STEP Project – Guatemala Reflection

For my STEP Project, I went to Guatemala to help build houses for families with poor living conditions. We visited volcanoes, experienced the culture, and got to meet the families we were helping. That gave us a much better perspective on the impact we are having.


Before I went to Guatemala, I had some experiences in a third-world country, but I never truly got to experience the lifestyle that these families have. Even though I have traveled to a lot of places, I have been pretty sheltered.

Going to Guatemala we got to meet the locals in various different towns and understand what life is like. This helped me understand how the country worked and how the conditions people live are much poorer that the “poor” conditions we normally see. Knowing this, made me feel much more fortunate for the position I am in, with a healthy, financially stable family.


When we first arrived in Antigua, Guatemala, we got to meet the hosts. Their names were Elvira and Enrique. Throughout the week, we got to learn more about their family and lifestyle and got to directly compare it to a number of other locals lifestyle. From that, I learned that for the community, Elvira and Enrique are doing very well for themselves. But if you compare them to the level they are at in the US, they couldn’t really aren’t doing as great as they should.

Another learning experience I had was on a hike to the top of Volcan de Pacaya. The guide for this hike told us that this volcano produces a lot of thermal energy that could greatly help nearby towns. Unfortunately, a Chilean company actually owned the Volcano, so they could not use the energy at all, and most of it was used by the company for purposes out of Guatemala. This showed me that all of their natural resources were going outside the country because of greedy, powerful companies that realize it much cheaper in Guatemala. This prevents reducing cost of living and other such costs for people in Guatemala, something that would not happen in the USA.

Lastly, meeting the family was a great experience for me. I learned that most of these families were in this situation for reasons out of their control and they needed help to be able to have livable circumstances. The families were all so nice and friendly and were truly great people, but I always thought that these people were here because it is their fault and that you can get out of a situation this bad with hard work. It is even tougher in Guatemala than in the US, where it is already tough.


Seeing all of these situations over the course of the week reinforced me and taught me. I always knew I loved helping people, but this experience was so much more than I could even imagine. This trip confirmed that I want to do something in health care because of how much I enjoy helping people. And even though I have had experience in healthcare, having an impact on someone’s life the way I did was a great experience.


STEP Project- London Reflection

Name: Angela Zhang

Type of Project: 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.

I traveled to London through the Fisher Global Non-Profit Project program to provide to our company, Soles4Souls, a spreadsheet of potential storage warehouses we could utilize to store their shoes. During the trip, we also visited numerous companies who S4S already have existing partnerships with to determine how to streamline the shoe donation and pickup process.

  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.]

Having lived in Columbus my whole life, it was easy for me to adopt the view that my world consisted of what was in my bubble that I grew up in. From how I ate my food to how I interacted with strangers on the streets to all the different components that made up my daily life, I never really considered the fact that other parts of the world may live so drastically differently than I. Spending two weeks in another country thousands of miles away from where I grew up taught me otherwise. I was startled by how diverse London was; I was able to hear a diverse mix of different languages and accents anywhere I went, and although Columbus is decently diverse, London had what felt like a higher population of first generation European immigrants. Because of this, I was able to sample authentic food from countries like Italy and Spain that I had never tried in the States before.

Being away from home also taught me independence and how to step outside my comfort zone, allowing me to realize how many comforts I took for granted just because I grew up in the same environment my whole life without having to make any drastic changes.

  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.

Besides experiencing London’s diversity on the streets and in the restaurants, I think visiting all the history and art museums in the city also helped me understand how large and vast our world is, from thousands of years ago to the present. I especially appreciated the modern art museum, Tate Modern, whose highlighted exhibits showcased the struggles of different civil movements around the world. We are taught year after year in middle school and high school about American history, about events such as the Revolution, Civil War, and Civil Rights Movements, so much so that it’s easy to forget that hundreds of countries throughout centuries have experienced the same moments in history. Similarly, other attractions like the British Museum and the Tower of London provided authentic artifacts from history that made me feel as if I were closer to experiencing specific landmarks in history—it’s one thing to read about these events in history books, but it’s another to picture the same people living through sorrows, struggles, excitements, and discoveries.

My first mark of independence while I was in London was the first time I used the Tube. I arrived a few days earlier than my teammates and had planned to explore the city by myself. Of course, in order to travel around the city, I had to learn how to use the public transport system. It was my first time being completely on my own on a vacation, nevertheless in a completely different country, so I was beyond intimidated to have to travel 30 minutes by subway by myself. I eventually worked my way through enough to buy my Tube card and successfully travel to my first stop; after that, I was much more confident in my abilities to manage on my own, as well as know when to ask for help from strangers when I needed it. Exploring the city alone was one of the most memorable experiences from the trip, just because having 72 hours to no one but yourself grants you a lot of time for reflection and freedom to see what you want to see. I was definitely hesitant to vacation by myself before this trip, but now I am much more open to the challenge and might considering completing a similar trip somewhere in Asia before I graduate.

  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.

I think this change has led me to want to seek a future workplace and hometown that allows me to experience a diverse range of people and rich history, as well as to have an openness for curiosity that  would motivate me to actively seek and learn about differences in the world. This pursuit of perspective and rich stories would impact various aspects of my life. I had been considering pursuing a career that would allow me to practice international business in different countries around the world; this trip was able to confirm that that was something I still wanted to consider in my future career. Going to London also helped me learn what kind of history and culture classes I’d like to take for my remaining GE credits. Going to the National Gallery, for example, made me realize that there is still a lot of techniques to historical art that not only did I not know about, but would also be interested in learning about as an artist; several of my other group members had taken an introduction to art history class and seemed thrilled that they were able to see in real life some of the pieces they had studied in class.


GVI Thailand Healthcare Service-Learning

Name: Victoria Radel

Type of Project: Service-Learning


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

or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project



The main activity of my project was working with children and young adults with disabilities in a village in Thailand called Ban Nam Khem. However, I also did many other activities related to healthcare education. This included giving a first aid workshop to the community, teaching children about the organs of the body, and teaching kids how to properly wash their hands and brush their teeth.


  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.


The biggest transformation I experienced was how I acted around people with disabilities or special needs. I have always felt very uncomfortable around people who have disabilities, primarily because I did not know how I should interact with them. I was always scared I would say or do something wrong, so I just avoided people with disabilities all together. On my program I was able to work hands on with children and young adults and execute their physical therapy on them. I became comfortable with all the kids and loved going to see them.

The other transformation or understanding I came upon was my ability to attempt new challenges. I usually stay with things I know am good at, and don’t like being pushed to try something I have never done before, in the fear of failure. However, I learned that no harm comes with trying and although it may not be perfect the first time, there’s always a way to improve. I also gained the confidence to believe in my abilities to try new activities.


  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.


We volunteered at the Camillian center for the disabled 3 days of the week. I only went to Camillian a total of 6 times, but became so close with the kids it felt like I had been there for months. There was one kid I connected to the most. His was 18 years old and was thought to have cerebral palsy. I worked with him the most in physical therapy. He always was so determined and driven to push himself to be better. I could barely finish his whole physical therapy routine when I did it with him one time. He never complained though and always had a smile on his face.

The other person I grew very fond of was a 20-year-old boy with down syndrome. He was the happiest and most loving person I have ever met. He spoke no English and minimal Thai but was still easy to communicate with. He had so much personality and joy, it was infectious. My favorite day with him was when we held a fashion show for the center. He came to life in the fashion show and loved every second of it. These two boys helped me realize that there was nothing difficult interacting or communicating with people with disabilities. Through the relationships I built with the Camillian kids, I now have no fear interacting with children with disabilities and am much more comfortable.  If the opportunity opens up again in my future, I would love to go abroad and volunteer with children with disabilities again.

The second transformation I experienced was provoked by one main activity. For my second day of volunteering we were teaching a 4th grade class about organs. The school we went to the children spoke Burmese. They were learning Thai at the same time they were learning English. This was only their 2nd or 3rd year learning English. We broke up into stations to teach the different organs. I had the task to teach children about the heart, who knew only basic English. I had never taught a lesson, yet alone to kids that spoke a different language. Although I spent hours, lesson planning, I was nervous. Every rotation of kids I became better and better at explaining it in a way they could comprehend. Despite some kids who just stared blankly at me, others lit up when it clicked and they understood. It was extremely rewarding to see when the kids were grasping what I was teaching. The task given seemed daunting and I was afraid of totally failing since it was so far out of comfort zone, but I did it. It may have not gone perfectly, but I am still proud of myself for giving it my all.


  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.


The first transformation addressed is significant to my future professionally. My goal is to become a physician assistant and as a future medical provider I need to be comfortable interacting and communicating with all people. The second transformation is significant in all aspects of my life. It can be related to academic, personal, and professional goals.Challenges that seem impossible and different from anything else one may have done emerge throughout life all the time. It is important to have the courage and confidence to face them, which I now possess.

Teaching in Thailand – Maria DeBastiani

For my STEP Signature Project, I traveled to the Nan Province of Thailand where I taught English to students at local schools. During my three weeks abroad, I was able to help teach the people of Thailand, but also learn so much myself. Not only did I get to experience the culture, but I also learned to cook, make pottery, basket weave, speak a little bit of Thai, and more!

While completing my project, many of my views of the world changed. Going to Thailand was a culture shock. I had never been to a third world country before, and seeing the way of life for people there was alarming to me at first. No office buildings, no malls, no indoor restaurants, no safe water from sinks, no AC, bathrooms were just a hole in the floor with a bucket of water to flush it down, schools had little to no supplies, things were so censored and controlled that you could not speak badly about the government without a hefty fine or jail time, only a small minority of the population could afford a car, the list goes on and on. I knew that many countries were not as luxurious as America, but I never knew that people lived this simply.

Although the people had so little, they were so incredibly happy. When I first arrived, I thought how can this be? It seemed like a country full of blue collar workers, slaving away in their fields or markets or construction, working for the average salary of about $6000 U.S. dollars a year. They worked so hard, and even with that it was barely enough to put food on the table for their family. Furthering their education at a university was not very realistic, and traveling out of the country for vacations was almost unheard of. But then I started to think a lot about the situation while I was there. Why are they so happy when it seems like they live a life that would be so depressing in the U.S.? I realized that they don’t need money to be happy. If they are surrounded by their family and friends, and live a life of kindness and modesty, they are happy. Everyone I met there seemed so content with their lives, they did not want anything extra or unnecessary, and people were respected based on their modesty and benevolence, not based on their appearance, social status, amount of money, or occupation. The people were so calm, and seemed to be at peace with their life everywhere we went. Experiencing this culture helped me to see what it truly means to live a happy and successful life. Sometimes I get too carried away with life and striving to do more and have more and be happier, but when it comes down to it, being surrounded by family and friends and living a healthy life full of kindness are all that really matter.

This change in my understanding of happiness stemmed from my interactions with the people in Thailand. When I first arrived in Bangkok, we were walking down one of the main streets when we saw this little alley behind a food cart. We decided to walk down it to see some of the smaller streets of the city where people actually live, and what we saw was shocking. People in this little neighborhood had absolutely nothing. The houses were the size of sheds, with nothing but an area to lay, permanently open to the outside, crumbling at the seams with just a rusty tin roof covering parts of the little village. They had a porch where they stored their few personal belongings, and that was all. One little house had a bathroom/shower for people to use, one had a washing machine for the village, one had a sewing machine out front, one had a little stand with some meat and other groceries on it, one had a table with two chairs out front and it looked like it was a restaurant, etc. There was a small playground area with a slide and some concrete for the children to play games, but that was all. As we walked down the street through their homes, we got a lot of looks, but it wasn’t mean unwelcoming looks. Rather, it was greetings and welcoming into their village. There were ladies sitting on their porches laughing cheerfully. There were children running around, playing with each other, happy as can be. A man was sitting on his porch enjoying the scorching hot sun while feeding the stray cats. Seeing how little they had, but how kind and friendly they were was inspiring. I realized that they had their people around them, and they did not need fancy items or big houses or lots of toys to be happy.

While riding through Bangkok on a boat, we got to see a lot of the houses of the people who live on the water. This was very interesting to see. In America, we have many strict laws that prevent people from living in dangerous areas and in unstable houses completely above water, but here it was not the case. Peoples’ houses were completely surrounded by water. The wooden stilts holding up each of the houses were slowly succumbing to the soft waves of the river. The houses were completely slanted, wooden boards were broken, roofs were caving in, porches had collapsed in the middle, and there was not much left to any of the houses, but nonetheless they were still so inhabited. There were people everywhere. Some men were fishing on their porches. Seeing babies and young children get so excited in their mothers’ arms every time a boat cruised by or a bird landed on a house was the most precious thing. Children sitting on the leftover wooden stilts that were once the foundation of a house, just sat, talked, and watched the boats sail by. They were so peaceful, and all greeted us with a wave and a big smile. They all seemed to be making the best of what they had, and enjoying every second of their lives, which is what makes life most worth living.

My interaction with the kids I taught was hands down the transformational experience of the program. We taught at a daycare and a school, both in very rural Nan, out in the mountains where the Hill tribes lived. These Hill tribe students had nothing. The teachers told us that the further away from the cities you go, the poorer the regions get. The students at the daycare had loving families, but they did not live lives similar to my childhood. Many had never learned to brush their teeth, and they had rotten teeth by the age of 6. They rode on motorbikes to school because it was the only form of transportation for the family, no matter how dangerous it was for a bunch of little children to be hanging off the back without helmets. The daycare did not have the funding to provide a lot of extra educational supplies. The classes were large, the curriculum was poor, there was no sense of order or stability. When it was raining, the parents didn’t feel a need to bring their children to the school. Overall the education system was poor, but this did not hinder the students’ and teachers’ spirits. The second we arrived, the students were so eager to learn and hear what we had to say. They were beyond respectful, so well behaved and paid attention so well for being young children. They worked so hard to learn everything we taught them and they were so content and cheerful. In the older school that we taught in, the circumstances were a little bit different. This school was also comprised of Hill tribe children, but it was a 100% welfare school. It was a school that children would go to from age 6 through 18, and they lived in dorms at the school. It was for children whose parents abandoned them, left the children on the street until eventually they were found by the government and placed in this school, or their families dropped them off at the school and just never returned. It was extremely saddening to see all of the amazing kids who were just left to fend for themselves at such a young age, but nothing from their past changed the way they acted or lived in the present. The school did not have a lot of money, the classes very large, resources were low, and some of the teachers did not seem to care much about the students, but this did not affect morale either. The students were so happy to be there and have each other. Their faces lit up when we would show up to the schoolgrounds each morning. The greeted us with respect and welcoming smiles. It was incredible to see how happy the students were in their given situations. They were so content, and so enthusiastic about learning.

This transformation was very valuable and much needed in my life. I am always on the go, doing something, going somewhere, and all of the people I had the pleasure of interacting with taught me that it is okay to relax. This experience taught me to find happiness in my own life and with the circumstances I live with. It showed me that it is possible to find happiness anywhere, I don’t have to have the most money or be the most popular or have the nicest things, but rather happiness comes from what you make of a situation and having family and friends and a safe home and good health and kindness around me is what is most important. I also think this change helped me to not only value the simplicity of life, but also to value the education that I have the privilege of obtaining. These students in Nan were so eager to learn anything they had access to, even if it wasn’t much. This made me realize how many opportunities I have here in America, and was a good reminder to keep taking advantage of all of the learning opportunities. It made me realize how lucky I am to be getting an education and doing what makes me happy, and it helped to remind me to find the happiness in a situation, even when times get rough. These ideas ae once that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

STEP: GPPNP South Africa

Name: Melissa Liang

Type of Project: Service-Learning

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. The main activities for the duration of my STEP signature was a consulting project in South Africa for two weeks. The majority of our time in Cape Town was spent on working at the Solution Space to help replicate the business model for the Philippi Music Project. In addition to working with a social enterprise, we also had the opportunity to explore the sights and cultural aspects of Cape Town to gain a better cultural perspective.
  2. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? This trip one of the most unbelievable experiences I have had the opportunity to experience. My understanding of the world and myself were put into perspective by this trip by giving me a deeper understanding and appreciation of the diversity of culture that exists in the world. To start, the layover that my teammate and I shared in Belgium & Amsterdam was already eye-opening since that was my first time in Europe. My brief experiences in Europe were amazing, but nothing compared to my experiences in South Africa. Working abroad and traveling has shown to me the importance of travel/culture in my life.
  3. While I do love consulting and the prospect of having a career in this industry, this trip has made me reconsider jumping straight into full-time work after college. There is so much of the world I have not seen yet. As a result, I will be applying for a Fulbright scholarship so I can take a gap year before I venture out into the “real world”. Not only has this trip allowed me to do some soul searching, but it also has given me a better understanding of the world. Seeing the injustices of the society in South Africa, especially from a first world perspective, has highlighted the stark differences between South Africa and the United States. Not only is our economy more advanced, but our government is far less corrupt. Getting to learn these details and see the discrepancies between the cities and townships were eye-opening. I want the opportunity to visit more areas to gain that cultural awareness in the future.
  4. 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? I believe that the combination of events I experienced, relationships I formed, and my interactions have led to the transformational experience I had in Cape Town. There were so many amazing events we experienced during those two weeks from visiting Bo-Kapp, walking around the townships, climbing table mountain, visiting the VA Waterfront, and more. It was unbelievable how rich and deep the culture is. Out of the many events we attended, the most impactful one was the tour of Robben Island. We had the opportunity to see the island and hear first-hand stories from ex-prisoners about the harsh injustices that were prevalent throughout society at that time. This event was so informative about such a critical part of South African history. Not only is Robben Island relevant in history, but there is so much history throughout the city in general. Bo-Kapp, a very iconic neighborhood in Cape Town, is no exception. Seeing all the beautiful houses coupled with the rich background behind the vibrant paint is something that can’t be found anywhere else. Seeing all these amazing sights and going to these events highlighted my love for understanding different cultures and my love for travel.
  5. Not only that, but the relationships I formed during the duration of this trip have already contributed to the immense personal and global transformation that I experienced. The main relationships I formed were with my teammates from Ohio State, the coordinator of the service-learning trip, and the owner of the Philippi Music Project. Even though we had hung out a few times prior to the trip, I believe that traveling together really allowed us to connect and form such a strong friendship. The girls that I have connected with not only challenge me personally but professionally as well. While still in Africa, we had even talked about taking another expedition together this winter break. Additionally, one of the girls I talked with introduced me to the Fulbright Scholarship, a scholarship that provides a grant to teach or research in almost any city in the world. Talking with my team has opened my eyes to the possibility of exploring more and taking a less popular path to corporate America. I also formed a strong relationship with the coordinator of the trip as well who continued to push us to be the best versions of ourselves. Not only that but while consulting she provided us with a lot of valuable advice regarding differences in culture. I will adopt the lessons I have learned from them and apply them to my own life.
  6. Finally, the interactions that I have had during my time in STEP has subtly contributed to the development I experienced. One of the most unforgettable interactions I have had was with a township tour guide who was explaining one of the rituals that they go through within Xhosa culture. This ritual all males go through involves the removal of a part of their human body. It is crazy to learn about how different some societies are, but how similar they are at the same time. We had the opportunity to learn about all the issues we were wondering about within the society. Turns out, we both have very similar drug issues. Interacting with the other locals as well is so heartwarming. They all have welcomed us with open arms and that feeling is what encourages me to travel the world.
  7. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your
    life? This transformation is so important for my life because I no longer am tied to the traditional path to employment after college. My relationships and experiences have pushed me to an alternative plan. In regards to my personal life, I believe that I am so much more appreciative of the differences in culture that everyone has. In addition to that, I have a much stronger desire to travel. Although the consulting project only lasted two weeks, the difficulty of the scope was much more difficult than I anticipated. Despite that fact, it still confirmed that this is the career path I want to pursue; however, I will be planning on taking a gap year before my full-time employment to travel the world and gain these rich experiences. I will be aiming for a job as an analyst with a company that will allow me to travel before returning a starting my work.

GVI FIJI – Volunteer with Children

In May of 2018, I volunteered abroad through the GVI – Fiji program in order to completely immerse myself in the Fijian life and culture. During my time there, I not only taught schoolchildren English but also fell in love with my Fijian family and my time there.

My STEP Signature Project transformed my understanding of myself as well as my view of the world in multiple ways. As I’ve never traveled abroad before, I was nervous about the journey I was about to embark on. Today, I can say that I successfully navigated a total of six flights completely on my own. Since this trip, I’ve also noticed that I am more open to start conversations with people that I do not know. This is due to the many interactions I was forced to have, like talking with airport staff and program participants. This trip definitely instilled a sense of independence as well as the confidence to try new things such as talking to new people freely. Before this trip, I was well aware of the fact that millions of people across the world do not have many material possessions and that their lives are more difficult than I could ever image. This trip turned that image into a reality. For two weeks, I gave up things I had taken for granted, such as showering with ice cold water in the mornings, living without air conditioning and being without my phone for the majority of the day. My understanding of myself and the world has completely altered because my STEP Signature Project to Fiji.

My GVI trip to Fiji instilled a greater sense of confidence in myself. As I previously mentioned, I had never traveled outside of the United States. Additionally, I had only traveled by myself one time beforehand. This trip took me on a completely new and different adventure as I traveled by myself navigating both flights and the streets of a foreign country alone. Through this experience, I was forced to be social with airport staff and the locals in order to successfully get to my desired destinations. These interactions led me to be more extroverted and confident when talking to new people. Furthermore, without these interactions, I feel as if I would not have learned as much as I possibly could during my time in Fiji. For instance, I started conversations with my cab drivers in order to learn more about the Fijian way of life and their lives. Through these conversations, I learned that Fiji has a population of 900,000 people as well as some Fijian terminology, such as bula, naka and jilo (pronounced chilo) which means hello, thank you and excuse me. I whole-heartedly believe that I now have a greater sense of independence and confidence due to my time in Fiji.

The GVI program included participants from a variety of locations around the world which allowed me to learn about all walks of life. For instance, I learned that gap-year trips are encouraged and more widely accepted in European countries than in the United States. There were multiple people that incorporated the GVI trip into their gap-year, which completely enriched their experiences. Overall, there were three others from the United States along with people from Canada, Sweden, Scotland, Germany, Australia and Colombia. We were divided into subgroups that included jobs such as cooking and cleaning the base facilities. During this time, we were able to work together after the school day and learn more about everyone’s life. The most interesting subject I learned about was the education systems of other countries and how they compared to that of the United States. For example, in Australia, students take an exam that generates a score to determine what major they are capable of throughout university, whereas Sweden has a completely different education system. After dinners, we often times gathered around the base living room to talk about other subjects such as food and certain phrases. During this time, I learned the names of certain dishes around the world and how to count to twenty in Swedish. The variety of people and their backgrounds allowed me to be more open minded and taught me numerous things about countries all over the world.

The GVI program incorporated a sense of family and completely belonging to a new community, which is a feeling that I will never forget. From the moment I stepped off the cab into Silana Village, I was accepted as family to all of the villagers. Because the program began May 12th, I was able to have a Mother’s Day lunch not only my Fijian family but also the chief of the village. Throughout my time there, everyone, including the children, wanted to know all about my life and where I came from. Never before have I met more open, friendly and loving people, my Fijian family especially. Often times after dinner, I visited my family where I was greeted with tea and pastries. There, I learned that my sister Gwen wanted to become a chef and I read books with my little sister Adisau. In two weeks, I managed to fall completely in love with my family and all the school children. I have never seen children more excited and motivated to learn in my entire life. They constantly asked for more time to learn and were genuinely upset when school ended for the day. I would have never imagined that I would love my experience as much as I did, and was even teary eyed as I hugged my Fijian mom for the last time and drove out of the village. Silana Village will always have a place in my heart thanks to the GVI and STEP Programs.

This trip has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I could not be more thankful for the all the support I received. Thanks to the STEP Program, I was able to go on an adventure that I will remember for the rest of my life. I cannot wait to encourage others to join STEP to take advantage of the same opportunity I was given. Now, I feel more motivated to set higher goals for myself and am more grateful for the things that I have in my life. I receive an education that others can only dream of. I have been to places that others will never have the chance to, and for that my heart is open to new experiences now more than ever. My next goal is to save up for another trip so that I can explore other parts of the world. I want to continue to challenge myself to take part in new experiences and I couldn’t be more excited to start this journey.

San Francisco Trip

1- The main component of my STEP project was to volunteer in San Francisco at City Impact’s Health Clinic. The other portion of my project was to visit the Legion of Honor Fine Arts Museum and the Asian Art Museum.


2- Before volunteering at City Impact, I only knew of one perspective of healthcare and how healthcare professionals interact with their patients. At City Impact, which is a faith-based non-profit, I learned about a different perspective, in which the healthcare professionals strive to care for more than just the patient’s physical needs. The doctors and nurses would take a couple extra minutes to get to know the patient personally and would offer prayer if the patient consented to it. I found this interesting because I had never seen faith in a professional setting, and it was a very different perspective to “traditional” healthcare.

Through this experience, I also was exposed to a wide range of patients that I had not previously been in contact with. City Impact is located in the Tenderloin district, which is the heart of the homeless population. Most of the patients that came into the clinic lived on the fringes of society. This experience emphasized to me the need to treat everyone fairly and with love and kindness, not matter what kind of background that person came from, especially in healthcare.  The experience also humbled me because I saw how the doctors and nurses treated each patient with such care and humility, and it served as a reminder for what I wanted to strive for as a hopeful healthcare professional.

When I visited the Asian Art Museum, I realized how much different cultures in Asia affected each other and their respective artworks. I left the art museum with a greater appreciation and understanding of Asian Art and the history behind the artworks. In the Legion of Honor Fine Arts Museum, I gained a greater appreciation for Rodin’s sculptures.


3- The interaction that affected me the most during my time at City Impact was my interaction with Dr. Clifford. During my first two days at City Impact, I shadowed him and observed how he treated his patients and learned about his and City Impact’s perspective on healthcare. It was his humble and loving attitude that impacted me the most. It was humbling to see him serve others with so much kindness and humility, and it served as a reminder that the heart of healthcare is about caring for others.

One of the most significant interactions that I had with Dr. Clifford was on my first day at City Impact, in which I was able to have a long talk with him. He explained to me why clinic operated the way that it did, as well as the clinic’s approach to interacting with patients. He also told me about the challenges that the clinic has faced and how the clinic has overcome them. Just learning about the thought processes and reasonings that the clinic was transformational. I had never thought of things in the perspective that the clinic did, so it was eye-opening.

The Asian Art Museum’s artwork was arranged in chronological order. As I walked through the exhibits, I saw how each culture influenced the other, yet how each culture added its own twist. This experience gave me a greater appreciation and understanding of how the artworks reflected the societies at the time that the artworks were made. In the Legion of Honor museum, my favorite section consisted of Rodin’s many sculptures. I had learned about Rodin many times in school, but never seen his works in person. This was the first time that I truly appreciated sculptures because his works were just breathtakingly beautiful. His subjects almost looked alive.


4-These transformations from City Impact are valuable for my professional goals and future plans because it gave me another perspective in how I may want to interact with my patients in the future. I learned about different difficulties that happens behind the scenes at a health clinic, and how the staff worked together to overcome these challenges. I can use this knowledge and apply it in the future when I enter the healthcare field.


Auguste Rodin’s five reductions from The Burghers of Calais in the Legion of Honor Fine Arts Museum

Me with one of the staff members at City Impact!


Blog posts!

Lower Nine

1-  For my Step Signature project, I volunteered with Buck-I-SERV and went down to New Orleans to help the recovery of the Lower 9 district with projects designed to help the victims of Katrina.  I spent one week there and the week consisted of various types of housework. For example, we built decks for houses and maintained the houses with painting.


2- The biggest transformation I had was how it changed my perception on my lifestyle in Cleveland. It made me realize how selfish and spoiled I am to have a stable home, family, and neighborhood. Through no fault of their own the locals homes were completely ripped apart by Katrina and they were left dazed and confused. I couldn’t imagine what I would’ve done in that situation. It has been years and the aftermath is still very prevalent. This service trip made me realize I need to take a step back and see the bigger picture in every aspect of my life, whether it’s on a service trip or during a tough class.


3- Everyone I had come in contact with had changed my perspective on the life I live and on how I see life. For example, one thing we had to do while working on a house was move a huge pit of dirt and move it all around the house. I felt motivated to do the work in the beginning and I really felt good, but as it got hotter I started to slow down. When I saw everyone else was working harder it motivated and pushed me to do more work and show my strength. I felt like I was in the gym and feeding off of everyones energy, this group of people helped me to, in a way, keep me in check.

Another experience that changed my view was blight mapping. Blight mapping was where we all walked around and recorded some information about each lot, whether is was maintained or not. While we were walking around the neighborhood a man riding his bike approached my friend and he asked us what we were doing. After we explained it all he told us to be careful in that neighborhood because they “run around with Ak-47’s at night.” I believe this contributed to the stigma of these neighborhoods especially in poorer regions. We were safe throughout the whole day and did not feel for a second that anything was harming us, except for the 98 degree blaring sun.

Although we did spend time with the locals and getting to know their stories, I believe I got the most out of the other volunteers that were right beside me especially during our reflections. At the end of every day we all got in a circle and talked about what we had done that day and who we had talked to. We had also set goals for ourself from the beginning of the trip and worked all week to accomplish those goals. I believe it was very important to do that because it gave us something to work towards and actually have it in sight.


4- This change is important no matter what field you go into, because this change allows you to deal with a lot of different people which is very important as you grow up. For me, I would like to become an oral surgeon, so I need to be able to communicate and see things from their point of view and not just mine. That is how good teamwork is developed and over the course of that week, I believe I learned a great deal about teamwork and how to work with different personalities.


Grand Canyon Buck-i-Serv: Rachel Mead

1 – The purpose of this STEP trip was to provide environmental community service while also partaking in an outdoor adventure. We started the trip in Sedona, Arizona where we built a trail with rocks and gravels at a tourist site. We then backpacked and rafted at the Grand Canyon for a week. We ended the trip doing more service at Lake Mead where we picked up trash.

2 – Before this trip, I have never done anything where I was completely disconnected from social media or texting my friends for more than a couple days. For almost the entirety of this two weeks, I was barely on my phone at all unless it was for the sole reason to take photographs to make memories. I actually enjoyed being disconnected, and this is not what I thought would be the case before going on the trip. I was nervous that I would miss my friends and family and hate not being in the know of what was going on with my friends back home. However, I learned how nice it is to be constantly in the moment and only aware of what is going on with you and who is around you at the time. Since I was never on my phone, I was able to grasp how beautiful the world really is. The Grand Canyon is the most beautiful site I have seen to this day, and this trip allowed me to learn how much I do love the outdoors and care for the environment.

3 – As mentioned, I was very nervous to go on this trip because I didn’t know anyone. I was used to being surrounded by friends most of the time, but going into this I didn’t even know anyone else’s name who was going to be on the trip. I consider myself a shy person before you get to know me, so I was worried I would not make friends on the trip. However, I was completely in the wrong to think this. It didn’t happen immediately, but I found friends on this trip that I believe I will continue to have throughout my next 4 semesters at Ohio State. I learned that making friends does not have to be done through social media or through other people at all. Just being with everyone and using teamwork when doing service brought everyone closer together. I learned that I really am not shy, and that there are amazing people out there that I have to give a chance to let myself meet them because they may be really great.

I have always said that I love nature and all that it has to offer, but this trip made me realize how true this really is. Before when I talked about nature, all I has really seen was a few Floridian oceans and a few lakes that are within driving distance from my hometown in Buffalo, NY. By seeing the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Colorado River, I saw how beautiful the world really is. I would love to travel more and see more of these sites. This trip made me realize how much adventuring I hope to accomplish in this lifetime.

Lastly, this trip made me realize how good community service can feel. When we were building the trail in Sedona, the purpose of the trail was for disabled persons who are unable to walk up the other trails that the site had. Although the physical labor was very demanding and not easy, it felt good to be making a difference for a good cause. The same went for picking up trash at Lake Mead. While it was not fun walking around for hours in the heat picking up trash with sticks, we were still making a difference. I hope to get more involved in community service so I can better the environment and the lives of other people.

4 – This trip is important to life because it helped me view myself and the world differently. I will no longer be sheltered and want to be more willing to approach people I don’t know and be more out there. In the long run, doing this will help me professionally and with my personal life. Also, I now know how amazing it is to travel and see the world. I hope to continue to do this after I graduate in any way possible. This will lead to a happier life. I am lucky to have had an opportunity to participate in this trip. Although I was reluctant to go on the trip at first, I am so happy that I did. This made me realize that it is good to take chances and seize every opportunity available, and I plan to continue to do this for the rest of my life.

York River State Park Buck-I-Serv

With a small group of other OSU students, we drove down to York River State Park in Williamsburg, Virginia to volunteer for a week. We did a lot of different tasks to help out around the park, but our main task was creating a new trail for the park. We all bunked in a large mobile trailer, so we cooked dinner together and had campfires.

Going on this trip was a definite highlight of my school year. Throughout the project I learned a lot about myself. One of the careers I thought about was a park ranger, however, I didn’t really know much about what they did day by day. I was surprised by the variety of tasks included in the park. Although digging into a hill was grueling work, I enjoyed it. I was able to endure the work and found myself feeling rewarded afterwards. I could see myself doing becoming a park ranger. I was able to prove to myself I could handle working in a new place with strangers for a week. Although I was nervous about being around the group, I learned a lot from them.

Working on a forest trail in hot May weather with gnats all around may not sound appealing, but I was happy to wake up each morning and head out to do it. I didn’t truly realize how much I enjoyed the forest until I spent hours working on transforming it. I received a new appreciation for nature in general. It showed me that I need to be out in nature more often. I gained patience while working, and that rushing will not help a project go by faster.

Before this trip, I didn’t know a single person on it, nor did anyone else. This trip gave me the chance to bond with a new group of friends that came from a variety of backgrounds. I think of myself as normally shy person, so this trip forced me to step outside of my comfort zone. I learned to be more comfortable with myself, along with others. It increased my confidence. One memory I love from the trip was everyone sitting around and playing cards. Everyone quickly become super involved in the game and it broke down any remaining feeling of being strangers.

One thing I learned from a group member that changed my views was of him having a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who pays for his college, and in return he had to work for them to a certain amount of years afterward. At first, this sounded outrageous to me. Being locked into a job like that sounded unappealing and honestly a little scary. However, it was pointed out to me that this is how the military works in the United States, and how that is normal over here, and it changed my view on having a sponsor. It made much more sense to me, especially if one can’t afford to go to college.

The growth I have gained from this trip is important to me because it will affect how I work on other projects and with other people. Although I did not learn anything academically, I gained knowledge that I would never get in a classroom. I learned a lot about how to handle myself out in nature. And I definitely am not as scared to suggest something in a group of people I don’t know. I came out of the trip with life experiences that would take others years longer to gin. I feel as if I left Virginia a slightly changed person, even if it is only noticeable to myself.