Culture and Cuisine in Boston

For my STEP signature project, I traveled to Boston, Massachusetts for a week, studied the interactions between Boston’s history, diverse cultures and cuisine, and created video blogs about my experiences. Following the trip, I developed four dishes inspired by my research, and shared them with family and friends at a tasting.

Throughout this project, I learned a great deal about myself. When I started planning my trip, I had only a basic knowledge of travel, and was not confident that I would be able to format a trip that would be worthwhile and achievable for me. I was also very shy and anxious about traveling to a place that I had never been before. However, now that I have accomplished a trip, I am excited to travel more in the future and am confident that I can navigate new places and experiences in the future. I am also more confident in my ability to explain my experiences to other people, not only in words, but also through creative food.

Not only did my view of myself change during my project, but my view of Boston, and of its food scene, changed as well. I really did not know what to expect before I got to Boston. I knew it was a larger city than Columbus, there would be seafood there, and that they have many different cultures represented in cuisine there However, I did not know how it would feel to be there, how the food would taste, how the people would act towards me, and other aspects of the overall culture of Boston. Coming out of the trip, I have an overall positive impression of Boston, the people who live there, and the food they make. I have a more complete picture of Boston, which encourages me to want to go back to visit again.

Many of the events that sparked the transformation in myself to be able to plan a trip involved doing things for the first time. Since it was my first time flying, I learned how to book a flight, how to pack the correct sized bags, and how to navigate an airport. I also learned how to pick a safe Airbnb for the first time, as I had only ever stayed at family residences and hotels on previous trips. I learned how to navigate a more complex public transport system than we have in Columbus. I did this all with guidance from my project advisor, who is an avid traveler, as well as from family members. These experiences and learning opportunities allowed me to grow my confidence and step out of my comfort zone with a safety net in case anything went wrong.

My increased ability to explain my experiences well stemmed from my new experiences in making dishes for the tasting, as well as the video blogs. During my project, I took a class on photography and video editing, which strengthened my ability to tell the story of my trip. I also learned experientially how long editing takes, and how to budget my time in order to get the video blogs completed on time. I also practiced explaining my trip through the dishes I made for the tasting. Having complete creative control over developing food for a test market was a great exercise in problem solving. Many of the people who attended had not been to Boston, and so I needed to take new flavors and concepts from my trip and combine them with more familiar ones in order to make dishes that my guests would find both interesting and delicious.

My outlook of Boston was transformed in part by the interactions I had with the people there. All of the people I interviewed were extremely nice and welcoming, and gave me many recommendations of locations to visit while I was there. Meeting with people at different points of the food industry gave me a more complete insight into Boston’s food scene. For example, at Spindler Confections, a small but growing chocolate shop, I learned that many smaller food-based businesses in the area collaborate on products, and often use seasonal and local ingredients. However, in speaking to the manager of the original Regina Pizza location, which is one in a chain of pizzerias, I learned that they do not use local ingredients, but instead have many products made specifically for their chain, in order to keep their products more consistent. Seeing this contrast made me realize that different shops and restaurants prioritize different aspects of their products.

My view of Boston was also changed by the food I was able to experience. During my trip, I explored a wide variety of food from different cultures. Boston, being close to the coast, is well known for their seafood. However, there were so many other aspects of Boston’s food scene that sparked my creativity. An example of this was the tour I took of Chinatown. I knew little about Chinese culture and food going into the tour and was so inspired by the ingredients and cuisine that two out of the 4 dishes I created used elements of my newfound knowledge. Experiences like this, as well as visits to historical food sites, broadened my understanding of how multifaceted Boston’s food scene is.

My shifts in understanding not only of Boston, but also of myself, will be quite useful in my life. I am currently working towards a major in food science. Careers in food science, specifically product development, often involve travel, whether it is relocation to work at a particular center, or to gain ideas for new products. Stepping outside of my comfort zone when it comes to traveling has made me more confident when considering traveling for work or for fun. My practice creating products that bring new and interesting flavors to a particular demographic will also help me in a product development position. Also, my newfound understanding of Boston’s food scene not only makes me want to return at some point to explore more but has also influenced me to want to explore food history and culture in other cities and countries.

Vlog Video 1

Vlog Video 2



Skylar Harris – Learning to Play Guitar

  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 project, I chose to take guitar lessons at a shop called Music & Arts. My lessons were typically divided into two categories: songs and theory. On song days, my instructor would teach me how to play a song of my choice, or occasionally a song that he felt would best help me apply my newfound theory knowledge. On theory days, we learned musical concepts like the Circle of 4ths, the Circle of 5ths, and the 7 modes. We then took that general theory knowledge and learned how to apply it to the guitar.

  1. 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 major lesson that I was able to take away from my experience playing guitar was to not take life too seriously and that sometimes you can do things just because you enjoy them. When I initially started taking lessons a little over a year and a half ago, I did it with the intention of eventually performing live, or posting covers to YouTube. I had always enjoyed singing, and I wanted to learn to play an instrument so I could accompany myself and possibly make a career, or at least a “side hustle”, out of live performance. With that mentality, I always walked into guitar lessons trying to be the best, and if I played badly or missed an assignment/weekly practice I would always get upset and apologize to my instructor.

Over time, I learned two things that changed my view of the world today: if you want something, you have to make time for it and not everything needs a deadline. By saying “if you want something, you have to make time for it,” I mean that learning new skills takes practice and time management. I would often forget or not have enough time to practice because I was poorly managing my own time. This meant taking on too much work, or doing things that I wasn’t totally passionate about. To change this, I had to cut back on some things that I was doing, but I also had to recognize that missing a practice for another activity was okay and I shouldn’t punish myself for it.

The second thing that I learned, “not everything needs a deadline,” means that I have all the time in the world to learn to play guitar. Although I would love to become the best guitar player ever and to pick up live performance, I have to recognize that that is not a short-term goal and it doesn’t have to come to fruition right away. If I want to continue to take guitar lessons and pursue performance after school, I can absolutely do that, but right now I should be focused on my education and having fun while learning a new skill.

  1. 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 day, when it was clear that I was frustrated with how busy my week had been and how little I had practiced, my guitar instructor said to me, “It doesn’t matter to me if you haven’t had time to practice this week, all I care about is that you can come here and enjoy yourself for the half an hour we have together, before you have to go back to the stress of the rest of life”. That moment made me realize that not everything I did had to have an immediate deadline or ulterior motive. Although I still love singing and playing guitar – and would like to perform sometime in the future – I do not have to put so much pressure on my self right away, and I can take the time while I’m still in college to focus on my studies and other things going on in my life. If I still want to take guitar lessons and work on performance in the future, I can, but right now I should focus more on enjoying the process. Talking to my instructor is what made me realize that I should focus more of my attention on relaxing and having fun, rather than pursuing a goal in everything that I do.

One key aspect of my experience in guitar lessons that helped me to learn this lesson was my instructors flexibility with scheduling. Although we typically met on the same day every week, he was always open to changing days or times if I had something else going on. This meant that I could take time for myself if I needed, whether that be to finish an important school project, or to have fun at an OSU football game.

Another aspect of guitar lessons that really helped me learn to enjoy myself was my instructor’s teaching style. There are many music instructors out there who focus on teaching their students by a book – first you learn scales and then you learn to play Yankee Doodle and so forth. Instead of being so rigid with his teaching, my instructor allowed me to choose what we were going to do for our lessons. Some weeks we would go over theory, but then we would take two to three lessons to learn a song that I loved from start to finish. I have learned so much music from my favorite artists, who are the reason that I love music so much in the first place, which made me really appreciate my teachers style and allowed me to enjoy the process.

  1. 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.

I think that learning to relax and have more fun with life has really helped me better my mental health over the last few years. Since I was young, I have always been the person who takes on too much work and ends up incredibly stressed out and anxious when deadlines roll around. The summer after my sophomore year, I was diagnosed with a panic disorder, which forced me to really reevaluate how I wanted to live my life and what I wanted to focus my attention on. I think spending the last year and a half playing guitar made me realize that I have to learn to take time off from pursuing work or school or other stressful things in life to enjoy the things that I love.

While this doesn’t really seem like it directly pertains to my academic and professional goals, I believe that living a balanced life is essential to achieving goals and becoming successful. When I am stressed out, I suffer and so does the quality of my work. By taking time for myself throughout the day, I can ensure that I am performing well both in my classes and at work.

Here is a photo of me practicing my guitar skills on a beach in Chicago.

This is a link to a video of my guitar teacher showing me how to play “Honest” by Mali-Koa, which is a beautiful song if you would like to check it out.

STEP: Phlebotomist Technician Certification

1)With my STEP funds, I was able to receive my phlebotomist technician license through a course throughout the summer, as well as purchase the necessary uniform and school supplies. Once back at school, I was able to use this skill as a research assistant, collecting blood samples to evaluate immune function biomarkers in these young adults and the impact homelessness can have on mental health.


2)Working at a youth homeless shelter definitely changed my perspective. I was opened up and spent time meeting a diversity of people in a population very different than my own. I was exposed to what some kids my own age go through every day right here in my own community. My scope of medicine was changed as I saw the scope of medicine being practiced in a different setting. The results from the study also showed the impact that these daily stressors have on health, changing my perspective.


3)My time wasn’t defined by clinical experience alone. Rather, the time I was outside the medical office shaped my experience at the Star House. A drop-in shelter for homeless youth, the place, and the experience it provided was wholly personal. I began to see familiar faces of people who had already participated in data collection, and I was able to pick up conversations where we left off. 

One boy around my age excitedly hurried off, as the Star House (pictured below) provided him with a bus pass for a job interview he had told me about. Another girl asked me detailed questions about the path I was pursuing and all of the interesting experiences Ohio State had given me. Her goal, she said, was to go to nursing school. I frequently saw a young mother, looking exhausted as her two year old jumped out of his stroller and toddled over to me. As I spent time getting to know these people, I acquired a different perspective on medicine, one that had been overshadowed by images of procedures and technologies. I found that medicine stems from building genuine relationships. 

The people you treat come with different stories, backgrounds, and struggles. I was able to hear about adverse lifestyles that different youth go through everyday. Not having access to transportation, food, housing and a secure family were typical at the Star House. Taking the time to interact and understand each patient is a joy and a privilege I got to experience and opened up and changed my perspective of medicine as stated above. 


4) This change is important for me as I want to work with youth as a health professional. Seeing how lifestyle factors can impact health is important. These factors are integrated with health and taking the time to understand patient lifestyle and stressors in key in treating health. Additionally, my communication skills greatly improved which allowed me the opportunity to learn how to get to know people and develop deep relationships with people. As a future professional, learning how to connect with people is highly important. Additionally, having the skill of treating diverse populations is highly important. Medicine serves a diversity of people, and having experience relating and empathizing with those different from yourself is important. 

Boy Meets Different World

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.


The purpose of my step project was to give exposure to other races about where an African American male or female can come from and still be successful no matter where he/she has come from regardless of the circumstance. Everyone has a story and every person’s story is not the same.


  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project

There have been countless stereotypes that I have been told about or that have been assumed about me during my 3 year here at Ohio state. The main two is that I play football or I’m an athlete of some sort, which is false, and the other is that I’m a “thug” and that I grew up in the “hood”. Which is another false assumption. I came to OSU to study Engineering and Architecture. I also grew up in the inner city but still lived in a middle-class neighborhood. People often judge a book by its cover. In My case I feel like people judge me off my appearance before I can even open my mouth to tell them my name. I felt that Creating a visual to show people; more specifically closed-minded people that not all people that look the same are the same is and should be important to the OSU community.

Coming up with this idea gave me a great opportunity to talk to some cool and interesting groups of people. This project has given me a chance to talk to everyone from CEOs of companies to other college students in other states to get their viewpoint on how diversity is treated at the institutions or places of work. I gained a lot of knowledge talking to people about the subject and made a lot of connections.


  1. 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?

During the span of my project I’ve met many people of different backgrounds. Students of minority backgrounds have often told me that they feel uncomfortable being around their counterparts because of how they talk to them and treat them, and no one wants to be talked at, only talked too. People in the work forces have said similar things but feel they need to brush them off in order to complete the common goal of the company or the for the project that is being worked on.

My interactions with high up officials in companies have made me realize that creating a culture outside of work and interacting with people is a great way to stop stereotypes in the work community. Something as little as going to lunch in a group can create conversations and break cultural barriers opposed to assuming something about someone and creating an unconscious stereotype.

For Example, over the summer I met with two young men who really dared to be different and create a clothing line along with a TV show after the clothing line started making them money. The 2 men grew up on the complete opposite sides of town but still came up with common goals for the better of their brand to be successful at there common goal. From the outside looking in and from first glimpse of these men you would never think that they were into fashion and entertainment the way they are. The only way to find out who there are as people was to actually sit down with them and have a conversation and see how the world works and how people operate with each other from their perspective.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?


This Topic I chose to create my project around is important to me because I really want people of other color , races, gender, or economic status to have an open mind and see where other people come from and that creating and uncomfortable situation can actually create an amazing conversation and can bring better understanding within these groups of people. If this project can make people that we are all the same in some kind of way, then I feel like I have contributed something meaningful to society.





Creating Art with Food

  1. My STEP Signature Project included me taking cooking classes at Sur La Table with foods from various cultures. I would cook the meals during the class, and then try to recreate them at home!
  2. To me, food is art. Food is a form of expression of a culture, and we can use that to compare our differences among ourselves. I am able to appreciate the diverse amount of foods we have in each society and then be able to prepare them for my friends as well. It was so spectacular that I was able to have this opportunity to learn more about people from around the world through food and the way they make their food.
  3. At the beginning cooking class at Sur La Table, they would start out by telling us a little bit of history about each food we were about to cook. Stories or even tales about how they originated so we would be able to appreciate the people who originally thought it was a good idea! For example, a tale of how Nashville Hot Chicken was told was that a woman found out her husband was cheating and so in the morning when she made him his usual fried chicken she added hot sauce to it. However, the catch was that he actually enjoyed it!

Being able to take these experiences home from the cooking classes allowed me to appreciate all of the              opportunities I have been given while at Ohio State. Before I went into each class, I would research the background of the food I would be making trying to learn a little bit more about the culture. I have gotten to know so many wonderful things about so many cultures through their art of food!

My Korean BBQ class I took showed me authentic ways to make chimichurri and Korean-style beef and was by far my favorite. The chef told us so much about the original way s and even directed us to a Korean market close by where we can shop in order to recreate the meal at home! What an eye-opening experience it has been for me!

  1. This transformation I have encountered throughout the entire STEP process has allowed me to appreciate the little thingsand know how grateful I am to go to a school where we are able to express our creativity through this program. Because of this program, I know I want to be a restaurant owner one day. With my restaurant, I would like to build enough of a profit to where I can have multiple food trucks where I can give hot and healthy meals to people who are less fortunate. I want to be able to give back to the community as much as possible, and STEP has allowed me to see that as my end goal!

Virtual Reality Development and 3D Design

My STEP Creative project entailed diving deep into one of the most up and coming technological advancements, in not only the gaming industry but in almost every industry in the world, Virtual Reality. I wanted to focus on two aspects: first, the programming side of VR, and second, 3D Modeling and 3D environmental design as a whole. Throughout the process, I used what I learned to create a digital re-creation of a disc golf course that my friends and I would play all the time while growing up until it was, unfortunately, torn down for more housing land.


There were a few realizations/changes that I came across throughout my project that revolve around a common theme: Don’t Underestimate. The first change came soon after I began learning 3D Digital Design. I soon realized that design is much more complex than I had ever even considered. The second, came as I got more and more intrigued in VR as a whole and got deeper into researching its uses in every sector. I discovered that although Virtual Reality gets much of its media coverage from its presence in Video Games, gaming is actually one of the smaller uses for Virtual Reality in our society. The last, came slowly to me over the past 6 months after I had gotten a good grasp on Virtual Reality as a developer. This realization was that I was much more capable of learning more far-fetched development skills when I actually put the time in to break it down piece by piece.


After purchasing a few online courses in 3D Modeling and 3D environmental design, I was ready to come out the other side a design genius. My hopes were quickly squashed while the course instructor broke down each and every component/detail that goes into, not only making an environment feel real but even just a simple object look realistic. There’s making of the model (which entails working with singular vertices, sculpting, and modifiers), breaking its UV’s down, creating a normal map, height map, and detail map, creating shaders (how light interacts with it), and painting/designing an entire texture for the model. This is all without even going into the complexities that are involved with an entire scene and lighting. I was able to get a very solid understanding and some serious practice into modeling, UV’s and minimal texturing with some normal/height maps but I barely scratched the surface. Since then, I genuinely haven’t been able to watch an animated film or play a single game without admiring the years of hard work and dedication that gets put into those sorts of high scale projects.


When Virtual Reality was first being developed, many became skeptical of it, given how quick game developers were to adopt it as a unique gaming source. However, under the cover, lies thousands of companies, universities, and organizations using VR to improve/research a multitude of areas anywhere from architect prototyping, to the treatment of PTSD. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about some work going on at the University of Cincinnati, where Physical Therapists are taking advantage of Virtual Reality to make Physical Therapy more enjoyable and simpler for children. Given that my Internship at the moment is Web Development related to Athletic Training and Physical Therapy, I was immediately intrigued. This has resulted in me actually attempting to establish a similar system here in Columbus. While this is still in the process, it gives an excellent example of both what VR is truly capable of when you explore the edge cases, as well as something that I have been able to pursue due to what I’ve learned through this project and STEP’s resources.


Ever since starting programming at 10 years old, I’ve always been an independent learner. For the past 8 years, I’ve been constantly either taking another online course or learning some new programming language or skill. I’ve always taken smaller steps away from my ‘comfort zone’ when tackling another skill but VR has been the biggest step to date. I spent a large chunk of the beginning of this project breaking down complex code line by line with some scripts being hundreds of lines long. While this sounds mind-numbingly boring, it was a lot of hard work with an excellent payoff. And, without getting too philosophical, that’s the simplest lesson that has stood through this whole project and I believe anyone could benefit from. Sitting down to do the work is the most straightforward way to accomplish so many things but many people just don’t do that. Whether it was practicing my 3D Modeling or spending 2 hours breaking down a single method to learn how it worked, the only thing that got me through the project was sitting down to do the work.


I would guess that the lesson ‘Don’t Underestimate’ is something that most people believe to be beneficial in life. Don’t underestimate the amount of detail that goes into many things that we take for granted. Don’t underestimate the applications and power that some things have when used in a different context. Don’t underestimate your ability to accomplish/learn something seemingly out of reach when you haven’t put in the time.


Check out a video of the project posted on my portfolio website:

Some Renders of some practice 3D Models:

Writing and Recording my First EP

The project entailed writing, recording, and editing a music album. I wrote and played the music for all guitar on the album and my brother wrote and played all drum parts, while I edited the recordings. The final product is more an EP than album, though meeting the minimum pledged number of tracks with five full songs.

I am typically a perfectionist with my music; a substantial reason why I had not recorded music on this scale before, other than funds, was the fact that I usually, before this project, struggled with being satisfied with what I have written as a final product. I had written many fragments I was happy with as individual parts but could never finish them or combine them into a complete song that I could be satisfied with. While I still feel as though I could have certainly improved the songs recorded on this project, I completed multiple songs for the first time, which is certainly satisfying. During this project I also collaborated with my brother on a music project of this scale for the first time. We worked on developing our music as a team for the first time, discovering what sounds we wanted to work with in our music together.

Perhaps the most influential part in pushing me to finally complete songs for the first time was simply having a deadline. The necessity of completing songs on time demanded that I get over my perfectionism, at least enough to allow myself to loosen the unreasonable expectations I have for my music. This struggle is typically unique to music for me; I have no problem finishing my work in other creative projects, and certainly do not in school or on the job, whereas music is the one mode of expression I feel must be perfect before I consider the product finished.

Admittedly, I still struggled with these same concerns during this project. I wrote, refined, and rewrote my music for the vast majority of project duration. I did not start the recording and editing process until late into the project. As one might expect, this was a mistake, especially since I had no prior music editing or production experience. While the level of quality is certainly acceptable for the STEP program, I feel it is the weak link of my music; I am more satisfied with the music itself than the sound quality I was able to produce. If I could do this project again, I would have pushed myself to finish writing and start recording and editing much earlier.

In the process working together as musicians, my brother and I came to develop and define the sounds we wanted not only as individual musicians, but as a joint artist. In a music group, the result of several musicians contributing their own unique ideas is a combined sound that would otherwise never be created individually. Not only does a musician aim to improve their skills and uncover what they want to express in their own music, but while working with others they aim to develop that unique sound expressed by the group as a whole. This is certainly true for us in this project.

Challenging myself in these ways, in developing the music I want to express and in pushing myself to complete my music, has helped me improve in the mode of expression that is perhaps most important to me. I believe that completing these songs, the first of mine, has set a precedent for me for completing more music in the future. Additionally, the experience I have gained in writing in a group, recording, and editing has certainly taught me many great lessons I can carry over to my future projects and continue to develop.

EMT Basic Certification and Internship

My STEP project had two main parts. First, during the summer of 2018, I took a class at Columbus State Community College to obtain my certification as an EMT Basic. Then, the following summer, I was an intern at my local fire department, which allowed me to review the material I had learned the previous summer and understand more about what it means to be a first responder.

Before my STEP Project, I didn’t know much about how emergency services worked. I understood that there were different fire departments that were responsible for different areas of the city but didn’t know much about the logistics of each run. I didn’t know how it was determined who was sent on which emergency and about the different types of ambulance services. However, after the completion of my STEP project, I understood just how much goes into appropriately responding to an emergency in a short amount of time and how many people need to work cohesively for a run to go smoothly. In addition, I got to experience the different responsibilities that both private and public ambulance services have and how they operate. Every location that I went to during my certification and during my internship had paramedics, basics and firefighters that were more than willing to explain their roles and responsibilities to allow me to get a better grasp on what everybody did at the fire department.

In addition to having experiences in the field where we got to see paramedics with decades of experience treating patients, we also got to interact and perform assessments on patients ourselves, in preparation for the time when we would need to do it in the field when called to a scene. We had the opportunity to talk and assess patients in the emergency rooms of a variety of hospitals and through this opportunity, I was able to learn how to better communicate with a wide variety of people. I learned how to ask questions in such a way that they would understand what I was trying to ask and learned how to expand on specific questions in order to better determine what may be afflicting the patient. It was also a good opportunity to observe good bedside manner from some of the emergency physicians and was also a good opportunity to practice some of what we had learned in class in a low stress environment. The experiences in the classroom and out of the classroom, during the field experience and my internship exposed me to many different ways of thinking that both changed the way I approach certain situations and improved my communication skills.

Although we were taught and told all of the responsibilities one would have as a first responder and EMT, it was not immediately obvious until we were able to view current emergency medical personnel in action. Watching them talk to patients and bystanders to gather enough information to ultimately begin treatment put into perspective how much information needs to be retained. The EMT needs to continually explain to the patient what they are doing and why they are doing it while answering any questions the patient may have or anybody else may have about the situation they are in, while continually monitoring the patient and providing the appropriate treatment. Furthermore, the provider also needs to understand the current situation and recall the correct procedures and interventions that need to be performed to best help the patient. The professionalism of the paramedics that I was able to have the experience of riding with was demonstrated again and again and deepened my understanding and respect for those in the field of emergency medicine and those that provide treatment prehospital.

Throughout my STEP Project it could also be quickly seen that all age groups and types of people could be affected by medical emergencies and need attention. Previous to this, I assumed that there may have been specific demographics of the population that were more susceptible to medical emergencies, but anybody can experience an emergency, no matter if they are rich, poor, old or young. Often, throughout the 12 hours I spent at the fire department, we were called to assist people that needed help standing and walking, both because of how old they were and because of how young they were. Upon talking to the patients, it could be seen that they were just like everybody else but just had an unfortunate accident that required further medical attention and a trip to the emergency room. This broadened my perspective on patients and allowed me to understand that patients are just like the rest of the population in many ways.

With this in mind, it was also a mind opening experience to meet those that are responsible or would be responsible for responding to those emergencies if they were to ever arise. From the first time I stepped into the classroom and met my classmates to the first time I went to the fire station for my internship, it was a heart warming feeling to realize that emergency personnel are normal people. They are students, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and everything else that you can imagine. They run, read, watch movies and eat junk food just like the rest of the population. They worry about the next test they must take and look forward to relaxing. Rather than treating emergency personnel with the view that they are different than the normal person, they should instead be thanked and embraced as apart of the community that they serve. It should be understood that they aren’t perfect and that they could need help at a point in their lives as well. During the certification we learned that there were many systems in place to help firefighters and other emergency personnel take care of their health and well-being. Better understanding those that work in the field further increased the respect that I have for emergency personnel as they are normal people that put their lives at stake to help those in need.

In having this multitude of unique experiences and having the opportunity to meet all of the people that I have met, I am better prepared for any future endeavors and will be much more comfortable in pursuing my desired profession. I have improved my communication skills which will allow me to better teach underclassmen and aid any that may need it. It has also reduced the anxiety that typically comes from speaking to somebody new or from speaking in front of a large crowd of people. Moreover, through having the experiences of talking and interacting with patients, I will be better prepared for the time when I will have to interact with patients as a physician. The understanding of all the responsibilities of emergency personnel and what happens in a busy emergency room will also aid me in remaining calm if I were to find myself in a similar situation in the future. Being able to become a certified EMT Basic and having the opportunity to intern at my local fire department will be experiences that I will never forget and will continue to influence how I interact with the people I meet in the future and the decisions I will make in the future as well.

Achieving New Heights in Aviation

For my STEP Project I trained on various aircraft types, from G1000 EFIS systems to high-performance, complex, and multi-engine airplanes. It took the majority of the summer, and I got exposed to many airframe types and gained multiple flying skills over the project.

The largest change for me was my understanding of how much I can achieve in aviation. With no prior experience in any other aircraft types, I was nervous moving on to bigger, faster, and much more complicated planes. Starting out I felt overwhelmed learning so many things at once in an already very fast-paced and stressful environment. I had not felt this way since my initial flight training years ago, and at first it was discouraging. However, as the hours passed and I solidified the knowledge and skill sets required to master these aircraft, I gained the confidence in my ability to move up in the aviation world. It was a big leap going from the safe and familiar six-pack Skyhawk to the other aircraft and avionics systems, but one that proved to me I have the ability to master any new system I dedicate myself to.

Until my STEP Project, I had only been exposed to one aircraft type: a conventional six-pack Cessna 172 Skyhawk. A very common training aircraft, it has many limitations which consequently make it an easy plane to fly. It is slow, simple, relatively light, has basic avionics (parts like instruments, radios, GPS, etc.), and was the only type of plane I had ever flown. For clarification, a high-performance airplane is one with greater than 200 horsepower and a complex airplane is one with three systems installed: flaps, an adjustable-pitch propeller, and retractable landing gear. The Skyhawk does not meet the criteria for either of these ratings. In order to achieve the goals I have in aviation, I needed to advance my capabilities by flying new systems along with larger and more complicated planes.

The first major obstacle was learning how to fly with a G1000 “glass cockpit” or EFIS, essentially an avionics system focusing around computers and screens rather than the typical round-gauge instruments and older radios. Learning how to work with an all-digital system after flying planes from the 1970s was a massive step for me. I was learning how to use everything again and was uncomfortable with the system until I had a few simulator and live flights with an instructor. During this process I also obtained my high-performance certification. By the time that training was done I was certified in the Cessna 182 Skylane, a bigger, faster, and more complicated version of the Skyhawk I was used to flying.

I then moved on to the biggest leap: flying complex, multi-engine planes. I learned very suddenly when I first started flying the Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche that two engines means there is more than twice the workload of a single-engine plane. Coupled with me still adapting to the glass cockpit and now complex airplanes as well, and I was in for the biggest test of my skills in all my time as a pilot. Unfortunately, due to maintenance issues with the available aircraft, I was unable to complete my multi-engine training. In fact, on my last flight I experienced my first (minor) emergency, when after takeoff my landing gear failed to retract. With the ability to get my multi-engine rating out of the question, I moved on to a different type of training.

I am currently trained in visual/VFR flight, meaning I can only fly when I have clear visibility. In order to fly in clouds, rain, and other times of poor visibility, one must have an instrument/IFR rating. This is a requirement for many volunteer aviation organizations due to the safety factor of being trained to fly in inclement weather, as VFR-only pilots flying in instrument conditions like clouds is the largest killer of general aviation pilots. Obtaining an instrument rating is a long process, and so I decided to start working towards it by the end of my project. I practiced instrument flying, doing approaches (landing in low visibility), and other aspects of instrument flight. I did not obtain my rating, although I did get a head-start on it as I start my official training this fall. During this time I also got certified another more advanced airplane, a Diamond DA-40 Diamond star.

The experiences I gained from this transformation have brought me closer to achieving my goal of using aviation for public service. As a member of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), I needed to build time and get trained on new systems in order to fly the CAP aircraft on missions. Now that I have experience with the G1000 and Cessna 182, I am currently preparing to take the CAPF-5 test to fly on missions. The hours and experience I got for instrument training also help me achieve my goal of flying for Angel Flight, a volunteer organization where pilots fly pediatric patients in need to their care centers. They require an instrument rating and also prefer flying larger and faster aircraft. With the jumpstart on multi-engine, complex, and instrument flying I received through my project, I am now even closer to achieving that goal of flying for Angel Flight.

STEP Reflection: Yosemite National Park

My STEP signature project was a hiking/backpacking trip through Yosemite National Park. I flew from my hometown of Dayton, to the park which is located outside of Fresno California. While there I experienced a variety of beautiful terrain and met many interesting people.

While in the park I experienced a shift in my perspective of the world and myself. I have always believed myself to be an independent person, and this trip solidified that sentiment by building on my self-reliance. Now that I am back at school, I feel confident in my ability to control my own path and continue to follow my aspirations. Even though this trip grew me as an individual, I feel it also reinforced the value in meeting diverse groups of people. I find myself seeking personal connections with people whom I would not expect myself to be drawn too. Everybody has their own life experiences, and each of them brings value because of those diverse backgrounds. Everybody has some sort of commonality, (whether it be a love for nature or something else) and it is important to realize that.

Prior to my backpacking tour, I camped three nights at the historic campground Camp 4. While at my campsite I shared space with dozens of other campers who filtered in an out throughout the week. One of my neighbors was a climbing couple who were from France and Canada. They met through their worldwide travels. The Canadian spoke multiple languages and taught English to school children around the world. She met her boyfriend in a climbing group while teaching in China. I was amazed to hear all the amazing places she has lived when only being a few years older than myself. It was inspiring to see someone who had a dream to see the world and was actually able to do it. Meeting those climbers showed me that traveling across the US did not have to be the end of my travels; people travel to follow their dreams and so can I.

My favorite interaction of the week was with my neighbors the last night at Camp 4. They were a large family from Los Angeles who were visiting just to have a good time. The older family members immigrated from Hong Kong and raised their kids in California. They invited me to their campsite for a cookout where they proceeded to feed loads of grill food and shots of bourbon. Maybe it was the altitude or maybe it was liquor they brought but I was “feeling myself”. I spent hours around the campfire in tears from laughing alongside these people I never met. I never expected one of my favorite nights of my life to be with some strangers who spoke broken English at a park. I learned that everyone can get along and enjoy each other’s company no matter how different as long as they have a good heart.

On my backpacking tour I was with a diverse group of people: a father and son from San Diego, a couple from Britain, and a nurse from Kentucky. Trey, our tour guide, was the definition of a mountain hippy. He lived out of his Subaru, carried an acoustic guitar everywhere he went, and probably hasn’t worn closed toed shoes in his life. The other guide Sophie was equally “outdoorsy” but in the opposite way. She was an Environmental Science student who spent her summers guiding trips in Yosemite. Over the four days I spent with them I got to know everyone very well. It was surprising how many personal conversations and how close I grew to these people in such sort time. I had many interesting conversations but one stuck out the most. While hiking with Trey we started talking about our lives. I told him how jealous I was that he had so much freedom. I envied his ability to pack up his Subaru and drive anywhere he pleased and experience so much beautiful nature. My envy was ironic in that he envied a lot of my life. He told me he thought it was cool that I had a contract with the Air Force and how no matter what I will have a good paying job and a secure future. Trey said he worried a lot about his future because he had no idea how he could reach his goal of having a wife and a big house for his kids someday. It was interesting that our lives were so different yet we each envied the things each other had. I think there is a balance between our lives we need to find. I need to continue to find ways to balance my passion for the outdoors with my fast-paced life. I hope Trey will find his balance too.

I think this trip has forever changed my values and aspirations. I never realized how capable I am on my own. Thousands of miles away from anybody I knew, I was able to travel and meet so many amazing people. I am now confident enough to start planning a cross-country road trip next summer. This experience and the people I met showed me how possible it is to follow my aspirations and I am excited to continue to travel and meet new people. Additionally, I am more outgoing now. Before the trip I had a really tough time meeting new people but now I feel that the task of making connections with others is not so daunting. If I can share my life with so many great people while traveling, there is no reason I cannot continue this here in Ohio. Going forward I will be more confident in my ability as an individual and in the value of meeting new people.step reflection