury or death.

On the other hand, an animal in a wild environment may be able to express their natural behaviors but may not fulfil any of the other five freedoms of welfare such as freedom from hunger, thirst, injury and fear. With this in mind, one is left to think about which is more important from their own perspective. In my opinion, there is a tradeoff between both options.

This experience gave me a greater appreciation for the diversity, complexity, and value of alternative exotic animal management approaches on animals and their surroundings. I am excited to be able to share the knowledge I learned while abroad. I am unsure of where my future career will take me but I am excited for the opportunities that this experience has opened my eyes to. I am still looking to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. However, I hope to use what I have learned on my study abroad to better educate others in this field to have an understanding and an appreciation for a field that may not be within their area of interest.



Engineering Of Ancient Greece Relfection

For my STEP Signature Project, I enrolled in the Engineering of Ancient Greece, and traveled all across Greece and visited many historical sites. The first week of my class involved a lot of research and presentations regarding the sites we were going to see. The 12 days in country were spent flying, driving, and even ferry boating to many different cities and islands in Greece. We were able to tour most sites and visit a handful of museums.

I am a firm believer that in order to understand people of different cultures, one must travel and experience them firsthand. I think my assumptions of Greece were very different from what I actually experienced. We all think of Mama Mia when we picture those white houses and bright blue roofs. I can tell you that, Greece does not look like that overall. Greece is a beautiful country filled with farmland and dense cities. The warm and welcoming feeling of most of the people there was another aspect I was not expecting. I think after visiting Greece, I can say that I now have a better understanding of the country when people talk about it. Being able to interact with the locals was very fun and I really enjoyed learning their language and experiencing their life for a small amount of time.

Whenever a group of random strangers go aboard for 12 days together, you bet that group of people leaves that country as family. One of the most transformative things I think I am leaving this project with are the friendships and relationships I made with the people in the group. Trips like this make Ohio State feel a little smaller and I love when I can meet new people and be able to experience life with them. Even with the program leaders, I feel like I have been able to establish reliable connections with them and that I will be able to use them as resources for any questions I have going further in my academic and professional career. This trip would not have been as impactful or as transformative without all the people who made it amazing.

When going to another country, in order to really experience the culture, you have to be willing to dive in and be uncomfortable at times. I think a lot of students miss out on great opportunities because they are unable to sit in those uncomfortable feelings. For me, I have learned that if I want to get to know a culture and try new things, I have to be willing to jump in head first. No matter the language barrier, cultural differences, or mistakes I made I experienced Greece and its culture with full intention. I think this helped others when it came to try new things. Whether it be the weird colored food or speaking to a local trying to ask for money, I was able to show others that it was okay to experience new things. Interacting with the locals was definitely a highlight on my trip. I really enjoyed specifically meeting a lady who owned one of the restaurants we ate at in Samos. She was so welcoming and made her restaurant feel like home. Her endless suggestions and conversations were fruitful, and I really learned a lot about her and her culture from them. She is someone I definitely won’t forget when talking about this trip.

Coming home and looking at pictures and remembering the experiences I have had is so fun. I think the most surprising thing for me when we visited those sites was how old they were. The many pillars and slabs of marble we saw was endless but the history and significance behind them all was astounding. It amazed me that some of the pieces we were able to see were from the B.C. era. Being able to experience this really opened up my eyes to more history and significant times I don’t think about too often. In America, we focus a lot on American history and what happened in our most recent past. I have visited Boston and I was amazed there by the richness of their historical presence. But nothing could compare to all the stories Greece has that not many people know about. I am so happy I was able to go a learn a little bit more of the important history of our lives. I hope to return to learn more one day.

I think I chose this study abroad for its significance in my future endeavors. I have traveled and lived abroad in the past and every time I do, I feel like I am at home in a way. After college, I would love to use my engineering degree to work abroad and help those less fortunate than myself. I love experiencing new places and I love living and being with those with cultures that differ from own. This project has added another milestone for me and has allowed me to travel and experience yet another country. This trip proves to me that I have found something I love and I can’t wait to experience many more countries and use my knowledge learned at Ohio State across the globe.



STEP Study Abroad Reflection

For my STEP signature project, I studied abroad in Rome during the Spring 2019 semester. During my time abroad, I lived in an apartment with five other study abroad students in Garbatella, a small neighborhood in Rome, took four classes focusing mainly on Roman culture and history, explored the city with my new friends, and traveled all over Europe to learn about other European history and culture on the weekends.

Studying in Rome taught me a lot about a culture that is very different from my own. For example, Romans put a strong emphasis on buying locally grown and produced foods. While living in Rome, instead of going to the grocery store to buy food, I bought fruits and vegetables from the local markets in my neighborhood, and went to local bakeries to get my morning cappuccino. This not only led me to eat healthier, less-processed foods, but these practices also showed me how supporting the locals fosters community. The people who owned the vegetable market around the corner from me got to know me, and always greeted me as I walked past their store, even if I was not buying anything that day. I also made a friend at my neighborhood bakery. He taught me how to say different words in Italian, taught me about different foods that Italians eat during various holidays, and overall made me feel like a part of the Garbatella community.

These experiences that I had where I engaged with neighborhood shops really showed me how supporting the locals can create a strong community. In the United States, so many of our stores are chains, and we do not create relationships with the stores’ management teams and employees. I found it really special that in Rome, shopping locally was not only part of the culture, but helped people to create relationships with others around them. I would have never thought about this as a way to form a stronger community before going abroad, but I think that this is something important to creating a stronger community through shopping locally both in Rome and in the United States.

As stated before, I created relationships with people in the neighborhood that I lived in, as did the locals. One example of this was with my friend, Dennis, who worked in the local bakery. Dennis knew my order by heart: a cappuccino and a cannoli. Every time I went into the bakery, Dennis would make me order my food in Italian, and would teach me how to say a new word. He would also suggest new treats for me to try, and would give me the histories on the different foods that he sold. Eventually, I would go to Dennis to ask about the best restaurants in the area, where I should buy different products, and just about life in Rome in general. Dennis created relationships like this with a lot of his customers. I could see what a community there was between the employees and locals at his bakery.

Another place where I interacted with local storeowners was at the produce shop around the corner from my apartment. The man who worked in the store would hold my bag open for me as I picked out different fruits and vegetables. He would also tell me what products were the freshest, and would help me to pick out the best fruits and vegetables that he had. Eventually, he started to recognize me as I would walk by his shop, always greeting me with a big smile and a “ciao”. One evening, I was able to meet his three-year-old daughter, and she even tried checking me out at the end of my visit!

All of these experiences with the locals of Garbatella helped to transform my views of ways in which people can foster community. Before studying in Rome, when I thought about creating a community, I thought about events that our local park district held for my community, people taking their dogs to the local dog parks, and bringing cookies over to new neighbors’ houses. I had never before realized how shopping locally can create such a strong community, and can help people to create relationships with others.

This transformation of my views is going to be significant when it comes to my future career. I plan on becoming a therapist, and something important in keeping people happy is fostering social interactions. Shopping locally and engaging with local storeowners is a different way in which people can create a community for themselves. I will take these new views on creating a community with me throughout my future career and my life.

Florence, Italy Study Abroad

  1. For my STEP signature project, I studied in Florence, Italy for a semester. While in Italy I had the opportunity to learn more about Italian culture and immerse myself in their everyday lives.
  2. While studying abroad I learned and discovered many things about myself. Before going abroad, I already thought of myself as an independent person but going abroad made me even more independent. I started going out of my comfort zone and doing things I wouldn’t normally do back in the states. What made me step out of my comfort zone was the fact that I was studying abroad which is an experience not many people get to have. Being able to live across the world for an entire semester and travel to other countries is something that not many people can experience.


  1. While in Florence I started going out on my own and just exploring the city I was living in and what it had to offer. Being in a different country for a whole semester is different than being at college in the sense that you aren’t surrounded by people who speak the same language. I had to be more aware of my surroundings and where I was going when I left my apartment. While in Florence I attended a school called Accademia Italiana which is a fashion and arts school. Many of the students at this school were born and raised in Italy. Being able to interact with them during classes help me become more comfortable in the new city. They would give me recommendations of places to go that aren’t as well known to people who don’t live there.

During my time abroad I traveled to a different place almost every weekend. I traveled to many different places in Italy and also to different countries. When in these places I not only recognized how different life in that specific country was to America but also how much European countries can differ even though they’re so close to each other. In each city I visited they was also a lot of pride for the people who grew up and lived in that city. It made me miss my home back in America but also be grateful that I had the opportunity to experience many different cultures.

When I started planning that I wanted to go abroad I knew that I was only going to know a couple people in Florence. I know longer had my huge friend group around at all times like I do at school and at home. This caused me to have to step out of my comfort zone and make new friends that would end up becoming my best friends. Making these friends abroad was comforting because we were going through the same things while living in a new country and a different lifestyle. We talked about how we missed home but also never wanted to leave the city that we’d fallen in love with.

  1. This transformation was significant in my life because it allowed me to grow and mature as a person and prepare me for life after college. As I approach my senior year I’m faced with the reality that in a year I’ll no longer have college to look forward to once summer ends. I have to be a real person and adult. Being abroad has prepared me for whatever life throws at me after college. I now feel comfortable living in a new city and finding my way around without being scared. I’ve always wanted to travel and being abroad allowed me to do as much traveling in a semester as people get down in their whole lives.


STEP Reflection: Cusco, Peru Non-Profit Project

  1. My project was the Fisher Global Non-Profit Project in Cusco, Peru. This project was a 2 week trip where we consulted with a non-profit called CBC Tupay to help their mission of sustainable tourism.
  2. The transformation from my trip was two-fold. To begin, the work that I did before leaving for Peru helped me understand global business and the challenges of non-profits. There were several activities we did in the spring semester course where we researched the mission of the non-profits and I realized how different it is from other companies I have worked for. I learned a lot by getting creative to help missions relating to helping communities and native people rather than trying to maximize profit.

The second part of my transformation happened when I got into the country. The main thing I learned is that some things you can’t plan for. I was ready to spend 2 weeks in Peru and learn a lot, but instead I got extremely sick and spent 4 days in the hospital and had to go back to the U.S.


  1. For the first transformation that happened before I left for the trip, I reached this realization from the class that I took spring semester. In this class, we did research on the makeup of non-profits and the mission of the ones we were paired with. By understanding these missions, my team and I were able to get in the right mindset and transform our thinking to help the non-profit.

Additionally, the interaction with our clients prior to the trip helped us realize the mission of our work. Every week during the end of the spring semester, my team had a skype call with our clients from CBC Tupay. These calls not only helped us understand the project scope and what they wanted from us, but it also taught us communication skills. The clients we spoke to didn’t speak English and none of us spoke Spanish so we had to rethink how to communicate with each other which helped increase our creativity.

Lastly, to lead to the transformation and lesson I learned in Peru, I learned this from my time spent in the Peru hospital. I had to communicate with the nurses and doctors who mostly spoke Spanish. This was incredibly hard and I was lost for 4 days as they continued to run tests and give me medication I didn’t know. What I thought would be a great trip turned into the worst week of my life, something I couldn’t plan for. Now, I will recognize that as I go into any trip in the future.


  1. The first change is valuable in my life because as a person going into the field of business, it is crucial to understand the company’s mission. From this experience and transformation, I know that I will be able to do so even in different situations like for a non-profit.

The second change is valuable because now I know going into uncertain situations that things you don’t plan for can happen. Additionally, this terrible experience of having to be evacuated from a country has made me grateful for the times when I was healthy and could understand people treating me. As I am writing this, I am still recovering from the infection I caught and dealing with hospital bills from Peru and the U.S. So this lesson is one that I will take with me and understand that for upcoming trips I go on anything can happen.

STEP Reflection: Literary Locations-Rome

For my STEP Signature Project, I participated in the Literary Locations Education Abroad program. For spring semester, I took a 3-credit hour course with a focus on Rome through literature, film, and television. The class concluded with an 11 day trip to Rome in May, giving me the opportunity to fully immerse myself in Roman history and culture.

This was my first time spending more than a few days abroad and it was also my first abroad trip without family. I was amazed by how similar yet different Italian culture was to America. Having the opportunity to explore Rome with both the class and in free time allowed me to develop a multi-layered view of the city. I realized how human connection can truly bond people. I expect to feel very uncomfortable in such a foreign location, but the kindness of people, especially the Italians, was beyond my expectations. I learned that spending time in other people’s culture can teach you a lot about yourself. Personally, I learned that not everything has to be so hurried and it is important to appreciate your surroundings.

One of the most memorable moments of my STEP Signature Project was the first dinner I had without the large group. I was incredibly nervous to venture out into the city on my own because I was definitely outside of my comfort zone. Me and my roommate decided to walk around and find a place to eat. We found this adorable Italian restaurant, but it was very authentic Italian. Walking in, I felt like people were judging me because my “American-ness” was extremely noticeable. As soon as we sat down, the waitress approached us and was honestly the sweetest person ever. She took the time to go over the Italian menu with us and ensured we had an incredible meal. It felt so nice to be welcomed with open arms in a new country and it really showed me how a little kindness can go along way.

Another interaction that led to my transformation was the tour guide we had for the trip, Daniella. She was the most knowledgeable and kind-hearted person I have ever met. She was with us many of the days, especially when we were visiting museums, churches, and other historical sites. As a tour guide, I’m sure she deals with too many tourists, yet she took the time to make sure we were having the best experience. Also, when she was guiding us around Rome, she would pause and explain everything about a sculpture or a painting which added so much culture and knowledge to the trip. Daniella was the one who truly taught me to spend time appreciating what is around you. Normally, I would look at a painting fast and move on, but with Daniella, I was able to learn so much more and learned to take my time to “smell the roses.”

This change is important to my life because I am incredibly fast-paced and busy. I am a very involved kid at Ohio State, between classes, work, and student organizations. My time in Rome has taught me that hurrying along in life will lead to me missing important moments. In the future, I plan on taking more time to appreciate important moments. For example, I will be interning with Disney for 7 months and during that time, I plan on soaking up every moment and trying to make the most of my time there.