Building Character Through Strength

My STEP project was acquiring equipment geared towards competitive powerlifting.  The equipment aided in my training for the USAPL 2019 Collegiate Powerlifting Nationals and allowed me to develop strength training in my community.

My understanding of my limits through mental and physical aspects was more clearly outlined.  My understandings of training and how to influence and create training for others became more developed during the STEP project.  Consistent training during summer and breaks is something I found to be psychologically taxing and I had to learn how to motivate myself through commitment to something months away.  My understandings of helping others in strength training improved through hands on development and my patience and drive to teach others the sport of powerlifting grew as a result. My personal success grew as my opinion-based assumptions were thrown away and a more scientific research-based approach was taken towards my training and the training with which I helped others.

A few events that led to improvement in my personal motivation to prepare for 2019 Collegiate Nationals were competing a few times leading up to nationals.  I found competing very motivating and to continually see improvements in my training and work ethic.  Watching a few of the people I aided in training become successful because of this project when they competed aided in my understandings of how to help other on the path to success and not just myself.  These events affected me on a positive level which has further developed my character.

Over the past summer and months leading up to the 2019 Collegiate Powerlifting Nationals, I had the opportunity to develop relationships and interact with like-minded individuals.  These aided in my ability to coach or guide others in their own training by constant exposure to new research-based ideas and methods. My understandings of myself changed because of these.  I can better find ways to improve my own training and psychological approaches to the sport of powerlifting.  These personal interactions and relationships I’ve built have affected me positively by establishing almost a system of support for the sport and easily reachable individuals to convey and discuss different ideas.

The USAPL 2019 Collegiate Nationals was one of the largest powerlifting meets ever held and was a phenomenal experience.  The ability to see hundreds of other college students with similar goals and at similar points in life while dedicating time to training reaffirmed that strength training is worth pursuing while handling work and coursework.  As a result of all this, my character has grown and my ability to be able to guide others in the sport has improved tremendously.

The personal growth I have experienced is valuable to my life because I can apply the principles I have learned to many areas of my life.  Being committed to something months away and using that as motivation can be transferred to different aspects of my life to improve my work ethic whether it be during the academic term or being motivated to work in future employment.  I have also learned to manage my time significantly better because of taking strength training consistently and seriously five days a week for over two years now.  Having this level of consistency yearly now has led to increased success academically and personally through continual character growth and improved self-management.  I believe these skills I have improved upon will be useful to my future professional goals.

Equipment to Improve Training

2019 USAPL Collegiate Nationals


SASHA, Sex Week, and Leadership

My STEP Signature Project had three main components: the creation of a student organization whose mission was to plan Sex Week, a trip to Boston, Massachusetts to experience Harvard’s Sex Week, and hosting OSU’s first-ever Sex Week. I created Student Advocates for Sexual Health Awareness (SASHA) with the mission of creating an organization dedicated to hosting Sex Week. After that was off the ground, I attended Harvard’s Sex Week in early November of 2018. Last but not least, SASHA hosted OSU’s first-ever Sex Week during February 2019.

I never saw myself as a leader before I completed my STEP Signature Project. I had never run for student government, been the captain of a sport’s team, or done any other things I associated with leadership. I viewed my role as founder of SASHA as a mere public health activity. I began as the leader of 15 other students, all dedicated to SASHA’s mission. That number rose to about 30, as friends and peers heard about what we were planning. As Sex Week drew closer, I realized I was leading about 100 volunteers that all needed direction and guidance. I was the one with the confirmation codes, passwords, and the bank account. It was not until the weeks leading up to Sex Week that I realized I had been a leader the whole time.

Sexual health education has always been a passion of mine. When I started SASHA and set out to plan Sex Week, I saw myself as a medical counsel or academic advisor; just someone who could state the facts and whip out statistics. My role quickly morphed into marketing director, graphic designer, accountant, grants manager, communications director, and moderator. I have learned that this is what a leader has to do. They must be able to see what is missing in an operation and then either step in to fix it or find someone who can.

SASHA started out as an unknown organization. I assumed that it would stay that way for the most part, but as we came closer to the beginning of Sex Week, people started paying attention. As owner of the Sex Week website, it was up to me to publish our events as they were confirmed. More importantly, however, I had to write about them in a way that sounded interesting and relatable to college students.

One event titled “Fighting Abortion Stigma with Planned Parenthood” quickly caught people’s attention. This event was truly about the stigma that surrounds a female-identifying person after an abortion, how to help a loved one through that, and how to find appropriate medical and psychological care post-abortion. Because Ohio State is a majority female campus, and statistically, 1 in 4 women will get an abortion in her lifetime, SASHA felt this was a necessary topic to educate our peers on. However, once groups like Ohio Right to Life, Campus Reform, and Breitbart caught wind of a Planned Parenthood association, any anonymity that I had was completely gone. I received countless angry emails, to both the organization’s email address and my own personal address and had many meetings with OSU Communications staff as how to best address the issue.

I had to make many decisions regarding the hate mail I was receiving. I never expected to be in charge of assessing the need for a police presence, deciding how to communicate with the press, or defending my student organization to campus administrators. I am not sure I could have done this a year ago, but the skills that I gained by creating and leading SASHA prepared me for the challenge.

This change is huge for me, both personally and professionally. I had to learn how to ignore personal remarks and push aside my own insecurities. There will always be people that do not share my passion or appreciate what I do, and I now know that I can endure harsh criticism and doubt. My STEP experience also helped me learn that I need to be confident in my own knowledge and the preparation I put in. I learned to trust the work I had done in the past, and I learned to have confidence in my education.

Professionally, this challenge was inevitable. I am passionate about sexual health, and I firmly believe that inequitable sex education is the foundation for sexism and gender stereotypes. Sex education is not a great field to be in if cannot defend and justify your work. Some religion, political party, or sexist writer will always disagree with me, and may even find my work to be inappropriate and salacious. My experience with my STEP Signature Project helped me learn to prepare for this kind of backlash and gave me experience in dealing with opposition.

If you would like to take a look at the official Sex Week 2019 schedule, the rest of the pictures from Sex Week, or read testimonials from attendees, check out our website here.

TEFL Certification

For my STEP project, I received my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certification. I chose to do so in hopes to strengthen my passion for accessible education worldwide. Learning English is a skill for many that opens the door to countless resources. Unfortunately, many countries and people lack the access to this education. With my TEFL, I can now effectively share my English knowledge with people of all ages, internationally. Furthermore, traveling and building relationships with people of different cultures facilitates global citizens. It is our responsibility as humans to use our intelligence, skills, and compassion to work together to cultivate and enhance the world we live in. Teaching English is one of the many ways I hope to foster my global consciousness.

I chose this project after having the opportunity to teach English in Nepal, Thailand, and Laos over the past two summers. Seeing how excited the children were to learn English and realizing the opportunities that arise for them after learning English was so rewarding. There were many memorable moments during those trips but a few in particular stood out as vital moments in my decision to make teaching English a career. One of these moments was my very first day of teaching. I walked into the small classroom and was greeted by a very nice Thai woman. On the board were pictures of different kitchen utensils and appliances. We split the children into two groups, one with me and the other with the teacher. I remember feeling so anxious. I was in charge of these nine young children’s English education and I was supposed to do so on my own while knowing little Thai vocabulary. However, the nine children eased my nerves right away with their bright smiles and constant laughter. The lesson went by so quickly and with minimal issues (except having to teach them that there is no explanation as to why the word knife has a silent k but that the word kitchen is not pronounce “itchen”). Their curiosity and excitement for learning was so refreshing and made teaching so enjoyable. The next day, they came running in yelling “teacher issy”. I was so overwhelmed with the amount of compassion these kids had. After two weeks of teaching these children, leaving them was so difficult. I knew then that this was something that I needed pursue.

The following summer I taught English again but this time in Nepal. While there, I stayed one night with a local family whom was working on rebuilding their home after it was destroyed in the earthquake. Even though at this point I had a lot of experience communicating with people with language and cultural barriers, I was still anxious to be staying with this family overnight by myself. After the mother showed me where I would be sleeping, I walked outside and saw four young children playing soccer. I jumped right in. We played for about an hour before I started to smell food cooking in the shed behind the house. I walked over to find the mom cooking dal baat, a traditional Nepalese meal. I made a gesture as if to ask if she needs help. She showed me how to correctly peel and cut the carrots. She looked at me and very quietly said carrot. I asked how to say it in Nepali. We spent the next hour pointing at things and exchanging how to say it in Nepali and English. Although we were only teaching each other vocabulary, it felt like we were creating a special bond. This moment was particularly special for me because it made me realize that learning goes so much beyond the classroom. I learned so much from my house mom in a small shed behind a home in a Nepali village that I would not have been able to in a classroom in the U.S. I enjoy teaching English so much because of how much the people I meet teach me.

During these trips I was a volunteer but one of my guides in Nepal brought to my attention the TEFL certification. She saw how much I enjoyed teaching and thought it would be great opportunity for me. Since I am still in school, the online course was the most feasible for me. The course consisted of an online component and a required amount of student teaching hours. I learned so much when I had the opportunity to help within an ESL classroom. Observing the teachers and seeing the impact they had on their students was very inspiring. For my student teaching, I worked at a refugee center. These refugees had the same level of excitement as the nine children I first taught in Thailand. Although I was hesitant about receiving my certification in the U.S., I am glad I did because it opened me up to a world that I did not know much about previously. Hearing the students’ stories and backgrounds was so interesting. There are so many refugees in the U.S. and I have met so many people who are either refugees themselves or children of refugees but I have never asked much about their backgrounds. One of my favorite parts of traveling is how it makes you a more globally conscious citizen and is arguably the best way to learn and gain respect for other cultures. However, teaching the refugees made me realize that you don’t need to leave the country to learn of other cultures. We are a country that prides themselves on its diversity. Everyone around us comes from different backgrounds and it is our duty as American citizens to learn about these backgrounds and respect the variety of cultures we experience every day.

Teaching English has also made me realize how grateful I am to be receiving such a great education at a world renowned university. I have always been passionate about making education more accessible for people all over the world and my experiences teaching ESL has only strengthened that. English education is so valuable and provides people all over the world with opportunities that they may not have had without knowing English.

In the long term, I plan on teaching abroad following graduation for at least three years. I grew so much academically and personally when I volunteered to teach abroad. Although I was the teacher, I gained just as much, if not more, knowledge from the students. Traveling and immersing yourself in other cultures is one of the best forms of education. I am so excited to be TEFL certified and eager to see the opportunities that will arise as a result of it.



OAC Utah Canyon Exploration Trip

This project was a camping trip in Utah planned by the OAC. The course is designed to expose students to American National Parks, as well as teach students about hiking, climbing, and Leave-No-Trace ethics. We spent the entirety of Spring Break experiencing all that Utah (and Nevada) had to offer.

I entered the trip with few expectations, but I ended up learning loads from the diverse group of people who I was fortunate enough to travel with. Each day we did some reflecting on our favorite parts of the day, areas we struggled, and what we were looking forward to. I learned that my actions can be the best part of someone’s day without having any idea. This showed me the impact that I can have on others and inspired me to further show love and kindness. I recall reflecting and the best part of people’s days were things as little as having an impromptu dance party or receiving encouragement while struggling with a climb.

I also transformed in that I learned humility and how to listen. I am a talkative person and love the sound of my own voice, but many times on the trip I was fortunate enough to be witness to someone telling their life story, their struggles, or their fears. In these times, I had to hold my tongue and accept that I am no expert, but just be there with this new friend. I remember vividly sitting around a campfire and we all shared the things we wished people knew about us. In that moment, I experienced great vulnerability from the trip members and realized that every person has a story to tell. Now I am drawn to allow people to tell those stories.

Another experience that drew great transformation out of me was the hike at Bryce Canyon up to Summit Point (dumb name, I know). We drove in through a blizzard into Bryce and came to a nearly empty trailhead as it was freezing cold and snowy. We bundled up and hiked in, falling into the snow up to our thighs many times over. Still, we were just about the only people there and when we pushed through the canyon opened up out of nowhere in front of us. I was (and still am) awestruck by the beauty of the canyon and I was struck with a recognition that the world is full of lots of beauty which I am not always admiring the best that I can. It took me going out to one of the most beautiful places in the United States to remember that the world has goodness all throughout it. Now, I am driven to be aware of this and experience all that I can.

At Summit Point in Bryce Canyon

I experienced further transformation by getting to know my trip mates. Over the course of the week, I had nearly zero alone time, but what that meant is that I got close to these (previously) strangers very quickly. I remember thinking that since some of the people in the group weren’t climbers or outdoorsy, they were not gonna make it through the week. However, I vividly remember being on the ground belaying one of our members as she screamed and clawed her way to the top of a route. I saw a deeper strength and perseverance in her which I did not know existed. On our last day, I finished the last stretch of a mountainous hike with this friend, and I saw her refuse to quit and drive into the end of her hike, well out of her comfort zone. I learned that people are strong, and I am in no place to judge someone based on my first thoughts.

This trip was significant because the lessons I learned will permeate well into my relationships, personal life, and professional career. I know more about myself and what I need. Similarly, I know the value of getting to know people, even when they are very different from me. Moving forward I will invest myself more in hiking and climbing, since this trip was such a blast. But also, I will make sure to keep people at the forefront of my decisions and seek out those who are different from me, as they are the ones who can teach me and are hardest to love.

Thanks to STEP for making this trip possible and shoutout to my tripmates!

SXSW STEP project

My STEP project mainly involved me attending networking events and lectures pertaining to the music industry. The week-long South by Southwest experience was one of a kind and brings together the entire music industry for a week. Beyond the informational events and networking opportunities, I was also able to see a ton of live music throughout the SXSW music festival.

My eyes were opened a lot over the course of my week in Austin. I think one of the biggest things that I learned about myself was that I was comfortable putting myself out there and introducing myself to complete strangers. It was extremely scary to be in a room with so many passionate and qualified people and it was almost impossible to not compare yourselves to others. At the end of the day, I learned that I couldn’t worry about other people and that SXSW wasn’t about competition but more about collaboration. By the end of the week, I had absolutely no problem going up to an important person and giving them my personal pitch and explaining why I wanted to connect with them.

One interaction that really sticks out in my mind was finding another student who was there that went to Ohio State. It was an instant connection that really made me feel comfortable. This student really showed me that SXSW was really all about collaboration and sharing my unique ideas and passions with all those that were around. This student and I actually kept in touch after the conference and still meet up once and a while because we have the same passions and aspirations.


Another significant event that occurred during my time in Austin was attending the SXSW gaming conference. This part of the conference was on the last days of SXSW and I just went to it thinking that it would be somewhat interesting. After attending a couple different lectures and panels about the world of esports and the marketing behind gaming, I was really interested. Now, I really want to look into jobs within the gaming industry because of how creative and collaborative the industry seems. I also saw a lot of growth potential in this area. I saw myself working in this area and using my creativity and passion to help drive a company to new heights.


Probably the most impactful part of my SXSW experience was the mentor series that are provided throughout the conference. In this session, I was able to meet with people working within the music industry that provided me with career advice and answered questions that I had for them. I think my biggest takeaway from these one on one sessions was that I just need to continue to leverage the connections to the music industry that I have in Columbus and continue to expand my network. These were invaluable connections that I plan on taking advantage of in when looking for jobs in the future. My dream of working in the music industry once seemed like a crazy dream as I had no idea how to even get a foot in the door, but going to SXSW provided me with an invaluable opportunity that made my dream become more of a reality.

Being able to go to SXSW provided me with so much clarity about my future and professional goals that I want to accomplish. I have so many connections that I can follow up on that will help me to achieve my goals in the future. Not only did STEP help me with my professional goals and aspirations after graduation, but it also helped me develop internally and learn about myself. I definitely feel more confident in myself and what my future holds.

STEP Reflection: TEFL Certification

For my STEP project, I received my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certification. I chose to do so in hopes to strengthen my passion for accessible education worldwide. Learning English is a skill for many that opens the door to countless resources. Unfortunately, many countries and people lack the access to this education. With my TEFL, I can now effectively share my English knowledge with people of all ages, internationally. Furthermore, traveling and building relationships with people of different cultures facilitates global citizens. It is our responsibility as humans to use our intelligence, skills, and compassion to work together to cultivate and enhance the world we live in. Teaching English is one of the many ways I hope to foster my global consciousness.

I chose this project after having the opportunity to teach English in Nepal, Thailand, and Laos over the past two summers. Seeing how excited the children were to learn English and realizing the opportunities that arise for them after learning English was so rewarding.

The course consisted of an online component and a required amount of student teaching hours. I learned so much when I had the opportunity to help within an ESL classroom. Observing the teachers and seeing the impact they had on their students was very inspiring. Their patience and compassion was so admirable. It also made me realize how grateful I am to be receiving such a great education at a world renowned university. I have always been passionate about making education more accessible for people all over the world and my experiences teaching ESL has only strengthened that.

In the long term, I plan on teaching abroad following graduation for at least three years. I grew so much academically and personally when I volunteered to teach abroad. Although I was the teacher, I gained just as much, if not more, knowledge from the students. Traveling and immersing yourself in other cultures is one of the best forms of education. I am so excited to be TEFL certified and eager to see the opportunities that will arise as a result of it.



Utah Canyon Exploration Reflection


Creative and Artistic Endeavors – Utah Canyon Exploration

  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.

My STEP Signature Project was a 10-day backpacking, hiking, and rock-climbing trip to Southern Utah and Nevada. Throughout these 10 days, we traveled to multiple National Parks and Conservation areas to hike and camp. Every few days, we could pack up all of our belongings and start again!


  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

One of the main reasons that I wanted to go on this trip was the de-connection from normal life and technology, and the re-connecting with the earth and individuals at their core (rather than through social media). For 10 days we had essentially no cell phone service, internet, or access to comfortable, modern amenities. I knew this would definitely be challenging but believed it was what I needed. I wanted to get away from the life I lived almost robotically every day. Within the first few days of getting there, I already noticed multiple times that I was not living in or appreciating the moments that I had traveled so far for; I was being judgmental and not participating. I think this was the “robotic” me taking into action, but I was able to catch myself early on, likely because of how joltingly different the atmosphere was. It did not feel normal to be acting this way. One of the ways I was judgmental was by being closed off to the other individuals and making up my mind on whether or not I liked them as a person based on a few minutes of interaction! Even now, the more I think about this the more ridiculous it sounds – but I (and many others) do this all of the time in our every-day lives without even thinking twice. Once I let down my barriers and stopped being so close-minded, I found to really develop meaningful relationships, especially with the ones who I dismissed at first. Through this, I learned that it will definitely be hard to re-program myself to let go of old habits, but the reward is very worth it.


  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

There were two main relationships I built with two girls over the course of this trip. At the beginning, I was not finding myself to warm up to any of the other people, and was even slightly disappointed that no one was “like me”. Thinking back, I think it was fear and insecurity that presented itself to which my response was to close myself off. About halfway through the trip, I realized how absolutely silly I had been acting. Soon after that realization, it was as if flood gates had opened and my relationship with these two girls just dove into a great big pool of laughs and support and dancing and connections. I’ve seen these girls multiple times since coming back, and I’m very glad I was given the opportunity to become close with them.

As I mentioned above, the presence of my own insecurities and judgments on myself are what I believe made me act in the irrational, non-representative of me way that I did. I was by far the least athletic in the group, and many of them already knew each other from climbing together beforehand – something I never did. I felt left out from the start, and a little bit inferior, and definitely nervous. I never addressed these with myself or others, therefore allowing the negative feelings to manifest in ugly behaviors. I’m glad that I was self-reflective enough to catch them, but it was not too hard due to the sheer magnificence of the environment we were in; I knew that if I wasn’t feeling magnificent, then something must be off.

This makes me think of how unaddressed feelings manifest through our behaviors in our every day life, often not in the way we want them to, but everything is so automatic and routine that we do not notice anything “being off”. This thought has never dawned on me before, and now through everything I do I cannot help but take special note of why I am acting the way I am, and internally reflecting in that very moment to ask myself if it is truly representative of me. I’ve shared this idea with a few friends and we all agree that we are not innocent of this behavior, and I think many other kids of my generation would feel the same way. In a routine environment, it’s hard to catch when you should make changes and where those changes should be. Considering how rewarding the experience of my STEP project was and how meaningful my friendship with these girls is becoming, I think partaking in dis-placing activities is extremely important in life and helps to re-focus on what matters.


  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.

For the rest of my life, I will be meeting all kinds of people different from me, with different strengths, experiences, ideas – and that is what will make my life interesting! I cannot learn if I am surrounded by people just like me, or if I am always immediately comfortable. This trip to Utah has definitely put into perspective my subconscious attitudes, and the fact that I need to address and correct them. I don’t want to keep living my life continuously judging and being close-minded and plain ugly on the inside (not to mention: Ugly on the inside will find its way to showing on the outside). I want to continue talking to my friends and family about subconscious attitudes and implicit bias we all carry, and how it is so important not only to recognize but to correct it! I don’t think we as people are meant to live so closed off from each other. I think many of us have great potential for relationships, and are much more similar than meets the eye. I do think that this is key to a brighter, truer future.

OAC Utah Canyon Exploration

STEP Reflection

Name: Marissa Witt

Type of Project: Leadership

I attended the Outdoor Adventure Center Utah Canyon Exploration trip. The main activities of my STEP signature project include camping, hiking, and rock climbing. We traveled to Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, and visited national parks, national conservation areas, national monuments, and state parks.

A lot about my understanding of myself, my assumptions, and my view of the world changed while completing my STEP signature project. I came into the trip thinking that I knew a whole lot about the outdoors and was not super willing to ask questions because that would be me admitting that I didn’t know something. I was worried that I had to uphold this image of knowing a lot about the outdoors but once I accepted to myself that I don’t know everything or even a lot of things, I felt myself growing exponentially. Another change that occurred was that I began to allow myself to make mistakes and not compare myself to others. Every person on our trip was at a different level of rock climbing, and allowing myself to make mistakes was a large hurdle I had to get over. Another change I experienced was that I began to take care of myself first and not always be so altruistic. Though I know being selfless is an important thing and part of who I am, sometimes it is nice to take a step back and do what is best for me and put myself first. The last and one of the most important changes I experienced was through my relationships with people. I decided to leave my cell phone behind for the 10 day trip to allow myself the full disconnected experience with my peers and nature. I realized that technology, but specifically my phone, restricts me from developing genuine relationships with people. I have less patience, I am more anxious, and i have far less eye contact with the world around me because of my cell phone. I was able to learn so much about people and form amazing relationships because I didn’t have my phone with me.

Many events, interactions, relationships, and activities during my STEP signature project led me to experience the changes I spoke about in the above sections. The first change I experienced was accepting that I don’t know everything about the outdoors. I realized through the relationships I made with the trip leaders that being a good leader isn’t about acting like you know everything and are cooler or better than other but rather focusing on helping others and encouraging everyone to work together. I learned that people respect people who take a step back and admit their faults and grow from that. When I began to ask questions about climbing and the outdoors, I began growing exponentially and I credit that all to my experiences of watching my trip leaders.

The second change I experienced was that I learned I needed to allow myself to make mistakes and not compare myself to others. On the first night of the trip we were given a set of rules and within those rules was to respect that everyone is on their own path and to not bring anyone down when it comes to personal abilities. I was fearful that people may not follow this rule and may judge me for my abilities. Over time, I began to realize that I only need to focus on myself. When we were in Zion National Park, we climbed a crack climb called cave route, and it was my first crack climb. Because it was my first crack climb, I had to acquaint myself with the body positions and I began to become very self conscious that I was taking a much longer time than the two people who had climbed before me. There were many time throughout the climb that I considered giving up and rappelling down because I was taking such a long time, but I focused on not worrying about the judgements of others and push forward because I wanted to climb and I was determined to finish the route. I ended up completing the route and what I took from it was far more than my first crack climb experience, but a promise to myself to never worry about what other people think.

The third change I experienced as that I realized that I need to focus more on taking care of myself. During the debrief of rules during the first night of the trip, one of the earlier rules was to take care of yourself and do what you need to do for yourself. I am typically a very altruistic and giving person, and not to say that those characteristics are bad, but they are best when working in harmony with a bit of selfishness. Selfishness is not always bad as well because it means that you are focusing your attention on what is best for you and what will be the most beneficial to you in the long run. Typically I am the kind of person that will help people carry their things, offer food, and stop doing what I am doing to help others even if that means my back will end up hurting, I will go hungry, or I will miss a deadline. This change has allowed me to put in perspective the things I do for others and remembering to focus on what is best for me.

The last change I experienced was in regards to my relationships with people without technology as a distraction. I chose to leave my phone behind and it was the best decision I have ever made. There were many times during the trip that had I had my phone, I would have pulled it out and done useless scrolling through social media or other things that would have gotten in the way of me forming relationships with others. I witnessed many other participants sitting on their phones throughout the trip and I realized how addicted we are to technology. Instead of being on my phone, I ended up playing the cow game during long car rides, having very interesting conversations, and listening to other people’s music because I was more patient and willing to give things a chance. I noticed a large reduction in my stress and anxiety throughout the trip as well because I did not have my phone with me. This was one of the biggest changes I experienced.

This transformation is significant in my life because I learned how important it is to focus on the important things. Something I realized recently as I was scheduling my classes for next semester is that college has absolutely flown by. I want to live in the moment and focus on the important things and this trip put a lot of things in my life that I thought were huge deals into perspective as not that important. This trip reminded me of the importance of human connection, patience, and kindness. These things are very important as I strive to be a leader as a speech pathologist. It is important to have the ability to form connections with my patients and have large amounts of patience when dealing with people with disorders and disabilities.



Utah and Nevada Canyon Exploration Adventure Trip

Name: Amanda Killian

Type of Project: Leadership

At the top of the Angels Landing Hike (Zion National Park, Utah)

My STEP trip was the Utah Canyon Exploration adventure trip through Ohio State’s Outdoor Adventure Center. Nine Ohio State students and I spent ten days camping, hiking, and climbing in Utah and Nevada at Red Rock, St. George, Escalante, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Park. We adventured through both the hot desert and snowy mountains and overall the trip was a blast!

This trip most definitely changed my understanding of nature and myself. Before going on this trip, I knew I loved the outdoors. I had gone camping many times as a kid so the concept of setting up a tent and hiking was no mystery for me. What I learned on this trip though, was the camping I had done as a kid was very much “front country camping.” The Utah Canyon Exploration trip was much more of “back country camping.” Many of the camp sites we stayed at did not have bathrooms or toilet paper. I learned how to “leave no trace” and I also became more aware of nature and how important it is to preserve it. We also hiked about ten miles a day which I had never done before on a camping trip. The hikes were often on steep and rocky terrain, and by the end of the trip I was definitely more in shape than I had been at the beginning. I also met new people and learned about their backgrounds. One great way to bond with someone is to try and set up a tent together in the pitch-black dark for the first time. Overall, this trip taught me more about camping, tested my athletic abilities, and allowed me to meet and get to know new people.

There were certain events and interactions that led to the three points I just discussed. First of all, this trip really taught me more about how to be a savvy camper. We set up our tents each night and were taught how to fold the tarp so that rain would not collect underneath it. All of our meals were made fresh each day and we cooked some good stuff! We ate using a “blate” (plate but also a bowl) and a spork. Roles were assigned each day such as someone who would remind everyone to use sunscreen, chef, chef assistant, a person who reminded us to drink water, etc. There was one time where we did not have water at our camp site, so water was conserved since we needed it to drink and brush our teeth.

During the trip, my athletic abilities were also definitely tested. I remember one hike at Red Rock near the end of our trip very specifically. We were hiking in the beating hot sun and after ten minutes, I was covered in sweat, exhausted, and thought that there was no way I could make it to the top. Instead of giving up, I kept hiking and told myself “You can do this!” The other people on the trip were also so kind and encouraging. I was usually in the back of the pack but someone always stayed behind me and kept saying encouraging comments. After hiking another hour and a half I made it to the top and the view was incredible! I could have not done that without some grit and support from my group members. I also learned how to be a better climber through this trip! Before the trip I went climbing at the OAC maybe three times. I was nervous when I realized a lot of the trip we would be climbing… but I ended up improving a lot over the course of the trip and by the end I loved to climb! I even made it to the top of one climb! I also learned more about how to belay others while they climb.

I met many different people on this trip. Everyone had different backgrounds, interests, majors, and personalities. It was so interesting to sit down with someone and ask them their opinion on a topic. On the plane ride to Nevada, I sat next to two of the girls on the trip. We talked for three hours straight and by the time we got to our destination I felt that I knew them a lot better. One of my favorite evenings was when we had a bonfire. Everyone had to share something that they wanted people to know about them. It was so interesting and eye opening to hear what people had to say.

This trip definitely transformed the way I go about life. For example, all during the trip we didn’t have cell service, and for the parts we did I stayed off my phone. When I got home, I noticed myself using my phone way less than I normally do. Another change… I really appreciate clean water and find myself conserving my water use more! During the trip we often didn’t have access to water so I learned how to use less and ration out what we had. Finally, during this trip I gained a new appreciation for nature and taking joy in the simple things. At each place we went I was amazed at the beauty of the landscape. I also appreciated simple things… such as the taste of water after a long hike or the gratifying feeling of hiking all the way to the top of a mountain. Now, I find myself taking joy in the little things at home… such as the birds chirping when I walk to class. Overall, I had a wonderful time during this trip. I explored new places, learned more about camping, met new people, gained a deeper appreciation for environmental beauty, and learned to appreciate the small things in life. I am so grateful for the opportunity STEP gave me to travel on this trip!

The group at Calf Creek Falls (Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, Utah)


STEP Reflection – Buck-I-SERV trip to Baltimore

Name: Serena Brough

Type of Project: Leadership

For my STEP project, I was a leader on a Buck-I-SERV trip to Baltimore, Maryland. This trip entailed working together with a disabled adult community. Our group helped the center put on a talent show for these individuals, along with assisting in everyday tasks, like keeping the disabled adults entertained.

This trip really helped me see the world in a different light. Being at OSU, I find myself being stuck in my own little world of school and not thinking of much else. Visiting these individuals helped me realize that there is so much more to everyday life than just getting good grades and doing homework. Every day is going to include its ups and downs, and that is okay as long as I am able to make the best of it. The disabled adults I worked with always made the best of their situation and stayed positive, even when things went wrong. They made me realize it is okay to worry less and go with the flow. Also, every time we showed up to begin our service for the day, these individuals were so welcoming. At first it was overwhelming, but it was really nice to see they enjoyed having us there. It made me want to try harder and emulate this kindness in my own life.

As I mentioned above, the adults we worked with were always very welcoming. The first day we walked in, I shook so many hands and gave so many hugs, I lost count. There was always someone that wanted to introduce themselves to you and have a conversation. The overwhelming excitement and kindness was a very unique aspect of this trip, and I really enjoyed being able to experience that. It made me realize how important it is to reach out to others and be kind, making me want to implement it more into my life.

Another aspect of this trip that helped transform me took place on the last day of service. As we were gathering everyone on stage for awards for the talent show, one of the residents fell and got hurt. The ambulance ended up taking her to the hospital, where we later found out she was alright. This experience was really impactful because even though the other individuals were extremely worried and seemed to understand the severity of the situation, they stayed positive and did not let negative thoughts take over. It was extremely refreshing to see this as that does not happen often nowadays. I think it is something we could all learn from.

The last aspect of this trip that I would like to discuss that impacted me was at auditions for the talent show. It was not the most organized of events. and I really had to be flexible and adaptable to the situation. This is something that is much different from what I usually do, as I always tend to have a plan and stick strongly to it. Because I was unable to do so, I was forced to go out of my comfort zone. This made me realize that sometimes it is okay to not have a solid plan and just see what happens. I believe this realization will help me worry less.

Overall, I believe this trip was a wonderful experience for me. It exposed me to people I would not have been normally and made me step out of my comfort zone, which I believe are important aspects of any transformative experiences. Because I want to go into the medical field, this helps my professional goals as well. To have this experience with disabled adults and see what goes into taking care of them and helping them gives me insight that I would not have otherwise. I will definitely have to interact with disabled individuals in the future, and this experience has taught me how to interact with them and communicate effectively, which are important characteristics of any good healthcare professional.

Inner Harbor (Baltimore) skyline