STEP Expo – November 20th, 2019 (Academic Reflection)

The Second-year Transformational Experience Program, commonly known as STEP, is a program that is designed to redesign the on-campus experience for students. STEP allows students to engage in activities that are suited to their own interests by engaging with faculty members in a group-setting. These faculty mentors develop students professionally, financially, and personally. The program was designed to improve student engagement. Additionally, members of STEP get to explore the six categories: Education Abroad, Internships, Undergraduate Research, Service-Learning and Community Service, Leadership, and Creative and Artistic Endeavors. The study of these themes is designed to prep students to plan their own signature project, in which a fellowship up to $2,000 will be awarded to each student for them to explore the STEP themes independently. Each year, the STEP program holds two expos in which past students present their signature projects at The Ohio Union.  This allows participating students to present what they learned to faculty, staff, community members, and their own peers.

Last year, I made the decision to enroll in a cohort to participate in this amazing program. This past Wednesday, I was able to attend the STEP Expo. Overall, I was able to get a better idea about what I want to do for my own signature project, and advice from my peers about how to achieve the results that I want. At the Expo, I reviewed five posters made by my peers.

The first poster I was drawn to was focused on the STEP category of Education Abroad. This particular student studied abroad in Bologna, Italy over the summer in order to obtain her Italian minor. I found it interesting that she wanted to be placed in a particular city for the entirety of her experience abroad, but it was a unique perspective indeed. Her reasoning was that in the time she was there, she was able to fully immerse herself in the culture in order to make the city feel like her home. What she learned in her time abroad related heavily to what we value and study as International Affairs Scholars; it was a culturally immerse program where she intensely studied another language and a variety of customs out of her comfort zone. Overall, I do not think I would do this exact project for myself, but I am definitely leaning towards doing an education abroad program.

As I was most interested in the education abroad programs, I mainly socialized with others who did similar programs. The other posters I visited surrounded the themes of Human Impacts on the Natural Environment (Education Abroad, Australia), Cross-Cultural Solutions (Community Service, Costa Rica), Industry Immersion Global Lab (Education Abroad, Northern Italy), and finally, University of Sydney (Education Abroad & Internship, Australia). All of these students were able to make the trip their own unique experience, and they were all able to fully immerse themselves through engagement in other cultures outside of their comfort zones. I found it interesting that all of the projects I looked at were able to make me interested – even if they were programs I had not initially planned on looking in to. In addition, it was a beautiful transformation of growth that I was able to visualize through their passion in presenting their posters.

Overall, the Expo, and STEP, have both made a significant impact on me personally and professionally. OSU has provided me with the resources to set goals and achieve them to grow myself outside of the classroom. Next year, I plan to connect my STEP experience with IA by participating in an education abroad program. One might ask where I plan to go, but that is still to come :).