My study abroad program was a 2 week long trip to England and Scotland studying agricultural communications. We traveled from London, England up to Edinburgh, Scotland, stopping along the way to visit agriculture related publishers and even farms. We learned about issues facing the agriculture sector in the United Kingdom and how they differed from the issues facing agriculture in the United States.
The above picture is one of the farms we visited. This picture was taken at one of the learning field at Writtle College in England. It is a picture of rape seed. This is called canola in the States. It looked almost like a postcard it was so perfect.
My trip was the first time traveling outside of the United States. I went to a country where the main language was English. I still felt how different I was from the people who lived there. From the obvious things like the accents that were so heavy that I could not understand, to the more subtle things such as how people dressed every day. Using the tube was a whole new learning experience. Going into restaurants was also difficult. In the United States, you wait to be seated. In the United Kingdom, you mostly seat yourself. It was crazy how many things I took for granted as normal in the United States that were so different in the United Kingdom. I am much more aware of how “American” I am and how cultures can differ even in countries that are supposed to be extremely similar. It was an eye-opening experience and I recommend that everyone travel overseas at least once in their life, even to countries that are “the same” as the United States.
I am from a city. I never really experienced farms or how they worked. I did not know about any of the issues facing agriculture. I knew where my food came from but I always kind of assumed that it just showed up on grocery store shelves. I did not put any further thought into it. Food was always there. I knew about farmers but I did not realize how much went into farming. My experience gave me a whole new respect for those in agriculture. I feel as though people in agriculture are taken for granted in today’s world. I even used to be like that. Turns out their jobs are hard. Extremely hard. Add the fact that the general public doesn’t really know or care about agriculture and you start to realize how exhausting it is to be in the agricultural sector. I personally gained an entirely new respect for those working in agriculture and all they do to provide us with plenty of good and healthy food. I am a medical dietetics major which means I will be working a lot with food. My major is geared more towards nutrition therapy and health issues around food. With the influence of this study aboard program, I am even now looking into jobs in the agriculture field instead of a strictly medical field.
One event that changed my views was in a restaurant. I mentioned above how seating was different. Another issue was how loud we were. It is a well-known stereotype that Americans are loud and obnoxious. I thought that I was not like that. There is no way that rude stereotype applied to me. Well, it did. In the beginning, many of the places we went to, we were the loudest ones. We were not trying to be loud. Somehow, we just naturally talked louder than all of the other conversations. It was a bit embarrassing at first, seeing others throw us dirty looks but we eventually learned how to tone it down. We were not yelling or being rude, it just so happened that we were louder and more expressive than the other dinners. The whole social setting was different. Now, if we went to a pub this was not true since there were others being loud, but in most restaurants this was the case. This helped me to see how “American” I was without even realizing or trying. It was an eye-opening experience to see how I could be different than other cultures without even realizing it.
Like I mentioned earlier, I had no idea how farming worked. Food just appeared in stores. Almost everyone on the trip was in an agricultural related major or had grown up on a farm or in farming communities. Talking to them opened my eyes to the struggles in farming and agriculture. Visiting farms in England and Scotland helped me to realize how big of a process raising animals and harvesting fields is. Visiting publishers helped me to realize simply how many issues there are facing agriculture and how the general public does not seem to have any idea about where their food comes from, like I used to be. Seeing everything that has to happen to get the food from the farm to the table was crazy to me. I was constantly learning on my trip and I loved it. I loved learning about everything from the equipment to how difficult animals can be to raise. I recommend that people should visit a farm or even talk to a farmer at the 4-H exhibits at county fairs. There was so much more to growing food than I had ever imagined and it was an exciting time learning all I did.
Visiting the United Kingdom was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Seeing buildings that were 1000s of years old was breathtaking. The United States is a relatively new country and no buildings are as old as they are in Europe. One of the places we visited was the Roman Baths in Bath, England. That city was so full of history. Walking through the baths and even the town was humbling. We went on a tour of the city and learned what had happened in the city long long ago. The whole town felt old but in a good way. It reinforced the idea that the world is bigger and older than just me and my American ways. It enforced the culture of the entire country. I developed a kind of wanderlust because of this trip. I want to travel all over and experience all of the cultures I possibly can. Everywhere is different and I want to see as much as I can.
One of the places we visited where I could almost feel the history, was at Stonehenge.
My major is medical dietetics. I went on an agricultural trip. I learned a monumental amount in my short two weeks. I grew up in the city. I had no idea how farms even worked. Completely immersing myself in an agricultural program gave me an amazing perspective on where our food comes from. Being in a major that’s focused on what and how you eat, seeing where it all begins and the issues around it was a great learning experience. I realized there is so much more to food than what I am learning in my program. This trip opened me up to working in the agriculture sector. It was something I had never considered. Now, I love the idea and am actively looking into internships where my dietetics background can be useful in the agriculture field.
STEP Study Abroad, Agricultural Communications