Somehow we’re already in the third week of spring semester. These next two months of the semester are rather busy and can be a bit daunting. From figuring out housing, planning classes, choosing majors, it all comes at you fast. Along with housing, one thing you may have heard of, but may not know much about, is the STEP program. This program may just be the thing you need to give your second year at bit of an edge.
What is STEP?
STEP stands for Second-Year Transformational Experience Program. This program is all about focusing on your success and development. During autumn semester, you will meet with a faculty mentor and cohort of other sophomore students weekly where you’ll engage in discussions and activities about your strengths, values, as well as academic and career goals. In the following spring semester, you will develop a written proposal and budget about how you will use the STEP fellowship to support your goals. Fulfillment of the requirements of the STEP program means you’re eligible to receive a fellowship of up to $2,000 to use toward a STEP signature project.
What can I do with my fellowship?
Now here is where you receive your freedom with STEP! There are 6 areas of focus that you can choose for your fellowship:
- Creative and Artistic Endeavors
- Service-Learning and Community Service
- Education Abroad
- Undergraduate Research
From my cohort of 18 students, we had a wide variety of focus for our STEP projects. Some used the STEP fellowship to pay for housing, groceries, and a new suit while they completed internships in Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Ontario, Canada. Others used the fellowship to help fund their research, a study abroad trip to Italy, or even to create and produce a short film. You can make this experience your own.
I didn’t know what project I wanted to do until February. There’s no rush to figure it out – your mentor is there to help you.
Off we go!
What did I do with the STEP fellowship? I packed my bags and flew off to Thailand. I chose to do a service-learning project with two of my close friends. With the assistance of my mentor, we were partnered with Global Vision International, a volunteer abroad program committed to conservation and community development. All three of us were signed up to be Global Health volunteers. It was a trip completely outside of my comfort zone, but one that has become a highlight of my sophomore year and helped me find my interest in public health. I actually added public health as a minor after this experience and I am hoping to continue this work in graduate school.
Within the 24 hours of finishing my second-year of college, I had landed in Bangkok, Thailand. My friends and I spent four days exploring the city, going to ornate temples, eating exquisite Pad Thai, drinking loads of mango juice, getting lost in the busy markets, and, of course, rocking elephant pants, before heading to Ban Naam Khem, Thailand to begin volunteering.
There were five other volunteers from Ohio State there as well, but we met volunteers from all over the world–Denmark, Wales, England, Norway, Australia, Hungary, and more. My days of volunteering involved early mornings teaching English at the local elementary school, followed by afternoons interacting with students at the local social center or teaching CPR to the local taxi, bus, and boat drivers. We got to interact with the community and learn some elementary Thai. My time in Thailand helped me gain a lot of independence, see a beautiful country, meet wonderful people, and I hope to be able to work abroad again, but this time for a lot longer.
So now you want to join?
To participate you have to live 1) on-campus, 2) in Greek-affiliated housing, OR 3) at home with a parent or close relative, for both autumn and spring semesters. Current first-year students will automatically be signed up for STEP when they participate in housing re-selection for the 2020-2021 academic year.
STEP gave me the chance to have an experience I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do. What will you do?