- My STEP project was a two week study abroad trip to Ireland. This trip entailed going to various farms, research facilities, zoos and wildlife parks to understand the human-animal interactions that were taking place and comparing them to the human-animal interactions we have here in the United States.
- Before this trip, I assumed that most of the farms in Ireland were sheep farms, since that is a common stereotype, and that they didn’t have many other livestock animals because of the amount of rain they get. However, that is not the case. The Irish have quite a lot of other animals, like beef and dairy cows, and even some goats. Since it is so wet in Ireland, these animals are kept inside most of the time, and only on pasture during the “dry” seasons. While visiting the farms, I also learned new grazing practices that have made me change my mind about how we graze in the U.S. One of the farms we visited over there had a different approach to grazing; he called it zero grazing. This is where a certain field will not be grazed by cattle but will instead be cut by the farmer at a certain length, and the grass that is cut will be fed to the cattle. I have changed my thinking that grazing cattle on pasture is the best method, to liking this method. This is because with zero grazing, the cattle get a more consistent energy source since all the grass is the same length.
- I have also changed my understanding of myself. Before going to Ireland, I assumed that I would be very shy around the locals and would mostly just talk to the people on the trip that I already knew. I assumed this because that is more natural to me, and it keeps me in my comfort zone. However, I broke out of my comfort zone and actually talked to some of the local people, and I even talked to new people on the trip that I did not know before leaving. By doing this, I made new friends on the trip that I still talk to after the trip was over.
- Many of the activities that we did in Ireland led to this transformation that I was talking about earlier. For example, going to the various farms was a major reason for the change in the knowledge about the animals that Ireland has. We went to dairy and beef cattle farms, sheep farms, a horse/ecotourism farm and a goat/veal farm. We also got to go to a donkey sanctuary, a sheep research center, a swine research center, a wildlife park and even a zoo. Visiting these different places showed me just how many different animals that the Irish have. At each of these places we learned a lot of new information that helped me to see why most people only think that the Irish have only sheep. This stereotype is due to the fact that it is not always safe to have many of the other animals outside on pasture all of the time, whereas sheep will almost always be on pasture.
- My view on pasture raising all cattle has also changed while on this trip due to one of the activities that we did. My view on this topic was changed when we went to a beef cattle farm. The owner of this farm explained to us that he takes a different approach to feeding his cows so of the time. He zero grazes a field, which means that he cuts grazable grass from one of the fields, and brings that grass into the barn for the cattle to eat. This event led to me changing my views because it gives the cattle a more consistent feed that is high in protein and a good source of energy. This helps the cattle to grow more consistently and may even make the meat more consistent.
- I was also transformed, in a way, on this study abroad trip. Many events also led to this change. I got out of my comfort zone by having a roommate for the entirety of the trip that I did not know, which helped me to get to know her along with the people that she had known previously. I made relationships with many of the people on the trip for the simple fact that we wanted to go to some of the same places or wanted to see some of the same things. This helped me to talk to different people that I might not have talked to before. Also, I got out of my comfort zone by talking to some of the local people. Whether it was asking for directions to some place, or when we went out on New Year’s Eve and got to talk to the people at the bars. It also definitely helped that the Irish were very friendly and helpful.
- This transformation is significant for my life because it shows me that I can break out of my comfort zone. I tend to be a little on the shy side, so knowing that I can get out of what is comfortable to me will help me to continue to do this on a regular basis. This will help me in the future when I need to network or even interview for a job; I will be more comfortable with doing things like this. This trip has also changed my life a significant amount by showing me how many options I have for a future career. I always thought I would stay in the states to work and live, but seeing the different opportunities the Ireland has, has made me open my mind to maybe even going over there to live/work.