My STEP Signature Project was an education abroad trip to Cologne, Germany and London, England during the first weeks of May with 16 other students. As a group, we visited several sites pertaining to psychology (like Freud’s House and psychiatry museums) and the different cultures (like the National Socialism Documentation Center in Germany). The trip broaden my knowledge about history of psychology as I know it today.
Coincidentally, we were learning about this while it was Mental Health Awareness month in the US and it was Mental Health Awareness week for London while we were there. The trip opened my eye to how the mental health stigma is treated at a global level. The contrast of dedicating a month versus a week to mental health awareness reflected the importance different cultures’ perspectives. I noticed on the trip many Europeans did not make it such a huge deal because they follow a philosophy that taking care of yourself in a holistic perspective starting with physical health will improve one’s mental health. Europeans are very actively and spend more time outdoors than I noticed here. I really liked their perspective and am trying to implement these aspects into my daily life, like being outside as much as I can and recycling. Also, this experience has shown me that mental health is just as important as one’s physical health. I plan on joining organizations on and off campus that help break the stigma and help those fighting the stigma.
Along this trip, I grew as a person- mainly as a leader. I discovered that I have natural leadership skills which I did not know I processed. Being one of the only students with a background German, I was the go-to person while we traveled throughout Germany. I embraced my role as leader and I really enjoyed it! I found that I enjoy helping people whether the task is big, like navigating through a train station, or small, like ordering food. I have had leadership positions before while I was in high school and have not had a chance to be a leader since arriving to college. This experience has boosted my self-esteem and confidence. Since the trip, I have gotten out of my comfort zone more; I am no longer shy. Just recently, I signed up to volunteer at a 5K which I would not have done previously without someone else coming with me. I hope that I continue to build myself up as time goes on and I have to thank this trip for starting this.
As mentioned before, I helped the group this trip by being a leader amongst the students. Germany had an obvious language barrier that many students struggled with and became nervous about. Luckily, I have taken German courses throughout high school and college, so I felt more comfortable than some. One day, we were traveling to Bonn by train. There was an announcement while we were waiting at the platform spoken in German. Typically, there would be an English speaker afterwards stating the same announcement, but there was not! So, the resident directors kinda looked at me for help. The announcement was said again and I listened over the roar of people around us. They said our train for Bonn would be arriving at a different platform, so we had to move there within the next ten minutes. It turns out that the new platform was right next to ours! I was glad I was able to help the group and we were able to have a safe trip along the train!
Another incident where I noticed my leadership skills shining through was in London the beginning of that week. This is a smaller example, but I still felt proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone and stepping up when needed. Our tour guide, Victoria, asked if anyone would like to be the leader for the day. Immediately, I felt an urge to raise my hand. However, I thought to myself: “okay, I’ll wait and see if anyone else wants to be,” because I did not want to take away the chance for another student. After about two minutes of looking around at each other waiting for someone to speak, I said “sure.” So, Victoria gave me instructions about which underground train stations we were to take to arrive at the first museum for the day. I memorized very quickly and we were off! Students asked me throughout the journey what station we were getting off at and what was the next step. Luckily, I navigated the group safely and did not loose anyone along the way! That day I realized I wasn’t nervous to step up and I felt more comfortable stepping up to help rather than keep to myself.
Traveling together as a group helped bring us closer I thought. We were all able to get to know one another while traveling and all able to help in our own ways. Several times throughout our stay in London, the other students looked to me for guidance while traveling the underground train system. I had downloaded an app that helped me route which tubes we should take and what would be most efficient. Because of this, many of the students would ask me how to get to place to place or would follow me. I did not mind this because the train system was overwhelming at first and the app helped me sort through the chaos. I became accustomed to the train system and helping other members in our group. My parents and family were very proud of me for helping the group and becoming a leader. I always knew I processed the qualities to do so, and this trip tested me- I think I pass haha!
I have always been known to be a shy person. I was the smart student who did not talk much in class, except when I rose my hand. This always bothered me throughout my life. I was very talkative and energetic when I was with my groups of friends, but I was also reserved in large classroom settings or with people I didn’t know. While in high school, I decided I needed to start working on this quality about me. I joined different clubs and became very involved. This helped open a door for me. I noticed that I was gaining more friends and was more comfortable with myself, so I felt more comfortable with other people. Also, I was the marching band’s drum major which was a huge leadership role I took on. This was where I started to develop my self-confidence and leadership skills. When I arrived to OSU, I didn’t join many clubs and closed up. I noticed I was going in reserve. This trip helped me start to go in the right direction once more. I was with a group of students I never met before which I was nervous about. However, we all became friends by the end of the trip! Everyday I worked on talking to someone new in hopes this would help me overcome my shyness. I did not let myself become discouraged and tried to see everything in a positive light. This helped boost my self esteem which in return boosted my confidence. With both of those increasing, I was able to become a leader amongst the group and feel comfortable doing so. This trip has allowed me to feel myself again.
This project helped me gain the confidence I needed that will help drive me for my future goals. Throughout the rest of my undergraduate academic career, I plan on becoming more involved through joining clubs so I can interact more with fellow students. These interactions will me beneficial because I can gain more friendships which will be a constant test of the skills I have gained over the last month. Many employers look for applicants whom are well-rounded and feel comfortable in their own skin as it reflects on their work ethic. I am able to say that I am a team player and a leader. Neither side outweighs the other or conflicts. Also, I plan on continuing my academic career by becoming involved in research. This requires one to be able to work well as a leader to guide one’s group to finish the project. Without the qualities I have rebuilt through my signature project, I would not be able to fully compete my dreams to the best of my capabilities. I plan on not holding back and chasing down my goals because I know I can. I now see each day as a new opportunity to explore the world and my mind.