The Ohio State University at Marion

Someone will inspire cultural exploration

“It was incredibly eye opening and an experience that I wouldn’t change for anything.”

Ohio State Marion senior social work major Mackenzie Reinhart was born and raised in the small northwest Ohio village of New Riegel, Ohio, population 244. She had never traveled overseas until attending Ohio State Marion. The campus provided her the eye opening opportunity to travel and explore the rich culture and tradition of the world’s second most populous country, India. That experience, said Reinhart, was paramount to her career preparation and growth as a person.

“In the field of social work it’s all about relating to people of diverse backgrounds. Instead of learning from a book, immersing yourself in a different culture allows you to see their everyday way of life and begin relating to someone different than you,” Reinhart said. That skill will be invaluable to me in my career as a social worker.”

According to Reinhart, she knew her career path when she began her Ohio State journey. But coming from such a small town with very little diversity, her trip to India and the time she has spent at Ohio State Marion have helped her find her purpose and grow as a person.

“It was incredibly eye opening and an experience that I wouldn’t change for anything.”

“To be able to see and partake in a culture so different from mine was not only daunting, but once I got out of my comfort zone and began taking part in the traditions, rituals, eating the food, talking with people, I grew to appreciate and love a culture outside of my own,” said Reinhart.

Reinhart is now sharing her path to cultural enlightenment with a group of students at Marion’s Taft Elementary School through the schools Flat Stanley Project.

The Flat Stanley Project is an educational project that was started in 1995 by a third grade schoolteacher in Canada. The project features paper cut-outs based on the title character of the 1964 children's book Flat Stanley. Flat Stanley helps children improve reading and writing skills, while promoting interest in learning about different people and places some students may not have the opportunity to experience firsthand.

While in India, Reinhart sent back reports and photos with Flat Stanley that the teacher would share with the students. Students, who in some cases, have not traveled far beyond the borders of Ohio.

Upon her return, she visited the classroom of eager kids in person, fascinated to learn more about a culture uniquely different than their own.

“Did the monkeys take any of your stuff? How do kids go to school there? Did you see snakes? What did you see? What was my favorite part?” are some of the questions Reinhart recalled fielding from the students.

“To see their faces light up when you share experiences and photos, you experience them learning with you.”