My STEP signature project was a study abroad trip to Australia to study human impacts on the environment. I spent about a month abroad traveling in the North Queensland area learning about the multiple different ecosystems like the great barrier reef, the rainforest and the outback. It was an amazing experience where I got a lot of hands on field experience and gained a lot of great knowledge.
The main reason I chose this program was because it was so centralized around the environment. I consider myself a pretty environmental conscious person. I compost, bulk buy and do a handful of other environmentally beneficial things to help reduce my carbon footprint. I am also an environmental science major so my entire world revolves around the environment. Despite all of this, I always find myself questioning my efforts when I’m at home in Columbus. But, while I was abroad I reminded about how important the environment is. The little things people do in the US have major impacts on ecosystems on the opposite side of the world. It was such a reassuring experience that it made me want to do more. It confirmed that I’m not only in the right field of study, but it also confirmed that I want to go to grad school to broaden my education further in order to really make a difference.
I think the other big transformation for me was that this was my first time traveling internationally. I’ve done a lot of domestic travel throughout the US but I never traveled to a foreign country before. While Australia is considered to be a pretty similar country to the US, I found it to be so different. Their culture, values, and beliefs differ quite a bit from the US. There’s even a little bit of a language barrier with the Australian slang being different from America’s. It really helped broaden my own views, try new things, and just overall want to travel to even more places all around the world.
There were many things from the people, to the places we visited that guided this transformation I had. For starters, the people that we met in Australia were some of the most genuine people that I have met in my entire life. I was lucky enough to connect with so many people who were so passionate about what they did. There are three people who I’ll continue to share stories of for the rest of my life; Ross, Gail, and Peta. I met these three people during different parts of the trip but each had stories and lessons that I could talk about for hours on end. But one thing that they all had in common was their passion and integrity. From the conversations that I had with them I learned more than I could’ve ever imagined which included things that weren’t in the program material. There were so many like them that I not only learned things about the country but I learned little life lessons as well.
While I got to meet so many amazing natives I spent most of time in Australia with the other members on my trip. Over the course of three weeks, I got to know these twenty-two students pretty well and each one of them taught me something different. In a group that size, every person will have a different story and different perspective to share. We all came from different backgrounds and majors and each individual person gave me a different perspective. I’m glad that I had this community of people in Australia and that I’ll be able to see their friendly faces at OSU.
The natives and my fellow students all showed me new experiences and hearing their passions was such a great experience. But I’d have to give a lot of the credit to my transformative experience to the amazing faculty members I was lucky enough to have on this journey. Dr. Slater and my TA Chelsey are probably two of the best OSU faculty members that I’ve ever met. The reason I’d credit them with my transformation is because they inspired me in ways I wasn’t thinking they would. I wasn’t expecting to learn from them outside of course material but they are so passionate about their field that they made learning easy. They placed such an emphasis on experiencing the world and the country we were visiting and through this mentality I was able to learn so much more. Being able to hear their stories and have them inspire me, I was able to have the transformative experience that I had.
The last thing I’d like to give thanks to for my transformation would have to be the country of Australia itself. I don’t think anyone can go to the opposite side of the world and see what we saw and not have at least some form of a transformation. Everywhere I turned there was something beautiful, whether it was an animal, a plant, or just simply the landscape. Australia is such a beautiful country; from the mountains, to the outback, and to the coral reef, everything took my breathe away and I couldn’t be more thankful that I was able to experience it.
As a move forward in college, my career and my life, Australia will be a time I never forget. I already find myself referencing the country in all aspects of my life. I was lucky enough to study the environment in a country that is on the frontline of sustainability and that will do wonders for my academic and professional career. I gained field experience and knowledge that I can apply to my major. But, this is something I anticipated when I came into this program. It fit perfectly with my major, my interests and what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t know however, how much this month would change me personally. I’ve learned so many life lessons and broadened my perspectives and that is something I’m thankful to have experienced. All of this is probably the real transformation me. So, thank you Australia, I can’t wait to come back.