1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.
For my STEP Signature Project, I studied abroad in the Global May China Program. It was a phenomenal program, and we got to learn about and truly experience Chinese history and culture.
2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.
The largest transformation for me personally was the perspective that I gained. I had been told that China was going to be different, and on some level I knew it, but it was much more different than I expected. The food was nothing like American food, and it opened my taste buds to a swath of new, delicious flavors and foods. I also was surprised by the cultural differences that existed between not only we Americans and the Chinese, but between the 56 different ethnic groups, or minzu, that exist in China. It was an immensely enlightening experience and one that helped me to learn about people and allowed me to “step into their shoes.”
3. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.
The largest aspect of the trip that helped me to transform was by far the partner students we had, and especially my partner Jerry. Each of us was paired up with a Chinese student who attends Southwest Minzu University who helped us to translate and generally navigate through China. Beyond that though we spent a lot of time with them and befriended them, giving us the unique opportunity to really get to know people from a different culture and see all of the similarities and differences. We got an insiders look into some of the things they like and dislike about China, and we were able to tell them about America.
Through this cultural exchange I was able to get a better picture of China and chinese day to day life, at least in the areas we visited. I learned how to worship in Taoist temples and that you don’t say “bless you” when someone sneezes. I learned that basketball is by far the biggest sport there, and many people play that and/or do other things to exercise every day. And I learned about some of the problems that modern China faces today, like the struggle to balance keeping their traditions and moving forward in the modern era. All of this knowledge and more helped me to transform and grow.
In addition, by virtue of spending a month there, I was able to acclimate into some aspects of chinese culture and learn new skills. I became proficient in using chopsticks, which was important because we used them every meal. I also learned how to get around using the subway or by taxi. I also learned how to say and recognize a few key chinese phrases, and I got better at communicating either by trying to explain things or pointing at things.
4. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.
This transformative experience was valuable to me for a number of reasons. Primarily, as an international studies major I am interested in learning about other people and cultures, so it helped me a lot personally. It was also a ton of great experience that I can use in future travels to China or elsewhere. In addition, I am able to put it on resumes and use it to help gain an edge professionally post graduation.