Through my STEP signature project, I was able to travel to Spain to study human and animal interactions. Over the course of seven days, my fellow peers and I got to experience how people of a different culture interact with animals. We visited many places from a dog shelter to a Manchego sheep farm, which aided in expanding our horizons on the information we already knew.
During my time abroad, I learned that it is best to go into a different culture as open-minded as you possibly can. It is not for us to judge how other people in different cultures and countries live. They get by living the way they do as we get by living the way we do. I thought I had gone in fairly open-minded to the animal operations we were going to see, but I was slightly wrong. The hardest stop for me was an Iberian pig farm that we went to. I was completely set in the preconceived notion I had on what this place was going to be like that it was really hard for me to get past how their operation worked. Eventually, I told myself that this was the way they did things and they did it for a certain reason and I had to accept it. So that was what I did, I accepted the fact that not every country or culture raises their production animals the same way, and that that was okay.
Additionally, I was shown that some of the assumptions I had made into some of the stops we made were wrong. The one place that we visited that was the most similar to the practices in the United States was the dog shelter. Many of their adoption practices were similar to what we have here in terms of being interviewed to see what the new family’s personality is and then being able to bring other pets to the shelter to see how the animals interact with each other. The biggest difference between these places was that their kennels were ones that had access to an individual, outside cage for each dog. These dogs were mostly kept outside during the day and then taken in at night.
Furthermore, one of the biggest differences from the assumptions I had was the Iberian pig farm. I went in thinking that this pig farm was going to be similar to the ones in the United States, in the fact that there would be large white barns with rows of pens of pigs and farrowing houses. I was COMPLETELY wrong. The pigs lived completely outside and could roam where ever they desired. There were a few shelters that they could go in during bad weather if they so chose, but they were not forced inside. There were not only pigs in these fenced-in areas, but sheep, donkeys, and horses as well.
Moreover, being able to hear the opinions and perspectives of my peers that were also on this program was very beneficial. It allowed me to view the various human and animal interaction related experiences we had from the point of view of people with different backgrounds. I grew up around livestock while some of my peers did not grow up on a farm at all and lived in the city. Not all of the students on this program were animal science related majors either. This aided in adding to the diversity of the group and people who grew up around livestock may have one opinion while those who did not would have another. This also required me to be very open-minded because even though we are all from the same country, we are not all used to the same things and did not all grow up the same way.
All in all, the changes that I incurred during my time abroad will aid me in my future endeavors. It has taught me to be open-minded to people of other cultures and keep in mind not everyone has the same background or the same opinions. This will help me in the workplace in the future because I will have to work with people of other cultures and backgrounds. It will also help me be open-minded in other areas of my life as well and not rush to judgment of people or practices.