- My STEP Signature Project was the World War II Study Abroad Program. This program was designed to teach me about the deeper motives and meanings regarding the Second World War. Through this program, I gained a new perspective about the world. The main activities of this program included traveling to the international cities of London, Paris, and Berlin, and visiting countless museums and sites along the way.
- My whole view of the world changed after I completed my STEP Signature Project. I never had the urge to travel before, but this program pushed me to do so. I learned so much about new cultures, languages, and people as a result of this trip, and I could not be more grateful. I discovered that most people around the world have more in common than they think, and it is when they are exposed to each other that they realize it.
- I also became much more independent because of this journey. I realized that the world is a much more smaller place if you put in the effort to make it that way. I became much more reliant on myself, and gained much more self-confidence. I truly believe that this journey helped me transition from a boy to a man.
- Many interactions, relationships, and activities all contributed to the change and transformation that I encountered during my STEP Signature Project. Having never traveled outside the United States before, I quickly became familiar with different languages, people, and cultures as I traveled throughout Europe.
- I found myself using my limited knowledge of the French language in my journey through France. Despite this, I learned that most citizens of the various countries I visited spoke English. This made me realize that if Americans want to become bilingual on a national scale, that we need to start teaching foreign languages young age.
- I also learned of the different perspectives surrounding the Second World War in the different nations I visited. The United Kingdom claims a view of a peoples’ war, in which all of the country was united and participated in the struggle. France maintains a sentiment of resistance, that despite the German occupation, they countered it throughout their nation. Poland asserts illegality surrounding their part in the Holocaust, and chooses to highlight their national victimhood throughout the Second World War.
- This transformation is significant to my life because it opened my mind and broadened my horizons to the world. Coming from a small town in rural Ohio, almost all of my friends do not have this same opportunity that I do. It is through this project that I was able to experience new ideas and people that I can use to try to understand the complexities of people throughout the world.
- I am trying to enter the business world after graduation, and the business world is an international one. I can use my experience of my STEP Signature Project to try and better grasp where people come from and understand the experiences and circumstances that they went through.
The leadership adventure in Australia and New Zealand featured a month straight of no-stop activities in some of the most beautiful areas in the world. Activities ranged from exploring cities, all day hikes, and kayaking to skydiving, white water rafting and surfing. Aside from the numerous activities each member of the group had the opportunity to lead the entire group through the day with guidance from the trip leaders.
The largest transformation I saw in myself while completing this experience is that I saw what I am capable of doing when I put my mind to it. Throughout the trip I found myself in unfamiliar situations whether it was being half way around the world or doing something I never had before and with each new situation I felt more and more confident in myself. I started to see myself take more risks and jump up to leadership roles that I would not have taken on before. I also began making choices that would take me out of my comfort zone and with each choice I realized that the anticipation of something scary or unknown was by far worse than actually completing the task.
One of the main goals of the trip was to learn about leadership, to accomplish this each day there were two leaders of the day. The day I was bestowed the honor was our second day of full day hiking in the Blue Mountains world heritage area. I have led similar trip before with my job at school but never in a foreign country. This was the first of many events that led to my transformation. As we approached the end of our walk, after walking for the past 6 hours, the trail we needed to get on was unexpectedly closed. To get around this the other leader of the day and I sat down and looked at the map to find ways around the closure. We eventually found away around the closure and we were back on track. Overcoming this obstacle and getting the entire group to the end before dark, something which has been rarely done in past trips, gave me confidence in myself as a leader and a problem solver. This set the stage for me decisions for my free day activities.
Over the course of the trip we had two free days that allowed us to choose our activities for the day, one in Cairns, Australia and the other in Queenstown, New Zealand. For my first free day I choose to skydive and for the second I choose to do a canyon swing. Before this the most extreme thing I have done was ride a roller-coaster, but I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. Each jump taught me that the anticipation is scarier than free falling. Not only did both activities increase my confidence but made me realize that if I get out of my head and stop worrying then I’ll be able to accomplish some amazing things.
Each day was packed to the brim with activities. The days started early and ended late, but even after a month of non-stop action I didn’t get tired of it which is something I didn’t think was possible. I though towards the end I would be ready to go but, in reality, I wish I was still there doing something new and mind-blowing each day. This made me think about how I structure my days when I am back at school and how much more I can get out of my day with the proper planning and motivation. This whole experience, the people I met, the activities I got to do, transformed my idea of what I want an average day to look like, to feel like.
I believe to be successful you must be more than just intelligent, you have to be confident in yourself, take risks and maximize the potential of each day. These are three things that I took away from the trip as well. Having self confidence will help throughout my life not only to make me successful but also fulfilled. In school it will lead to participating more in class with professors and peers, and taking a leadership role in group projects. Taking risks will help me achieve my future goal by allowing me to go after job opportunities and promotions. Lastly getting the most out of my day will help improve every aspect of my life from being more productive at work, and in school, and a more fulfilled life.
My project includes studying abroad in Rwanda during the May semester of 2019. The Genocide and Its Aftermath in Rwanda education abroad program takes place in various locations in Kigali. The sites visited will all me to study the origin of the genocide and understand the current state of Rwanda.
My study aboard in Rwanda was a life changing experience for many reasons. When deciding to go to Rwanda I viewed myself as someone well informed on the world. I had taken a history course on African countries and learned a lot about Rwanda. This along with my African and African American studies classes gave me the assumption I knew how colonialism had shaped East Africa. After just a few days in Rwanda I found myself experiencing and learning things my text books hadn’t covered.
When visiting, Never Again Rwanda a peace building and social justice non-governmental organization reconciliation was discussed and explained . There are levels of reconciliation. The estimated level by the government is 95% but many have a different perspective. The government looks at reconciliation on a macro level resulting in 95%. Never Again Rwanda focuses on the micro level and how individuals interact with each other. One’s behavior in the market is different than in their home with their family. Micro level reconciliation emphasizes trust, tolerance and empathy. Through the peace keeping initiatives there are internships and summer opportunities offered at Never Again Rwanda for young adults to help reconciliation at the micro-level.
In addition to further learning about reconciliation I had the privileged to meet the youngest senator of Rwanda and chairperson of ITORERO Commission speak. He shared his experience of growing up during the genocide. As someone of a Hutu background he struggled originally to share his story but today is open. He believes with the work being done today Rwanda can move forward and heal as one. His ability to forgive is one of many examples of Rwanda’s progress.
Lastly, the experience of staying with a host family taught me about community, resilience and forgiveness. My host mother and her siblings were survivors of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide against the Tutsi. While with her family I had the opportunity to hear firsthand accounts of the events and partake in a walk to remember. The community’s ability to forgive and rebuild was something I had never seen. Throughout Rwanda the acknowledgement of their past mistakes and ability to reconcile is displayed. Reconciliation is not perfect but progress in the right direction. Their approach to rebuilding is not one applicable to every county but they hope to be an example for countries such as Sudan, Somalia and the global community.
My experience in Rwanda will forever impact my perspective and outlook on the international community. As a future healthcare provider I will interact with people from all different walks of life. When interacting with various ethnic backgrounds I will not communicate from a level of superiority but from a place of openness. I will utilize my cultural relativism to hear their concerns and wishes.
For my STEP signature project, I went on the Kobe Shoin Study Abroad program, a 3-week program intended to teach students about Japanese culture, help improve their language skills, and give them a chance to delve into one specific topic through a research project, in order to learn more about Japanese society and values. In addition to the research project, the program also comprised of a service-learning component, where OSU students helped Shoin students practice English.
Prior to my STEP signature project, I had never traveled abroad alone for more than a week. I always knew that I was independent but this trip helped me realize that I was capable of adapting to new environments more than I thought. Even though I’m not fluent in Japanese, I grew confident in my communication skills and was able to navigate myself in Japan. Despite the differences in lifestyle, diet, and values, I was able to learn about them and connect with the many people I met over the course of my trip. I also grew more independent, paying more attention to how I spent my money and better planning out my days. In addition to growing more adaptable and responsible, I also learned more about myself through studying abroad. One big thing I discovered about myself was that I enjoyed teaching. Before studying abroad, I seldom interacted with kids and didn’t think I would like teaching. When I did my homestay, my host mother, who was an English teacher, gave me the opportunity to teach kids aged from 3 years to 13 years. At first, I was a little apprehensive because I’m usually not great with how to interact with children but slowly, I grew more comfortable and started having fun. I found that teaching came naturally to me and I was even able to connect with some of the kids, even though I only interacted with them for a short time. If I didn’t have the opportunity to help my host mother with teaching, I would’ve never discovered my new interest in teaching.
Participating in this study abroad, I gained a new appreciation and understanding of the world around me. During the last few days of my study abroad, I took some time to reflect back on my experience, realizing just how much I learned about Japan in those past three weeks. Even though I’ve been studying the language and the culture for close to eight years and having been to Japan once in the past, I was happily surprised to find that there were still lots to learn. With that in mind, I found that I learned something new every day, no matter how small or normal it seemed. I was joyful to find that there is so much more for me to learn about, in Japan alone. During my stay in Kobe, I was able to meet a diverse group of people. Each person came from a different background and had their own story to tell. I was thrilled to learn more about their travels, dreams, and passions. By interacting with different kinds of people, I was exposed to multitudes of different outlooks on the world. I realized that my learning about how other people viewed the world, one can also learn about what forces in their life influenced that view, whether it be the environment someone grew in or the cultural values one believes in. My outlook on the world also changed as a result of learning about others’ perspectives and from my own experiences. I realized that my perspective on the world will always be changing and by learning through my own experiences and those of others, I can slowly gain a better understanding of the world.
As part of our program, we were each paired up with an LP, or language partner, on the first day. A language partner’s main goal is to help you get better at speaking Japanese and teach you more about Japan. My language partner, Kana, taught me different things about Japan and explained some cultural norms I didn’t know about, such as about Kansai-ben (the dialect spoken in the Kansai area by Kobe and Osaka). She also introduced me to different foods and cultural landmarks in Japan. For example, she took me to Himeji Castle, one of Japan’s first world heritage sites. She also exposed me to kaidan-zushi, a type of sushi restaurant where sushi is circulated on top of a conveyor belt of sorts. Kana also helped me improve my Japanese tremendously. When I didn’t know a word or made a mistake, she would correct me and would even explain certain grammar points extensively if I wanted. More importantly, from my interactions with her, I grew confident and comfortable with speaking in Japanese. Speaking Japanese every day slowly became the norm and I improved my Japanese immensely. Lastly, I was able to connect with Kana on a deeper level, something I didn’t expect. I was elated to find that we were able to become good friends despite the slight language barrier and the differences in our cultures. It made me more curious to keep learning and connecting with people that I met during the course of my study abroad.
Another component of our program was a weekend-long homestay. My homestay was located about 45 minutes outside of Kobe, in a city called Akashi City, which is famous for their special takoyaki (a ball-shaped dish with octopus inside). My host family has experience with hosting exchange students in the past and is well traveled. My host mother, who is an English teacher and a home-tutor, invited me to assist with her English lessons. The first student I helped tutor was a 7th grader named Aoi. Even though it was a little shaky in the beginning, we were able to communicate by using both English and Japanese. If there were things neither of us knew how to explain, we even drew pictures to make it more fun. The two of us talked about our interests and I described the aspects of living in America that she was interested in learning more about. That evening, I realized that I really enjoyed teaching and the fact that it was teaching a foreign language made it more fun. The next day, my host mother took me to her school, where I taught kids aged 2-8 new words in English. After the class, the kids came up to me and happily thanked me. It made me realize how gratifying it is to teach because even though it was only one class, I felt like I made a difference in the kids’ lives, no matter how small it was. Talking to my host mother more, I started to like the idea of teaching in the future. I had originally thought that I was meant to work in the corporate and nonprofit business sector and working in an education institution had never even crossed my mind. After my homestay, I realized that what I plan to do in the future can be ever changing and by keeping my mind open, I may be able to find something that truly connects with me.
Due to my STEP signature project, my view on the world has also changed. As part of my study abroad program, I conducted a research project analyzing Kobe-kei fashion, a fashion style born and cultivated in the city of Kobe. As part of the project, I interviewed a variety of different students, including those studying to be English teachers and those studying to be fashion designers. I noticed that even though both groups generally supplied different answers to my questions, there were lots of diverse answers within each group. Analyzing each of these different answers, I was able to find that the reason they wore their fashion were for different reasons. I had originally thought that the fashion in the area was influenced by foreign influence and expected the answers to be similar, more or less. But what I found from my project was that Kobe-kei had a different meaning to different people and it was very hard to describe the art form, especially since fashion trends change from one year to the next. By learning from others’ perspectives, I was better able to find my own definition for Kobe-kei fashion while learning more about the cultural values of the Japanese people. I found it interesting that I was able to learn a lot about a peoples’ culture just by analyzing what they wore and why. With that in mind, my view on the world grew wider. I found that culture is not only defined through general customs, food, and history, but also such things such as art and fashion.
Lastly, the program was designed where we had free time after our daily morning classes and activities. During this time, I had time to explore Kobe at my own pace. Because I wasn’t familiar with how some things worked in Japan, such as their train system, this free time was when I familiarized myself with such things. Because of the hands off approach by my teacher and the fact that my parents weren’t with me, I had the freedom to explore on my own and learn something new through my own experience. Towards the end of the trip, I felt like I could actually live in Japan as a resident rather than a tourist.
These changes and transformations are valuable to me because it has helped me grow as a person. I now have a better understanding of how to live in other countries and how to adapt to my surroundings independently. I have always wanted to work in a career that would enable me to travel often, such as consulting. Because of my interest and focus in Japanese, I knew I wanted to live in Japan in the future. Through my transformative experience in Japan, I now have a better understanding of Japan and better control over the Japanese language, confident that I’ll be able to live and thrive in Japan. Furthermore, I’ve also gained a deeper understanding of how to interact with different people, especially if there is a language barrier. Lastly, thinking back on it, I realized that one of the biggest reasons I chose to do a study abroad for my STEP signature project was because I wanted to be immersed in a different culture and learn about it first-hand, rather than just reading about it. I believe that I achieved this during the course of my program. The biggest transformation of studying abroad was my newfound interest in teaching. It wasn’t something I thought about seriously as something I wanted to do in the future but being exposed to it, I can now see myself teaching in the future.
My project involved studying abroad in France during the 2019 Spring semester. I attended the Institut Catholique de Paris. I took French course work to improve my knowledge and speaking skills of the language. This program will help me obtain my goal of a minor in the French language.
This study abroad was definitely very personally challenging. I went to a foreign country without knowing a single soul. My speaking skills were very average, and I had no idea how to get around or what was in store for me for the next 4 months. I knew I would just have to take every day step by step and figure things out by myself and most of all, be patient. I had to be patient with myself, patient with the new French culture, and patient with the French people that I encountered. I learned to embrace the differences between our cultures and make it more about a learning experience. This helped me learn not only new things about France but also about myself. I was able to experience cultures that were completely different from mine and I gained a new appreciation of all of the differences that exist in the world.
Probably the thing that led to the most transformation in myself were the relationships that I had while in France. The people that I met were definitely the most meaningful part of my journey that will have the longest impact on me. I lived with a host family and was a very interesting experience. I was so very lucky to have such an amazing host family that genuinely cared for me. The family was quite large so it definitely got a little chaotic at times but I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
I had an amazing host mom that was always there for me and truly wanted to get to know me. She had five children from the ages of 15 to 25. The oldest daughter also had two kids of her own that were 1 and 2 years old. So there was always something going on at the apartment. Luckily I did have my own room so I go there to relax or have some alone time. I can definitely say I had a “real” french experience and immersed myself into the culture.
Also in the apartment was another exchange student from Switzerland. She was my age and we immediately became best friends. She is someone I am extremely grateful for meeting and I am confident that we will stay friends for life. We did so many things together and she would meet my American friends and then some days I would go out and hang out with her and all her Swiss friends. It was really cool being so close to someone from a different culture because we both got to learn so many new things about each other and about the others culture and way of life.
This project was extremely transformative for me. I am coming back from this semester with a whole new world view. I wouldn’t say I am a completely different person, but I am definitely a better version of myself. I see myself differently, I see others differently, and most importantly my mind thinks differently. I am able to view things from different angles and perspectives to be able to be more open-minded and considerate. I also am close to fluent in the French language and can converse with any French person. I will feel more confident in my future French classes as I am finishing my minor.
My STEP Signature Project consisted of an Education Abroad to various cities and countries in Europe that were related to World War II. We visited many museums, cemeteries, and historical sites in each country and wrote blogs about what we saw and experienced in that particular country. In addition to the blog posts, we also presented a site report on a predetermined topic that was our specialization for the trip.
My STEP Signature Project was truly a life-changing experience. I learned so much about myself, the countries I visited, the people and culture of those countries and the topic of WWII. Coming into this trip I was skeptical about making new friends, trying new things, navigating foreign countries and still keeping up with the assignments. Since this was my first time abroad there were obviously many anxieties and unknowns coming into the trip, but in an odd way that almost made it better. My first time on an airplane was because of this trip, my first passport stamp was because of this trip, it was my first time on a ferry, on the subway, on an overnight train; so many firsts were made on this trip. I became more confident in myself, I am no longer scared to ask questions, ask for directions and to try out my German-speaking skills with the locals. I became more inclined to take (reasonable) risks, go on adventures and stray away from my introverted ways.
Since this was a trip of many firsts, there were many things on this Education Abroad that impacted me. One was when I touched the ocean for the first time in Bayeux, France. It was such a surreal moment for me, the only beach I had ever stepped foot on was by Lake Erie but never a beach on the ocean. I was so excited to finally experience what a real beach felt like, but my excitement was extremely short-lived. The first beach I stepped foot on was Gold Beach, the place where so many Allied soldiers died in WWII while storming the beaches of Normandy. It was hard to process the excitement of the ocean along with the stunning reality that this was the very spot that so many lost their lives. It made me appreciate this experience so much more, that a huge first for me was shared with honoring those we lost in WWII.
A second experience that impacted me was missing my flight back to the United States following our Study Abroad journey. It took 4 hours on 2 different trains and an hour-long bus ride to get to the Milan airport from the small coastal town my comrades and I were staying at in Italy. I made the journey alone beginning at 6:00 am that morning. I had to handle navigating my way to the airport while still trying to maintain my composure after realizing I would definitely not be making my flight home after my train was delayed. I arrived at the airport at 11:15 am, the time that my flight was scheduled for departure. I soon found the airline desk and was helped to be put on a standby flight for the following morning to the United States. I was alone in an airport, in a foreign country, surrounded by a language I had absolutely no experience with for over 20+ hours waiting for my flight. While it was extremely tough and there were many a tear shed, I made it on the flight the following morning and back home the next day. Had this happened at the beginning of my Education Abroad, I don’t know what I would’ve done. The confidence in myself, the ability to not be afraid to ask questions, and increased independence I had gained during this trip allowed me to basically survive a night in the airport. None of that would’ve been possible without this study abroad.
This transformation will stick with me for the rest of my life. I would agree that traveling does indeed change a person in so many ways. The knowledge and experiences I gained on this trip will help me continue to understand other cultures and ways of life outside the United States. The confidence and love for adventure I’ve obtained will help me in my future career endeavors and overall growth as a person. Coming out of my shell and doing things I would’ve never thought of doing seems like such a simple thing but has honestly changed my life. I cannot wait to continue to enjoy the unknowns, rather than fear them, and to welcome new adventures, instead of turning them down. All of this was made possible with the help of my STEP fellowship assisting me in financing my U.S., Europe and the Second World War Education Abroad.
For my STEP signature project, I decided to embark on a month-long tour of England, France, Poland, and Germany with the Ohio State History Department’s World War II Study Program. I was fortunate to have experienced this amazing trip along with 23 other students and two professors from the history department, Professor Steigerwald and Professor Breyfogle. I am grateful I was able to meet these new buckeyes while studying the legacy of WWII in London, Normandy, Paris, Krakow, and Berlin during a whirlwind month of travel.
This experience taught me a lot about myself and the world I live in. I learned about various different languages and cultures and enjoyed being immersed in so many different countries throughout the trip. The structured aspects of the trip were fun and informative. They allowed my fellow students and me to better understand the history and legacy of World War II in Europe, as told by the people who lived through it and their descendants. The unplanned parts of the trip were educational as well. This free time allowed us to gain the cultural and social experiences that we wanted to, and it was enjoyable to explore different cities and countries by trying new foods and talking to locals about everyday life.
Living in Europe for a month was personally challenging and exciting in addition to learning about European nations and the people that inhabit them, I found out a lot about myself and grew as a person during the trip. I worked on becoming more comfortable in situations that I did not fully control or understand. It became easier with practice to ask for help when I needed it because I was in a foreign country and likely didn’t speak the nation’s primary language. I also gained leadership experience by helping students who had less travel experience to get around punctually and safely while still making sure to step outside our comfort zone and make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
There were plenty of specific events that helped my personal transformation and improved understanding of the world come about. The most obvious point of the trip was that we visited five cities across four countries in less than four weeks. The travelling itself was hard and taught me and many others how to persevere despite exhaustion and inevitable but unpredictable setbacks. It also taught me that I dislike traveling in large groups, which is useful information for the future. The opportunity to study the past by experiencing the present is something I will never forget, and it made all the early mornings and scrambling to catch flights worth it.
As a student of history, it was thrilling to get to see many of the places that were directly impacted by WWII, as I have been studying the conflict for much of my life, and especially during the past two years at Ohio State. The differing viewpoints of the war were interesting to note from country to country. It was totally different to read about the war in museums in London, Normandy, Krakow, and Berlin, especially compared with the American memory of the war. It also was exciting for me to compare the different museums for content as well as form, as I have some experience with public history work and museum design. I enjoyed being able to contrast displays and information from museum to museum to try and decipher the exact, sometimes conflicting messages that they were trying to send visitors. Leaving planned group time allowed for a lot of learning outside of museums as well.
Taking time to explore each city individually and as small groups helped me to be more comfortable in my ability to travel and lead while still enjoying myself. It was fun to navigate foreign countries with just a few friends and visit some of the most renowned museums in the world, like the British Museum or the Louvre, as well as some of the local treats, like the small pierogi stand we visited a couple days in a row in Krakow. Talking with my fellow students about international politics and social contexts from country to country, as well as pop culture and local cuisine, made it easy to bond with and enjoy some of the smartest and most accomplished people I have met during my time at Ohio State. Balancing people from various backgrounds with sometimes clashing personalities was not always easy, but I learned a lot from simply interacting with everyone and trying to navigate these situations, and I think most other students did as well.
Adapting to new surroundings every few days was challenging but incredibly rewarding during this trip. As a student who is passionate about history, it was incredible to learn about the war from the people who lived it through museums and tours. It was also amazing to visit such world class cities and experience the day-to-day life of the locals when we had the chance to wander on our own. My personal and professional growth, by learning to ask for help and being willing and able to help others, will greatly benefit me in future situations, and this trip provided the perfect opportunity to exercise those skills. I am grateful that I was able to help and watch my comrades grow throughout this trip, as they helped me to develop myself.
During my study abroad trip to France and Morocco, I explored the different cultures and communities of both countries and the influence France has all over North Africa as a result of French colonization. I visited mosques, museums, cathedrals, villages to grasp the historical presence of the different cultures that has engulfed France over the years. We studied Islam and how it is perceived and viewed in France and how laws are enforced on the dressing of the religion and the Muslim community feels about it.
After visiting both France and Morocco, I can say I feel more understanding to other cultures when they move to a country that may not accept them at first and having to find their voice. I know it happens here in America but as an outsider in France I was able to see it clearly and it was hard to watch. I put myself in situations where I usually wouldn’t anywhere else and I’m glad I did because I learned many things about who I am but also about the people of the cities we visited and the country. I have to say to say that I now see the world in a bigger way because after traveling from city to city in both countries I couldn’t help but notice how much more there is to the these countries and to the world itself. I know it’s strange to think about but it’s a different reality that hits you when you notice it. I didn’t go into this trip with many assumptions besides the fact that French people would find us annoying as Americans because we can be loud and maybe “obnoxious” but that’s all I came in with. I wanted to be as open as possible for France and especially Morocco because I haven’t heard a lot of things about it until recently.
One interaction that led to a change was my experience with my host family in France. I got to spend 4 days with them and figure out a way to communicate with them with. We learned about their families and how they’ve been hosting families for years from all over the world. We had dinner with them every night and told them about our day and it felt like a real family experience. They treated us like they’ve known us all our lives and I never felt that from anyone other than my actual family and it was an amazing feeling.
This change was significant because it taught me that no matter what people are capable of accepting anyone no matter where they come from, there is no excuse. I learned that sometimes it’s okay to step out of your comfort zone especially when you’re in an environment, living with complete strangers who you may have trouble communicating with because of language barrier. I also felt that I transformed into a person who understands herself better on her own. I feel more independent and in control of my life and with the way I live in the world. I changed in a way that benefits my culture, in the sense that I am more appreciative of my background and culture and more in touch with my faith and other faiths as well. Seeing how everyone in Morocco respected their culture and abided by their religious holiday, showed me that I should be more involved in my Ethiopian heritage and religion as well.
I believe this experience has given more thought into what I want to do in the future. I’ve been back and forth with nursing and counseling psychology, but generally I just want to be in a field where I am helping people. During this trip, I saw everyone being generous and helpful to loved ones, even strangers like myself. I want to use my interpersonal experiences with my host family, people from the markets, and tour guides for my career. I learned many cultural norms that I could attribute to either my nursing or psychology path. I also want to go back to Morocco to do research if I decide to go onto my counseling psychology path to analyze mental health.
For my STEP Signature Project, I fulfilled a dream that I’ve had for many years of my life by completing a semester abroad in Milan, Italy through the Fisher Undergraduate Student Exchange program. Through this program, I had the opportunity to spend 4 months as a full-time student at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi – one of the more renowned universities in Europe.
As a student, I enrolled in four courses; two business classes that transferred directly back to my OSU coursework, one History class, and an Art class – in Italian. In addition to the studious side of my semester, I was accepted to join 180 Degrees Consulting, a Milan-based consulting branch focusing on social enterprises and non-profits. Alongside, I was able to travel extensively throughout Italy and other European countries including Spain, France, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Austria, and Switzerland.
Although I was originally born in Caracas, Venezuela, my grandparents were fully Italian. Throughout my childhood, my grandfather would speak to me in Italian in hopes that I grasped enough of the language to carry a conversation with him. Despite attempting as best I could, I focused on my first language, Spanish, and developing my English when I moved to the U.S. Since I was young, I set a goal in life to become fluent in Italian, that way I could fulfill my grandpa’s dream of integrating his life and culture into his family; and also add a third language to my toolbox. It was my central motivation in studying abroad and the reason I selected Milan, Italy as my destination. Sadly, my grandfather passed away a few months before my study abroad, and although I was not able to fulfill his dream of speaking in Italian together, this lit a fire in me to study whatever it takes to become fluent. Living like a local in the streets of Milan gave me the most optimal opportunity to dive into the language, culture, and traditions of an authentic Italian citizen.
Throughout the semester I made it my mission to speak Italian as much as I could by practicing it at local cafes every morning, asking for recommendations from locals on the streets, and even taking a full course on The Theories of Renaissance Art in full Italian language. This class, while intriguing and informational, was immensely challenging, as the Professor sped through historical concepts and intricate theories of art, to a class of 90% Art Majors; and four American students hoping to understand the concepts he was explaining. Despite the difficulty of the class, I was able to grasp so much vocabulary and truly enhance my speaking abilities through this class. By the end of the four months, I felt extremely confident saying that I was fluent in Italian. To my grandfather, I hope he is proud of me for the strides I took in learning his language, and for myself, I transformed my dreams into reality, and learned that even the complexity of learning a new language in four months can be accomplished with drive, a lot of hard work, and numerous embarrassing moments of messing up in front of natives.
During my adventures in Milan, I encountered various people who were crucial in helping me complete my goals and enjoy my experience. While many of them were unaware of my aspirations, I met countless Italian students who were willing to tutor me, practice speaking skills with me, and provide resources to accomplish my dream. There is no way that I will be able to fully thank every person that I met on this trip for their immense impact on my life. My language exchange partner, Claudia, my consulting team at 180 Degrees, the owner of the café adjacent to my apartment, Carmen, the doorman of my apartment, Javier, my fitness trainers, Giorgio and Arianna, the cashier at my favorite Dim Sum restaurant, Sara, and the owner of the Gelateria on my street, Marcella, are individuals who have created such a deep impact in my life and truly changed the way I view the world, the way I create relationships, and of course – the language that I speak! Alongside, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting friends from every corner of the globe. I am so grateful that if I ever travel to any continent around the world, I have a friend that I can send a message to, to catch up or show me around. Finally, I could not have completed this trip in the first place if it weren’t for my two study abroad partners from Ohio State. I was so fortunate to meet them on this trip and become such close friends.
Of course, I cannot only mention the best moments of this trip without including the difficult experiences as well. Although we were prepared for the worst going into the program, we still experienced many difficult, uncomfortable, and scary situations. As we traveled almost each weekend, we experienced our fair share of scary transportation moments, we had friends who had their wallets, passports, and phones stolen and even had to pay the price of making bad decisions – no literally, my friend and I had to pay for a $150 taxi because we missed the last bus home. However, all of these experiences built into the transformative lessons that we learned while abroad. They taught us that living outside of our comfort zone for four months requires preparation, communication skills, and a calm and collected attitude when the worst happens.
In the end, this experience was transformative in several ways. Key changes to note include feeling confident listing myself as “trilingual”, successfully completing my classes abroad, traveling to 10 countries and over 18 cities around Europe, completing a week-long solo trip with just one backpack through 5 countries, crossing off “snowboarding through the Swiss Alps” from my bucket list (with the added bonus of the beautiful view of Matterhorn and the ability to snowboard across Switzerland into Italy), met people from around the globe, realized I could live and work abroad successfully, and best of all: learned that success does not create happiness but instead the joy and happiness in your life fosters success – okay maybe that was cheesy, but it’s true, enjoying the little things in life is a virtue. I plan to return to Milan one day, and hope that I can call it home for many years to come.
Grazie mille Milano, mi mancherai !!
For my STEP Signature Project, I did an Education Abroad trip to Japan that focused on public health issues in the country. With a group of students from Ohio State I traveled to 6 cities in Japan and learned about the unique issues affecting each of the cities.
This trip changed the way I view disasters, both natural and manmade. From a classroom far away from a disaster it is easy to oversimplify an issue instead of learning from it. After visiting many communities that have been impacted by earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear fallout, and contaminated water among other issues, taught me to think about the impact of these events in a holistic way that considers not just the physical damages but the emotional consequences.
This trip allowed me to view the United States as an outsider and consider issues we face in this country from another perspective. It was interesting seeing the issues that both the United States and Japan face and how each country is handling these issues. It was interesting seeing how geography and history play a part in the economic and social policy decisions made in both countries. Through the conversations I had with locals in Japan I learned how their beliefs influenced their policies, and I realized how my beliefs were tied to the policies we have in the United States.
The first city we visited outside of Tokyo was Fukushima, which was badly hit by the earthquake and tsunami which caused a meltdown at the nearby nuclear plant. Due to the damage at the nuclear plant people living in the surrounding area are not allowed to return to their homes. Even though the earthquake and tsunami happened over 5 years ago, since no one lives in the area no efforts have been done to revitalize the area. Being able to see with my own eyes the damages of the combined earthquake and tsunami was very impactful. There is no way I could have understood the scope of natural disasters the same way from a classroom.
Another city we visited early in the trip was Toyama, where we learned about Itai-Itai disease and what the community learned from it. At the Itai-Itai disease museum we learned that the disease was caused by cadmium poisoning in their water supply that they also used to irrigate the rice fields. The cadmium got into the water supply from a mine upstream. The cadmium poisoning caused victims bones to become extremely brittle. Itai-Itai disease translates to “it hurts-it hurts”, because that’s what the victims would constantly repeat. As disease progressed even the weight of a blanket could cause bones to fracture. This disease was a large burden of on both the victims and their families that took care of them. It also created stigma against the community for many years to come out of fear of the disease. This has influenced the politics in Toyama to this day. The community has a strong commitment to protecting the environment, and citizens make regular visits to the mine to make sure it is taking precautions to protect the environment from contamination. The families of survivors make sure that history is not repeated in Japan.
On the final day of the trip we visited Ookawa and heard from a father who lost his child when a tsunami hit her elementary school. This is another example of the power of the survivors of tragedy. The tsunami caused the death of most of the students and staff at the elementary school. More than 80 lives were lost. The father gave us a tour of the remains of the elementary school, and emotionally told the story of his daughters last day. He highlighted all the ways that better disaster planning could have prevented the devastating death toll. Hearing his story and perspective is something I will never forget and implement as a public health professional.
This trip changed the way I view the results of public health disasters and this will change the way I try to create public health solutions in the future as a public health professional. After seeing how different it is to hear something in a classroom and see it in real life, I will change the way I think of things in my academics. Often in the classroom we learn about issues through facts and figures, but after this trip I will remember to consider the emotion behind and causing issues we face. I will continue to use this new mindset when I graduate and am a public health professional. After hearing from the victims of disasters and their families on this trip, if I am ever tackling a crisis I will make sure to talk to the people who have experienced it. Overall, this trip changed my perspective on public health issues no matter if they are in the United States or in a foreign country.