During my STEP Signature Project I participated in the education abroad category on the Hungary Global May program where I travelled to Hungary, Poland, and Austria with twenty-two Ohio State students as well as an Ohio State professor. During the month abroad, I took a three-credit hour Slavic course and studied at the Budapest Metropolitan University. Outside of class I participated in many guided tours, museum visits, and personal sightseeing.
I think my view of the world drastically changed during my time abroad. It was very interesting to observe how different the day-to-day life was as well as how Europeans viewed America. I have travelled in the past, but not to the extent and independence that this trip gave me. This program really allowed me to immerse myself in another culture and gain the confidence that I needed to potentially travel alone in the future. Finally, I think the experiences on this program allowed me to find a new love for life, learning, and myself that I will keep with me forever. I can already see this in my day-to-day life upon returning home as I have begun waking up earlier, making the most of my day, and appreciating all of the little things that so often go unnoticed.
I think the simplicity and slowness of life in Europe compared to the United States was most shocking to me at first. It was amazing to see how nobody was rushing around, meals were leisurely without waiters pressuring you to pay the bill and leave the restaurant, and people would sit and relax in a park without being pressured for time. Observing these aspects of European life helped me realize that it is completely unnecessary to overbook myself at home and instead I should make more day to day activities leisurely so I am able to enjoy them.Next, I made it a point to try my best to engage with locals or other travellers in order to make a new network of connections all over the world. I feel that I was successful in doing this as I took part in many conversations and worked around many language barriers.
I found it interesting to see how people from different areas of the world viewed Americans. I’m not sure why I assumed that everyone would love us, but I quickly learned that was not the case. It was interesting to see how we were treated differently in some restaurants and shops and how easy it was for someone to peg us as American. On the other hand some people absolutely loved us and took extra time to make sure that we had everything we needed. I found that almost all conversations with a foreigner started with them asking me something related to politics in America. Though it was difficult to know how to answer without causing conflict, it helped transform my communication skills as to how I would like to represent my country and how others view it.
Finally, every single day I was learning something new, in a new place, with new people. I loved being able to learn about decades of history in a classroom and then actually go and see what I was learning about in person. I think that this is a type of learning that I don’t get to experience enough and it really opened my eyes to how much I love learning. I noticed this especially in my travels after the program ended when I was no longer required to go to museums. I found myself taking the extra trip to a museum or monument to continue learning. I’m pretty sure everyday of the trip I said, “this is the best day of my life.” I could not believe how impacted I could be by a beautiful scoop of gelato or a man selling roses in a restaurant.
Overall, I have gained a new confidence for traveling and feel that I have become more independent. I learned how to better use body language to communicate with people who don’t speak the same language as me, navigate a foreign city using public transportation, and make connections with people from all over the world. This is significant to my career goals as I hope to one day travel abroad and work for Doctors without Borders and care for people all around the globe. All of these new skills will be incredibly useful especially if I don’t have someone to help me. I think this trip also gave me the academic boost that I needed to get me through the rest of undergraduate and graduate school. The new love for learning I gained has made me more ready than ever to get back to school and continue my path towards my career. I feel extremely motivated to stay on top of all of my work, take every opportunity given to me, and take time to enjoy my time as a student.