STEP Post-Project Reflection Prompts
As you may recall from your STEP Signature Project Proposal, your project was designed to foster transformational learning—that is, learning that challenged you personally and helped you gain broader and deeper understandings of yourself, others, and the world around you. Please address the following prompts to help you reflect on your experiences following the completion of your STEP Signature Project; please give careful and critical thought to your responses.
- Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.
My STEP Signature Project was a liberal arts with locals study abroad trip to Lima, Peru. During this trip, I was supposed to attend a local Peruvian university with both other international students and native Peruvians while doing a homestay in the city of Lima. Here I was going to not only improve my Spanish speaking capabilities in the classroom, but also my ability to converse with people in day to day interactions. However, many of my plans did not come to fruition due to the emergence and spread of COVID-19. As a result of the virus’ spread, my program was cancelled and I was flown back to the United States through the U.S. Embassy in late March.
- 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.
Many things about my understanding of myself, my assumptions and my views of the world were changed during my STEP Signature Project, the most significant being my feeling of privilege to live in such a wealthy and developed nation where we have so much. Throughout my time in Peru, I saw many people that were struggling for things that we would consider basic in the United States, like running water and electricity. Additionally, I saw how much of a difference there is between the U.S. dollar and other currencies. I was able to buy almost anything I wanted in Peru due to the strength of our currency, while native Peruvians were not. Both of these experiences gave me a great sense of gratitude to have what I have and opened my eyes to how much of a difference there is between the country I come from and others around the world.
- 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.
One of the first changes that took place regarding my understanding of myself and my view of the world was when I made my first purchases at a local food store using the money I had converted to Peruvian Soles. My family and I are part of the middle class in the U.S. and therefore, we often do not struggle for much financially. However, when I made my first purchases at the food store, I realized just how well off most Americans are in comparison to those around the world due to the strength of the U.S. dollar. Upon making those purchases, I immediately felt very grateful to come from such a wealthy country and to be a part of my family where we do not have need for much.
Another change that took place regarding my understanding of myself and my assumptions was when I began speaking Spanish to people who did not know I was fluent. During my time in Peru, most people assumed that because I was white, I was from the U.S. and did not speak Spanish. However, when I began speaking to people in Spanish, many of the conversations I was having changed. There was a sense of understanding and a level of comfort that immediately increased. This made me realize that learning and speaking another language greatly impacts not only on the individual learning the language, but also the interactions that they will have with other people while speaking.
The final change that took place during my trip was when my fellow ISA students and I were about to begin the day of orientation at the Peruvian university and received news that, due to COVID-19, the president of Peru had closed the country’s borders and shut down all the schools. Upon hearing this news, my fellow students and I were immediately forced to find arrangements to leave the country as soon as possible, or else we would risk being stuck in Peru until further notice. During the next week and a half, I was constantly communicating with my program coordinator, ISA staff, Ohio State staff and my parents to try and coordinate all the information we had to arrange a flight home. This was a time of great stress, but it also provided many opportunities for improving communication and problem solving between everyone involved.
- 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
Although my trip to Peru was short, I learned a lot in my time there that will help me in both my personal and professional life. The communication skills that developed under the stress of quarantine in a foreign country will certainly be useful in my personal life and career, as so often communication falters during stressful times. Additionally, the changes that occurred in my mind regarding the impact of speaking another person’s language will certainly prove useful, as I plan to become a Spanish teacher after graduating college. So often language instruction can feel like a monotonous task that has no practical application due to a lack of personal experience in both the teacher and the students. However, I will be able to pull from my real-world experience of communicating with people in Peru to provide examples for my students of the impact of speaking another language and the effect that it has on better understanding and relating to people of other cultures. Furthermore, I can plan to give them similar opportunities to practice speaking the language with native speakers in hopes that they can experience a glimpse of what I was able to during my time in Peru.