STEP Post-Project Reflection

For my STEP Signature Project, I participated in an education abroad program through DIS in which I spent a semester studying neuroscience in Copenhagen, Denmark. I took various neuroscience classes as well as a Danish Language and Culture class, participated in field studies to neurological and psychological centers throughout Denmark, and travelled throughout Denmark and Europe in both educational and experiential contexts in order to learn from the unique cultures.

This experience gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in Danish culture while still fulfilling the requirements of my neuroscience major. I learned a lot about neuroscience, but I also learned about the differences between Denmark and the United States, and developed a broader, more informed perspective on global and domestic issues. I learned to be much more self-sufficient, as I was a plane ride and time difference away from my family and friends for the first time in my life. I gained a better understanding of what it means to be a global citizen, since I was challenged to examine my own beliefs and opinions in light of exposure to a very different economic, political, and cultural system. I believe that I have come back to the United States with an increased sense of confidence in my abilities, a stronger desire to be an active citizen of not only my own country, but the entire world, and a fairly surprising change in my career plans based on my experiences in Copenhagen and what they taught me about myself. I now plan to pursue bilingual Speech and Language Pathology, because I have learned that I am fascinated by cultural interactions.

Before this new plan was put in place, I intended to pursue a PhD in clinical neuropsychology. However, I had the opportunity to take two neuropsychology classes at DIS, which are not offered at Ohio State, and this showed me that I may not be as passionate about the field as I once thought I was. I am very grateful for the opportunity to learn what doesn’t interest me, because that is in my opinion just as important as finding out what does. What these classes showed me is that I am mainly interested in the parts of neuroscience and psychology that deal with language, which led me to seek out careers that are language-specific, such as speech and language pathology.

A second part of this career change came from the fact that I realized while studying abroad that a PhD is not something I feel ready to commit to right now. I was far more interested in the hands-on, in-the-field parts of the DIS neuroscience program than the in-class part, and this made me realize that I may need to cut down the number of years that I plan to attend graduate school because I am more interested in learning from experience in the job setting at this time. That being said, what I learned from many of my professors in Copenhagen is that there is always the opportunity to change my plan later on, because many of them did not end up getting PhDs until much later in their lives, so I could always return to school in the future if I decide that is the right path for me. I was very grateful for their advice in being critical about my own goals and plans, and making changes where necessary.

Finally, a significant part of what I took away from my education abroad experience had nothing to do with neuroscience, though that is what I spent most of my time doing, but with the knowledge I gained about Danish culture. Through my Danish Language and Culture class, taught by the most incredible professor, I learned all about the differences between the Danish and American healthcare systems, political views, education systems, etc. In this class, we had the opportunity to express our own views about the strengths and weaknesses of each country’s methods, and this helped me to be much more informed and active politically and socially, since it made me realize that I should always be looking at these concepts from different perspectives and updating my own views as I learn more. As a result, I plan to work harder to be a good citizen of my own country and of global society in general.

As explained above, this opportunity has significantly changed my personal and professional goals, helping me to realize that a career in a language-based field is a better fit for me. This is a very important realization, since it will shape the way that I finish my undergraduate career and pursue what comes next. I am so excited to use the knowledge I have gained through this program about my studies, myself, and the world to shape my goals and plans for the future, and I truly do not think that any of the growth I have experienced would have been possible without this opportunity to set out on my own, see the world, and bring those lessons back with me.

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