My Journey to Global Citizenship

A “preschool” class in Los Galpones.

“A global citizen is someone who is aware of and understands the wider world – and their place in it. They take an active role in their community, and work with others to make our planet more equal, fair and sustainable” (OXFAM).

I grew up in a college town – Athens, Ohio – and I thought, for much of my growing up, that my circumstances were just about the same as everyone else. I would’ve told you I knew what diversity was because I had peers who were from other countries, children of visiting professors here for a year while their parents taught at Ohio University. I would’ve told you I knew what privilege was and that, although I was privileged to have been born into the family I was a part of, that I wasn’t that much better off than anyone else – after all, I did have to pay for my own gas for the car I got when I turned 16.

Perspective is an elusive trait – you don’t know you’re lacking perspective until you’ve gained some.

My junior year of high school, I had the opportunity to travel to Honduras and volunteer at an orphanage for children affected by HIV/AIDS – they either had the disease themselves, or lost their parents to it, and often, both. My passion for the Spanish language and my desire to pursue a career in healthcare spurred my interest in the trip and I still sponsor a child at the orphanage. The piece of perspective I gained on this trip is that happiness is independent of circumstance; that there is no external factor that is responsible for my outlook, mood, and overall well-being – that I alone choose my joy. Never before had I seen such pure love, happiness, and positivity than watching the children at Montaña de Luz play a game of fútbol, blissfully unperturbed by their lot in life.

Following my senior year of high school, I took my desire to work in a Spanish speaking population one step further, and spent five weeks living with a host family in Argentina. We worked in Los Galpones, which translates to “the sheds” and is a homeless community built in the town dump. We spent our days bringing lunches and clean water and teaching reading, writing, and math classes to the children who lived there. Again, I saw joy in what was, to me, an unexpected place. I also saw, despite the general positive outlook, a great need for basic necessities – clean water, sturdy shoes, education, and healthcare. I recall feeling struck by an overwhelming sense of guilt while reading with one of the girls living there. She was twelve years old and I, an eighteen year old American girl from Ohio, could read Spanish better than she could not because I was somehow better or smarter than she was, but because I had an opportunity handed to me on a silver platter to not only read books in my own native tongue, but to learn to read and write and speak in a second language. I gave her the book and she told me it was the first she had ever owned. My lesson in perspective came with a heaping side of humility.

I chose to embark on this journey to Norway because I have learned a simple truth – I will never be done learning. I am seeking an opportunity to continue my education, both in and out of the classroom, as I slowly, painfully, become a global citizen. I desire to play a role in creating a more equitable, fair, and sustainable world and to do so, I need to humbly admit that I know very little, but I am always willing and ready to learn.

STEP Signature Project

For my STEP Signature Project, I accepted an internship position with the Walt Disney Company in Orlando, Florida. I specialized in Hospitality Management while actively working in the Magic Kingdom, helping to facilitate quality guest experience and satisfaction. My day-to-day involved spending a large amount of time working at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and assisting in hospitable relations at this site.

Prior to my STEP Signature Project, I often struggled with patience when working with people I didn’t know well. During my Project, I spent every single day interacting with and working for guest whom I had never before met, and who often tried my patience in more ways than one. Whether the request be reasonable, like needing assistance on and off the roller coaster, or wildly unreasonable, like asking to cut in front of the three-hour wait line of people because “it’s my birthday”, I learned how to interact with people in a new way. Never before had I been exposed to so many people who were looking to me to solve their problems. Never before had I been asked for directions or instructions for how something in the park operated—in both English and Spanish (thank you OSU Spanish Minor!). In this internship capacity, I was the one being looked to for advice, guidance, a listening ear for a complaint, and so much more in the ways of hospitality management.

If not for this Project, I would likely be just as impatient and quick to annoyance and anger with strangers as I have always been. It is thanks to this transformational experience, however, that I have gained a new outlook on helping others—a much more patient outlook. Since returning to Ohio State, I find that I am less irritated when walking to class by the sheer number of people surrounding me. I am less likely to get frustrated when waiting in long line for my coffee before class. I am more inclined to lend a helping-hand to someone who seems lost on their way around campus, when previously I would have just continued on my way without stopping to ask if they need any assistance. It is thanks to my STEP Signature Project that I am a more patient person, willing to stop and help any stranger I encounter, and much more likely to have a smile on my face at all times (because as I learned at Disney, I am a performer in this world and putting on a Good Show is the most important!).

First and foremost, I can thank my transformational experience, in no small part, to my fellow “Cast Members” in the Magic Kingdom. No matter the length of the shift, or how much sleep we were able to sneak in before closing the park and opening the next morning, the men and women with whom I worked were some of the kindest, most servant-hearted people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. At times, particularly on long days with little sleep, I found it difficult to stay positive and to be kind and welcoming to all the guests. If not for the encouragement and support of my fellow Cast Members, I am certain my experience would’ve been significantly more challenging. I am beyond grateful for the friendships I made and the outpouring of kindness I received on this internship.

In addition to my fellow interns and employees, I have to look to the guests who came to visit the Magic Kingdom as my inspiration for transformation on this Project. They came to the park with everything from smiles and kindness, to vulgar language and downright rude behavior. If not for the guests, my experience in being hospitable no matter the situation would have been nonexistent. These families, couples, and friends came into Walt Disney World with a level of expectation for everything they encountered. Whether they expected something from the Cast Members, the park itself, or their fellow guests, they had expectations they desperately wanted to have met. Rather unfortunately so, the requests (demands) of the guest simply could not be met, and that is often where my internship department came in. An unsatisfied guest is the worst thing in the mind of a Disney Cast Member and it is of upmost importance that they leave feeling happy. By working side-by-side Disney employees and my fellow interns, I was able to help resolve conflicts and create a peaceful, happy experience for the guests. My patience was tested on multiple occasions, and it is because of this that I have been transformed into the person I am today.

Finally, it is the program as a whole that I have to thank for my transformation. From pairing me with supportive, caring, and kind roommates who gave to love and encouragement throughout my program, to the placement at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, I am blessed to have been a part of this internship. The classes that accompanied my program provided me with the tools for success that I used every single day. The facility I worked in gave me encouragement to be kind and to have patience with each and every guest. And lastly, it is the STEP program that gave me the means to embark on this adventure that I am beyond grateful to have experienced, as well as to have been wholly transformed by.

As previously mentioned, I was not a particularly patient person before embarking on my eight month long Signature Project. I was quickly annoyed by crowds and lines and often felt angered by being asked questions by strangers. This Project was significant because it truly transformed one of my least favorite aspects of myself. I have gained patience as a result of my internship, a personality feature I have been working on for nearly my entire twenty-one years of life. I gained friendships and skills I will carry with me throughout my life, and it is all thanks to the Second-Year Transformational Experience Project. I am grateful for the opportunity to take this internship and for all of the wonderful benefits my Signature Project provided.