My STEP Signature Project was a study abroad trip to Cyprus for a month. I traveled with nine other OSU students along with an OSU professor who is originally from Cyprus. We studied Geography of the European Union at Neapolis University Pafos.
Traveling to a country so far and so different from my home made me learn a lot about myself. Although almost everyone spoke English, the culture difference was very significant. In many countries Americans are viewed as loud and obnoxious so we were stared at almost everywhere we went. As a group, we learned to respect our surroundings and appreciate the culture that we were so immersed in. I fully embraced the people and environment that were so welcoming to all of us. It made me appreciative of how accepting other countries can be compared to the United States.
During our month in Cyprus, we met a lot of locals that we became close with. Some of them were other students at Neapolis University and some owned local restaurants. One of my favorite people we met was the owner of a local gyro shop. I went there so often that by the last week of my trip, I would walk in and the owner would already know my order! It touched my heart that this local Cypriot man took the time to care about me.
Additionally, during this study abroad trip the group of students I traveled with became very close. Because there was only nine of us, we quickly all became life long friends. I feel very lucky to have met these people- people I probably have passed on campus- halfway around the world. I hope to help see that this program stays alive in the coming years so that other students can have the same experience as me.
However, the most important relationship I built during this trip was that with my professor, Dr. Constantinou, who is originally from Cyprus. Dr. Constantinou went out of his way to make us feel at home in his country. Whether that was getting coffee with us on the regular, or taking us to the village he grew up in, he truly went above and beyond. My favorite night on this trip was traveling to his village and eating a completely homemade meal cooked by his brother. The way that many people cook in Cyprus is much different than here in the United States- his brother had raised his own chickens and vegetables, made his own wine, and spent the entire day hand cooking everything on our plates in a traditional manner in stone ovens. I think this was one of the most transformational nights of my trip. Seeing into the lives of this family, how they live, work, and go to school, was an amazing experience. We sat with them while watching a soccer game and talked about our two completely different worlds, but were still able to connect. This specific experience not only made me appreciate the Cypriot culture, but not take my culture and country for granted. The hospitality that his family showed us was amazing.
The class that we took while abroad was Geography of the EU. This class really doesn’t directly apply to my major which made me all the more excited to learn about a topic that I had no prior experience with. Throughout the class we learned about the physical geography of the European Union, the changing culture of all of the different parts, as well as the political, governmental, and banking systems of the EU. We were also lucky enough to travel overnight to the capital of Cyprus, Nicosia, and visit the EU Commission Office as well as the National Bank. It was such an immersive way to learn about another part of the world that really functions much differently than the United States does. It was a transformational experience that opened my eyes to new ideas, especially in a political climate that is so polar these days. The EU strives to bring together people of different countries, beliefs, and backgrounds into one group that’s unified- this is something that I now carry with me and hope to see grow within my own circle and even beyond. I feel that it was important for me to learn about these topics within the EU, the more educated and open minded we make ourselves, the better we learn to work together and love each other.
As a business major- an industry that can constantly be surrounded by greed and selfishness- I always strive to break from the pack and make a positive impact in the world wherever that may be. It was always important to me to study abroad, not only to see the world, but also to see other people’s perspectives and learn more in depth how other cultures function. I think that having this outlook on life is a very transferable trait that can apply to many other aspects of my life. Spending an extended period of time learning about other cultures and systems around the world is something I will take with me on all of my future business travels and when working with people who may have different beliefs than me. I want to work in a diverse workplace where nobody should ever feel like they can’t share their beliefs, I think this trip led me in the right direction to accomplish this goal.