A Good Kind of Discomfort


By: Natalie Miller, Agribusiness and Applied Economics | Washington Courthouse, OH

From January 1-10, I joined a group of 26 other first year students from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences on an Adventure through Nicaragua. Although we had spent one semester together in our pre-departure course, it was impossible for me to foresee the growth that we would experience as students in an unfamiliar culture. Most importantly, I never could have predicted that the majority of this growth would result from discomfort. As we toured Nicaraguan cities, ate beans and rice with every meal, and attempted to speak a new language, I realized that new, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable experiences fuel growth. We grew together as friends, but individually in our own unique ways.

For the first time in my life, I was thrown into a culture where my primary verbal communication consisted of saying, “gracias,” and smiling. Our group traveled with translators, but I never could have imagined how challenging being unable to communicate with someone directly could be. On the contrary, I learned that body language and laughs are universal as we stayed with families in the Peñas Blancas Mountains (checkout Abby Motter’s blog post for more about our home stay https://u.osu.edu/studentblog/2016/01/12/a-new-reality/). Another student, Hannah, and I were able to learn new card games and play pick up sticks with minimal verbal communication and a whole lot of smiling and demonstrations.

Throughout our time in Nicaragua, we hiked up a muddy mountain in the pouring rain and loved every minute, we got a little (or a lot) sunburned while swimming in a volcanic crater turned lake—it was awesome. We experienced bus sickness, a language barrier, new cuisine, and showers without hot water, but these uncomfortable experiences helped us to become more in tune with Nicaraguan culture, to foster friendships in our group, to become less materialistic and more humanistic, and to realize that all things considered, people are people wherever you are. I am so thankful for an uncomfortable, fulfilling, and infinitely gratifying ten days.


An Invertebrate Intermission: Why I Spent My Semester in Bodega Bay, California


By: Benjamin Rubinoff, Environmental Science | West Chester, OH

Growing up in Southwest Ohio, the closest beach to me was an amusement park. However, family vacations and countless books and documentaries ignited my passion for marine life. I chose to go to The Ohio State University because I knew I’d be able to “get my feet wet” in research from the beginning. With my marine passion in mind, I have sought out internships and experiences outside of the classroom to prepare me for a PhD in Marine Ecology. After reading some scientific papers, I whimsically decided to email a researcher at University of California Davis to see if he needed any help with research. After a few phone calls and a visit, I was offered the position to work as an Undergraduate Laboratory Technician for Dr. Ted Grosholz at Bodega Marine Laboratory.

Conquering my 5-day road trip adventure, I made it to California in September 2015. I helped with a project looking at the effects of estuarine acidification on oyster growth and survival. Carbon dioxide can dissolve into surface waters, increasing acidity. This acidification, along with projected extreme weather events, has and will continue to be harmful to organisms, including economically important species like oysters. Working in Tomales Bay, CA, an estuary just north of San Francisco, I assisted with field experiments and data analysis that seek to better understand these complex changes. While the work wasn’t always glamorous (I measured thousands of oysters), I enjoyed helping with both lab work and data analysis. I even was able to help in presenting this project at two scientific conferences!

Hoping to complete my PhD at UC Davis, this experience gave me incredible networking opportunities. I was also able to reflect and grow as a person in my time there. Boating in 10 ft. swells, accidentally stabbing myself (instead of the oyster), and dealing with massive data sets tested my patience. However, I can proudly say that after returning, I believe my time out west further solidified my research and career goals. I will end this post with some unsolicited advice: the world is your oyster. Take a step outside of your comfort zone! You may just land a position working your dream job in one of the most beautiful places in the world.


A New Reality


By: Abby Motter, Agriscience Education | Mansfield, OH

Driving into the Peñas Blancas Mountains of Nicaragua you might first recognize the breathtaking mountains covered in colorful foliage, the muddy dirt road, or the homes and buildings scattered across the countryside. However, after spending time there you will realize it is the people that will stick in your memory.

Just last week I spent two nights in the rainforest with a Nicaraguan family that belonged to a Coffee Grower’s Community and Cooperative. I was fortunate to have this opportunity through signing up for a First Year Experience Study Abroad Program at orientation through the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Part of the experience involved splitting into small groups and completing a home stay with a local family. The families we stayed with spoke little to no English, worked full time as coffee farmers, and did the best they could with their low income that required countless hours to earn. These farmers will harvest every day from October to February, at the end of the harvest season they will receive one paycheck that must last for an entire year.


My family lived in a beautiful valley with potatoes, coffee plants, banana trees, chickens, geese, and mountain hillsides with tropical flowers everywhere. Although my group and I were able to communicate in some Spanish, both cultural and lingual barriers still existed. It was through the youngest daughter, an eight year old named Katalina, we were able to form the strongest connection. Just like many eight year old girls in the United States her favorite color was pink, she loved kittens, and her favorite princess was “Nieve Blanca” or Snow White. When we presented the children of the family with a brand new bouncy ball, we had the whole group of us playing. Later that evening the older boys of the family asked if we had “tarjetas” or cards, they soon were teaching a new game similar to Rummy. We shared pictures of our families and helped our host mother make tortillas over the open wood fire.  When our host father put up our mosquito nets at night we were there holding the hammer and nails, just like a child would with their father in a rural Ohio home.  We may live completely different lives, but we had so many similarities.


Staying with a family of a different culture, socioeconomic status, and completely different language was a humbling and perspective changing experience. We may have walked up a muddy hill to an outdoor latrine, showered with a bucket of mountain water in the open air, shooed chickens out of the kitchen, and witnessed a spider larger than my hand; but our host family lived with incredible dignity and expressed continual happiness. In our country too often we associate personal fulfillment and contentment with the amount of material possessions we own, the house we live in, the car we drive, the job we have, and the friends we keep. Instead, in the quiet mountains of Nicaragua this family was happy for companionship, the beautiful scenery all around them, good food to eat, and a sturdy tin roof over their heads. I am grateful for the chance to learn about another culture, and the reminder of all the things we have to appreciate.