For my STEP Signature Project I researched, designed, and built a coffee table. Through the use of technical design, machining, welding, and other general engineering I was able to complete this project.
Throughout the project I gained a lot of invaluable experience, which has transformed my view on engineering projects and honed my skills for the future. Taking a project from the start and seeing it through to the finish was more difficult than many other ventures in my life, but the reward of self-accomplishment in the end was worth the effort. Seeing how many different aspects of my education intertwined into one gave me a true appreciation for how academics translate into real world success. On a more personal side this project changed how I viewed my own abilities. Before this project I was unsure I could handle myself outside the classroom, however, now I have physical proof I can build a real world project if I put my mind to it. Lastly, I found out how important perseverance is in long-term projects. Despite various setbacks suffered throughout, I was able to the task I set before myself. Of course how these changes and realizations came about is almost, if not more, important.
In the beginning of the process I learned a great deal about planning a budget and how to engineer a project to fit within those constraints. With only a limited amount of money and resources available I had to challenge myself to think through problems creatively and thoroughly to find the most effective answers. Researching the tools I would need, the best prices, and getting them in time for my project presented a challenge I was not expecting to be so difficult when I started. Simultaneously I was drafting the technical drawings and trying to balance the budget I had for materials with the base and top design. In industry I can see the connection to the critical importance communication would play in correctly finishing a project.
Once materials and tools were in and designs were drawn I was ready to start manufacturing my table. I set up and began testing my welder to dial in the parameters I would need to make clean welds for the base. During this time I was learning how troubleshoot mechanical issues that would pop up. Then one major problem delayed my project timeline by over a week. I was going to use an older miter saw to cut the metal tube. In order to do this I had to replace the wood blade with one designed to cut metal. Unfortunately while doing this I forgot the bolt holding it on was reverse threaded, so when I attempted to unscrew it I sheared the head off the bolt. It seemed like a quick trip to the hardware store would fix this issue, but the bolt was an old metric one and, as mentioned before, reverse threaded, making it extremely difficult to find. Issues such as this are events I would need to plan for in the future when meeting deadlines in the business world.
Finally, I came to the conclusion of my project. Looking back on all the time and work I had invested into doing this project well, and seeing the end result, gave me a great deal of pride. To hear people compliment the craftsmanship has shown me I might be more ready for my future than I had thought before this summer. One side effect which I greatly appreciated was the time I was able to spend with my father. As an engineer himself he helped oversee some of the project. It created a deeper bond between us I was not expecting to find at the beginning. All of these events have shown how they transformed me, but the most important part of this project is how it affected my life.
Extrapolating this smaller project to much larger ones, I have gained an understanding of professional projects which will be the cornerstone of project based work when my industry career begins. Another important factor for the future is that this project becomes an excellent talking point for future interviews. Also, as a result of one project, I will try to do more complex projects in the future building a better and better resume. Standing out amongst competitors is crucial for securing a position after college. In academics this project has shown me the deep underlying connections between classwork and the outside world. Finally, as a more personal accomplishment it gives me another way in which I can spend more time with my father with future projects.
I am an aspiring architect who desires to travel the world. Although I desire to travel the world I have not gone much further west of the United States of America than Indiana. Well, that was until I had the opportunity to create my own artistic endeavor. To be an architect you need to travel and experience the built environment first hand rather than just through our history books. What better place to start then a cross country trip by train in the country in which I reside in and plan to stat a career in.
Amtrak has a rail pass in which you can organize your own stops and for how long you plan to stay in each city. The rail pass must be completed in 15 days and you are allowed up to 8 stops. This was a perfect opportunity for me to better explore the United States of America. The train made it nice because I did not have to focus on driving and was able to relax and enjoy the views along the way.
Over a fifteen-day period I had traveled from New York City to New Orleans, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Seattle, and Chicago. This was an amazing experience to travel to many places that I had never been to before and to explore the architecture and the cultural variations among the cities.
This experience has transformed and expanded my cultural experiences. Even with in the first week of classes this semester we have already talked about many of the buildings that I had the experience of visiting first hand. I feel my understanding of the designs and ideas behind the buildings that I have been able to explore has helped improve my understanding of architecture.
Along the trip I kept a blog, americabyrail.weebly.com if you would like to see more specifics on the places I went and the things I did feel free to visit my blog and stroll through the pictures and the itinerary of the trip.
I am so happy that the STEP program had given me the opportunity to create my own project and to be able to grow as an architecture student.
Photographing Mount Rainer and Glacier Bay National Parks
My STEP Signature Project was traveling to and photographing Mount Rainer National park in Washington State and Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska this past summer. I stepped outside of my comfort zone through traveling to see, hike, and photograph the stable as well as the rapidly receding glaciers and challenging myself to pursue my passions outside of my major, mechanical engineering.
While completing my signature project I understood myself to be both cautious and adventurous but foremost cautious. I love to travel and one of my favorite hobbies is photography. I have gone on family vacations before and in high school I took a course on photography, but I had never planned my own trip. Never had I invested the time necessary to take my camera off auto and switch to manual in order to capture the amazing landscapes I visited. Taking this trip to Mount Rainer and Glacier Bay National Parks was the leap of faith that enabled me to put confidence in my abilities, plan, and take chances with my photography. I spent time hiking to incredible vista points and adjusting the shutter speed, aperture (area the light passes through), and ISO (the sensitivity scale for film) to capture the intense greens of fresh grass emerging from snow, new flowers poking out of the moist ground, and shades of blue ranging from the palest powder blue to the deep blue pacific ocean. These are sights I never thought I would see, let alone be privileged enough to photograph.
My STEP Signature Project was the opportunity I needed to instigate my transformation into a person who is not afraid to make plans and jump into the moment fearlessly. I took the chance of switching my camera to manual and painstakingly modified the settings in order to perfectly capture the moment and majesty of a mountain or glacier. These National Parks challenged me to experience forces larger than myself and stand in awe. Taking time to stop and be present in the moment to capture it, is invaluable and takes courage I never exercised.
Taking the time to talk to park rangers and hike to the vista points they suggested sparked these moments of awe. To have the privilege of traveling to United States National parks during their 100th year anniversary and learning how to capture the National Parks in the grandiose style inspired by Ansel Adams was incredible. It took countless attempts to practice the perfect angles, aperture, shutter speed, and IOS settings. In many of my pictures it took multiple attempts to adjust each aspect of the camera to fully capture the illustriousness of each landscape. I have countless pictures where the lighting is far too strong due to the sun reflecting off the ice and snow. Increasing the shutter speed or making the aperture smaller enabled the picture to remain vivid without being washed out. It was tempting to revert back to manual, take the picture, and move on, but my persistence prevailed, resulting in absolutely breath-taking pictures. This trip uncovered how important it is to not just step but leap out of a comfort zone because as Neale Donald Walsch said, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone” because that is where adventure happens. Adventure happened when I ventured out onto the trails, sailed around Glacier Bay, and carefully composed each composition adjusting the camera settings.
Through pursuing my hobby of photography, which I have not had time to practice in college, I was able to unearth aspects of myself that I also identify within Mechanical Engineering such as attentiveness to detail, patience, and persistence. I have a responsibility not only to the world to grow to my fullest potential and improve the world through my career but also to contribute to this great country. The contribution I can make to the National Parks, photography, and field of Mechanical Engineering is an overwhelming responsibility to wrap my mind around. And what I am able to give of myself may seem small when held to the massiveness of a glacier or a mountain let alone the world, but however small that does not make it any less significant.
This STEP Signature Project broadened my view of where life and the Ohio State University can take me. When I applied to Ohio State I never imagined that I could have the opportunity to travel to Mount Rainer and Glacier Bay National Parks or improve my photography skills while pursuing an engineering degree. The Ohio State University has so much more to offer that I anticipated and encourages students to think big and be innovative. Planning and traveling on this trip instilled in me the confidence in myself as well as to open myself up to new unanticipated experiences. This opportunity to plan a trip and explore an extraordinary place was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never take for granted. The breathtaking landscapes in Alaska are changing with the receding glaciers and I was able to explore these marvels and capture them if for only a moment.
Growing as an individual was also a large part of this trip. The ability to not only learn about and plan an extraordinary trip but to be able to actually travel there and document it through photography is an incredible opportunity. While in college I knew I wanted to travel and that the Ohio State University would have opportunities to travel and become independent, but I assumed it would be confined to pre-planned study abroad experiences. Never did I know I could plan a trip that truly reflected myself and challenged me as a person. Traveling broadens my perspectives and how I see the world as well as opening doors through growing in confidence. I could look at countless pages of pictures on the internet of Mount Rainer and Glacier Bay National Parks, research them, and talk to people who have been there but that is nothing compared to the actual experience.
Being in a Mount Rainer and Glacier Bay National Parks for the first time has been full of inspiring moments, and the opportunity to capture the beauty of the landscape and the wild is and remains a challenge. In my photography class in high school I was inspired by Ansel Adams and his dedication to the National Parks and photography. Photography required meticulous study and development in order to have any finished product at all. I was interested in his style of making mountains and landscapes monumental. The practice and experience I now have has sent me on a life-long journey of refining these skills. I cultivated the photography skills I learned in high school and applied them to the majestic landscapes in Mount Rainer and Glacier Bay National Parks. I plan on continuing to refine my photography skills and will continue taking leaps outside of my comfort zone. I desire to improve my talents even if they do not directly correspond to my major and instead connect in lesser ways. I will ultimately continue to dream big by jumping at changes to adventure and develop passions while I am in college.
My name is Joel Diener and over the summer I completed my STEP project of building a desktop computer. The project had more bumps along the way than I anticipated but I learned a great deal by overcoming these difficulties. First I will outline the build process I went through and then I’ll talk about the main problems I encountered.
The Build Process:
The first task I needed to complete before I could even start to try to put the computer together was to come up with a parts list. I had been thinking about putting together a desktop computer for a long time but had never put the time into coming up with a quality part list I was happy with. For my STEP proposal I put together a tentative parts list, but I knew that my parts list would change over time before I put my order in, as I showed my list to more people. The first people I showed my parts list to were my peers in CSE who had experience with building computers. My peers helped me a lot with refining my list and changing some parts for more reliable versions. The next group of people I showed my list to were the people I worked with at my internship this summer at IBM. On of my co-workers, specifically, was a great. He spent a great deal of time with me going over my parts list and helping me troubleshoot problems I had down the line. After a period of time which was much longer than I had anticipated, I finally ordered my parts. I think the worry of getting sub-par parts or getting some parts that didn’t work together really drove me to spend a lot of time on my parts list and make sure it had absolutely everything I ever wanted. Here is a picture of all the parts I ordered together on a table:
The first thing that had to be done is put the CPU and RAM on the motherboard. Here are all three of these parts laid out:
And here’s what the motherboard looks fresh out of the box:
Here are pictures of the CPU and the sticks of RAM inserted on the motherboard:
Next I put in my solid state drive:
After that, I installed the water cooling unit into my case:
The next step was to install the motherboard into the case and attach the water cooler to the CPU:
Finally I added my power supply, graphics card, and hard drive and everything was looking good to go, except some cable management:
And here it is in its final glory:
So that was the vast majority of the build process. I was able to put the whole computer together over the course of 5 hours in one night. My biggest worry when starting this project was that the computer wasn’t going to turn on after I put it together but surprisingly it turned on fine.
After the Build
After getting the build put together it took some time to figure out how to get a bootable version of Windows 10 on a USB. My problems started after I finally got Windows 10 on the computer and tried to update the operating system. After the update completed and the computer had to restart, the computer would get stuck in a boot loop. It would turn on, get to the Windows loading screen and then shut off; turn on again get to the Windows loading screen and turn off again. This happened over and over until a Windows error came up. This problem became very difficult to solve and I end up spending over 2 weeks trying all the troubleshooting things I could find online and asking my co-workers at IBM to help.
After spending tons of hours reinstalling Windows 10 repeatedly and changing various settings I finally decided that my computer probably had a bad part. There were only two options for which part was broken based off the error I was getting; it was either the motherboard or the CPU. I ordered a new CPU since a couple of co-workers thought that it was most likely my problem. Just after ordering the replacement CPU I decided to look around to find failure rates of the parts of my computer. The failure rate of my motherboard was around 2%. The failure rate of my CPU was .3%. After seeing this I was pretty sure the problem had to be my motherboard since a CPU failure was so ridiculously unlikely. When the replacement CPU came in the mail I was just going to send it back and get a new motherboard but I decided to just try it out and see if it changed anything. It ended up fixing my problem. I spent weeks trying to troubleshoot my computer when I had gotten a bad CPU when only .3% don’t work. Everything worked a lot better from there on out.
The Transformational Experience
The main thing I took away from my STEP project was persistence. From when I was refining my parts list to when I was first trying to put the computer together, I needed to be constantly persistent in figuring out what I needed to do. This was especially true when I was trying to troubleshoot my CPU problem. Since this was my first time building a computer I felt pretty unsure most of the time but I was continually persistent and tried to use my resources to the best of my ability. I researched parts and problems I was having online and I also asked my co-workers a lot of questions about computers since they were a lot more knowledgeable about building computers than I was.
This persistence and resourcefulness made me successful, in the end, at building my computer and also helped me form relationships with people I wouldn’t have otherwise. I became closer with co-workers and become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. I worked hard to make sure the project was a success. Now that I have this new computer built, I have a much better computer to develop on as a Computer Science and Engineering student. This will help me grow professionally and expand my career possibilities. I am very grateful for being able to participate and STEP and work on something I am passionate about.
Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.
For my STEP project I was able to travel to New York City and attend multiple different events that furthered my knowledge in the field of psychology and my future career.
What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project?
One of the biggest transformations that occurred while I was completing my STEP Signature project was my understanding of myself and what I want to do for my future career in psychology. Up until visiting New York City and attending lectures with PhD’s and learning about research, I was convinced that I should pursue a masters degree. I thought that doing research and getting a PhD would not be that interesting to me and wasn’t something I was really considering. After my experience and enlightenment about the abundance of research topics and the processes involved in conducting research, I became very intrigued. I found the lectures at the psychology conference to really draw me in and think about possibilities for research that I could conduct. Visiting a psychology lab also drew me in even further. I loved seeing the behind the scenes and steps to conducting good research. I learned so much and figured out more about myself and my view of how I can make a meaningful impact in the field of psychology. I think research fills that criteria and is something I am convinced I should pursue as a career.
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?
All of my experiences in New York City helped me to reach my transforming view. First, I was able to attend a big psychology conference in one of the new world trade centers believe it or not! Here, I was able to listen to lectures from many distinguished PhD’s and their research pertaining to studies of addiction in the brain. I plan to become a psychologist, so learning about the mechanics and effects that addiction can have on individuals was really helpful knowledge for me. I asked questions, got involved, and really got the most out of the experience. On the last day of the conference, there was a poster event where studies were presented in more detail and everyone could discuss these research posters with the individuals in charge of the data collection. I loved this part the most. Getting involved in talking about research really made me lean towards considering a PhD in graduate school. This event was definitely a big highlight of my STEP experience and one in which I feel like I have gained lots of knowledge that will benefit my future career in psychology.
In addition to the conference, I also attended a lecture by Elizabeth Pyjov in which she discussed the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is an up and coming method for psychologists. I have heard about it in some of my classes at Ohio State, but this lecture gave me a lot more insight into what mindfulness means and how it can be used. Dr. Pyjov even engaged the whole room in some mindfulness meditation. During these meditations, I let myself be very involved and tried to understand the methods behind them. I felt like this type of mindfulness meditation or way of thinking has great potential in the field of psychology and I hope to put this method to use one day.
To take a break from psychology, I also went to a talk at Barnes and Noble with the two authors of the book “The Career Code.” Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power talked about how they successfully started their careers and what it takes in order to achieve your goals for success. It was so great to listen to these two in order to build up my self-confidence and determination for having the career I want and doing well along the way. They took questions from the audience and at the end, we all got to have our books signed. I even got a picture with them! I feel like these two are a great role model for anyone getting ready to start a career and I would definitely recommend their book! Even though I know getting a PhD is hard work, I was really encouraged by these authors and felt confident in the steps that I can take to be successful.
Aside from Barnes and Noble and the food carts on every corner, New York City has multiple universities scattered throughout the city. Each of these universities has professors doing important research in many different fields. I decided to make a visit to Hunter College in order to take a tour of a psychology lab. I wasn’t able to take any photos, but I learned a lot about how different studies are run on community participants and the method involved. There are many rules to pay attention to when conducting a research study that I was not aware of, so I am really glad I have a better idea of how that type of thing works. I was also able to see how researchers use EEG to collect data. This was my favorite part of the experience. EEG stands for Electroencephalography, which is the practice of putting electrodes on a persons head in order to collect data about brain activity. I have read about this method, but to see the equipment and the computer program that monitors all the data collection was very interesting. Visiting this lab only further pushed me in the direction of PhD research. During my trip to New York City, I did more than just learn about psychology. I learned more about myself and what I want to do for my future. That is what made this trip a real transformational experience.
Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?
This transformational view about my future is extremely significant for my life. Reflecting back on my experience, I realized that had it not been for my exposure to the big psychology conference, the lecture by PhD Elizabeth Pyjov, the boost in confidence from Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power, and my first hand look at a research lab conducted by a PhD in clinical psychology, I may have never really learned that research was something that I had a genuine interest in. All of these experiences gave me so much knowledge and insight into what getting a doctoral degree encompasses. Without this trip and without STEP, I may have pursued a masters degree and been stuck with a profession that wasn’t the best fit for me. Choosing a career field and pursuing something you have a strong passion for is everyones dream and this trip to New York City has allowed me to find that passion. I know that my newfound calling for research in psychology will bring me self-satisfaction and fulfillment and I couldn’t have asked for a better transformational experience.
I’m not one to often step outside of my comfort zone. Once I find a daily routine that works for me, I stick to it, and for the most part am content. This leads to me often finding myself in familiar places among familiar faces. However, the same old routine in the same old places can begin to take its toll, and eventually a desire for something new is born. Something exciting and unfamiliar and outside of the typical comfort zone. This itch had been developing within me for quite some time, and rather than satisfy it with a quick scratch, I knew I needed something more. Despite my current academic and career aspirations leading down a very science and medicine oriented path, I have also always had a strong interest and passion for history. I needed to get away not only physically, but also away from the biology and chemistry that I found myself studying everyday. The best way to do this was to travel somewhere that I could expose myself to a new environment and immerse myself in its history and culture. Somewhere fresh and exciting with a history just as storied and diverse as the people who live there. Where better to find all of this than the beginning of a country as fascinating and diverse as the United States?! For my STEP project, I traveled to multiple locations throughout the Eastern United States, including Niagara Falls, Boston, New York City, Washington DC, and the mountains of Virginia. At each location, I, along with my brother who accompanied me for the duration of the two week trip, took in the sites, met amazing new people, learned of the rich history and value of each city, and immersed ourselves in the cultures of every location, with each one being just as exciting and unique as the next. I had never traveled much outside of the Midwestern United States, and STEP provided me with the opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone while learning just how big and diverse the world can be without ever even leaving the country.
As I mentioned earlier, one of my largest takeaways from this experience was just how big the world can be. I know it sounds cliche, but it can be hard to understand unless you experience the idea for yourself. As someone who was born and has grown up in the Midwestern United States his entire life, I have become very accustomed to friendly faces and a mostly easygoing environment. I’m not saying that I have lived in a small rural town with a population of 200 people my whole life, but I am used to the type of environment where everyone has a smile on their face and everybody knows everybody. The first major change to this familiarity came during my first year at OSU. While OSU is certainly no NYC, you can always count on seeing a new face among familiar ones everyday, and there is a certain pace at which people seem to live at during the school year, which I find to be more quick and busy. However, upon getting to Boston or New York City or Washington DC, this was taken to a whole different level. I will touch more on specifics later, but there was a certain liveliness and pace at which people seemed to live that was unlike anything I was used to. If you don’t keep moving, these cities will swallow you whole. And while the cities themselves aren’t particularly larger than what I have seen before, the sheer number of people and places and the diversity among them adds a density to each location unlike anything I had ever seen before.
It may sound as if everything that I am saying is placing big cities in a negative light. They are too cramped, too fast-paced, and the people there are too self-centered to care about you or what you are doing. While, to be honest, I did find some of this to be true, I also discovered something that I think reveals something about myself I never knew to be true; I kind of liked it. I’m not saying that I want to be living in crowded midtown Manhattan the rest of my life in an apartment that can barely fit a bed, but there is something almost inspiring that I took away from being in these fast-paced big cities. I found that I want to see more. I want to explore more. And the fast-paced hustle and bustle of the cities makes me want to always strive to keep moving forward and pushing for something new, because once you’ve settled, you’ve stopped actively trying to improve your life. As I mentioned earlier, I’m very much the type of person who likes to get into a routine and stick to it. It is familiar and comforting knowing what to expect every day. It makes life easy and quaint in a way. But where is the excitement in that? Being in these cities was almost like having an adrenaline rush. You have to stay on your toes or risk falling behind, and there isn’t going to be anyone to help pick you up when you fall. While I’m not going to take a complete 180 in my life and start changing my routine everyday, I will certainly start taking to heart the old phrase “variety is the spice is life”. I will stop being so dependent on familiarity and start taking a chance on the unknown. There is a balance that has to be found between fun and focused, and this trip helped me discover how to keep the scale from tipping too far away from fun.
Two weeks is a decently long time for a vacation. However, my brother and I always had to stay on our toes and couldn’t afford to waste much time as that two weeks was split among five different locations spread throughout the Eastern United States. A lot can happen in two weeks, and a lot certainly did happen during this trip. Cramming everything that happened every day into this reflection would make it so much longer than necessary, but there some generalities and key events that really set the tone for the trip and helped to establish what I came to take away from the trip. As I mentioned earlier, on this trip I came to realize just how big and fast-paced the world can be. This was perhaps most apparent when my brother and I visited New York City. Immediately before we had even reached our hotel it was apparent just how different of an environment we were about to immerse ourselves in compared to anything we had experienced before. Due to some poor timing on our part, we reached the city right at prime-time 5:00 PM rush hour on a Friday night. The George Washington Bridge and Lincoln Tunnel were backed up for what seemed like miles, and we ended up taking a detour through the Bronx, which was probably just as bad of an idea. Traffic was just as slow, and it was apparent that here, people cared more about getting where they were going than for safety or the rules. My brother and I caught on and adapted pretty quickly though. The next day we decided we would explore middle and upper Manhattan. This included Times Square, Central Park, and a few other well-known locations, such as Rockefeller Plaza, The Empire State Building, and The Museum of Natural History. Despite an early start, by the time we reached Times Square, there was already what seemed like a sea of people, moving from one walk sign to the next, with the occasional rebels walking when and where they wanted. This carried from one stop to the next, with Central Park being perhaps the least dense spot, likely just because of how expansive it was. Perhaps the most fascinating observation wasn’t how many people you would find crammed into a small space, but rather just how different those people were from one another. A crowd of twenty people could be comprised of anyone from foreign tourists decked out in their I Love NYC shirts to starving artists trying to make it in the big city to Businessmen aiming to avoid the puddle of dirty water in the middle of the street. And the amazing part was that, for the most part, none of that mattered. People carried on with their days among one another without seemingly giving a second thought as to who they were surrounded by, either due to a lack of time to notice or simply a lack of interest. This carried into the next day as we explored lower Manhattan as well, although the city certainly did seem less dense as we had moved away from the typical tourist locations. Perhaps one of my most memorable moments of the trip was being on the top of the Empire State Building and thinking that the city wasn’t as big as it felt standing on the ground and just looking around. Immersing yourself in something provides a better experience than just looking at it from the outside.This diversity and pace of living is what contributed most to the grandiose sense of scale that my brother and I were not accustomed to. It was apparent in Boston and DC as well, though certainly on a slightly smaller scale. There were still tourists around every corner, and seemingly more packed in to each square mile than should be, but in Boston and DC there was at least a sense that you could stop and take a breath to soak it all in. In NYC, you truly understood the significance behind the phrase “The city that never sleeps”.
As I mentioned, my brother and I crammed a lot into the two weeks we were gone in order to get the most out of each day. This meant waking up early, constantly staying on our feet moving from one place to the next, and learning to budget our time between locations. This also meant that every day was unique and different and there was no opportunity to fall into any sort of routine. While we did involve some planning to figure out where we wanted to go each day, there was never much of a set schedule for each day to follow. We often ended up winging it, as some would say. However, we never found this to be a bad thing. Every day was exciting because we never knew what exactly we would have in store for that given day. We had to stay on our toes in order to make sure we weren’t wasting any time. This is a stark contrast to my typical personality, which often involves doing things by the book and knowing what I’m getting myself into before I, well, get into it. This did occasionally lead to us making a few errors. We often found ourselves on the wrong subway or stuck in heavy traffic at an inopportune time due to poor planning. But it also led to some great adventures, like finding the best stop for pizza in New York or finding ourselves on the edge of Niagara Falls just as the sun is setting, or even exploring the awe-inspiring vastness of Arlington Cemetery in a light rain and barely catching a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns, and even finding a beautiful state park in the Virginia Mountains and exploring a more quiet and peaceful environment than those we had become used to during our two week trip. I came to appreciate the unexpected and embrace the unknown, as it was in these situations that the most memorable moments of the trip were born, whether for better or for worse. I also found myself more willing to take charge and go where I wanted to go, rather than go somewhere because a guide told me to. It was these unexpected moments that made each day exciting and unique. I learned to appreciate these moments and seek them out, rather than settle for familiarity and comfort. The risk-taker and explorer within me certainly came out during the two-weeks, and I intend to incorporate that side of myself into my everyday life much more often now. I also even got to explore my creative side. One of the largest aspects of this trip was the daily recording I did. I set out on this trip with the intention of making a movie about it, to explore a small creative passion I have always had for movies and film making. I never intended to make much more than perhaps a ten minute recap of the trip, but I ended up doing so much more. It was more like a ten minute movie for each day of the trip. Not only did doing this allow me to explore my creative side even more, but it serves as something I will always have to look back and reflect on. It serves as a reference for what will be a very memorable and formative time in my life. Making the movies was an experience in itself, and has fueled a desire in me to continue to explore this creative side of myself, one that is very different from my very studious side. The collection of these movies, better termed as vlogs, can be found below.
Something that I have not mentioned yet that I took away from this trip was an appreciation for the rich and diverse histories of not only each location, but this country as well. Many of these locations played a key part in the history of the United States, and being at all of these locations and visiting the different museums and monuments is about as close to reliving that history as one can get. As I mentioned, I do have a passion for history, but much of that gets pushed to the side in pursuit of academic and career goals, with an end goal of hopefully one day working in medicine as a doctor. On this trip, I was able to explore that interest, and gained a much greater appreciation for just how important and valuable all of this country’s rich and diverse history is. My brother and I were able to walk the entire Freedom Trail in Boston, and see firsthand some of the locations that were vital in the birth of the United States. In Washington DC we saw some of the most important documents and artifacts in the history of the United States, from the U.S. Constitution to the American Flag that inspired the National Anthem. We saw the monuments, buildings, and landmarks that most people only ever see on TV or read about in middle school, such as the White House, Capitol Building, Library of Congress, the Washington Monument, and more. It is difficult to put into words just how different of an experience it is to see these things in person rather than read about them in a history book. It instills an appreciation for how important it is to preserve these things and respect the effort put into building the world we live in today. It also inspires me to push myself so that I can make a lasting contribution to this world, rather than just settle for being another part of it.
It is easy to look at this trip and simply say, “oh, so you went on vacation?” It is easy to think that it was just another vacation and I will go on living my life as I always have. But this trip was so much more than that. It was an experience. It helped me to explore interests that I otherwise would never be able to explore, at least not during college. I will be able to take my experiences and incorporate them not only into my everyday life, but also my future academic and career goals. If I want to become a doctor, I need to learn to always stay on my toes, be able to think and react quickly, and most importantly, be able to adjust to whatever is thrown at me on any given day. Being a doctor is no cakewalk, and no two days will ever be the same. Even if I don’t become a doctor and pursue something else entirely, what I have taken away from this trip will still be applicable, no matter what path that may be. I learned to embrace my interests and explore my passions, as that is where I find fulfillment and satisfaction. This trip has even inspired me to further pursue my interest in movies and film making. I intend to make more movies because I found it to be fun. It was something different than what I do everyday, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Perhaps it will yield an opportunity I never expected, and that is what is so great about taking risks. I will never settle for familiarity, as that is when I stop actively working to better myself. Embracing opportunity should not be scary, but rather should be exciting. If you stop taking risks, then you stop living life. I have become so used to familiarity and being comfortable with the same daily routine that my life has almost become boring, but I fully intend to change that. Even for the upcoming school year, I intend to take more risks and step outside my comfort zone. Familiarity breeds content, while the unknown breeds opportunity. And some opportunities just can’t be ignored.