Costa Rica Buck-I-Serv/OAC trip Winter ’18

Rachel George

Service Learning and Community Service

My STEP Signature Project was a ten-day long trip to Costa Rica. Buck-I-Serv partnered with the OAC to offer a combination of service-learning and adventuring. The adventure aspect of the trip included activities such as hiking, rappelling, caving, white-water rafting, and introductory surfing.

During this trip a few changes that took place were mostly realizations I came to while being in Costa Rica. In Brujo, I was able to see how community can have such a large impact on a person’s happiness. The town we stayed in was made up of a group of people all related in some way; many of these people lived with or were neighbors with extended relatives. This allowed them to all take care of each other through all parts of life. Seeing how close their community was and how happy the people were as a result made me realize I want to live in a closely-knit community and always make family a priority. Another thing this trip taught me was the importance of experiences over material objects and how crucial it is to live in the moment, rather than constantly being on your phone or worrying about the past/present.

I will always remember that moment when I was sitting in the raft, floating down the river, and I realized – I have never felt so intensely happy for such a long period of time. The worries of upcoming classes, post-graduation plans, and everything else I usually have spinning through my head were long gone. I had been giving my full attention to the world around me, it was peaceful. This realization was what made me promise to myself that I would spend more on experiences and less on things.

A few relationships that led to the realizations I mentioned previously were those formed with my group members. It was amazing to see how quickly people become friends when we don’t have access to our phones! I loved getting to know every single person that went on the trip and am so happy to say that we all still hang out. I met two of my best friends on this trip and will forever be thankful it brought us together.

Finally, an experience that led me to realize the importance of community was getting to spend New Year’s Eve in Brujo with my host family. You would think that a holiday like New Year’s would be terribly boring in a town as small as Brujo, but that was not the case. Although this little town is secluded, the people are all constantly visiting with one another which makes it feel more accessible and livelier. On New Year’s Eve, my host family’s extended family all came over to play card games and chat. They had their own little party and celebrated the New Year with a loud countdown, complete with the banging of pots and pans. I loved getting to see how they celebrated holidays as a family.

This trip relates to my future goals because my end-goal is to be a Nurse Practitioner and volunteer at a free health clinic in my community. I was able to volunteer and see the importance of being involved in your own community while in Costa Rica, which are both things I value. Additionally, I would love to be involved in Doctors Without Borders, which combines travelling with these other factors. The changes I underwent are valuable to my personal goals because I saw the value of spending money on experiences rather than material objects. I was also able to meet people with similar values to mine and I know these people will be lifelong friends.


For my STEP signature project, I flew to Costa Rica over winter break to complete my first Buck-I-SERV trip. During those ten days I volunteered in the small town of Brujo focusing on infrastructure development, specifically upgrading their community center. This transformational trip not only allowed me to give back to a community in need but allowed me to develop my own confidence and cultural awareness.

Since this was my first time leaving my home country, I was nervous about what I was going to encounter. All that nervous energy quickly dissipated though once I walked outside the airport and saw the beautiful Costa Rican landscape. I told myself right then and there that I would say “yes” to everything and absorb every experience this place had to offer. Within the first day, I started to befriend the group of 15 students that I came with on the trip with as well as my host family. This was pretty easy given the tight quarters (see pic below).

Being in a foreign land with strangers and without access to modern amenities (electric, wi-fi, etc.) really allowed me to appreciate the experiences and culture around me.  It’s amazing how close you can connect with others when there isn’t a LED screen glued to your face. Over the ten days I grew more confident in myself and my ability to make meaningful connections with others. I also took chances I never thought I would and learned more about a culture than I ever thought I could.

Our first night in the homestays was a very memorable experience. We were all split into groups of two and place in one of the 10 houses around the village. I was placed with Caitie, whom ended up becoming one of my best friends on the trip. We walked into the house and immediately realized communication was going to be hard. Our host family spoke no English and we spoke little Spanish. We spent the whole night trying to communicate in broken sentences, watching TV, and playing games with the younger kids in the house. I learned that connection can occur across many barriers, even across big ones like language. We also had one of the best meals of my life (pictured to the right). We learned that they are a self-sustaining community which means they grow/raised all their food. I thought this was very humbling in a way that they could only consume what they produce so they were a lot less wasteful.

Before we started volunteering, we all participated in our first adventure together (rappelling down a 100 ft. waterfall). I remember hiking up to the waterfall and instantly regretting my decision to say “yes.” It definitely put me outside my comfort zone since I have a fear of heights. However, once I saw the first group of people manage to get to the bottom, I decided I was going to keep my original promise and go for it. As I began to rappel over the waterfall I tumbled over the ledge and basically thought I was going to die. I continued down the waterfall (not like I had much of a choice at this point) and I slowly started to learn the ropes. This was a huge bonding experience for everyone. To all have completed this unique experience that was equally terrifying as it was exhilarating was a great way to start the trip.

Our service work on the Brujo Community Center though was by far the most impactful part of the trip. This three-day service experience allowed us to help the Brujo community create a place they can all hang out and host community events such as weddings. They have been in the process of building this center for a long 16 years due to lack of resources and funding. Everyone from the community came down and thanked us for our contributions and expressed how much this meant to the community. To know you have touched an entire community is a special feeling and made me want to continue finding service projects in the future.   

I value this trip so much because I will be graduating college in three short months and moving to New York City for my future job. I will forever treasure this experience because I know I can survive and even thrive in a new setting. I will use this experience to grow as a person, continue exploring my love for travel, and continue giving back to community across the world as much as I can.

Reflection of Buck-i-Serv Costa Rica partnered with OAC







What was this trip?

The Buck-i-Serv Costa Rica trip encompassed both service and adventure into one.  Throughout the duration of the trip we traveled around rural Costa Rica participating in various outdoor activities while serving the community we stayed in.  For our service project, we assisted in the construction of the local community center by providing helping hands and support.

How was my view on the world transformed?

I have been fortunate enough in my life to have the ability to travel to various countries before my experience in Costa Rica.  These countries though have been developed, first world countries and therefore drastically different than Central American countries.  I knew that my experience in this country would be different than others I have had in the past.  We were prompted prior to departure of some basics to expect and how to look outside our Americanized ‘goggles’ to make the most of our experience in Costa Rica.

I understood that the normal in the cities and towns were not the same as our ‘normal’.  The housing situations in the city were crowded and everyone had locked steel fences.  But as you go outside into more rural towns and communities you see that there was more space and green spaces in these areas.  The houses did not look like what you would expect, they were simple houses with tin roofs and open windows.  The more rural you got, the more open the houses were, with some not even having closed walls.  This observation made my perception of what normal was in other countries change.  There is not many, if any, places in the United States that would have such open homes that are exposed to the environment around them.  It was amazing to see how trusting and welcoming people are to the others in their communities.

How did the interactions and relationships built lead to my transformation?

This experience was like no other.  The activities, interactions, and relationships built with the community we served was not something that could be had by simply visiting a Costa Rican resort or tourist town.  I was able to experience authentic Costa Rica by engulfing myself in the rain-forest.  Our first adventure was taking a long, crowded bus ride through the national parks and mountains to get to our first home-stay. Each of our home-stays were with family of our tour guides.  These were people with families, jobs, and other obligations that took time out of their schedule to provide meals and housing for our group.  The hospitality and generosity of the people is what truly impacted my view and expectations of the trip.

The next few days that lead up to our service were adventurous and exciting days.  We were dropped off in the middle of rural Costa Rica in a small town where our tour guides lived.  The area was nothing like I have ever seen, huge green trees, colorful vegetation, and sky-blue waters.  For the following days we were unplugged from technology and electricity.  This experience really opened my eyes to what it is truly like to live without distractions.  All we had were each other to talk to and hang out with.  It is not until you are in this state that you realize how attached and reliant we are to electronics.  I have in the past had this same kind of experience on my Uncle’s farm in West Virginia but that was earlier in my life when I did not have much technology.  The whole group appreciated at the end of the trip the removal from our day to day stressors just by unplugging.

The activities and inability to speak Spanish really pushed me out of my comfort zone.  Our more strenuous activities, such as white water rafting and intense hiking for hours, pushed me to my physical limit and really showed me what I was capable of doing.  My inability to speak any Spanish besides basic greetings strained the potential of connection with many individuals throughout the trip that did not know any English.  These two parts aspects proved to me that it does not matter if there is a language barrier or if I think I am unable to keep up with the others physically, that I can still make the most out of the situations I am in.  I was lucky enough to have stayed with a host family during our service that spoke a little English, but I know that some of the other members of the trip were not as fortunate.  The children in my household did not speak English, but we were still able to play and communicate through other means.  I was honestly afraid going into my experience that I would be limited due to my lack of Spanish or physical abilities, but all of that did not matter in the end.  I was able to grow, learn some Spanish, push myself to my limit, and see that there is nothing to be afraid of when traveling or doing something new.

How was this significant to my life?

My travels to Costa Rica were second to none.  I was able to encompass my love for the outdoors and service into one experience.  This trip showed me that I can do the activities that I am sometimes to nervous to do without someone I trust.  I knew essentially no one going into this trip but I ended up making some great friends.  I have had experiences in the past with traveling with other students that did not turn out the way this one did.  I was able to say that I was able to connect with everyone on this trip, trip leaders and tour guides included.  I was able to experience something so authentic and natural with individuals that are passionate about some of the same things as me.  I will be able to take what I learned about community service and the impact I can make on the environment into my future career and life.  This was a valuable and unforgettable experience and I will truly treasure the memories I made forever.

A Reflection of STEPs Forward



For my STEP project, I worked at the In His Presence Ministries (INPREM) Holistic Community Center. As a social work student, I was able to learn how to run their food pantry, understand the systems of delivery, and identify necessary services to be built. During my time there, I wore many hats. I organized and ran volunteers who would sign-up through the Mid-Ohio Database or just wanted to help out, take care of the kids during the women’s church group, run the front desk and check people in, be a translator for South Asian (Nepali, Bhutanese, Indian, Afghani, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Malay) immigrants and refugees. When a situation where clients had new needs presented itself, I would adapt my services accordingly.

As a humanities scholar and social work student, I find myself learning all the time through my changing experiences and interactions with other people. I had volunteered at the INPREM food pantry for many months before I started my project of building community services there. Being in school for social work and having the opportunity to focus on work at INPREM through STEP meant I could come at things from a total different angle. I was no longer just providing an extra hand, I was becoming a part of the decision making and change process. Through this experience, I gained a clearer picture of the struggles and blessings that come with community-run organizations. The population I am serving consists mainly of minorities, including African-Americans, latinx/Hispanics, and immigrants and refugees from Africa and Asia. After growing up in India, this project exposed me to the experiences of various minority groups in America and the areas to target for change.

The work environment was informal and vibrant with a community feeling to every action and word spoken. It was a reflection of the communities that I hope to build up in India as well, and therefore the perfect site for me to begin my work. Rather than cold systems of delivery, community spaces like churches or community centers can become loving and compassionate spaces for giving back. The professional demeanor at INPREM was relaxed but I learnt to be stern when clients tried to take advantage in various situations. My awareness of power dynamics enhanced while working with people facing diverse issues. Despite coming from a “third-world” country, there is a world of privilege that separates me and my clients because of the immense educational advantages I’ve had in my life. It is my career goal to pay this forward by building happy and healthy communities.

An article I read for research purposes during my project called “Exploring Long-term Food Pantry Use: Difference Between Persistent and Prolonged Typologies of Use” by Michelle L. Kaiser and Anna M Cafer discusses how long-term use of food pantries have become more commonplace despite its traditional base as an emergency resource. The idea of a food pantry is to feed those who do not have food security in the hopes that this will give them the opportunity not to worry about feeding themselves and their family so they can work towards building a secure life. However, if they have been coming to the pantry for years then we might be giving these people fish rather than teaching them how to fish or better yet, start a fishing business. This emancipation process is something I want to assist in. It requires unconventional solutions since the convention is set by a biased system. To overcome it, we must empower people by freeing their minds from the idea that they do not matter. I recognized that my role is only to facilitate. I have learnt how to organically get the elder women of the community do the life coaching since they have the shared life experience and relationship with the girls. It is key that the girls see women who have been in the same situations as them but have emerged victories and found happiness by making better choices. As the girls open up, how we deal with the trauma is where my services come in. Based on what the situation calls for, will be providing support and key insight on how to overcome through necessary referrals, better decisions, life skills, faith and community support. This strengths-based approach model can be implemented for a variety of services to be community-run.

With a community empowerment center in the space above the church sanctuary, disadvantaged children could receive the care and support that the institutions around them fail to give them. A human being, especially a child, does not have the ability to access higher cognitive functioning until they know they are loved, safe and matter. Before I expect people to stop their unhealthy coping habits and educate themselves, I realize their basic needs to be met. This empowerment center would be multipurpose and flexible according to the shifting needs of the community around it. Many of the parents we see never had a chance to grow up themselves. The center will aim to mentor youth and young adults to enhance their self-esteem, imbibe effective communication skills in them, teach them to be assertive rather than aggressive, and with time to have self-control and patience. Based on how much funds we am able to raise, we hope to have regular community-building programs, spoken word coaching, and a tutoring program. Creative empowerment and spiritual healing will be the pillars for our educational endeavors with the children. We would also have a mentorship program specifically for young mothers in our community who are at a dangerously high risk of losing their baby before they can even finish one year of their life.

This STEP project has helped me better conceptualize institutional oppression, generational trauma, and how to empower people to transcend a damaging system. I will continue to be working with the church until I’ve graduated this semester. I will be demonstrating leadership and confidence in my abilities as a social work intern by shifting from micro to mezzo and macro level social work. I hope to spend these next few months helping the community learn how to help and sustain themselves. The notion of dependency can become just that once a community learns how to raise and run itself.


Service-Learning & Community Service Reflection

  1. My project was a community service project focused on environmental sustainability. We took on three different projects including: Invasive species removal, native species restoration, and trail building/maintenance.

2. When I arrived on the island, I immediately began walking to my first destination. Upon arriving to the first beaches, I saw many homeless people posted just outside the beach with tents. My project group was primarily people who were in their 50s or older. Our group was also small. We came to Kipahulu national park and began doing invasive species removal. Throughout all of these processes, I learned something new. I learned that poverty is a struggle even in a tropical paradise. I learned that age is not a barrier to a wholesome relationship and friendship with people. People can connect with all people. And I learned that the Earth requires a delicate balance to maintain its biodiversity that we are constantly tampering with. Small islands are among the last places on Earth to have been altered by humans, yet the invasive species were running rampant where we were working.

3. The relationships that I built with my project group were very powerful and impactful. Some of the most impactful moments were after the hours of volunteering when we were just hanging out back at camp. This is when I had the opportunity to learn about the lives of my group members in detail. I will never forget this piece of paper that our group leader Tom gave me. It said: Teachings of the seven chakras: 7. Live in the present 6. Seek only the truth 5. Surrender personal will to divine 4. Love is divine power 3. Honor yourself 2. Honor one another 1. All is one. He gave me this after I showed him the book I was reading. We were discussing our life philosophies. My biggest take away was that, if all these people are this old and are doing ok, then I can be doing ok at that age too. And there is some comfort in that, being as young as I am and still having so much uncertainty about my future.

I spend a lot of time alone during my travels. To get to my campsite where I would begin volunteering, I hitchhiked. Throughout this experience, I met so many brilliant people and world travelers. I met a lot of people who left where they were from because they were unhappy and looking to battle their demons in a better place. I stayed in an international hostel for some of my time on the island as well. This was all a part of the process of being reminded that your problems will follow you everywhere, regardless of where you are, what you’re doing, who you’re with or where you’re going. No matter what life looks like on the surface, everyone is always battling their own demons. Everyone always has tension underneath the surface that you don’t always see. It is easy to look at the world from this surface perspective and forget about all of the emotions that people carry. The problem with raw emotion and feeling is that you can’t see them. You can’t physically see them. So many people forget that they exist.

I also met a man named Jim during my time volunteering. The interesting thing about Jim was that he was A LOT like me. We had vast similarities. The only difference, Jim is 60 years old. I learned so much from Jim during my time volunteering in Hawaii. Jim faced many of the same struggles when he was my age. He had a girlfriend that he didn’t know what he was going to about when he graduated because he was moving. He also graduated with a low GPA which is the situation that I am in. But he got a job nonetheless. And now he is the senior vice president of a large private securities company. He said he struggled to get his first job but he got one nonetheless. Talking to Jim taught me a lot. Jim taught me to be patient and let things play out. To make decisions for myself and not let anything get in the way. Observing Jim and all the other people in my group gave me a sense clarity. I often feel caught up in the stresses that come with being a 21 year old but spending time with people who are much older than me reminded me that everything is going to be ok. I just have to keep doing what I’m doing and everything will be alright. I can’t let small hurdles keep me on the ground. I can trip and fall, but the most important thing is that I get right back up and keep going.

4. This change is valuable because it helps shape me into a better person. A person who is ready to take on adversity. A person who is ready to face my fears and keep on going. It’s important to recognize that time heals all. With time, everything will play out. And odds are, I’m not going to die. Sure there are many trials and tribulations of being a human being but the only thing that you can do is be you and keep moving forward. It is vastly important to take setbacks as they come and to just keep moving forward. It is easy to get caught up in the monotony and clutter of life. But all you have to remember is to look past it. Live in the now and appreciate life for all of things that are right in front of you. Not look back too far, or forward either. But to focus on right here. There is so much more to life than the things that keep us consumed on the average or typical day. We just need to take those things in stride and use what we have to our advantage instead of our disadvantage.


Fresh picked avocado.

Native species restoration/ Invasive species removal.

Trail building and trail maintenance.

Park ranger Matt leading our project at Kipahulu National Park.

STEP Reflection

Naomi Harvey


Service Learning and Community Service


  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 project consisted of rescuing a pit bull mix, her name is Ella, and training her to work as an emotional support therapy dog. The training process includes living with, socializing and bonding with Ella, for at least 6 months to a year, while also teaching her basic commands. After she and I had bonded and she knew her commands reliably, the next step is taking a handlers’ class and then testing and registering as a volunteer therapy team.



  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.


My view of how animals mentally heal, change and react throughout the rescue process has changed tremendously. As a former volunteer and employee in 2 different animal rescues and a current employee at a veterinary clinic that works with rescue groups and handles rescue cases, I have seen and worked with many different rescue situations. I have seen many successful cases and fun outcomes where dogs and cats are given lives where they can become cozy family pets, can explore the world with their new family and even help other dogs learn to trust again. I also saw a handful of unsuccessful rescues where the dogs and cats are constantly returned to rescues and animals that go from home to home with no stability. Normally when animals are not successful rescues, we often blame the owners for not trying hard enough, but we rarely stop to work with the animals one on one for ourselves.

Throughout this project I have been able to work one on one with a rescue animal with a past we know nothing about. Working with Ella has taught me that even skilled owners and support from vet clinics and groups on campus, sometimes rescue animals need more help and more work than originally thought. Ella has shown me that even in a loving, sturdy home environment some rescue animals need time for a full mental analysis and a lot of one on one training so that the owners and animals can build enough trust to break through any mental barriers the animal might have. I have also learned that it is very important that animals with mental barriers are paired with the right owner/group that the animal can trust, grow and train with for as long as the animal needs the special help. This project has shown me that as hard as it can be to find homes for rescue animals, homing animals is not always the hardest part of rescuing animals.







  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.


When I started my step project I was very hopeful that the petite pit bull mix who was brought to the clinic where I worked would remain the happy go lucky puppy she seemed to be. Ella was found alone under the porch of an abandoned house early in the morning on January 12, 2017. She was very thin, covered in wounds, scars, fleas and only about have her body had fur. No one in the clinic could understand how such a sweet little dog could have ended up alone and possibly abused. Ella lived in the clinic for 5 months before I could take her home and throughout her time there her demeanor slowly shifted from confident and happy, to a more calm and watchful dog. Originally no one really thought much of this slow shift because she was still a rather approachable dog. As the months continued Ella continued to become more anxious and as I continued to work with the veterinarians to monitor her physical wounds, it was thought that Ella may have lasting mental damage from her previous life or that she could have a mental condition that would have led to her being abandoned in the first place.

Ella and I continued to bond and more of her true personality continued to show. I worked more closely with the two veterinarians at the clinic to explore reasons for her random behavioral changes and increasing anxiety. My relationship with the two veterinarians grew as I asked them questions from a client’s point of view and they lead me in my research in ways to ease Ella’s diagnosed anxiety and hopefully help her enjoy her new life. I found an animal trainer who had experience working with anxious animals and met with her to get some tips and advice on how to expose Ella to new things and people without causing her too much stress and in a positive manner. I learned new ways to bond with Ella and build trust to help ease her anxiety when we had visitors at our house.

I also met with an animal behaviorist to discuss anxiety and other mental issues that affect dogs. We discussed that she actually worked with a lot of rescue groups that unknowingly have dogs with severe anxiety who presented in the same way Ella did. These dogs were often adopted out and then returned to the groups or given to the shelter due to unexplainable aggressive behavior toward house guests, protective behavior of the owners, exhibiting fear on walks or when they hear loud noises and strange voices. These owners would often try calming treats or anxiety medications prescribed by their vets but owners are often not able to put in the one on one time necessary to build trust with these dogs and help adjust them to their new life. Some owners who end up see behaviorist are able to get full assessments of their dogs individual mental states and create plans to build strong relationships with their dogs and help them get the proper treatment and attention base on their individual mental states.








  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.


My step project has helped me realize that rescuing and adopting animals is more than just finding them a home. I’ve learned more about the different aspects of animal anxiety and how it affects the behavior of these animals. As I hope to go to vet school after graduating with my biology degree, learning about how mental imbalances in animals can greatly affect animal behavior in ways that is hard for owners to understand is very useful to me. I hope that my experiences now will help me be able to better explain and guide future clients. I also hope to better understand the rescue, rehabilitation and evaluation process by helping owners of newly adopted and future owners of adopted dogs better understand that each adoption case and adopted dog is special and different, each requiring individualized attention.










Kelly Dempsey’s STEP Project at Nationwide Children’s Hospital

1. For my STEP signature project, I volunteered for Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Close to Home Center for Physical and Occupational Therapy. This was an amazing experience, because I was able to meet many children from many different backgrounds and experiences – who all looked up to me with a smile on their faces. During this experience, I was able to facilitate rehabilitation by ensuring that all housekeeping duties were taken care of, allowing physical therapists to provide their utmost attention to their patients at all times. I also shadowed various types of interactions between physical therapists and children, to learn how they deal with diverse physical, emotional and/or mental setbacks.

2. This project allowed me to learn so much about myself. I went into this STEP project thinking that my sole dream was to attend graduate school to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and to then further become certified in animal rehabilitation. Little did I know that I would develop a passion for pediatric care. I have always been thrilled to be around children but have not had much experience with children who have various disabilities. I was both excited and nervous to enter this next step in my buckeye journey, but I am now forever grateful for this amazing opportunity. It has been such an honor to become a member of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital family, and to expand my knowledge of what physical therapy truly is.

My view on the world has changed tremendously because I have seen how much unconditional hope, love, and support people can have for others. Nationwide Children’s Hospital is a place where children strive to achieve their dreams; with the doctors, volunteers, and other faculty members right by their side for every step of the way. The positivity that radiates from the children and their proud family members gave me a new outlook on life; allowing me to be grateful for what I have been given and to always be proud of those around me. This STEP project has proved to me that I am indeed following the right occupational path. I dream to provide families in the future with just as much hope and support as the doctors did who I had the honor to be associated with at NCH.

3. There were many interactions and relationships that lead to the transformation that I underwent, but two of them truly stood out to me most. First, it was very honorable to meet the families of children who have survived cancer. I cannot even imagine the stress and sadness that these families have underwent for ongoing durations of time, and the expenses that came along with a child who had cancer. It was so amazing to me to see the hope, motivation, and driven attitudes behind these families – to get their loved ones back to living a normal healthy life. Regardless of whatever happened in the past, these families constantly looked forward to the brighter days that came ahead. I had the opportunity to speak with parents about their hardships as well as the boundaries that they were able to overcome, and their stories opened my eyes to how grateful people should be for their health, and how much the medical field is constantly improving their practices.

It was also very transformational to meet different families who have decided to adopt disabled children. Having the opportunity to meet multiple parents who have decided to take in a new member of the family who has special health requirements is such an amazing thing. Many of these families have completely changed around the structure of their homes and their lives in order to accommodate their newest family members. The love that these families share with their children is something beyond words, and to see their relationship grow as the child undergoes therapy makes the entire project worthwhile. Everyone has a different story, and it is an honor to get the chance to hear about the stories that people voluntarily share. There are so many inspiring people in the world, and these families truly were some of the most amazing people.

These experiences had the most humbling effect on me. Volunteering in this type of environment gave me a constant sense of purpose and gratitude. I was so grateful to surround myself with the most caring doctors, families, and children. Every single day that I walked out of Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Close to Home Center in Clintonville, I had gained so much knowledge and appreciation of physical therapy. This STEP project allowed me to want to continue working with Nationwide Children’s, and to explore other areas of physical therapy as well.

4. This transformation was very valuable to my life since it ensured that physical therapy graduate school is the correct path for my future. I initially wanted to attend veterinary school after my undergraduate education, and began to change my aspirations as time went on. As I learned more about physical therapy, I viewed the transformational process as a magical one. I believe that attending a graduate program for physical therapy is exactly where I belong, and I never would have known that if it weren’t for this STEP signature project. Whether I decide to further continue a certification in animal rehabilitation or not is still questionable, but I believe that pediatric PT is an occupation that I never realized I would love so much. I am forever grateful for the STEP experience.

Service- Learning STEP Project

My STEP Signature Project was a partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital as a volunteer for this summer. I worked closely with hospital staff, patient families, and made incredible connections across the entire hospital.

This summer was very challenging for me. Not only was I taking an intensive set of academic coursework, but, I was using most of my free time outside of studying to volunteer. I have always believed that when you are doing something you love, it will never feel like work. That is exactly my feelings with regard to my summer of 2018. This summer was my first summer living completely on my own. I was living in my FIRST apartment with roommates for the first time since Freshman year in the residence halls. I was learning how to cook for myself and grocery shop. Most importantly, I was learning how to budget and stay within my financial means. This was incredibly challenging going from my room and board paid for as a Resident Advisor to paying all sorts of bills! Towards the end of my STEP project, I had gained so much respect and confidence. At times, I didn’t believe in myself to accomplish all I had set out for the summer. However, with hard work, increasing time management skills, and the financial assistance from STEP, I lived a summer of my dreams! I accomplished so much more than I could have even imagined, and I was so incredibly proud of the growth I saw within myself over such a short amount of time.

STEP granted me the ability to stay in Columbus for the summer and volunteer with an amazing organization. STEP also granted me with incredible opportunities to make connections to health professionals that truly mentored me and ignited a new passion or fire within me for the medical field, with pediatrics at the center. I met doctors, technicians, surgeons, families, patients, and other allied health professionals. Each individual I had the opportunity to interact with truly touched my heart and confirmed that my desire to have a lasting career within the medical field is the right decision for me.

I definitely matured in ways that I didn’t anticipate. Living with roommates that weren’t necessarily my friends, and definitely didn’t have the same standard of clean was challenging. It taught me how to become comfortable with having difficult conversations with those you are living with and how to be mature and civil, regardless of your opinions of them. With that, I also learned new passions I didn’t have a clue that I even enjoyed. I learned that I LOVE to cook, and that it’s actually pretty therapeutic for me. I was attempting to manage a healthier lifestyle, although I was lacking time and resources, and learned about meal prepping and how to balance calories with nutrients. This is definitely a skill I plan to continue improving and learning as much as I can!

Although I initially was elated to begin my STEP Signature Project for the experience to interact with other medical professionals, the most valuable lesson I learned was how to budget. I definitely used Ohio State’s resources when completing an all-encompassing budget sheet. This sheet included everything from rent, utilities, and food, to other things I enjoy doing like dining out with friends occasionally and my Netflix account. This alone has saved me SO much money. I highly recommend using OSU’s financial coaching. I still continue to use this spreadsheet, and I live by it, literally! I was really nervous about being able to afford my stay in Columbus this summer, even with the generosity of the STEP grant, and with the help leading up to my project’s start date, I felt prepared to take on anything the summer was going to throw my way! I learned that it’s okay to grab Dunkin when you need a little pick me up, as long as this is a “treat” and not a regular occurrence. I learned how to use coupons on everyday items I use to save money here and there. Most importantly, I learned if you take advantage of, and manage your resources appropriately, there is nothing you aren’t capable of!

My STEP Signature Project was immensely valuable for my life. Professionally, I made so many connections with doctors, nurses, and patient care technicians that I believe will be unbelievably influential for when I graduate Nursing school next Spring. They showed me that you can be in a profession for years and still look forward to coming to work each day because they love what they do. I want that passion for my career, and now I know I don’t ever have to settle. The nursing field is so vast, and there are so many opportunities to switch around in different aspects of medicine. There is no reason to ever feel bored or complacent within my future career. When I graduate, I believe I will be able to look back on this experience and know that volunteering at Nationwide Children’s truly solidified my passion for children in the medical field.

Academically, I was challenged. I learned how to manage my time between class, volunteer hours, and studying. I had always struggled with knowing how I learn best. I think this is because I always had a little more time on my hands than I knew what to do with. I was so occupied this summer, that I had no option but to complete my work and studying within a set time. I learned how to be even more organized than I already was, and how to hold myself accountable. Personally, I saw so much growth within myself. I found purpose, passion, love, and joy within myself. I fell head-over-heals in love with my future career. I learned responsibility, respect, professionalism, and how to be my biggest cheerleader! Without the generous gift STEP granted me, I don’t believe I would be on the same career tract as I am today, and I am so incredibly grateful.

Molly McShannic STEP Reflection

Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project.

STEP allowed me to live in Columbus this summer and work as University Ambassador within the Undergraduate Admissions department at The Ohio State University. During this time, I gave nearly fifty tours of Ohio State’s campus to about 600 prospective high school students and family members. I was also able to be a mentor for a new hire in the program and guide her through the training process.

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

Working as a University Ambassador over the summer helped me develop my critical thinking and leadership skills more than I could have ever imagined. Prior to this summer, I did not feel very confident in my role as a University Ambassador, because I was still fairly new to the program. I was not given any real challenges while on tour, and I definitely did not feel that I was a leader within the office. By getting more experience as a tour guide, becoming a mentor within the program, and interacting with more prospective students, I definitely feel that my critical thinking skills and leadership skills transformed this summer. After touring this summer, I am much more confident in facing any situation that makes me think on my feet and I feel that I am looked at more as a leader in the program.

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?

A key aspect that led to my transformative critical thinking skills was experiencing new aspects of touring that I had not before, from a lack of experience. This summer, we experienced a number of thunderstorms in Columbus, Ohio. Prior to this summer, I had never experienced any severe weather conditions on a tour. I can remember one afternoon specifically, where I was giving a tour and a thunderstorm suddenly began while I was walking my group back to The Union. It is definitely not safe to be walking around campus in the middle of a thunderstorm, so I had to quickly improvise and get my group to safety since we would not make it back to The Union before the storm cleared. Once we were safe in University Hall, there was still a large part of the tour left and an abundance of information that I needed to share with the group. During this time, I was forced to think critically and improvise a way to portray the information to the tour group in a space that was different from my usual route. Once the storm had passed, I was able to get my group back to The Union in a safe and efficient manner. Thinking critically and staying composed in front of this large group of people was very important. I am thankful that I was given experiences like this to help improve my critical thinking skills not only as a University Ambassador, but throughout all aspects of life.

A key aspect that led to my transformative leadership skills was the ability to become a mentor in the University Ambassadors program. At the beginning of each summer and fall semester, The University Ambassadors program hires about 20 new members to begin own their journeys in the program. The beginning of the journey includes an extensive amount of training, that is not always easy to navigate. Therefore, each new hire is given a mentor to guide them through the certification process, before they are able to give their own solo tours. This process allows for Ohio State to keep its remarkable reputation, since the tour guides are knowledgeable and ready to represent the university the best that they can. Since I was hired in the fall of 2017, I had always been one of the “new hires” up until this point. This summer was the first time that I was able to step into a new leadership role.

Working as a mentor is a great way to gain leadership skills, which I did not realize until I met my mentee, Megan. At the very start of Megan’s journey in the program, I knew that she would be a great addition to the team. It was a lot of fun getting to know her and also showing her what it means to be a University Ambassador. Through this process, I was always there to answer any questions about the process that Megan had and assist her through every step of the way. Being a mentor helped me improve my leadership skills, because I had to take more responsibility within the program. I was now able to coach Megan through her certification journey, and make sure that she was able to become the best Ambassador for Ohio State that she could. This was an experience I will always be thankful for, because it allowed me to improve on my leadership skills in ways that I did not know I needed to.

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

I am so thankful that I was able to strengthen my critical thinking and leadership skills this summer as a University Ambassador. Both of these skills will help me in my future as a nurse in so many different ways. As a nurse, you are constantly forced to think critically about your patient’s compromised health condition. You must be aware of every possible complication that can occur, and what nursing interventions you must be prepared for. Leadership is a very important quality to have in the field of nursing and in life in general. I do hope to continue my nursing education someday and become a Nurse Practitioner. As a Nurse Practitioner, you are responsible to take more charge in the patient’s plan of care. They are expected to act more as a leader, and they hold more responsibilities than a bedside nurse. These leadership skills will also help me become a role model in the field of nursing someday. I know that the critical thinking and leadership skills that I developed this summer working as a University Ambassador will greatly help me throughout my entire nursing career and every aspect of life.

Image may contain: 16 people, including Rachel Brunello, Michael Engelman, Anya Cohen, Matthew Frederick, Melissa Eperjesi, Catie Mitchell, Maxwell Steele, Alex Vela, Molly McShannic and 2 others, people smiling, people standing

Image may contain: Maxwell Steele, Teja Parasa, Dylan Tuttle, Rachel Brunello, Matthew Frederick, Abbey Chappell, Sam Hodge, Josh Fuchs, Samantha Jerusal and 2 others, people smiling, people standing

STEP Reflection

Name: Caroline Watt

Type of Project: Undergraduate Research

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

My STEP project was to work on a research project at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe Germany through DAAD RISE program. I also attended a two week language course my first two weeks in Germany. My research project was to synthesizing and characterizing nanoparticles that could be used for biomedical applications

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

I would say this summer led to 2 major changes in way I view the world and my future. One is that my career goals have changed, and another is I have realized how big, diverse, and exciting this world is and I should not limit myself to the United States for travel, work, or culture.

Living and working in a different country for 3 months with a different culture and language that I did not know let to plenty of challenges but so many more rewarding experiences. This summer I worked in a small research lab where I worked under a postdoc and there was only three other people in the lab. My post doc was extremely strict and had very high expectations of me. Since my post doc was so strict it made the office environment extremely tense and no one really spoked to each other. This was a big culture shock coming from Mid-west where we usually say good morning and have the occasionally small talk in the lab. This experience made me realize how important the people that are in your workplace make a job tolerable. I did not mind the actual work I was doing but I realized I did not realize I loved it either and this realization made me decide that I do not want to go to graduate school for a PhD in Organic Chemistry and that I will just get a job for now while I am figuring out what I actually want to do.

Even though I did not love my job this summer, being surrounded by different cultures and learning about the different opportunities for careers in Germany and in other countries in Europe made me realize that I do not need to limit myself to working in the United States for the rest of my life. Something else I realized this summer is how powerful knowing a different language is. I can only speak English and my whole life I thought I did not have to know another language and never cared to try to learn a different language. But most people I met in Europe knew at least 2-3 languages and it is such a powerful skill and opens up to some many more people you can talk to.

 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?

              Working long hours with an extremely strict boss and working in a tense office environment and not enjoying work at all most days and not finding much enjoyment in the research made me realize that pursuing a PhD might not be right for me or at least not a PhD with research focused in Organic Chemistry. Even though my boss was strict, I would get lunch with a couple of my group members throughout the summer and one of them was an exchange PhD student from Taiwan and he was one of the kindest people I have ever met and whenever I was having a rough day with my boss he would believe in me and encourage me to keep going. I also made good friends with people from my group and other groups from Ireland, Germany, and Turkey.

In Karlsruhe, I lived with 11 other students in a dorm on and half of them were Germany and the other were international students. The international students were from: France, Nepal, Romania, and Portugal. It was interesting living in such diverse community with people from different countries because I could hear stories what it is like to grow up in those countries and learn from their culture. Since all of my roommates knew 2-3 languages, it made me feel guilty that I only knew one and how useful it would have been to know German. There were so many conversations I was left out of because I did not know what they were saying.

I also traveled almost every weekend, and this was extremely transformational because I got to experience so many different cultures. I would do a city tour for a lot of the cities I went to and it was really interesting learning about the history of all of the cities. I mostly traveled with other people in my internship program that I either met in my language course or that were in the same city as me. I also did a few weekend trips alone. This trips really made me have to learn how to be confident because I would be walking around a city completely alone and would have make friends with random people either in a tour group or the hostel I stayed at. Traveling alone really force me to enjoy being by myself and to get to know myself.

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

This transformation is valuable to my life because before this summer I never really traveled much and never even had a passport before. But this summer I fell in love with traveling and I am going to make a point to travel more and save money in different ways that I have not in the past in order to be able to afford to travel more and look for more opportunities to travel for work abroad. It also was transformational in the sense it made me realize what I do not want to do in the future for a job. I need to figure out what I actually want to do for the rest of my life but I know that traveling will always be a priority for me looking forward.