The STEP Signature Project I chose was an Education Abroad trip to Barcelona, Spain. For this month-long summer program, I was enrolled in two courses: Spanish Art & Architecture and Spanish Literature.
It is evident that this STEP Signature Project was more than transformative for me. For myself, I was able to realize my ability to live and learn independently. It was no small feat to navigate an entirely new country, culture and language without the aid of my friends and family.
However, studying abroad in Spain changed my view of the world in an unexpected way. It made me realize that, apart from cultural differences, we all still share a great alikeness in our human nature. I discovered that no matter what country you were raised in or what language you speak, we all still have similar basic needs, feelings, goals, mannerisms, daily routines and much more.
Being thrown into an unfamiliar situation, I was forced to learn and adapt to it. From the moment I stepped off of the plane, I had to learn the public transportation system and familiarize myself with the foreign currency. For me, this was a huge step because I had never used anything such as the metro or subway system. Furthermore, I realized that if I wanted to make the most of my experience, then I would have to explore and visit places on my own. Before this STEP Signature Project, I was used to always trying new restaurants or going on adventures with a group of friends. Yes, I made an unforgettable group of friends while in Spain but this did not happen immediately and even so, we all had different interests or schedules at times, forcing me to try new things by myself. This vastly increased my level of independence and comfortability with being alone.
One person that had a huge impact on my experience was my host mom. Choosing to stay with a host family was one of the best decisions I could have made. She was fantastic about thoroughly answering any questions I had, ranging from dining etiquette to homework help. For this reason, I looked forward to having dinner with her at 8 o’clock every evening. Her house was definitely my home away from home. Coincidentally, many of her daily routines and signature dishes reminded me of those of my own grandmother, even though the two had completely different upbringings. The familiarity that my host mom brought me allowed me to come to the realization that at the end of the day, everyone is human and deserves to be treated as such.
Finally, my environment and my study abroad courses pushed me to increase my use of the language, therefore improving it. In Barcelona, the locals speak both Catalan and Spanish. I had to adjust to hearing both languages and be prepared for the natives to switch back and forth between the two which was an unforeseen circumstance. In addition, I placed into advanced courses which meant that there was little to no use of English in the classroom. This differed from my advanced Spanish classes at Ohio State because when students didn’t understand something, they were able to explain it to them in English. However, this wasn’t a possibility at my university in Barcelona because the professors spoke little to no English. This full immersion into the language played a pivotal role in my increased ability to utilize Spanish.
This STEP Signature Project has caused a transformation that is extremely significant to my life. Most practically, it has fulfilled an academic goal of mine to finish my minor in Spanish. It would not have felt complete without the opportunity to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country. Second, the increased independence that I have gained as a result of this trip has prepared me to move forward with my personal life as I transition into adulthood. I feel that I am better equipped to effectively adapt to novel situations such as moving to a new city or starting a new job. Last but certainly not least, this Signature Project is valuable to my future plans of connecting with and helping as many people as I can in my career. Although my career path is not certain, being able to communicate in Spanish, the second most common language in the United States, will allow me to reach a helping hand out to a whole other community of people. The impact of this Education Abroad STEP Signature Project on my life is truly priceless.