Buck-i-Serv trip to Atlanta



For my STEP experience, I went on a Buck-i-Serv trip to Atlanta, Georgia.  My group ended up volunteering for all different types of places.  We went to a senior center, a HIV shelter, a homeless shelter, an elementary school, and a refugee center.  We were able to help and to connect to those of all different backgrounds.  In our free time, we also learned more about the civil rights movement as well as the general history of Atlanta.  We also took tours and saw most of the tourist attractions.


So What?

From this trip, I have learned that not everyone has a life like mine.  Everyone is born with different circumstances and with different opportunities.  I realized that even though a lot of the people that we helped in Atlanta are from lower income backgrounds, or they were homeless altogether, and despite them not having the same opportunities that I had, at the end of the day we are all people.  I realized that money isn’t everything and that happiness has to come from within.  I noticed that even though some of the people that we helped were homeless, they were still able to keep a smile on their face and stay positive, this is sometimes not so easy to do for even those who are not homeless.  Being around those that were less fortunate and still able to keep a smile on their face, that even though it may feel like the end of the world, there is always something positive that we can smile about.  Overall, I realized that in life we usually tend to take things for granted, and it’s not until those things are gone that we start to appreciate the value that those things gave us.  I also realized that we also tend to downgrade the positive in our lives and only highlight the negative.  In volunteering with those less fortunate, I realized that I have a lot to be grateful for than I once thought.

What Now?

The things that I have learned during my STEP experience will affect my academic, personal, and life goals, by making me more grateful and appreciative for that which I have, and thus making me more motivated to pursue my goals in each of these areas.

Lorain County Free Clinic STEP Summer Experience

 What? – A detailed description of what you did during your STEP experience.

For my STEP experience, I volunteered at the Lorain County Free Clinic for 10 weeks over the summer. During my time volunteering, I played various roles depending on the needs of the patients. On somedays, I acted as the nurse and took patient vitals including blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, weight, height and temperature. Other days, I acted as a physician assistant by conducting patient interviews and presenting the patient’s case to the physician. As a physician assistant, I was also able to conduct physical examinations and I learned how to interpret common lab results. In either role, I really enjoyed serving the patients and I feel this was an unforgettable experience.



So What? – A personal response to your STEP experience, including feelings, thoughts, judgments, and what you have learned about yourself and your assumptions from what you did and how you reacted.

During my time volunteering at the Lorain County Free Clinic, I gained a plethora of knowledge from the volunteer staff. From the nurses, I learned how to take vitals. For example, to manually measure a patient’s heart rate, you place two fingers on the patient’s radial artery located on the inside of the wrist near the thumb. Count the number of beats in 15 seconds, and multiple the number by 4. A normal adult pulse is between 60- 100 beats per minute. From the physicians, I learned how to talk to patients and ask the right kind of questions that will lead to the right diagnosis. For example, if a patient said they have been experiencing back pain I would ask, how long have you been experiencing this pain? what were you doing when the pain started? This experience also enhanced my passion for becoming a physician. During the time I was volunteering I was also studying for the MCAT and I believe working in the clinic motivated me to study that much harder. My experience really validated that the hours I dedicate to my studies will pay off in the long run because someday I will be able to accomplish my dream and help people



Now What? – Discuss how the things you experienced and learned during your STEP experience will affect your academic, personal, and life goals moving forward.

Academically: I am a senior premed student and I am graduating in May. I will spend the next year applying to medical schools and I plan to talk about this experience in my application and during my interviews.

Personally: I have journaled all of my experiences so that whenever I need motivation, I can look back on them. This experience also brought me great personal joy and I look forward to finding another free clinic to volunteer in this upcoming summer.

Life Goals: One of my goals as a physician is to give back to my community and volunteer my services. I truly believe that healthcare is right for all citizens and I want to do my part to help




















Teaching in Chile


Coyote Rock in the Atacama Desert, Chile


This summer I volunteered in Chile for twelve weeks at a technical high school. I assisted English teachers in the classroom by preparing short lessons on different topics, explaining concepts to the students, and helping the students on in class work. I was able to not only provide a native English speaker perspective on pronunciation and grammar, but I was able to greatly improve my Spanish speaking skills. The students taught me about slang and how to pronounce words and the teachers helped with grammar concepts and cultural differences. I also lived with a Chilean family during my time and was able to be truly immersed in the Chilean culture. They helped me find my way around the city and also with my conversation skills since I couldn’t revert to English like I could with the teachers at my volunteer placement.


So What?

This experience was truly eye opening. The American culture in many aspects is very different from the Chilean culture, in both the work place and in daily interactions. In Chile, it’s more about the person and less so about the work. Work is still very important, but instead of getting straight down to business conversations started off with “How are you”, “are you enjoying your time”, “how is your family”, then the conversation migrated to work. I remember I had to take a student to the principal’s office for misbehaving during class. Instead of focusing his attention on the student first, the principal and I had a conversation about my time in Chile and his sweet wife who worked at the other building. After our conversation, we started talking about the student and why we were there. It was a nice change from the American work culture where I feel there’s a heavy emphasis on business and less of an emphasis on the people who work for the business. This emphasis on the person translated into everyday life as well. Greetings started with a kiss on a cheek regardless if it was a new acquaintance or an old friend, conversations on buses or in ascensors with strangers was commonplace, and making friends with taxi drivers and other locals because of a mistake you made were all commonplace. It took time to adjust and recognize these parts of the Chilean culture for what they truly are, but they important aspects and ones I wish were more common in our society. No matter where I went in the country, the north, the south, or the central part, these key aspects were common and central to the culture.


Two of the English professors I worked with, Mauro and Mabel

Not only did I experience the culture, I learned more about myself and what I’m capable of. I’ve always been a relatively independent person. I have my parents to thank for that and I’m truly grateful for how they raised me. They taught me to be comfortable being by myself and how to rely upon myself in order to get things done. These skills were great in Chile, but I became even more independent and confident with myself during my time abroad. I grew to be very comfortable with myself and to feel confident when using the public transportation and walking around the city by myself. I also traveled a lot within the country and spent two weeks traveling by myself. Those two weeks were amazing. Even though I was by myself, I met so many people who were incredibly welcoming and helpful and made my experience amazing. Even though I was by myself, I had to rely on strangers and the people I met along the way in order to get around and find the places I wanted to visit. To rely on strangers is hard, but also an essential skill to have in life. Overall, I think I grew more as a person in the twelve weeks I spent abroad than I have in my three, almost four, years of college. I was expecting to grow a little, but not as much as I thought I would.


Torres del Paine, a national park in southern Patagonia, Chile.

Now What?

This experience has impacted me in all aspects of my life, but most especially my personal life and life goals. After traveling so much in Chile, I have truly caught the ‘travel bug’. I want to continue to travel and see the world, hopefully experiencing a new culture or country every year. My career is important to me, but I want the career so that I can have the means to explore the world; my job will not be my life. Ultimately, I would love to be able to transfer the Spanish speaking skills I gained from this summer abroad to my career. My dream job out of college would be working for a global company with manufacturing plants in Spanish speaking countries. I want to be able to travel to these plants and help with process engineering and optimization and use Spanish in the process.


Service Trip to Atlanta, GA



For my STEP Experience, I decided to do community service through a Buck-i-Serv trip. The service trip was only during Spring Break of 2015 and it required me to go to Atlanta, Georgia and do community service for inner city schools while seeing the conditions that students have in the city. The particular reason why this is the Buck-i-Serv trip I decided to do is because it was co-sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI). Transportation to Atlanta was in the way of a bus rented for not only my trip, but other Buck-i-Serv trips that were close to the state of Georgia. When we got there, the first thing, we went to get our rental cars so it would be easy to go do the community service that were already committed to do with Medici Project, who is a non-profit organization that we were working with. On the first day that we would do community service, we were briefed by the Medici Project Director Andrew and told us the different place we would do community service in. The places included Centennial Academy, Books for Africa, Wellspring Living, and Harper Archer Middle School. Centennial Academy is an elementary charter school and we went to help out the faculty do various things. Some of the things we did was help the students on assignments they had, interact with the students by asking them different questions like the environment they were in and assisting the teachers in any way we could during our time there. Books for Africa is an organization gets books donations from across the nation and send them to different countries in Africa so the people could us them. We needed to sort through the piles of books that came in and put them in separate piles ranging from college level textbooks to grade level books like kindergarten. Some of the books couldn’t be sent to Africa because they wouldn’t be good in their culture because of religion or couldn’t use them for dietary reason like cook books. Wellspring Living is a center that women that have been forced into sex trafficking, protestation, raped, and beat. The organization has a big campus for the women so they could live in a safe, secure place and try to give them the tools to better their lives.  In regards to community service, the men couldn’t enter the homes the women stayed in or see the women because they needed to be isolated from men to make the recovery process easier for them. So the men did labor work around the campus like picking up twigs, cutting grass, and moving furniture so the women could have a better living space. The women cleaned the homes the women stayed in and got the chance to meet and talk to the women in the program to ask them about their experience. Harper Archer Middle School is in the inner city of Atlanta and is not in a good neighborhood. During the time we went to Harper Archer, they were in their 3rd principle in an 8-month period. The school has low test scores and some of them don’t graduate from high school. There is also a number of fights in the school and is not as safe as other schools like Centennial Academy. The community service that we did while in the school was talk to the students on what it’s like to go to college and why they should do well in high school so they could go to college. Other than doing community service, I had the chance to go and explore Atlanta with the people that I did community service with.


So What?

The experience that I had with my Buck-i-Serv trip was an amazing one. I enjoyed every second of it for many reasons. One reason was because of the community service that I did in the city of Atlanta. I liked the fact that there were different organizations that I could spend some time with as well as learn about them. My time with both Centennial Academy and Harper Archer Middle School showed me various things about the education system in not only Atlanta, but in the nation as well. I saw that not every educational institute is equally equipped with the tools needed to educate the students. I never realized it because I went to a school system that was in the middle in regards to money, staff, and resources. Now having the opportunity to see two very different schools, I know that there is a lot of work to be done. For example, the kids in Centennial Academy are taught Spanish at a 2nd grade level. I didn’t take a single Spanish class till I was in the 6th grade and was amazed on kids comprehend the language. I have been speaking Spanish since I could remember because I was born in a Hispanic home, so I knew that the 2nd grade students were learning how to speak Spanish in a good manner. On the other hand, the kids of Harper Archer have a hard time just trying to graduate from high school and it is not necessarily their fault. When I was talking to the students, I noticed they really do want to better themselves and want to one day go to college. The issue is that the environment they currently live in is not the best for their growth as a student and person. I feel that if the school environment was better for the student, staff and faculty then they could succeed. I learned to appreciate the opportunity I am getting to go to college and have a bright future when I graduate. Besides the two school, I enjoyed learning about the different things other local organizations do for the community like helping women that were in sex trafficking as the age of 12 better their lives. There is no organization like this I Ohio, so getting the chance to help in some capacity was really nice. I wasn’t expecting not being allowed to see the women, but I understood why and was fine with it because their health was more important than me seeing them. Books for Africa was an alright experience, but feel I didn’t do much for the organization. Either way it was still a nice experience to help Books for Africa. The best thing that I enjoyed of my Buck-i-Serv trip is getting the chance to meet the people that I did. The people that I went and did my community service with made the trip so much better because we were all different. We all came from different backgrounds in regards to major, the way we were raised when we were young, our options, and the things we like to do. It seemed that we always went to bed at like 2am or 3am because we would have conversations that was so good, we didn’t want to end them. We explored the city by suggesting different things that some of us would never do like go hiking on a mountain or going salsa dancing (I had to teach everyone how to dance, but they really enjoyed it). At the end of the whole experience, it was unbelievable that this whole trip was only one week long and it was sad that it ended because I enjoyed the city, the community service, and more importantly the people I met alone the way.


Now What?

The things that I experienced and learned from this experience will affect me in many ways moving forward. First thing is that I made new friends and still keep in contact with them to this day. That is something I am very lucky to get out of this experience because I didn’t not think I would keep in contact with the people I would met in the trip. It changed me by making me see that I am very fortunate to go to college and need to try my hardest to succeed. I now try harder to get the grades I need to graduate and have a bright future. My personal goals moving forward have also changed by helping me appreciate my family because of the women that were involved in sex trafficking. From what the girls that got the chance to speak with the women in the program, they miss their families and want to see them. This made me realize I am very lucky to have my sisters with me and can still talk to them. We have gotten closer as a result. Thanks to this experience, I now want to see what the biggest issue exist in the city I will live in the future and try to make it better. Once I graduate from college and live in a certain city, I want to help out and make the city a better place for me and the family that I plan to have in the future. I never thought that I would want to change the community I would live in as much as now and it would thank to the Buck-i-Serv trip I took in Atlanta.

Engineering Service-Learning at Montana De Luz


I participated in an Engineering Service-Learning course through OSU where we traveled to Honduras over Spring Break 2015 and implemented sustainable engineering solutions for an orphanage.


Montaña de Luz (Mountain of Light), is an orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS. Founded in 2000 as a Hospice, the orphanage has now become a loving home providing hope for these children thanks to the availability of anti-retroviral medications. Located an hour and half to the East of Tegucigalpa on top of a mountain overlooking a valley of small towns and sugar cane fields the mountain of light is a refuge for children who desperately need the specialized care, nurturance, healing and love provided to them in this refuge from a world where AIDS is stigmatizing.

Our class had three student teams that worked on different projects. The Water Team installed bio-sand filters at the orphanage and conducted water quality tests in an ongoing effort to bring clean drinking water to MdL. Currently, MdL pays for bottled water which ends up costing them a lot of money every year. The Drip Irrigation Team installed a drip irrigation system which will help to start a vegetable garden to provide MdL with fruits and vegetables.

I was on the Electrical Team and we rebuilt a backup generator by scavenging parts from another generator of the same model which was in a much worse condition. We scoured the neighborhood and local shops for parts and rebuilt the fuel system of the generator and made electrical repairs to the alternator. After adding some fuel, the generator worked! Then we worked on integrating the generator with the electrical grid of the orphanage, specifically the kitchen. We installed a new circuit box and created a three way switch hooked up to the generator which provided backup emergency power to the kitchen to help preserve food and anti-retroviral medicines for the children.

So What?

Honduras gave me a chance to apply what I had learned in school to a real world problem. We had to repair a generator which we knew almost nothing about and then we had to integrate it with the orphanage’s electrical grid. I’ve never undertaken a project of such magnitude before. But once we were successful, I was immensely satisfied that our hard work was going to affect other people’s lives in a positive way. This experience reaffirmed that I was on the right career path and that Engineering was the correct field for me.

My time in Honduras also showed me that there is so much more to life than getting a job and making sure you can work 40 hours a week. I had been struggling with my plans for the future, even though I was doing really well in school and had good internships. I was focused on my career and not paying enough attention to whether it would actually make me happy. Then I met the long term volunteer at the orphanage Dr. Chris Ratcliff. He spent a lot of time and money in obtaining a PhD in Electrical Engineering. He spent years working on silicon conductor research in a dark basement. But today, he is a volunteer at the Montana de Luz orphanage in Honduras and is focusing on sustainable agriculture to provide healthy food for the children.

Why would he make this decision? If you were to visit the orphanage, you will understand immediately. The children have difficult lives, they are struggling with one of the worst diseases to afflict humanity, HIV/AIDS. But if you look at their glowing faces and bright smiles as they run around the yard playing football or midnight tag with ring lights on their fingers, they look like the happiest human beings on the planet. I think Chris realizes this. To him, a well paying job working in a fancy laboratory or teaching at a prestigious academic institution doesn’t hold a candle to when he picks up little Erik and puts him on his shoulders. The bright joy that lights up his face is evidence of this. It’s never too late to do what makes you happy.

At the end of the day, it wasn’t the Engineering aspect of the experience that gave me the most joy. Without access to our cellphone or WiFi, we developed very strong connections amongst ourselves as we lay in our hammocks at the end of the days and talked about life, sang songs, played music, and pranked each other. Every day we played football and other games with the children. We made ice cream with them. We ate so many delicious foods and shared a truckload of watermelons. Those dazzling smiles created an instant bond despite the language barrier. The sense of community I experienced was the biggest thing I took away.

Now What?

I will use the problem solving and technical engineering skills I learned in Honduras and apply them throughout my career. I will take the time to connect with those around me and take a break from the constant distraction of the internet to instead have real, meaningful conversations with a purpose. I will become a strong contributor to my community and give back as much as I can in the form of physical and mental service. Whenever I face any obstacles in life, I will remember the smiling faces of children facing a life-threatening disease and overcome those obstacles in stride. Honduras taught me to live more with less, be a part of people’s lives, and to do what makes me happy. For me, this will definitely involve using my technical skills to work on projects involving a huge service component.

Over 10 days, I made a lot of new friends, learned so much more about the important things in life, and played a lot of football. This is an experience I will cherish forever.

Service Learning in Choluteca

What? – For Spring 2015 semester, I worked with a team on a mobile health communication service. The project would help diabetics in Honduras with problems with wound healing. Due to the fact the wounds would be on the lower extremities and the closest hospiTeam Phototal was at least a 4 hour walk or more, these people needed a way to be in contact with medical professionals. Therefore, my team created this mobile health communication system that would allow diabetics to communicate to employees at a hospital their Hemoglobin A1C and blood glucose levels. The diabetics could also send a picture of their wound where the hospital had a program, created by my team, to calculate the area of the wound. My team also created a filing system for the hospital so they could pull up individual patients charts to view their progression over time. The charts could also separate the area of a wound on one Teaching Salud Movilpart of the body from another part.

After creating such a system, we spent two weeks in Choluteca, Honduras, implementing our project in hopes to help diabetics in a local village. With the success of the project, we hope this system will spread to other villages in the area to help diabetics in those villages as well.

So What? – It was a difficult process as my team was not completely aware of the situation of locals having phones in Honduras. We were lead to believe that all adults had a cell phone with MMS (picture messaging) capabilities. However, when we arrived in Honduras this was not the case. As we acted quickly and resolved the situation, we encountered several other “last-minute” pieces of information that complicated our situation in Honduras. These sudden issues were frustrating but taught me and my team a valuable lesson about how to resolve a problem quickly in the field. We learned we were capable of adapting quickly to a situation. Much of our schedule was on a day by day basis as it seemed new issues were constantly coming up. Once again, this kind of experience really taught me and my team about how to confront an unusual problem and be better engineers.

It was also incredible to see the conditions in which the people of Honduras live in. In many areas, their hMountain Houseouses are one room huts made of mud, stone and clay. The huts would house a family typically with five children or more. In the mountains, the houses resembled more of a an outhouse with different pieces of aluminum siding held together by wire and strategically placed stones.

Now What? – Moving forward, I know I want to get into management. Perhaps not right away but eventually I will want to lead a team of engineers. I liked the process of problem solving and having to think quickly on my feet. As a part of management, different kinds Hikeof problems would be thrown at me on a day to day basis. The skills I learned during my STEP experience will help me persevere during these situations.

Wherever my line of work takes me I want to make an impact globally. As in my STEP experience, I want to help others who are not as blessed as the citizens of the United States in areas such as having clean water, transportation services, and healthcare. I would like to begin a project whether it is engineering or not that performs a service for those less fortunate.

More pictures.

GCP, Cargill and Service

The Girls Circle Project is a year-long service immersion project that involves training college women to run Girls Circles for middle or high school-aged girls in Columbus. Girls Circles are one or two hours each week and are designed to increase positive connections, personal and collective strengths and competence in girls as they face social and interpersonal issues. I then utilized the leadership experience gained in Girls Circle to excel in my Cargill Food Technology Co-op experience. During my time at Cargill, I worked on numerous projects including lab/Bench scale to Pilot plant scale up production support and Cleaning Out of Place (COP) tanks. As a member of the Delta Task Force team member, I helped identify discrepancies in specifications and recommend corrective actions to improve product consistency and production efficiency. Finally, I setup a Malvern Mastersizer 3000 Particle Size Analyzer, performed maintenance and conducted product testing.

My favorite part of this experience was running my fall Girls Circle with 5th graders from Alton Darby Middle School. Due to confidentiality, I could not include any pictures with the girls. However, it always amazes me to witness the transformation of the girls from beginning to end. Throughout the 12 weeks, the girls go from classmates to friends. It is incredible to listen to their insights and stories as they learn more about themselves and each other. The other wonderful part is that I understand their struggles. Despite the fact that I am almost a decade older, these girls are experiencing the same problems I faced when I was their age. It is wonderful to be able to help them and let them know that hard times will past and there is so much to be grateful for in life!

My favPicture1orite experience while at Cargill would be volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House in Dayton, Ohio. For this event all of the employees pictured onthe left submitted a recipe to make. On the day of, we helped prepare several meals for the residents and baked desserts. We had the opportunity to talk with a family living there and take a tour of the facility.

The Girls Picture2Circle Project has helped me discover that I want to continually find ways to support young girls and women in my community. As a female in engineering, it is sometimes difficult to find support and mentors. I want to be a resource to other young women to help them follow their dreams and be a resource to those who want to pursue STEM Careers. In addition to being a resource for others, I personally want to find a company who provides the opportunity to participate in a mentor program. I found that it was important to seek advice from an individual who was not my supervisor at Cargill. By seeking out my own mentor, I was able to grow as a professional during my co-op, work as a more engaged employee and reevaluate my career goals during my experience.

Haiti Empowerment Project



In my STEP experience, I participated in a service learning trip in Haiti as part of the Haiti Empowerment Program.  The goal of this program is to evoke sustainable growth in a Haitian community in an multidisciplinary way.  In the engineering team, our task was to design and install a solar power system in an elementary school.  Previous to this project, the school had no source of electricity, and could not charge their satellite phone in school.  Work before the trip included finding the energy requirements of the school, planning the logistics of how the electrical components would be brought to Haiti, and learning more about the Haitian culture.  During we trip we were successfully able to install the solar system, and also investigated how difficult it would be for the Haitian community to sustain a project like this.  We discovered that all of the components required could be purchased in country, meaning that with the right expertise, Haitian residents could do this on their own homes.  At the end of the week, we presented what we did in a community lighting ceremony, and also contacted a nearby university to collaborate with them in the future.  Overall the project was a great success, and I learned a lot about engineering and cultural tolerance from it.




So What? 

I feel like this trip gave me a glimpse at what life is like without the luxuries I have in a first world country.  Many places in Haiti do not have electricity or clean water.  In fact, we were told not to drink the drinking water unless it was filtered first.  When passing through the city of Port-au-Prince, I saw many things I could never imagine having to do as a regular part of my day.  I saw someone washing himself with a water bottle because he had no running water, and I saw many houses that looked like metal shacks.  It really made me fortunate for what I have.  It also made me realize that I can’t live in blissful ignorance of what is going on in the world.  Haiti and other developing countries deserve a higher standard of living, and it is up to me to do my part to make that a reality.  After speaking to some engineering students in Haiti, I realized that these people want to make their country great, they just need the right opportunity to do so.  International economic inequality is a very difficult problem to solve, but I do not think it is impossible.  With enough people, money, and effort I believe that one day there won’t be a need for terms like “developing countries.”  As a side note, I would also like to add that these are my personal experiences, and may not reflect Haiti as a whole.  I had only been there for a week, in only one area of the country, so all of my experiences I must take with a grain of salt.



Now What? 

After spending time in Haiti, I want to focus more efforts on global development and global equality.  As someone in a position to invoke positive change in these areas, I feel obligated to put at least some effort towards making the world a more balanced and fair place.  In the future, I think I will pursue more humanitarian opportunities, and donate more money to organizations working towards these goals.

Go West Young Man – Sebastian Mejia

My STEP experience consisted of a road trip out west to visit Yosemite National Park.

Sebastian Mejia - IMG_1592The 4000mile journey to Yosemite was done in the span of four days camping in the Ozarks of Missouri, the Black Kettle National Grassland in Oklahoma, El Morro National Monument in New Mexico, and in the hills of San Bernardino just outside of Los Angeles. Upon my arrival in Yosemite Valley on the fifth day of my journey, all the campgrounds were completely full and I had no place to stay. In the face of this adversity, I chose to explore the outskirts of the park until I found a spot where I could camp for the night and wake up early the next morning to try and reserve a spot for the two weeks that I planned on staying there. I woke up that morning at 4am to be the 16th person in line to reserve a campground and after setting up my site, I went off to explore the valley. I hiked, climbed, and reflected among the granite peaks of the valley meeting incredible people. In those two weeks, I trained my mind and body for the incredible summer that I was about to have as a Nature and Photography immersion trip leader for middle-school aged Sebastian Mejia - IMG_6781children in the Grand Canyon National Park.

Sebastian Mejia - IMG_6754


My two weeks in Yosemite was an incredible experience because I decided early on to make the best of every single opportunity. It rained most everyday making it very difficult to climb or hike and extremely cold during the evenings. I was alone, in a place I had never been before living on a very tight budget. Through all this, I could have chosen to cut the experience short and just make my way to the Grand Canyon to stay in the house tSebastian Mejia - IMG_1471hat was allotted to me for my internship but fortunately, I wasn’t so weak willed. I learned to be content with the situation at hand. Whether I was 40 ft. up a rock face getting rained on or at the top of Yosemite Point realizing I had to hike the 7.2 miles back down. In both of these scenarios, I thought to myself how opportune this moment was that I got to repel down a rock that was formed well over  100 million years ago or the views I was experiencing at Yosemite Point just might have been the reason why I was breathless rather than the hike. Whatever the circumstance, being content in the moment was crucial to my experience and I believe this to be the essence of our existence in this life.


Sebastian (Staff,PS) -00260


This trip was meant to explore beautiful places and help me travel out west in order to gain valuable experience in a possible career path. I drove more than 7000 miles this summer and traveled countless more on the trails but with each step of the journey, I began to understand certain salient characteristics of my identity. This doesn’t mean I’ve figured my life out but it does mean that I’m ready to translate the skills and philosophy gained over those three months into how I live my life now.

Sebastian Mejia - IMG_6804



Watch the video detailing my trip!

MEDLIFE in Ecuador

STEP Reflection Name: Ryan Trimmer

STEP Experience: MEDLIFE in Riobamba Ecuador



Sifting Cement

Sifting Cement

ohio waterfall
What? – For my STEP experience I went on a one week trip to Riobamba, Ecuador with an organization called MEDLIFE. The group’s name is an acronym standing for Medicine, Education, and Development for Low Income Families Everywhere. The goal of the organization is to provide basic healthcare in areas where it is otherwise inaccessible. Chapters from multiple universities went with a total of about 30 volunteers. Most of our days included traveling to nearby villages in the mountains and setting up mobile medical clinics. I helped local volunteer doctors, dentists, and pharmacists. Some of the things I did included counting and sorting medications, teaching children how to brush their teeth, and recording basic information about the patients (height, weight, blood pressure, and temperature). All supplies were funded by donations to the MEDLIFE organization. On the few days that we did not set up mobile clinics we had “cultural immersion” trips to Guano, Baños, and a nearby rainforest.

So What? – The number of things I learned from going on the trip is truly indescribable. A constant theme of just how fortunate I am seemed to reappear all throughout the experience. Seeing houses for entire families that are smaller than my bedroom at home is really an eye-opening experience. One other thing we did besides operating the mobile clinics was helping build a bathroom for a village. Previous to our construction, the village with hundreds of people had only two stalls to use the restroom. Imagining that situation for any of my friends and family showed how extremely lucky I am. Another interesting fact is that this was my first time ever flying as well as leaving the country. I learned firsthand, for the first time, about how much cultures can differ and how this affects everyday life. Being able to work with the local primary care providers also taught me a lot about what can be done to help people when little funds are available. I learned a little bit about some of the common local diseases and what can be done to treat and prevent them. A very big part of the health problems we were seeing was simply due to poor education about things such as how to make water safe to drink. The children had never seen a toothbrush in their life and teaching them about things like this can go a very long way toward preventing problems in the future. A less important, yet worth noting, point is that I also got to practice my Spanish in both the medical and ordinary settings.
Now What? – The MEDLIFE trip solidified my desire to work in the healthcare field for the rest of my life. I discovered how important, rewarding, and viable helping those in need is, and that I would love to dedicate my life to it. Also, since it was my first time leaving the country, I believe my global perspective was strengthened. I now have a strong desire to travel to as many different places as I can to learn as much as possible about the many different ways that people live. Moving forward I will use this trip as inspiration to be grateful for my educational experiences thus far. To reach my goal of working in the health field my grades need to remain sufficient. The image of smiling children learning to brush their teeth and the thankful faces of the adults in need is something that will stay with me and motivate me forever.