In Corfu, my time mainly consisted focusing on the history general education course I was taking that moved through the evolution of history, from Ancient Greece to the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, ending with Modern Greece. When I was not in class or studying for exams, other students and I explored Corfu town, spent time getting to know the locals and visiting almost every beach on the island! In addition to all of this, we took two weekend excursions with our advisors to see the historical landmarks we focused on in class, only further bettering our understanding of history itself.
In terms of my understanding of myself, I realized being away from home is a lot harder for me than I initially thought. Culture shock is completely real and evident when you’re on the other side of the world. When I first arrived in Greece, I felt guilty being sad because I knew I had done so much to be where I was, but I was still not comfortable. I gave myself a week to adjust, and by that time, I had gotten used to how the bus system worked, the showers that were three feet in width, and the insane amount of feta used in every meal. I found the people I had the most fun with and spent a lot of time with them, and once I reached that point, the next three weeks flew by. I learned how to adjust to my given situation and to make the very best of it, and that’s something I never really considered a strength of mine. I found out I have a much larger capacity for independence than I ever once believed, and I am thankful this trip gave me something more than just an opportunity to visit a beautiful country.
My view of the world was another thing that had changed while completing my STEP Signature Project. I came to discover that we are really spoiled here in the United States, in terms of something as simple as Wi-Fi. Even students who had purchased international plans had trouble getting signal and communicating with others back home. Wireless internet is simply not a luxury available in such ease of access as it is here in the United States. Although it might come off as a negative thing, not having Wi-Fi at all hours of the day was actually a blessing. Because of this, I was able to spend more time looking at the things around me and spend more time with the people I was surround with. Leaving the United States and spending a whole month in a foreign country actually taught me something that seems so simple to understand; to live in the moment.
The first thing that contributed to my change of comfort being in a foreign country with no familiar faces was the group of friends that I made during the trip. My trip consisted of twenty-two girls, and a majority of us had never met each other before this program, which I think contributed a lot to my rough first week. But as I mentioned earlier, by the second I had found my group of girls that I bonded with the most, I was at complete ease. We would get dinner together, study together, and go to the beach whenever we had a free afternoon. It was nice to be able to get so close to a group of people having only known them for a couple weeks. Even now, we all keep in touch and I am confident these are friendships that I will never forget.
A second factor that contributed to my experience enhancing was our relationships with the locals. Nearby where we were staying was a cute, family-run restaurant called “Captain George.” Captain George was one of the friendliest people we came upon in Greece. Simply knowing we were from Ohio State, he treated us as all as if we were his daughters. He gave us free food and put on a show that had us laughing to the point of crying almost every time we came over for a meal. Feeling that type of hospitality from someone was so welcoming and warming. None of us will ever forget Captain George!
Lastly, the excursions that we took to the historical sites were life changing, one of the many things I felt I was living in the moment for. We saw tombs of kings and princes of ancient Greece, and walked through the very sites that these historical events actually occurred in. It was a surreal experience knowing the things we read about in history books, even back in the United States, still lives on today. I was able to focus and actually feel a sense of importance that I do not naturally feel back home, and maybe that is because these were things I never thought I would get to experience.
As I mentioned earlier, this trip gave me the ability to become more independent. I adjusted to being in foreign country with no one I know for a whole month. I learned skills and gained the ability to deal with things I have never encountered before. I know for a fact that I will be able to use this new found confidence in my future endeavors, whether that be being comfortable talking to strangers I meet on the street or attending law school across the country. In terms of living in the moment, that is something I have already taken advantage of since I got back home. I now spend more time with those around me and embracing every moment, versus my old habit of sitting on my phones and “living” through social media. This trip has truly been life changing and without the help of the STEP program, it would not have been accomplished.