Have you ever caught yourself scrolling through Instagram noticing people’s traveling pictures and grumble in jealousy. The biggest question that remains about all of these jealousy enraging Instas is how do these people afford to take these trips? I’m checking my bank account to make sure I can grab a smoothie on my way to class yet people I have class with are taking trips to the Sahara and riding camels!
For some people at Ohio State, like Stephanie Brandt, Mallory Allen, Emma Belford, and Dana Murray, the answer is simple. They signed up for STEP, otherwise known as the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program, and were able to use the $2,000 award for any student who completes the program to help fund a travel abroad experience. Through STEP, the four were able to take unparalleled adventures while also providing a service in an area that needed it the most.
Dana Murray • Junior • Biomedical Engineering • Program: Buck-I-SERV: Costa Rica: In Partnership with the Outdoor Adventure Center
“We spent two full days building a fence for a community center as a service project. It was extremely rewarding to see how much our assistance helped the people of Brujo Costa Rica finish this project. They were all so kind and welcoming and their gratitude was worth all the sweat and sunburn.
Nothing can replace the bonds I made with the people I met. Not only those on the trip with me, but the people of Costa Rica. They have shaped my view of the world in ways I couldn’t even imagine. Aside from that, having different perspectives always makes decisions more informed and well thought out. This experience has provided me with a view of the world that is more simple, pure and happier.”
Emma Belford • Junior • Human Resources • Program: Buck-I-SERV: The Akumanyi Foundation, Senya, Ghana
“I think my privilege gets checked a lot in the US, but it was the first real time that I had to take a step back and understand the privilege I had as a woman living in America, as a white person living in America, and just the amount of privilege that those things hold. So that really checked me in understanding what I have and how grateful I am for the experiences I’ve had and the opportunities I’ve had. But it also checked me in the fact that I think Americans are always fed the ideas that Africans are starving and that they’re miserable and they hate their lives, they wish they were in America. And being there with the kids and seeing how happy and how intelligent and how smart and driven they are, really showed me that all of the things we’ve been fed are just lies. Yes, there are parts of Africa that are struggling and where people need a lot help and don’t get food on a daily basis, but you can’t generalize an entire continent based off of a few areas. That was a big thing for me, realizing that the kids there are absolutely incredible and that they are going through a lot more than I ever did as a kid, but they’re doing it a lot better than I would’ve ever done. So that was a big thing for me.”
Stephanie Brandt • Junior • Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability • Program: Sustaining Human Societies and the Environment
“When I went on the study abroad, I wasn’t super confident in my major choice. I feel like after I got back I was sure that I wanted to be an EEDS major because you just see the reef and how it’s being bleached and dying, and you don’t want to see that in the future. You want to be able to go back to it and protect that kind of stuff. We know that the ocean is the first indicator of what’s going to happen to the rest of the world, so it’s scary in a sense, and it makes people want to do something about it. I think that’s what made me stick with it. [The trip] changed my perspective of the future.”
Mallory Allen • Junior • Biomedical Engineering • Program: Engineering and Culture in India
“One of my favorite things was realizing that even though our countries are in such different places and there are so many different things that are different like language and climate and culture, but going through the markets and bazaars and talking to the shopkeepers, and realizing that laughter and humor is such a common ground and a common language. We had one guy on our trip who was kind of like a clown and he would always try to get the shopkeepers to laugh when he was bargaining their prices with them. That was one of my favorite things. It just made me think about how universal humor and laughter and smiling are, as cheesy as that is.
India was just somewhere that was so different and that I knew I would have more trouble traveling to on my own. So going through OSU, I thought it would be a really cool way to get to visit somewhere where I might not have the courage or the knowledge to go on my own.”