12 Days on the Road

My friend Josh and I took a road trip from Columbus to St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York, and Baltimore. In each city we took photographs and took in a variety of images, whether they be from sightseeing or a museum.


Images are now ubiquitous in our lives, nicely packaged and readily available for consumption. They are finite, in that they capture a finite amount of space at a specific time. This singularity encourages what is within the frame to be of some value. The present ubiquity and value of images was related to my perspective of life as a progression to the next culminating moment with the time between then serving only as an uneventful crescendo. Though there is a charm in the thought that every small moment is beautiful, which is articulated through the pictures of everyday thing being aesthetically pleasing, these pictures are taken to be beautiful. It is not so that randomly moving a camera and pressing the shutter will result in a pleasing frame. And not everything needs to be documented, with every moment in life not needing to be celebrated. In fact, most of life is not a momentous moment, but a quiet. These intermediate times do not even have to be leading up to a moment. For photographs to be good, their merits, and existences, are dependent on the intermediate times between them and specifically the time leading up to the press of the shutter. However, life, once in existence, is not contingent on culminating moments or the time between them, but is the whole comprised of both moments and the times between them. I have neglected these intermediaries, as I thought the focus should be on the moments, now though I hope not the elevate the trivial but to enjoy the quiet and better myself without the preoccupation of the next moment.

By having an obligation to focus conceptually on images and take photographs which was not self-imposed, I was more primed to reach new conclusions. Because I was always looking for a picture to take, my own theoretical framework concerning images was more easily related to the practice of taking a picture and then more generally my life. The act of taking pictures, especially when not on a phone, is a concerted act. And there is pleasure to be had in this act as there is in viewing the resulting photograph. Especially with a film camera where is a period of time in which the film has been exposed and when the photograph is printed. Because of the gap in time, the enjoyment had from the act of taking the photograph is more easily separated from the resulting photograph. Of course, the act of viewing the photograph is wholly dependent on the exposure being made properly. In the same vein, in life, the work towards a goal and the time between big moments can be enjoyed for their own merit rather than their relation to external events.

If on this trip the big moment were to be had in the cities we visited, then the time in between them was the driving, of which there was plenty. Because the visiting the cities was what we were looking forward to and long drives can be frustrating and exhausting, it is easy to conceive of these as simply the times between being in cities. Furthermore, these drives had a clear dependence to the cities, we would not be making these long drives if we were not going to these cities. However, these would be the last time that I would be spending an extensive amount of time with Josh, as he is graduated and moving to Chicago, without the distraction of a city just having conversation and listening to music as we often have in Columbus. These times do not have to be grandiose as most of our friendship is not found in moments of grandeur, but in conversation not unlike the times in the car. Though I have always been person who greatly appreciates moment of simply conversation, as Josh is a closest friend of mine who I will see significantly less now, I appreciate it differently.

While at the MoMA where Josh and I were walking around the museum to find a large group of people expanding beyond the doorway which framed them. I made a remark to Josh commenting that a famous piece must be in front of them, and it was in fact Vincent van Gough’s The Starry Night. Though much of the crowd was simply attempting to tip-toe a better view of the work, a noticeable portion of the group had some camera and was trying to take a picture of it, of course no one getting out of the way for any single person to be able get a good shot. If people simply just wanted to view the work another time, especially one which is so famous works, then it would seem more logical to buy a print of the work or, if they would not want to spend the money, find a digital reproduction of the work which would have been created in more favorable conditions. It is no secret that there are better copies of famous works than the ones museum goers attempt to create from within the mob. Therefore, this impulse to take a picture of works, not with as no one had an opportunity stand next to the piece for a picture, seems to be rooted in a conceptualization of a photograph as an index and the significance of authorship in this process. However, the creation of these images was at the expense of the real-life viewing of the work. Their photographs would imply a view of work, but what is implied is worsened by the existence of the so-called index. That is to say, because these people were so concerned with the way in which their cameras were capturing an image, that the images that their retinas were taking in was worse than is they were to forgo the photograph. The quality of an experience should not be sacrificed for an attempt to poorly index it.

I have been a person who works towards goals which involve external validation of some form. Though I knew the issues with placing so much investment into external validation with respect to myself, I think this trip elucidated way in which to change my perspective. I want to appreciate moments, even small ones, for their own merit. I hope to approach moments with an open mind and act foremost to enjoy the time. Having had a habit of wasting free time when I have it, I now want to use for self-betterment. This trip also taught me how to appreciate a friend whom I will see less then I had in the past two years. Academically, I will read more academic works for personal interest and take guidance from my professors in these interests. In the future I hope that I am leading a life with large goals I am working towards, but also that I am not wholly consumed in their pursuit. I hope to have hobbies in which the primary focus is the enjoyment had from the acts themselves.

A Journey Out West

As school at Ohio State let out this Spring, myself and two of my best friends that I have made while at school left for a road trip around the western half of the United States.  We started our journey in Denver, Colorado, and eventually would visit 7 other states, while visiting 7 national parks and stopping in cities that, for the most part, none of us had visited before.  While at each stopping point, our goal was to sit down with people we met along the way to learn more about their individual lives as well as the effects that the current political climate is having on them in the specific environment that they are currently living in.

Looking back at the trip we went on, I am able to recognize a few key changes that I have noticed about myself from signature events that we were able to do while on our road trip.  The first one is my reinforced love of nature.  Growing up, I would spend hours upon hours alone each day exploring a small woods that was located just behind my house, and I would spend the day building small structures that would act as forts when friends came to play or trying to catch fish in the small stream that ran down the center.  Along with these small, daylong adventures, I loved reading books about other people who spent time exploring the outdoors, books such as My Side of the Mountain and Where the Red Fern Grows.  As I got older, my love of the outdoors never left, but my time spent outdoors was greatly diminished.  Before this trip, I had not had the opportunity to go camping or truly hiking since I was little, and after seeing so much of the United States and the beauty that our national parks contain, I can truly say that my love for the outdoors is as strong as ever and I am already excited for the next opportunity that I may have to go and visit more national parks around the United States.  After scrolling through my camera roll, one image that I think can accurately describe the joy that is felt after seeing the beauty of the outdoors is the image that I have posted below from Glacier Point at Yosemite.  The view from this spot was easily the most beautiful sight that I had ever seen, and is one that I am sure I will never forget.  When talking about the trip to my family and friends, one of the first things I do is show them the pictures and try to explain the natural beauty that is contained at a park like Yosemite.

The second major transformation that I believe took place after this trip was from all of the different natural and urban environments we were able to see.  We were able to obtain a great mix of seeing the beauty of national parks while also visiting some of the United States’ most popular cities, and all of the places we had visited were places that I had never seen before.  Growing up in a small town in Northwest Ohio is starkly different from a major US city like San Francisco, and the people we were able to interact with at each of the places we visited were all so different and had much different priorities in their lives, and I thought that was so interesting that we can all live in the same country, yet have had such vastly different lives and experiences and from those experiences, gained such different views on the world and our personal beliefs.  From those discussions with people, I was able to have a really eye opening experience on the differences a persons’ environment can have on a person and it helped me gain a better understanding of why some people choose to do the things they do, personally, politically, as well as socially.

One of the major goals of my STEP project was to gain a deeper understanding of the people who live around the country in places that I had never visited before.  Coming from a small town and visiting major cities like Denver and San Francisco are awe-inspiring in themselves, but also camping in the small towns outside of many of the national parks we visited was just as interesting to learn about as the major cities.  I remember our first stop in the journey after we left Denver was in Moab, Utah, which is a small town with a population of under 10,000.  We were staying in a campground on the outskirts of town and I was at first shocked at how commercialized the town was.  My hometown is around the same size, but Moab had at least four times as many restaurants, hotels, and grocery stores as my town has, and there seemed to be people everywhere!  I was at first surprised, but then after talking to some workers at the grocery store, I understood why:  during the summer months, the town booms with tourists that want to see Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and the amount of people staying in the town grows tenfold.  Then, around October, the tourists stop coming and many of the restaurants and hotels close down until the next tourist season.  The comparison the worker used was to a small coastal city located on the East Coast, like Hilton Head for example, a place that is booming with tourists who are on a family vacation during the summer time, but is practically empty during the winter due to the lack of activities for tourists to do.  Since we were in the desert, I was surprised at the thought that it would ever be too cold for tourists to visit, but after doing some research on my own it seemed to be true, and I thought it was interesting that such a close comparison could be made between a small town in the desert of Utah had a similar economic situation as that of a coastal town located in say, South Carolina.

At each stop on our journey, we tried to take a few minutes to talk to people that we saw to learn more about them.  One conversation that I distinctly remember was with an older man and his son who seemed to be around 30 at the Grand Canyon.  We were finishing up a rather strenuous hike at around the same time as these two, and were waiting for the same bus to take us all back to our cars, and started talking about what each of our two small groups were doing at the Grand Canyon.  What was interesting to me was that this father and son duo was on the same sort of road trip as us!  They were also going to be on the road for around three weeks and were visiting many of the same locations as us, just in a reverse order.  Through talking to these men, we learned of many hikes that we should try at some of the parks that were still on our itinerary and also gained some recommendations for other stops that would be interesting along the way, many of which we did stop it.  From what I could tell, the father and son that were talking to us were trying to do this last trip together before the father had gotten too old, and I remember thinking to myself how awesome it would be to one day take a final trip with my son to visit many of the most beautiful sights in the United States.

The last event that I would say was eye opening for me was our journey along the West Coast to San Francisco.  On the way, we stopped in the small coastal town of Monterrey which was where I had my first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.  While there, we stopped at a local seafood stand and got lunch, and then went and ate it along the beach and watched as sea lions and other ocean animals swam around in the water.  I was so excited to be at the ocean that I even took my shoes off and waded around in the freezing cold water for a while!  After our stop in Monterrey, we finished the journey north to San Francisco which was one of my favorite memories from the entire trip.  We saw all of the different parts of the city, from the financial district downtown, to Haight-Ashbury, all the way to the part known as China Town which was an amazing experience.  The differences in people and culture all packed into one city was astonishing to me, and being from the Midwest, I found an early love for the West Coast and especially for the city of San Francisco.  As I grow older and begin looking for more internships and full time jobs, I know that somewhere on the West Coast will definitely be on my wish list of places that I would love to live in and work.

This was the first trip that I have ever taken independent of my family and the first opportunity that I have had to go out West, so the impact that this had on my life was immense.  The amount of work that went into planning this trip and the problem solving skills and life skills that I learned while on it when things did not go exactly as planned are skills that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and skills that I know I would not have had I not gone on a trip such as this.  Not only did I learn many valuable skills, but I also was able to expand my knowledge of the country through seeing the many beautiful sights that it has to offer as well as meeting many of the interesting people that live here.  I also now have a better understanding of the direction in life that I want to take post-grad, as I can say with some certainty that living near mountains is a wonderful experience and that having a good job does not matter to me as much as living in an environment that makes me happy.  In the end, this trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I am thankful to Ohio State and STEP for helping to give me the opportunity to embark on this once in a lifetime experience.

Environmental Wellness: Road Trip to Yellowstone

For my STEP Signature Project, I took a 10-day road trip out to Yellowstone National Park and back to Columbus, OH. The focus of my trip was to grow in environmental wellness and push myself out of my comfort zone. I got to spend time in nature while camping, hiking, watching wildlife, and viewing amazing geysers and scenery in the park. I even had time to travel down to Grand Teton National Park for a day which was an amazing, unplanned sight to see.

This trip taught me so much about the beauty of nature and my own personal wellness. For many students completing Banding Together for Wellness through the College of Nursing, the environmental wellness band will be achieved by using a water bottle instead of plastic bottles or simply turning off the lights when they leave a room. I wanted to do more than that and immerse myself into nature at America’s first National Park.

On this trip I was reminded how diverse our country is. Going from the flat plains of Illinois to driving up the sides of mountains in Wyoming. Seeing feet of snow up in the mountains while it was warm and summertime down below. I got to take a break from the hustle and bustle of college life in Columbus, and even technology at times due to the lack of service in the park. I was pushed out of my comfort zone of a warm house to sleep in, having a nice shower to bathe in, having the internet to direct me and show me the nearest place for gas or food, etc. In that time, I really got to relax and enjoy visiting the beautiful sites Wyoming had to offer. I got to be pushed to the edge with my fear of heights, bears, and lack of self-confidence. I was reminded not only of the beauty of nature, but just how amazing the human body is and how it can be pushed much farther than we may think.

I remember driving through the park at night with my traveling partner and having to stop abruptly because there were two bison walking in the middle of the road. We got to be within inches of them walking beside us and saw them interact with each other on the road. The one in the front would look back and make sure his partner was still there. It was a great reminder that we will all have a partner to go through life with and look out for us, whether it be a sibling, friend, significant other, etc. It was amazing to see this relationship in wild animals throughout our journey through the park. I got to see bison packs every day usually around the thermal sites. I also got to see baby elk interact with their mothers and other members of the group. I even drove around a corner one time and saw cars pulled to the side because a mother bear and her cub were playing just down the hill. These are moments that I will never forget.

While in Grand Teton National Park I remember dreading going on a hike because I feared I would not be able to finish it. The high altitude made it harder to breathe and I don’t have the best endurance. Despite the fears, I took a boat across Jenny Lake to start a trail to a hidden waterfall and southern viewpoint. On the boat, my travel partner and I met two German girls who were traveling in an RV for two weeks in America to visit different National Parks and cities. We decided to travel together on the hike because we were in bear country and park rangers recommended traveling in groups of three or more for safety. Initially, I was worried to hike with other people because I did not want to hold the group back or be embarrassed in front of strangers. However, I found having other people there pushed me to stay with the group and showed me that my body can do much more than I think it can. It was a great boost of confidence to look back and see what I had just hiked when we arrived back to our car.

Camping in a tent during the trip was a big step out of my comfort zone because I had not spent the night in a tent since I was a little girl. I was worried about being cold, sore, and not getting good sleep. I also had the fear of bears coming through the campsite as they often do in Yellowstone Campgrounds. We were allowed nothing but pillows and blankets in our tent due to bears keen sense of smell. The lady who checked us in told us that bears had come to campsites because they smelled water, make-up, deodorant, and much more. Despite all of my worries, I made it through the four nights of tent camping. I enjoyed having smores by the fire at night and being able to see more stars than I have ever seen in my life. I was very exhausted by the end of the trip and decided that maybe three nights in a tent was long enough for me in the future, but I am very glad that I did it.

Overall, this trip provided me with some much-needed time traveling away from my busy life in Columbus, OH. It reminded me of the importance of taking a break from everything and experiencing something new. Doing this is great for mental health by giving your brain a break and also pushing yourself at the same time. I plan to take more adventures like this one any chance I get to in the future to see even more of the beauty here at home and in other countries. I want to see as much of the world as I can before I grow old and am unable to travel.

This experience would not have been possible without the help of STEP funds, mentors, and other classmates in my STEP geology class last semester. I am so thankful that OSU provided me this opportunity to travel out west and grow exponentially in environmental wellness.

Beach Yoga

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 one week I was able to travel to Clearwater, Florida to participate in yoga classes on the beach. This was such an enlightening experience in which I was able to learn more about my body and ways that I can connect my body, mind and spirit.

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.

One thing that was always stressed during our classes was to honor your body. There was always variations for different poses because all bodies do not move the same. That, I believed, was very important and can be used in everyday life. Always honor your body. In addition, we were always taught to go through a flow. We did not jump from pose to pose, but instead there was fluidity within our movements. This is also important and goes hand and hand with honoring your body. Let your body take you where it wants to go, let it tell you what feels good and what doesn’t feel good. During this trip, I was also able to take time for myself which meant not working, doing homework, or dealing with the hustle and bustle of everyday life which was great relaxation for me. Not only did my body feel free, but my mind felt free as well. I felt like all the stress and tension in my mind and body was let go. I was able to do things I haven’t been able to do in months. There was an alignment of my mind, body, and spirit. I was able to understand and become in touch with self love and learn more about what I like to do and what I want to change. Last, I was happy, I found what made me happy and I want to keep that joyfulness alive.

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.

The yoga instructors I was fortunate to learn from, were the biggest interactions that contributed to my change discussed in part 2. During the project I was fortunate to be able to learn under 3 different yoga instructors, each bringing to class a different form and variation of yoga. From their teachings, I was able to experience my learnings from the paragraph above. I am so grateful to have crossed their paths and was able to learn from them. They were very enjoyable and a blessing to meet.They taught me how to honor my body, the variations in yoga, and how to connect your mind body and spirit. This project was only for one week, but I hope sometime soon I am able to learn more from these teachers to expand my knowledge of the yoga world.

In my STEP proposal, the biggest reason why I wanted to go and do yoga on the beach was to learn how it can help in the medical setting in regards to non pharmacological ways to deal with pain, for example. During my STEP signature project, I was blessed to have met a lady that had recently had a mastectomy and decided to go on vacation and participate in yoga. She explained to me how much yoga was helping her with her pain. Not only did she feel less pain then she did before, but she also stated that the yoga helped with stiffness that occurs because of the surgery. She explained how happy she was to make the decision to do yoga. Hearing this added to my passion of increasing my knowledge about yoga and hopefully one day being able to teach yoga. This lady that I met during my trip will not be forgotten.

It is so important to learn how to relax, especially in stressful times. This trip allowed me to relax, to enjoy the outside and the company I’m surrounded with. I learned different yoga poses that help relieve stress in various areas on my body. I learned to take time for myself and to love myself because both are so important when it comes to being able to relax, love yourself, and to love others. This trip brought so much joy to me. My hope is that I can keep these techniques that I learned and continue to use them especially in my more stressful periods. Overall, great experience.

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.

This change is very important to my life because I do live a very stressful life. Not only am I a full time student, but I also work two jobs, so learning how to correctly relieve stress is essential. Last school year before I took this trip, school by itself was very stressful to me. I did not know how to let go of that stress or correctly handle it until my STEP signature project. That is why I am grateful for the learnings I had during this trip. Beyond personal appreciation for this change/transformation, I am also grateful for it on a professional level as well. As a nursing student and a future nurse, I want to be able to provide non pharmacological ways for my patients to deal with stress, pain, etc. I don’t want my patients to have to rely on medication to do this job for them. This, I believe, is how many people become addicted to drugs and much more. My plan for the upcoming school year is to learn more about yoga and eventually teach it at the RPAC for my peers to come and have a stress free hour of yoga and relaxation. Looking even more into the distant future, I want to be able to hold my own yoga classes at a hospital where I work not only for my patients but for my coworkers as well. This trip holds so much value to my life and I am very grateful I was able to embark on such a journey. I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

CBUS to CALI: Reflection

Project: Creative and Artistic Endeavor: Professional Development

I spent almost three weeks traveling the southwest United States, visiting national and state parks along the way including Arches, Monument Valley, Grand Canyon, Yosemite and eventually ending my trip in San Francisco, California. I used this experience to learn about gaining and maintaining a social media presence through Instagram, as I hope to follow a career that heavily involves all kinds of social media. I also used this trip as a way to grow professionally and personally by challenging myself to expand my communication skill set, as well as experience new people, ideas, and places.

Before my trip started, I set four goals for myself. These included finding myself as an individual, learning to embrace new situations and breaking out of my comfort zone, developing my professional self while improving my social media skill set, and learning more about nature. I used my experiences over the duration of my project to meet each of my goals.

Being a twin, although an amazing blessing, has always made me feel as a part of something whole, not truly my own person. However, during the preparation time before my trip, I learned a lot about independent travel. This was something very foreign to me. But I believe that the hours that went into planning and preparing for my travels brought out a very self-sufficient, independent nature in myself.  The three weeks I spent traveling was the longest my sister and I have ever been apart. I learned something great about myself through the experience. I felt myself grow as an individual. I gained an independence that I had never felt or known before. This made me feel very confident in my abilities to take on any experiences or challenges that came my way. This experience has made me more open to to new opportunities and has made me more willing to communicate and interact with new, unfamiliar people.

During my adventure I was challenged in many ways. I have always been one to stay in my comfort zone and not take on things that were unknown. This trip truly made me expand my comfort zone much wider than I ever thought possible. I was nervous for the days spent hiking as I had very little prior experience. I feared I would not be able to complete the hikes or my fear of heights and unfamiliar places would ruin the experience. I didn’t know what to expect. However, as I broke out of my comfort zone, I was able to embrace a situation I had never before encountered. The satisfaction of the breathtaking views at the end of each hike were completely worth any unpleasant feelings beforehand. I learned that taking chances and allowing yourself to experience new things is the most rewarding gift.

I used this experience to take on some new knowledge about nature, the outdoors, and camping.  Before this trip I was never much of a camper. I was skeptical of sleeping multiple nights in a tent and cooking all of my meals outside. However, it was a humbling experience to learn about surviving in the outdoors. By the end of the first week I felt very confident and prepared for camping. It was an amazing experience to interact and converse with campers from all over the world. It’s amazing that the  beauty of national parks and monuments can bring people from all walks of life together. I found it very easy to interact with other campers and park goers. Just the fact that we shared some similar interests or urge to explore was very comforting. This experience has made me want to see more of our nation’s parks and has made me much more excited to spend my nights under the stars.

Throughout my trip I used Instagram to share images and videos of my experiences. Although it was fun to share my adventure with my friends and family, my main goal was to look at social media preferences. I am very interested in social media and how it affects our current world. Ideally, I would love to heavily use social media in my future jobs. I specifically looked at what kinds of posts received the most likes, views, or comments. Social media is so prevalent in all of our lives and I think it is very important to understand how much it plays a role. Using my STEP funds to meet all of my goals was very transformational or me. I have felt myself grow both personally and professionally. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in the STEP program.

There were many events and interactions throughout my trip that led to my transformations. One of the most exhausting hikes we did was The Bright Angel Trail at The Grand Canyon. We hiked for a total of 12 miles. This was the most physically and emotionally challenging day of the whole trip. However, when we finally reached the end of the trail I had a sense of pride and accomplishment. This was the moment I knew that I had found something I loved doing. While hiking 12 miles, we met so many people and from all walks of life. This experience opened me up to a diverse spectrum of people and new ideas. This made me realize that national parks and their history have the power to bring all kinds of people together.

Another amazing experience happened at Zion National Park. While on our hike we met a 1977 graduate of Ohio State. It was really cool to talk to him and explain that OSU was the reason we could go on this transformational journey. On the shuttle out of the park we also met a mother and daughter from Columbus. The daughter is transferring to OSU in the fall. As we talked I found out that her grandparents are from a small town about 30 minutes from my hometown. Another group sitting near us were wrestling athletes at The University of Illinois. Hearing our conversation, one of the boys mentioned that his girlfriend is now in the athletic training program working with the football team at Ohio State. This was so crazy to me. What are the chances that so many people in one place have connections to Columbus and OSU? This made me realize that the world, no matter how big it seems at times, is much smaller than we realize.

Traveling to Monument Valley at the Navajo Tribal Park was really special as well. It is located on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. Of course I had some prior knowledge of the area from past history classes. However, actually being on the reservation was much different. There was so much culture. It was so different from anything I had ever experienced. The Navajo people were so friendly and willing to give history of the land and the monuments. I think this was very transformational for me because I got to immerse myself in a culture that was completely foreign to me. Being able to actually be on their land and experience part of their lives was very eye-opening.

As a strategic communications major, I think having this experience will help me in the future. Taking this trip has helped me improve my communication skills, as well as my planning and travel skills. I chose to share my trip through Instagram because when I graduate with my degree, I hope to get a job in either marketing or advertising with a company that heavily involves social media in their communication plans. Social media is so prevalent in our daily lives and has such great influence. I think this will only continue to grow in upcoming years. Knowing how to use and interpret social media as a communication process is vital to the marketing and advertising industries, which are industries I would like to explore in my future career. I think  having this experience will also give me an advantage in the job market. Having experiences with different people, people I normally would not have met or had a conversation with, will prepare me for any future job. It will allow me to see others perspectives and take their thoughts, values, and beliefs into account. Using my experience, for example in a job interview, will set me apart from others making me a much more marketable candidate for jobs and internships.

 Additionally, this experience has inspired me to travel whenever possible and to gain as much knowledge through those travels as possible. I hope to be able to visit the rest of our national parks someday in the near future, as well as travel overseas to experience brand new cultures. I think it is so important to see and experience new people and places. This adventure was just the start.

I have attached some pictures from my trip. Enjoy!




step reflection – Edward Conry


From May 4th until May 21st I journeyed across the American Southwest with two companions starting in Denver, Colorado and finishing in San Francisco California. Over the course of the trip I spent my time hiking, camping, and exploring several National Parks, including some of the most iconic such as Grand Canyon and Yosemite.

During my trip I was able to take the time to reflect on my college experience thus far as well as focus on what I want out of the final two years, develop my artistic photography skills, and gain new perspectives as I visited places in the US that I had never before seen.

Going into this trip, I hoped that the long car rides, picturesque hikes, and extended downtime would allow me ample time to reflect on my first two years at Ohio State as well to think about the quickly approaching final two. Several times over the past year I have doubted the choices I have made that have set me on a certain course. I felt utterly overwhelmed by my day to day life and I stressed about the future incessantly. The wilderness has always been a calming place for me, a second home, so I hoped that this trip would give me a much-needed opportunity to clear my head. I come away from the trip feeling rejuvenated and more comfortable about where I am. While on the trip I that I felt fully present in the moment. I was not concerned about upcoming projects and responsibilities nor stressing about a recent bad grade. Instead, I was fully conscious of the happenings around me. Experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells of the trail led to a more fulfilling experience. During the academic year I am often preoccupied with other worries which takes away from my experience of the present moment. Coming away from my trip I have tried to take this approach with me, to live more in the present and not be drawn away by things that lie down the road. Worrying about the future creates a malicious cycle. One worries about the future events and when those events come they are worried about new future events. You can go through life without every truly being invested in the present reality. There is nothing you can do about the past or the future. You are only present in the moment that is occurring. I have found this practice to be a productive way to deal with unwanted stress and I am excited to test it out when I return to school.

I awoke at 3:30 in the morning on May 9th. A small glow of light shone from the horizon to the east. We loaded our packs with necessary items for the day and headed north along highway 64. Before five we reached the Bright Angel Trailhead and peered down into the famed Grand Canyon.  After filling our water bottles we began our descent into the canyon on what would amount to be a twelve-mile hike, six miles each way. I assume it was due to our early wake-up time that we did not converse for much of the beginning of the hike. I found this extremely pleasant. Shortly into the hike I noticed how observant I was, taking in every bit of information about my surroundings. I studied the trail beneath my feet the layered walls of the rock and remained in awe of the magnitude of the Grand Canyon. My thoughts never strayed to future matters nor dwelled on past occurrences. I was fully immersed in the hike and the present reality that was playing out in front of me. I continued this practice over the remaining portion of the trip, pushing myself to remain present in the experience that was unfolding in front of me. I also widened this practice to include limiting social media. During my time in the car I read The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts. This book addressed many of my fears as well as reinforced the idea of being present. I come away from this trip feeling much more comfortable with where I am. Reflection and reading have helped me to realize the importance of making most of the present as well as helped me realize what is within my control and what is not. There are things that I can worry about and stress over, but it is in no way constructive.

In addition to being able to reflect and refocus, I was able to improve my photography skills. As discussed in my proposal I felt that my coursework and extracurriculars restricted my opportunities to be creative and artistic. This trip gave me a chance to practice my photography and build on skills and techniques that I learned when taking photo classes last summer. Prior to the trip I was nervous that I would be disappointed in how my work would turn out. However, I found success applying techniques from the classes I took last summer as well as trying new things by reading my camera manual. I found some of the most enjoyable moments of the trip to be when I was free to shoot as I pleased, whether it was during a stop on a hike, downtime in camp, or even from the back of the car.

I gripped my camera as our car throttled along the freeway. The stark, burnt landscape of the desert valley surrounded us. We had just left the iconic Monument Valley near the Utah-Arizona border where I had been able to shoot some satisfying photos. I continued to play around with my camera and see what I could capture from the back seat of the car. Then, as I peered out of the rear window of the car I noticed a vehicle approaching us, it passed us and was nearly out of sight all in a matter of forty-five seconds. I took pictures the entire time and came away with some of my favorite shots of the trip. The vehicle was a yellow 1970s era Chevrolet pick-up truck, an American classic. Its yellow paint let it blend in yet also stand out from its desert environment. Shooting from the car added a rushed effect. I knew immediately that these pictures would be This event made me realize the importance of a photographer’s need to capture an instantaneous moment. The perfect shot is fleeting, and you need be ready it at any second to capture it. Realizing that I could have missed this opportunity had I not already had my camera out, I kept it close to me for the remainder of the trip, always prepared to capture. In addition to this lesson I was able to practice shooting on different settings on my camera and gain much more confidence in my ability. Since returning from my trip my enthusiasm for photography has been reinvigorated and I have spent a day each weekend dedicated to shooting more whether it be street photography in Cleveland or nature photography in the Metroparks.

Lastly, this trip changed some of my perspectives of the US. From the moment I stepped off the plane in the Denver airport I noticed a shift in the demographics. This continued as I traveled through Utah, Arizona, and up into California. Although I have traveled out West before to Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, I had flown every time. I found driving between destinations to be very insightful. I gained a better understanding of the geography of the US as well as the lifestyles and living conditions of its inhabitants.

My favorite drive from the trip was our journey from Zion National Park to Kings Canyon National Park. The drive takes you through 4 states: Utah, Arizona, Nevada, ending in the southern Sierras in California. After passing through Las Vegas you enter the Mojave Desert, a dry, arid environment, enclosed in all directions by distant mountains. The road rises as you approach the Tehachapi mountains. As you descend the other side you are transported to another world. The San Joaquin Valley is the most productive agricultural region in the world. Lush fields of crops, orchards and dairy farms extend in all directions. The only way I knew that they ended was due to the mountains that marked an end to the valley far in the distance. Everything is green. Massive population centers thrive due to the booming agriculture industry. Fresno, Bakersfield, Modesto and Stockton all boast populations greater than two hundred thousand inhabitants. There is a sense of prosperity and positivity that perpetuates the air. And I never new this place existed. It came as a shock to me. I pride myself on my geographic knowledge, yet I was ignorant of much of the interior of California. This trip gave me greater insight into American life across the spectrum. I saw distressing poverty on the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona and incredible wealth in the neighborhoods of San Francisco. On the trails I conversed with people from across the world. I was shocked by the number of international travelers that come to our National Parks. Another thing I noticed was the persistence of the man vs nature conflict. Where I live in Cleveland, nature rarely affects our lives. There is the occasional thunderstorm or snowstorm which may cause inconveniences for a day or more, but for the most part, nature has been tamed. Out West, there are fire restrictions when the weather has been too dry to prevent devastating forest fires, my friend from Denver carries cat food in the trunk of his car in order to provide traction were his car to be trapped in a Colorado blizzard, in the canyons flash floods may compromise you in a matter of minutes, and of course there are dangerous animals like bears and mountain lions that can be encountered on the trail. People who live out west, particularly in more remote places are still engaged in a conflict against nature that we don’t partake in in the Midwest.

When all is said and done, this trip expanded my horizons. It opened my eyes to things that I had not seen in our country before and gave me new perspectives on the many different lives that people are leading. It gave me an opportunity to fulfill the creative and artistic gap that I felt in my life during the academic year. It revitalized my passion for photography and allowed me to grow as an artist, gaining not only technical skills with my camera but also artistic skills in composition and design. Lastly, it gave me a much-needed opportunity to reflect on the current state of my life, where I am, where I want to go, what I need to worry about and what is unnecessary. I come away with a new life philosophy: be present. I feel comfortable with where I am, and excited and prepared for my next two years.


PHOTOJOURNAL LINK: https://arcg.is/POTHn



National Parks of the Pacific Northwest

Emma Downing

Artistic and Creative Endeavors


For my STEP signature project, I went on an amazing road trip from Seattle to San Francisco and stopped at National Parks along the way. I spoke to park rangers and naturalists to learn about the various conservation and environmental management methods used in the diverse ecosystems. Visiting Olympic National Park, Crater Lake, Mt St Helens, the Redwoods, and Point Reyes National Seashore provided a unique experience with a vast variety of habitats.

Having the opportunity to go on this trip was extremely rewarding and transformational. Not only did I gain a deeper understanding of some of the ways to preserve the environment, I developed on a personal level as well. While I was first starting to plan my STEP project, I enrolled in a field work geography class. In this class I was able to learn about trip planning resources provided by the OSU libraries along with ArcGIS to set up a route. Once I decided on a rough draft of where I would travel, it took a very long time to work out the details of exactly what I would do at each location to get the most fulfilling experiences. My organization skills rapidly developed while putting all the plans together. Once the trip commenced I began journaling, which I have never done in my life. Having a field journal along with photographs allowed me to preserve memories of my observations. Another way I changed throughout the project is that I came out of my shell in certain situations. I am usually a pretty reserved person and do not enjoy talking with strangers. However, I was determined to learn from the park rangers and naturalists so I mustered up the courage to start conversations. Once I initiated communication, I realized that it was actually really easy to talk to them because I was so interested in the subject matter.

While on the trip, I was able to see so many unique places and the organisms that lived there. Observing such natural beauty influenced me into slowing down and just taking in the scenery. Instead of stressing myself out over every minor detail like usual, I seemed to adopt the generalized west coast way of life and chilled out a bit. After all, the magnificence of some of the parks would leave anyone in an awe inspired and calm state after visiting. Having the chance to view the ecosystems and animals has given me an even deeper appreciation for nature than I had previously had. I have always been environmentally conscious and knew I wanted to pursue a career in preservation, but actually seeing these places in person has led me to realize how important it is to maintain the habitats’ prosperity. Visiting Crater Lake had a major impact on my awareness. It is the cleanest large body of water in the world and I definitely believe it. The water was extremely clear and the blue tones were probably the most vivid colors I’ve seen in my entire life. The beauty was so far beyond compare that it almost looked fake. Knowing that places as breath taking as Crater Lake exist has left a lasting impression and solidified the importance humans should place on maintaining such beauty. It led to me thinking about how other ecosystems could be as pristine and healthy if pollution and human impact were not as harmful. Along with the settings I observed, I was also able to witness diverse wildlife in their natural habitats. I had the chance to see wild orcas, harbor seals, sea otters, California sea lions, Stellar sea lions, starfish in tidepools, Tule elk, and Roosevelt elk. The fact that these amazing animals were in the wild made the encounters even more special to me. I was able to understand the importance of maintaining their ecosystems by seeing just how dependent these species are.

While on the trip, I had the opportunity to discuss environmental issues and management with several helpful park rangers and naturalists. The first professional I spoke to was Lee, a naturalist on a whale watching boat which she described as a “floating classroom”. I asked her about some of the problems the whales in the area are facing and she was happy to help. She told me about how acidification was such a major problem in the Salish Sea. Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide is absorbed into the water from the air, and the pH lowers as a result. The Salish Sea is prone to this detrimental effect because the narrowness of the straights causes upwells that bring even more organic matter to the surface. The acidity dissolves the shells of shellfish, sending rippling effects throughout the food chain and hurting larger marine life such as whales. As of right now, the main focus of environmentalists is researching and monitoring the problem. They have developed a Salish Sea Model which is a computer simulation that tests the ecosystem’s response to higher carbon dioxide levels. People are being informed of the issues and told that they should try and reduce their carbon footprint. The same changes in everyday life associated with greenhouse gas reduction apply to ocean acidification prevention as well. Before my conversation with Lee I had heard of acidification but never realized what drastic effects it had on entire habitats. As an ecological engineering major, I have wanted to pursue a career in water quality or environmental remediation. After learning more about acidification, I believe it sort of combines my two main interests and would be a good fit for a possible career area.

One of the next places I visited was Mt St Helens. At the visitor center I spoke with a ranger named Duane Lovette. I asked him about how scientists have worked to protect or revitalize the area after the eruption. He explained to me that after the volcano erupted, excess sediment and flooding was an issue. The high levels of sediment destroyed plants and were deposited into the Toutle and Cowlitz Rivers. The new sediment levels in the rivers caused detrimental effects on fish populations along with a higher chance of flooding. To combat this issue, a dam was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the Toutle River as a sediment retention structure. In recent years, the spillway behind the dam was raised to efficiently handle the levels of sediment deposited. This conversation was very interesting to me because it included work engineers had done to benefit the environment. This past semester I was enrolled in a fluid mechanics course, and the explanation of the dam connected some of the topics from my class with real life problem solving methods.

While visiting the Redwoods State and National Parks, I stopped by the Thomas Kuchel Visitor Center where I met a park ranger named Steven Kraus. I asked him about some of the environmental developments associated with the Redwoods and he explained how genetic sequencing could lead to a healthier population of trees in the area. Environmentalists in the region use selective harvesting to manage forests. In dense areas, certain trees are removed to provide adequate space for surrounding trees. To ensure genetic diversity is maintained among the trees, the Save the Redwoods League has came up with the Redwood Genome Project. By sequencing the Redwood genomes, the forestry managers can be informed as to which trees should stay and which should go to make the most durable groves with a high level of diversity. This discussion was amazing to me. I had never really thought about exactly how much scientific thinking went into forestry management. Knowing that the work is so complex gave me a deeper appreciation for the people who spend their lives working to protect the ecosystem of the Redwoods.

During my time in San Francisco, I visited the Sea Lion Center at Pier 39. After watching the sea lions playing by the pier, I spoke to naturalists Alana and Nigel about how the center works to protect the marine life there. They told me that one big issue the sea lions face is plastic pollution. In the past, they have seen sea lions entangled in plastic lounging on the floating docks outside. In these instances, people from the Sea Lion Center have saved those marine mammals and freed them from the garbage. Not only do they help sea life in the bay, but the Sea Lion Center sends groups out into the Pacific to collect plastic waste. At Pier 39, the fatal effects of plastic are heavily advertised. The four R’s (reduce, reuse, refuse, and recycle) are encouraged to visitors. It was very surprising that such a large community of sea lions and an educational center dedicated to them existed in such close proximity to a major metropolitan area like San Francisco. Seeing the two side by side further cemented the idea that people have a major impact on the lives of the species around them. This visit was also special to me because even though people were able to see the animals they were leaning about up close, they were not confined in a zoo or aquarium type setting and chose to reside on the docks. Small changes to everyday life, such as a reduction in plastic use, could have a huge effect on the way people and other species interact with one another in close areas.

This project was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Having this once in a lifetime opportunity allowed me to grow as a person as well as gain inspiration for my future career. I am now confident in my abilities to clearly communicate with fellow environmentalists on certain topics. Planning such a trip all on my own allowed me to learn how to use planning resources and become a more organized and motivated person as well. I am already a part of the Engineers for a Sustainable World club at OSU, but after my trip I would love to join an organization such as the Sierra Club to spend more time out in nature. The most impactful part of the STEP project was having the chance to see all of the National Parks and diverse wildlife in person. I had already appreciated nature but observing such natural beauty first hand was life changing. Knowing that the world can be so beautiful awakened a sense of urgency to protect it. After talking with the naturalists and park rangers in Washington, I can see myself moving there in the future to pursue a career revolving around ocean acidification. I’m hoping that in the future I can work alongside people like the ones I met to work towards a common goal of environmental protection.

The pictures I took and the journal entries I kept have allowed me to memorialize my experiences throughout this project. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I was provided and will always remember my once in a lifetime adventure.




Capturing Chicago







Name: Allison Gerhard

Type of Project: Creative/Artistic Endeavor

  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.

During a weekend in May, I traveled to Chicago, Illinois. While I was there, I took a photography class where I learned how to operate a DSLR camera beyond auto mode. I also went on a photography excursion at night where I practiced taking pictures, applying what I learned at the class I took earlier. In addition to what I learned earlier, I was exposed to other new techniques as well. The main lessons were in aperture and shutter speed. This experience made me realize how complicated photography is but that I am passionate enough about it to keep practicing and perfecting my skills.


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

I went into this STEP project thinking that I already knew a lot about photography. I thought I knew what it took to take a good shot. Boy was I wrong. The photography class that I took made me realize that I still have so much more to learn. At first, I felt lost and overwhelmed in the class because of all the information being thrown at me. After a while, I realized that this was something to be excited about. How awesome is it that there is still so much to learn about something that I love? It made me realize and truly understand how creativity drives me. I cannot wait to take more classes and continue to grow in this hobby of mine. This project verified that photography is supposed to be a creative outlet for me and that the possibilities are endless.

During the course of my STEP Signature Project, my view of the world evolved. I always appreciated the beauty in everyday things around me but I see things differently now and through an even more creative eye. I developed a stronger view of the world. Something interesting that was mentioned during my photography class and has stuck with me is how taking a shot from a lower or higher perspective completely changes the picture. That may seem like common sense, and it is, but I had never thought about it before and it completely changed my perspective of the world. I felt like when I was walking through downtown and taking pictures of some of the statues and architecture, I saw everything in a different way than I would have before. I took the extra time and effort to look at things from higher and lower perspectives and it made my shots that much more interesting. This experience has given me a unique way of approaching things artistically, which I can apply to other aspects of my life as well. I can grow and develop my skills more because of this. It will just take some practice.

This experience also helped me open my eyes to how important it is to travel and see the world. Chicago is just one city in one state. It had so many beautiful sculptures and interesting architecture that I cannot help but think what else it out there too that I can capture. I would not have had this experience if it were not for STEP and I am so grateful for that.

Before this project, I assumed that photography was always just going to be a hobby for me. Meeting in my cohort weekly and self-reflecting made me realize that I will never be content with a desk job or conducting research. I have to be a part of the creative process of something. The host of my nighttime excursion opened my eyes to the possibilities and opportunities to incorporate photography, or at least the principles of photography, into other fields as well. It made me realize that photography does not just have to hobby but it can also be a part of my career as well.


  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?

As I mentioned before, the photography class that I took was an activity and interaction that taught me how to look and capture things from a different perspective. I think that this is an important concept that not only applies to photography, but life in general. This is the main reason why I feel like my view of the world changed while completing my STEP Signature Project.

The instructor played a big role in this by being so friendly and making difficult information easier to understand. He still reaches out to our class via email and I know that he would offer advice and answer any questions that may arise while I continue to practice photography. It is special to have that kind of resource available to you.

Another aspect of my trip that led to my changed perspective was the relationship I formed with Eric, the host of the Nighttime Photo Journey. Eric taught me a lot of new techniques for photography, but also talked a lot about his experiences and how he got where he is today. He offered a lot of insight and advice on advancing yourself in your career, whether it is in photography or another field. He is an entrepreneur and wanted to incorporate photography into that as well. He gets to travel and take pictures for upcoming companies. How cool is that? It really made me realize that I do not have to have a degree in photography for it to be a part of my job. He helped settle my anxiety of finding the right job by sharing his experiences and making me realize that I have to allow myself to be open to new opportunities that might seem scary at first.

Another relationship that changed my perspective on the world and traveling was Dana. Dana was the other person who went on the nighttime excursion with me and Eric. She had a very bright and bubbly personality that made the experience so much better. She got super excited about all of the pictures she took and it made me excited to take more pictures too and compare our different perspectives of the same things. While talking with Dana, she shared all of her travel stories. It turns out that she is from Miami, FL but has been to more places than I can name. She has inspired me to be more spontaneous and go to different places when the opportunity presents itself. She helped me realize money should be hold you back from experiencing what this world has to offer. Because of her, I am going to Greece this upcoming summer to take even more pictures of new and exciting places. Both Eric and Dana contributed to my changed view of the world by helping me see how even though we had different shots, all of them were equally interesting in their own way.

Another activity that led to my change was going out on my own and taking pictures after the class was a huge component of my changed view. I did not realize how frustrating it would be when I applied what I learned in the photography class and my pictures did not come out quite the way I wanted them to. This was a big factor in realizing that I have much more to learn about photography. This experience also helped deepen my understanding that photography is a skill that takes a lot of patience and practice, which was different from my original belief.

Lastly, my photography class helped me see that editing is an important step that you have to take if you what to translate your vision for photographs. The camera cannot capture exactly what your eyes see so editing is crucial. This relates to my new perspective in that editing is important in many careers, not just photography. I have had time to reflect since the completion of my project and as of now, I want to be a Content Editor. This combines my major and both minors, Design Thinking and Professional Writing. Editing is a huge component of this position. Content Editors are responsible for all aspects of content, which includes development, design, production, presentation, evaluation and analysis, to name a few. My STEP experience exposed me to editing software for photographs that I can use in my future career, which is extremely valuable and transformational to me.

These interactions and activities are how my view of the world and myself changed from this amazing experience.


  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.

This change that I have made as a result of this trip is valuable for my life personally because I think that it is important to be able to look at things from another perspective that might be different from your original view. This applies to so many things, especially at such a diverse school like Ohio State, where you have to have an open mind and be willing to step out of your comfort zone to look at things from someone else’s perspective. Not only is that a photography lesson, but a life lesson as well.

Going off that, realizing the importance of traveling and experiencing new environments that you may not be used to is important. I am from a small town in southern Ohio. The city life of Chicago was a bit of a culture shock but I had so much fun exploring the city and capturing the moments with my camera as I went. This is significant because I am now going to prioritize being spontaneous and traveling when the opportunity presents itself, rather than let money deter me from experiencing the world. This will help me further strengthen my view of the world and my photography skills. I am thankful that I came across Dana in Chicago so that she could open my eyes to this.

My transformation is significant to my life in that I hope to incorporate photography into my profession, or at least make time for it to still be a hobby throughout my life. I am already seeing the benefits of this experience in my professional life. I was recently asked to take engagement pictures for a couple in Columbus. I cannot help but think this opportunity would not have presented itself if it were not from the skills I learned during my STEP experience. This transformation is valuable in my future career because I can use my new view of the world to offer new solutions to whatever problems may arise and edit with a different perspective than before. This will allow me to create unique and fresh content.

Cincinnati to San Francisco

For my STEP signature project, I travelled from Cincinnati to San Francisco, visiting several national parks, forests, and monuments including Arches, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Sequoia, and Yosemite. During our stays, we hiked, climbed, and camped.

During my project, and in the time spent preparing for it, I learned a lot about independent travel, camping, wilderness survival, planning, geology, and geography. Simply planning out a detailed itinerary and budget, booking campsites and park/activity fees, and purchasing necessary gear strengthened my communication, organization, and time management skills. I spent many hours planning the trip, and it was extremely rewarding to see my hard work pay off as I travelled and made my plans become reality. During the trip, I was more confident that I was prepared to handle any problems that could arise. I learned that I was more capable than I thought I was and that my preparation helped me feel more comfortable during my travel. Having only camped once before the trip, I was a bit nervous about living in the outdoors for multiple nights at a time. However, I quickly learned that if properly prepared, camping is extremely easy and very fun. I learned how to appreciate my time outdoors, without the distraction of my phone or other common background commotion. During the day time, I was worried I would not be able to complete certain hikes due to exhaustion or my fear of heights. However, I learned that determination, focus, and the satisfaction of completing a strenuous hike and seeing rewarding views lead me to appreciate even the hardest moments and inspired me to continue to seek challenges. I also learned a lot about the history of the parks, which was interesting because I not only got to see some of America’s most beautiful nature, but I was able to learn how it was created over, usually, millions of years, and how the parks have affected history. After this trip, I feel more confident to plan more independent travel plans successfully, and feel more motivated to continue to travel to explore other national parks, both inside and outside of the states. I have an increased trust in myself and others, and feel more comfortable with pushing my boundaries. I have been inspired to tackle more strenuous backpacking trips and climbing projects in the future.

The first major experience that really changed my perspective was during my Delicate Arch hike in Arches National Park. At the top, where the famous arch is located, I was able to hear and speak to people from all over the world; I remember hearing French, German, Chinese, Spanish, and other eastern-european languages that I was unable to identify. Not only was it neat to hear and see all of this culture in one place, but it made me reflect on the importance of preservation of national parks. Not only do they provide some of the most incredible, breath-taking views, but they also bring together people from across the entire world, seeking to see for themselves some of the most miraculous feats of nature. Outside of every park was a small town, and then no civilization for miles in between the parks. These towns only sprung up due to the masses of people that travel to see the parks every year, another example of how unifying nature can be.

I also really enjoyed talking to people we shared campsites with and hearing their stories and what brought them here. It was interesting to meet people from Germany and Australia, who were doing a tour of western national parks for their summer holiday. Everyone at the campsites were very friendly and flexible, something that I have noticed is very similar amongst most people I met. I think this is because when camping, spontaneity and flexibility is important – you have to learn to adjust to changing weather, changing plans, figuring out day-by-day situations, etc. I learned a lot about spontaneity and flexibility while camping for several nights in a row and I’m glad I was able to share my experience with people who had similar interests and values. There is a great sense of community at campsites and at national parks, and I hope to continue to make more connections with similar people.

Another moment that was very significant for me was after we had finished a hike to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, and we were riding the shuttle back to our car. During the ride, we mentioned the Olentangy River in conversation, and the mom and daughter in front of us overheard and asked if we attended Ohio State because they were from Columbus. This put into perspective for me just how popular and incredible these parks are, and how small the world is. It also reminded me of the powers of the natural world, and how it brings people together from all over the place, simply by being there, unknowing of its purpose and how It shapes the world around it.

Shortly after that shuttle ride, we drove to Sequoia National Park. The experience in this park was a big change for me – before, we had only seen orange/brown limestone and sandstone rock in the desert areas of Utah and Arizona. Suddenly, we were surrounded by blue and grey granite rock. The change in warmth and color palette was very intriguing to me and was a nice switch up from what we were used to seeing. I enjoyed researching how different climates and environments affect the type of rock that forms.

Yosemite, by far, was my absolute favorite park, and perhaps the most beautiful place I have ever seen in person. I was honestly expecting to be slightly underwhelmed, thinking it would be overcrowded with tourists. However, I was absolutely in awe of this park. It cannot be put into pictures or words just how massive these rocks were, and how small they made you feel. Yosemite not only had amazing mountains, but also had valleys, and waterfalls, and forests. Sitting at the top of Sentinel Dome with a 360-degree view of the park, I felt extremely grateful that I was able to have this experience, and feel inspired to share it with others and encourage them to see it for themselves.

In the future, I wish to continue to visit different national parks and push myself to accomplish harder backpacking and climbing trips. This trip was just the beginning for my passion for outdoor travel and adventure. In the following years, I wish to become stronger at climbing and learn more about climbing outdoors. Climbing outdoors can be very dangerous and requires a lot of expertise, which makes me very anxious when I hear about fatal accidents. However, I hope to strengthen my confidence by learning more and challenging myself more so that one day I can pass along my knowledge to new climbers. Besides climbing, I also wish to conquer more backpacking trips, as mentioned earlier. Backpacking requires individuals to carry all camping equipment, gear, food, and water on their back as they hike out to their destination over several days, stopping along the trail to camp every night. Besides the push for more outdoor travel, I will also apply the skills and knowledge I have attained in my future academic and career goals. I feel more comfortable talking to people of different nationalities and cultures, I feel more inclined to research online and learn about things of interest through the internet and through knowledgeable people, and I feel more confident that I will be able to achieve goals that I properly prepare for and set my mind to.

I also intend on joining student organizations or causes that promote wildlife and national park preservation. I think that every American should be able to see the national parks, and in order for this to be possible, more attention and funding needs to be directed towards preservation so that future generations can continue to understand the importance of being outdoors and seeing the miracles of nature. As society becomes more reliant on technology and production, we are slowly losing a focus on the importance of the outdoors and the solace it can bring. It is extremely liberating to be outside, feeling the dirt underneath your feet, the wind blowing through your hair, and the sun shining on your skin. As cheesy as that might sound, it is extremely beneficial to physical and mental health to be outdoors. I hope to carry this frame of mind into my future endeavors and know that no matter where life leads me, I can always remember to find my peace in the outdoors.

Here is a picture from each site I took during the trip. Looking back at these, I feel extremely grateful that I was able to see all of this, knowing that millions of people will never be able to have the same experience. I also feel a sense of gratitude that I understand the importance of these places, beyond the picture – I am able to take myself back to the location where the picture was taken and remember how the sights made me feel.


If you wish to learn more about my trip, I also kept a blog with more detailed information about each location, the hikes we did, and my reflections at Stepsophiawiedmann.blogspot.com

Leaving No Stone Unturned



The idea of a transformational experience is rooted in the fundamental concept of change. Change, an innate part of the human life, transpires by chance or through deliberate decision. Purposeful change is the intentional action of challenging your own assumptions, beliefs, and your limits in order to grow as an individual. The decisive element in a transformation is the recognition of a change that has occurred in an aspect of your life as well as how you perceive and respond to that new found knowledge. For my transformational project, I wanted an experience that would purposefully allow me to learn an academic subject through the art of exploration, an immersive experience. I also looked for a project that provided an opportunity for me to transform internally in an unintentional way, which can occur through first hand interactions, overcoming challenges within an opportunity, or by an omniscient reflection and comparison after completion. My STEP project provided just that.

My project included a visitation to national parks and monuments in the western part of the United States, including Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, and the Grand Canyon. Throughout the experience, I learned the history and significance of each national park and its affect on the culture in the surrounding communities. The primary objective of the project was to capture the natural beauty and overall experience through a camera lens in order to create an explanatory travel video that showcased events during the trip. This challenge allowed me to cultivate my creative side when presenting the narrative of the trip through video.


After completion of my project, I acknowledge that I underwent a personal and professional development throughout my experience. The paramount transformation I underwent in this project was my ability to seek and find value in every opportunity and event that transpires in life. Every event, both good and bad, that occurred during the trip had a purposeful lesson or impact on my life. The most important experience that I found the greatest value in my transformation was the time of reflection. In fact, the ability to seek and find value in each experience is rooted in the time of reflection.

In the present day world, our society has evolved into a nonstop liveliness that is addicted to faster living. The habitual fast paced lifestyle does not value time towards contemplation and reflection. Many individuals cherish any moment to pause from the dynamic lifestyle they live. The power of reflection is as critical to an experience as the actual event that occurred. Without reflection, we suppress the importance of what has been achieved. Throughout this project experience, I found purpose in reflecting on the events throughout the day such that I could learn and grow from each lesson that was intrinsic to each situation.

Every day, after recording the daily events that occurred, I documented my own personal reflection on how certain events related to experiences my life and what lessons that I learned could be applied . It was important for me to take advantage of the lessons I learned from the prior day and apply these ideas and skills to each day following. The value of reflection and time away from the hustle of life has allowed me grow as an individual. This includes my presence within a group project setting, my personal approach to life, and my critical thinking process to approach a new idea, city, or opportunity as a scholar. Each day brought new challenges and opportunities to learn, develop, and grow in real world situations. Experience was the best teacher and reflection was instrumental in developing my perspective and the driving force my transformational change.



The transformation I experienced affected the personal understanding of myself and the beliefs I had about life in general. The driving force behind my personal transformation were the life lessons I learned in the real world situations throughout the trip. For example, on our first day of the trip, I was pulled over for a speeding ticket while in Minnesota. Although most individuals would believe that this is a negative event that occurred, I perceived the event as a message from above. I perceived this speeding ticket to be a reminder to not speed through life in the fast lane, rather, slow down and appreciate the present moment for what it is worth. Life is a marathon race, not a sprint towards the finish line. This event transformed my whole mindset towards the way I approach life. Each and every day, take time to value the current moment you are in and the people that you are with. This trip turned out to be one of the most valuable experiences in my life, and if i had not slowed down and cherished each location, conversation, and situation, I could have overlooked the importance of each moment. This mindset is similar to a famous quote by Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I am grateful that I decelerated my approach to life and took advantage of each opportunity throughout this trip. If I had not, I believe that I would have missed the other life lessons I learned throughout the remainder of the trip.

Each day brought forth new life lessons, ideas, and knowledge in various forms. My prior knowledge of the national parks and western culture was ultimately changed by personal immersion. Each park featured a different approach to explore the natural beauty and no park was the same. Despite visiting multiple parks and monuments, Zion National Park was very interesting to me in particular. Zion once was a hidden gem of the national park system. In 2008, the park hosted almost half of the number of attendees that visited 2017. In response to the increasing number of visitors, the town of Springdale, Utah had to adapt by repaving roads, building new hotels, and created a public transportation system. A park ranger noted that the anticipated growth was far less than actual growth. Parking for visitors is scarce because additional parking lots were not created for the real growth and could only handle the anticipated lower number of attendees. In response, the town installed a shuttle to help with the low parking spaces by allowing hotel guests to not drive into the park. Roughly 65% of the visitors are travelers from foreign countries creating a demand for places to stay. The park ranger said that the town began to allow hotels to build in order to accommodate, but the town ultimately gave prime real estate to the hotels before they realized what the value of the land would become. There has been a drastic increase in attendance to the park, but there has been a reduction in the amount of funding provided to the park. Budget cuts from the government on a national level have decreased the amount of funds received by national parks. As a result, the shortage of funds does not allow very many additional improvements to help accommodate for the increasing number of visitors and creates a butterfly effect in other aspects of the area. For example, the shuttle system only has funding for the 9 busiest months of the year and constructing more parking lots is not attainable.

By staying in the town for two nights, I was able to understand and experience first hand the problems the town faces. I brainstormed ways I would handle the problems the town faces. If I was a business owner, what ways could I differentiate my business and profit on the rapid expansion? How could analytics be applied to the analyze the data trends in the city to make improvements that maximize the resources and minimize costs? Could analytics be used for historical visitor records, gas prices, weather patterns, or website visits? My perception changed on how national parks and cities surrounding the area operate. The culture of the western cities and stats was shaped by the surrounding geography. Stores, clothing, and daily operations revolved around the geographic location and other societal factors, funding for example. The interactions and events that occurred on the trip allowed me to transform my opinion and perception of the park system and western United States culture.

The trip was instrumental in the transformation of my interactions with individuals. By being in a group project, I was challenged to work on a multitude of skills necessary when collaborating. My daily reflections included how I treated my colleagues each day and areas I need to work on to improve my communication and engagement. Each day was a group effort to achieve success. In a group setting, I was challenged in my contribution through cooperation in decisions, leadership with responsibilities, patience with interactions, and my support of other group members. Cooperation with decisions was important to be efficient with time and accommodate others desires. This included choices in the places we ate at, activities we selected to do that day, participation in each activity, and other small preferences like who preferred to drive or sleeping arrangements. For some parts of the trip, I was the leader and had responsibilities for guidance in directions, itinerary, and decisions regarding the hotels, food, and planning. I have always had leadership roles in the past, however, I was never truly the sole leader, requiring assistance and cooperation from others. During the trip, our conversations about leadership style challenged me to reflect on the way I thought about leadership, how my experiences could apply within an organization, and how my interactions and engagement would be effective within an organization. By being challenged to think on a larger scale, I believe I have transformed into a confident leader who can represent and guide an organization with value based decisions. My patience grew as a result of living and cooperating with the individuals in my group. Confidently, I can say that I am able to treat others with respect, a calm demeanor, and an understanding of their perspectives. Throughout the trip, when faced with adversity or difficult points in our hikes, I found myself using a voice of encouragement. I transformed my interaction technique to a positive beacon that inspired my group to push forward. By interacting with my group members throughout the trip, I was able to reflect on how I was presenting myself to my friends and the world. In turn, I was able to reflect on my actions and how to improve my soft skills with other individuals, especially while in group settings.

The transformation that resulted from my project is rooted in the lessons I learned through the events, activities, and the interactions that occurred during my trip. Without this immersive experience, my personal reflection and transformation would not have been as effective. The power of experience was quintessential in challenging me to be critically examine my response in situations and then evolve. I was put to the test both physically and mentally to push through preconceived limits and push myself to new heights, allowing me to developing a mindset without restrictions. My project provided an opportunity for me to transform internally in an unintentional way, which occurred through my interactions, overcoming challenges in the trip, and by my daily reflections and application of the lessons learned.                                                                                                                                                                                  

My transformation has made an impression on both my personal and professional pursuits. Professionally, the development of my group collaboration skills, interaction etiquette with strangers, project planning, itinerary creation, and academic progress with video production are of value to my future aspirations in the professional world. In data analytics, group collaboration and project planning are essential to the success in the profession. Creating and managing a detailed itinerary for an organization or project with time sensitive milestones are important when executing a plan to successful completion with positive results. The academic component of my project, the video presentation, is a creative platform of the exact same role as a data analyst position. The role here is to consume data(video, photos, or numeric), to interpret data, and to tell the narrative of what the information is in a meaningful and relevant way that is easy for others to understand. This transformation has further progressed me to be prepared for my professional career. Personally, my transformation is valuable to my appreciation of the life I live. An old saying is that “with freedom comes responsibility.” In life, we are given the freedom to choice to make decisions. The responsibility that originates from this freedom is the responsibility you have to yourself to live a life that makes the most of every day you have. My transformation is significant in my life because of my development of a restrictions-free mindset. I have surpassed my preconceived boundaries and believe that I have expanded my limits to new levels. While on this trip, I have conquered my fears, learned new skills, and have created a vision for who I want to be as an individual. This transformation is as vital in my personal life. In transformation, challenging yourself and the recognition of your change and accomplishments is important. However, the biggest victory in a transformation is the application of all lessons you have learned and endured. The diverse perspectives I have accumulated will allow me to connect and build strong relationships with individuals in my personal life and professional career. The ability to approach a problem, city, or opportunity from different viewpoints will allow me to achieve success continuously throughout my life. Through this exploration, not only did I personally grow, but now I have the ability to spark growth in other individuals by sharing my transformation and experience with them.