For my STEP signature project, I chose a spring break travel abroad program that entailed traveling to both London and Paris. The main goal of this program was to go to scientifically historic sights in both cities and also see internationally famous landmarks.
This project helped change my understanding of myself through making me truly understand independence. Traveling to a foreign country is never an easy task, especially when the country’s main language is not English. Traveling to such places already can be intimidating, and even more so when going alone. On my study abroad trip, I made it a goal to travel alone and to work to enjoy the experience as well. Being alone is always something that I have struggled with, especially in places that are unfamiliar to me. As an out of state student, coming to Ohio State was an experience that had helped me come a little bit out of my shell but since freshmen year, I found that I still had some trouble going to new places by myself. Going on this study abroad trip had helped immensely with my comfort level of being alone in new places by myself, as even though it was a bit uncomfortable and scary at first, overtime I learned how to enjoy the new sights and experiences more than feel my fear of them.
One time abroad that had helped me become more independent was when I had decided to explore some more of the city of London by myself. One specific instance includes when I decided to explore the main part of the city by myself. There was a free afternoon given to the people in my group and I was not interested in the activities that the other people were doing. I instead wanted to go sightseeing and so I then decided to go by myself. I at first thought it wouldn’t have been enjoyable because I was afraid of getting lost alone, but I found if that I did enjoy the experience as I got to see a lot of sights and take photos of the landmarks. These were things I enjoyed, that I would not have been able to do if I was too afraid to go by myself.
Another experience that helped me realize the importance of independence was when I discovered this Indian restaurant in London. It was later in the day when people were leaving to go to find a place to eat dinner at. Again, I was not interested in any of the places that a lot of people were going to, and I had heard that the Indian food in London was quite good. As a result, I tried to look for an Indian restaurant and found a really good place that was only a few minutes from our hotel. This restaurant was more special than I had originally thought too because it had food from Kerala, a region of India my parents are from. Finding a restaurant that serves this type of Indian food in the states is quite rare, especially since there are not that many Kerala Indians in the U.S and also since our cuisine is special in the sense that it is heavily non-vegetarian. Even though it was a sit down restaurant, I made myself stay and as a result had some of the best Indian food that I have had in a while. If I let my fear of being alone take over, I would have never tasted some of the best Indian food I have tasted.
Finally, in Paris I had gone to the Lourve. I really enjoy fine art and found that there were not really people in my group who had as deep of an interest in art as me. As a result, I went to the Lourve by myself and was really glad for it. By going alone, I got to spend as much time as I wanted on exhibits I was interested in without worrying about people moving on too quickly or getting bored about the things I was passionate about. Consequentially, I really enjoyed my visit and was really glad that I got to see all the pieces I have wanted to and was able to appreciate them fully without worrying about the opinions of others.
Becoming more independent was a very valuable skill that I had developed as its something that I will have to be ok with throughout my life. There are so many changes that will still need to happen in my life, such as finding a job, that would require me to be alone. If I were to get my dream job in a completely different state or even country, I don’t want my fear of not having friends near me or being in an unfamiliar place to affect decisions like that. Being comfortable alone opens up a lot of avenues in life from simple things such as going out shopping to larger things such as moving to a different country.