For my STEP Project I attended an educational abroad program in Ireland. The subject was Human-Animal Interactions, a program specifically in my major. While in country we visited farms, zoos, animal sanctuaries, and even the University of Dublin.
This was only my second time abroad, but each time I grow as a person. It is very humbling and eye-opening to experience another culture, especially in terms of the subject I am studying. I realize how much there is to learn every time. Animals are extremely important to humans, not just here, but around the world. A lot of the things I assume are the norm because that’s what I see to be true here in the U.S., are not the same elsewhere. Even in another developed country like Ireland. But most importantly I realized that as a world we need to learn from each other. Why keep making the same mistakes when we can move forward together.
There are so many small and large interactions and moments while abroad that impacted me. The very first one though is the first hour after we exited the plane in Dublin. In that time, we saw our first interactions of the Irish, met our bus driver, and started to see the city. There was just a feeling that we were in a different place. But what struck me most was the history. Right off the bat we were seeing buildings and hearing stories of things several hundreds of years older that the U.S. That same night we had our first “real” interactions with the locals. It was interesting, to say the least, how they interpreted Americans. It made me escape my bubble and realize how the rest of the world feels. It really started to turn the critical thinking wheels in my brain.
My next impactful experience had to be the first farm we visited, which was a sheep farm. As someone with an interest in animal agriculture, this was the first time I was able to compare what I know about raising livestock with what they do. There were some differences that I didn’t like, mainly because they have very strict regulations, but also things I did. Some of the ideas the farmers implemented or are doing going forward, are things I would love to take back to the United States. Meanwhile there are some things I would love for them to try that we do.
Looking back, it is very hard to give one experience a higher value than another. Every moment there was worth something to me. Every little experience gave me a broader aspect on the world. But mostly, it just left me with a desire to do more. To travel more, and to learn more. If I could change that much in one week in one country, imagine how I could be impacted if I went all over the world.
The main reason I went on this trip was for personal goals to see the world. But it truly is so much more. As a professional I will be better able to understand the world of animal sciences. Especially because it opened my eyes as to how the industry changes from country to country. I hope that someday I can work with international colleagues, to bring out knowledge of the agriculture industry and veterinary medicine together.