For my signature project I spent a week traveling abroad through Northern Germany and the Netherlands, focusing on the study of horse farms throughout these two countries. However, as it was my first time abroad, I also spent a massive amount of time exploring the cities that were visited in the evenings.
I would go as far as to state that this trip abroad was one of the most eye opening adventures of my life. Going into the study abroad, I guess it is easy to say that I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew I’d be traveling to horse farms, and I knew the culture of the areas that we were visiting would vary from that of Ohio. However, the greatest realization that I had abroad was how much more inclusive the world, or at least the countries that I was visiting, were for everyone. First off, everyone speaks English, or at least tries to do so enough to communicate with you. As an American, this made me almost feel selfish. Why did I just expect people to speak my language? I wasn’t in my own country, nor was I in a country where it was the official language. Additionally, through this trip I realized how capable of holding my own I was, even in another country. Going into this trip, I was a bit nervous on how I would handle being abroad…I was unsure about the language barrier, the cultural differences, and the unfamiliar land and practices. However, through this trip I learned that I could easily adapt to this and to these d
O-H-I-O at the “I amsterdam” sign
ifferences. I was able to navigate to places, even despite not having data abroad and consequently relying on Wi-Fi when found. Lastly I realized how closed-minded America, and therefore I, was in the realm of equine practices. We think that what we do it always perfect, or the best. Yet, through this trip I saw management differences and ideas that were extremely beneficial for the health and well being of the animal- practices that could change the ways we raise and train our horses. Why does it take so long for these ideas to make their way across the Atlantic?
Throughout my trip to the Netherlands and Germany there were a few key moments that specifically fed into my transformation. One of these was when I walked into a tiny Italian restaurant in the small German town of Warendorf. Being an extremely small, and therefore non-touristy area, there was a clear language barrier. Yet, despite this both the restaurant staff and other diners were beyond accommodating to us. We could not understand what they were telling us, but we recognized upon walking in that there were nowhere near enough seats for all of us to eat. However, within minutes we noticed that they were not telling us to leave, but that diners had given up their seats and were moving tables together so that we could all sit together and eat; leaving them squished into a tiny booth seat. Despite us disagreeing and attempting to leave before the family could move, there was no way that they would not welcome us into their town and restaurant. From there, we continued to order, talk to, and take pictures with those in the restaurant. The trick was, we never spoke German. Instead, we tried to understand the broken English that was being spoken to us. They were so open to us as foreigners and so accepting, yet this concept is so challenging to see in America.
Secondly, I really appreciated the confidence that this trip gave me. Yes, I had traveled alone from Florida to Ohio to come to school here at Ohio State. However, another country was an entirely different experience. A key experience that stuck out to me occurred when I spent some free time in Aachen, Germany. As my friends and I sat down for coffee in a small café, we realized that we still had another hour of free time, but no idea what to do in the area. At this point, on day four of the trip, I was already beginning to feel more confident. Regardless, I did not realize how comfortable I had already become until I approached a local sitting near us. Through a conversation of broken English, I asked her what she recommended we do in the free time. She quickly recommended a visit to the Aachen Cathedral, however, before we left for the destination, I spent some additionally time talking to her about her city and what she loved about it- something she clearly enjoyed to share. Even in America I feel that I would have rarely had such a conversation with a stranger, but with everyone so open, I found even more confidence in this country.
Lastly, the most significant aspect transformation-wise was the way that this trip, and the visits to various equine establishments, gave me such an incredible image of equine management practices of the United States. I know that these American practices were what I have always been taught, but the Europeans have so many ideas that we could spread here, and I was frustrated to have realized that I had never even considered or researched any of them. For instance, one of our farm stops was a facility called Bosselbacher Hof. This farm, actively using the Aktiv Stall farm technology and conc
Young horses at VDL Stud in the Netherlands (A different type of management)
ept, was entirely based off of technology with a transponder attached to each horse. Therefore, this transponder would allow the horse to eat, or not to do so, at given times of the day, along with forcing them to actively travel from one station to the next to eat grain, drink water, eat hay, and rest. However, I had never even looked into a management system such as this, simply because I was so closed minded to what I had learned and grown up around.
All three of these significant changes are similarly extremely important in my life, both professionally and socially. However, value-wise, I can simply break them down into two categories. Initially, I want to discuss how valuable the aspect of opening up and gaining confidence in a foreign area was for me. Both socially and professionally this attribute of confidence is integral. Not that I have even necessarily not been, but there is always the uncertainty of situations that you have yet to be placed in, and how you will react. Consequently, by thriving in another country and around places and people that I had little in common with, it gave me the confidence to consider veterinary school abroad. Additionally, it furthered the opportunity for me to travel abroad to pursue my interest in the European equine industry, as I realized that it was something that I was actually capable of achieving.
Haflinger horses used in an equine dairy
Secondly, and also most importantly, I know that opening up my eyes to different management practices and realizing the importance of constantly being aware of new and improving ideas, is extremely valuable to my future successes. A massive part of succeeding is recognizing your weaknesses and working to improve them. Therefore, in recognizing how much further the European equine industry has advance past ours here in America, I similarly realized how much further I could advance. Even just working for barns and not having my own sole control of one, even broaching ideas can make a change. Additionally, on a larger scale, it is important to consider how opening up one’s eyes can also open up ones opportunities. Consequently, I am extremely grateful that this trip to the Netherlands and Germany was capable of doing this for me.