“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles” -Tim Cahill

By: Jane Hulse, Food Science and Technology | Mendota Heights, MN

One of the great things about Ohio State is all the opportunities it offers to study abroad.  In fact, I was able to study abroad my first semester at Ohio State, through the London Honors program.  After learning  about British culture and history all semester,  I didn’t mind cutting my winter break short, returning to Columbus to meet my classmates for our flight to London three days before New Year’s Eve.  Celebrating New Years in London and watching fireworks with friends was well worth the sleep deprivation wrought by the eight-hour flight from New York to London followed by a bus tour and a tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral the first day.  The itinerary the next 9 days was a mix of scheduled activities, like going to the British Museum or having afternoon tea at Montague on the Gardens, and free time to explore on our own so we could learn to use the public transit.  Other activities included seeing plays, touring the Globe Theater, a day at Oxford, and seeing the crown jewels at the Tower of London.

Looking back on my experience, it’s funny to think I was hesitant to sign up for this program even though it sounded great.  I didn’t know anybody and was afraid I’d end up alone in a strange city.  However, it turned out I had nothing to worry about, and in fact going on this trip allowed me to make some really good friends.  This trip allowed me to both experience another culture and broaden my own experience of Ohio State through my new friendships.   I think one of the great things about traveling abroad is that being in a new environment far from home can push you to be open to new friendships, new foods, and new ideas.  And in that way travelling gives you the confidence that you can find things in common with people wherever you are.

Grandpa Is Not the Only Story Teller


By: Gage Smith, Agribusiness and Applied Economics | Racine, OH

I can remember sitting on the fender of my grandfather’s 1855 Oliver tractor as a young boy, the smell of the fresh plowed ground, and the countless stories my grandfather would tell me as we went through the fields. The stories he told seemed to not have any correlation, but they all taught me a lesson and a sense of coming together. The idea of storytelling is universal and I had the opportunity to travel to Ghana, Africa on an education abroad to research the traditional stories that are told in the Volta Region.

The research included working within the communities where the stories have been told for hundreds of years. We listened to storytellers in the villages, the storytellers have been told the same stories by their ancestors. The act of storytelling was much like how my grandfather would have told a story, it was a performance to intrigue you to pay attention and gain a lesson of values, and provided a source of entertainment for the residents of the village.  The stories included interludes where the group would begin signing. The stories were almost always full of excitement and offered an opportunity for the individuals present to take part in the storytelling itself.

One of the many stories we listened to was about a young girl who disobeyed her parents and had to live out her life on a stone. The girls’ parents would visit her each day to bring her food and water, but one day the girl on the stone met her fate with a lioness. This story is told to children in the Volta Region to teach them the importance of listening to their parents and to obey authority.

Our education abroad research team was able to visit 5 villages and spoke with over forty storytellers. The importance of documenting the stories in Ghana is crucial for their survival; we saw that the stories are not being told on a regular basis as they once were, and the youth are not as interested and would rather watch television or use their cellphones for entertainment.

The short period of time that I was in Ghana I was able to fully immerse myself in the Ghanaian culture, learning much more than I would be able to from a lecture or a textbook.

Photo Credit: Dr. Nathan Crook 

Gracious, Honduras!


By: Amanda Bush, Agricultural Communication | Mt. Gilead, OH

Last May, a group of 26 students and faculty from Utah State University and The Ohio State University traveled abroad for 16 days to Honduras for a Community Development and Agricultural Outreach Education Study Abroad program with the supervision of Dr. Jamie Cano, Tyler Agner, and Emily Wickham of Ohio State and Dr. Gary Straquedine of Utah State University. Our host family, Larry and Angie Overholt are also native Buckeyes who took care of us throughout the trip.  While in Honduras, we accomplished many great things and was able to see several incredible places and sights.

Each day was a new adventure. We never really knew what we were getting into until it was happening. Whether it be cooking with the people of the villages to prepare a meal for the kids in school, helping serve the food to the children in the school, helping build an outhouse for a family with teenage girl who has never had bathroom facilities, or making and pouring concrete at the Vocational schools for various projects the needed done. Whatever the task was, we all came together to make it happen – even in the 100+ degree heat.

However, we did not always work. Some days we would take tours of the cities around and all they had to offer such as the “Mercado” which is essentially a supermarket where the Hondurans go each day to get their food while also visiting a sugar cane processing plant, a milk processing and packaging plant and visiting several vocational and public schools in the area.

A few things learned on this study abroad trip to Honduras was not just hard work and determination to see the job through – it was much deeper than that. A sense of respect and assurance that no matter how bad we think we have it some times, we truly are blessed to live in this country and have the freedoms we do. This experience allowed us to open our hearts and minds to the truths of the world and uncover a passion for international development and positive change for which we all say, “Gracious, Honduras!”

Dear Brazil, Obrigada


AZP Class 17, Day 1 Columbus, OH

By: Mary Siekman, Agricultural Communication | Delaware, OH­

On January 4th myself and fourteen of my peers stood with bags packed in the Port Columbus International Airport as we waited to depart for what was to be the biggest adventure of my life – a six week study abroad experience in São Paulo, Brazil.

This six-week experience is a trip students look forward to every January. Each year a new class of students is inducted into Alpha Zeta Partners, an honorary fraternity in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Traveling to Brazil is one of four seminars the newly elected class of AZP members participate in together. The other three focus on personal leadership development, understanding diversity and a seminar in Washington D.C. highlighting organizational change.

While my class was abroad in Brazil we were enrolled in classes at the ESALQ campus of the Universidad De São Paulo focusing on economics, agriculture and the history of Brazil. Not only did we learn about Brazilian agriculture in the classroom, but we also experienced it first hand during the two weeks our class spent touring different farms and agricultural companies around the south eastern part of Brazil.

As part of our final grade each of us was expected to keep a daily journal to record our thoughts and experiences in throughout our trip. Below is a journal entry I wrote during a layover in the airport as we traveled home:

Dear Brazil,

Obrigada – “Thank you.”

Thank you for welcoming us. One of the first things I noticed way back in January when we stepped off our plane in the São Paulo airport was how immediately I felt welcomed. Throughout the entire six weeks we lived in Brazil I rarely met someone who did not go the extra mile to make me feel welcome and comfortable. The Brazilians we met and tried to communicate with (even with the English/Portuguese language barrier) often tried their hardest to listen, understand and communicate with us. Instead of ignoring us or laughing behind our backs (although we did look funny on many occasions!!) they made an effort to include us, learn about us and teach us about their culture…especially in some of the restaurants we visited often. We were welcomed in and treated like family when we went out to eat dinner, which made saying goodbye difficult to do.

Thank you for immersing us in your culture and opening our eyes to the world around us. Traveling to Brazil was the first time I had ever been abroad and completely submerged in a culture different than my own. Not being able to read the street signs, understand the waiter at dinner or know how to act in different social situations challenged me to focus in and think in a different way. During our time abroad my classmates and I challenged each other to embrace this new culture every chance we could and as a result were able to begin to understand the differences between our cultures and learn so much more about the country we were living in.

Thank you for friends and family we will have forever. Before we departed from the Columbus airport more than six weeks ago we were just a group of classmates who hadn’t spent much time together and didn’t know much about each other. However, through the spontaneous adventures we went on, the intentional conversations we had and through all of the experiences we shared we learned to appreciate each other and became closer. The group of classmates that had left the United States together six weeks ago were not the same students that came back home. But instead, the students that landed in the Columbus airport on Friday are a group of great friends, teammates and family. We all have Brazil to thank for bringing us together and tying us closer.

– Not only did we return home knowing we have new friendships in the United States, but also knowing we will always have great friendships and families in Brazil. During our time abroad we met and grew close with many individuals and families and will hold onto the relationships until next time we return back to Brazil.

Obrigada por tudo, Brasil – “Thank you for everything, Brazil.”

Until next time,



AZP Class 17, Day 38 Piracicaba, SP, Brazil

For more of Mary’s experiences visit: http://marysiekman.wordpress.com

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.


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.

Study Abroad Programs Define My Ohio State Experience


By: David Minich, Animal Sciences | Cincinnati, OH

Before coming to The Ohio State University, my scope of the world ventured no further than my own travels in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.  However, all of that changed during my first quarter here at Ohio State when I had the opportunity to travel to Ecuador on one of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences’ study abroad programs.

During my freshman year trip to Ecuador, we toured numerous farms, learning about sustainability and the culture of the country.  With just 18 first-year students in the group, we all quickly became good friends.  Some of my best friends today are those who traveled with me on this study abroad program, and it is something we still talk about years later.  My first international experience initially seemed very overwhelming – I had to get my passport, attempt to brush up on my Spanish language skills, and prepare for my first trip out of the country, but when I returned home, I knew immediately that I wanted to participate in another study abroad program and travel abroad again.

In December of my sophomore year, I was fortunate enough to be able to once again go abroad, traveling to Ireland for 11 days studying human and animal interactions.  This was another incredible experience learning about the culture and society in Ireland while also having numerous opportunities to compare and contrast the use of animals and land in Ireland and the United States.  A few of the more memorable experiences of this program were visiting the Cliffs of Moher as well as taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the Dublin Zoo.

Finally, after my junior year, I was extremely lucky to be chosen as one of the first students to participate in a new study abroad program focusing on exotic animal behavior and welfare in South Africa.  As an animal sciences major who hopes to one day work with exotic animals as a veterinarian, I could not think of a better program to fit my interests, round out my animal sciences career at Ohio State, and fulfill one of my biggest dreams – traveling to Africa!  Every single day of this 17 day program was filled with surprises.  From observing wild animals in their natural habitat and witnessing amazing moments, such as a herd of nearly sixty elephants crossing a river, to learning about the problems these animals are facing as human populations and wildlife increasingly interact, this program provided a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget and will always be able to reference during my future career.

After participating in three study abroad programs held on three different continents, I can confidently say that study abroad has not only defined my time here at Ohio State and in CFAES, but it has also changed my life for the better.  I encourage any students who are interested in study abroad to do so and to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity!

Agriculture isn’t always just in your backyard



By: Samantha Ward, Food Science & Technology | Worthington, OH

When setting off to South Africa two summers ago I never realized the impact that Studying Abroad would have on not only my time at OSU, but also my life as a whole. Studying Abroad was a stepping stone that opened many doors for me not only at OSU, but also in the professional world. When applying to study abroad my mindset was typical of most college students in that I thought it would be a great experience for the five weeks I was there, and would gain me some credit along the way. Before studying abroad I didn’t even know of any of the clubs within the CFAES college, and by the time I came back I was active in three different organizations.

Even two years later I still remember the adventures we went on, and the amazing opportunities we had in South Africa. In addition to the fun of boating along an estuary filled with hippos, riding through the game reserve searching for lions, and riding to the top of Table Mountain our study abroad group completed many meaningful projects while in South Africa. One of the projects our group had the opportunity to work on was to design and build an irrigation system at an AIDS Clinic and at a community garden in Khayelitsha in order to help improve the efficiency of watering the crops. While there we made a strong connection with the women who ran the garden, and were able to learn a lot from them on how they grow their crops so successfully with minimal means. Looking at the experience as a whole I realized I originally went in with the mindset that we were going there in order to help the people and share our knowledge. What I actually found was that they ended up helping me by teaching me a lot and helping me grow. I gained a different perspective on the Agricultural Industry than that seen in America.

Coming back to Columbus I have found that this experience, and the knowledge that I gained, has helped me advance personally and professionally. In addition to the extracurricular involvement I have noticed that when applying for internships prospective employers are interested in hearing about what I have learned and my experiences in South Africa. I gained a perspective to the Agricultural industry that most people do not have. By seeing a new way of life, and a new way of doing things, it truly opens you up to step outside of the safety of your box.

I would truly advise anyone who has the opportunity to study abroad. The experience will not only give you memories and friendships for a life time, but can truly change your life.

My Trip to the Least Visited Country in South America


By: Bridget Gladden, Zoology (minor in Forestry, Fisheries, and Wildlife) | Beavercreek, OH

What began as thoughts of escape quickly turned into the opportunity of a lifetime. Arriving at Laguna Blanca in Paraguay was no easy feat with delayed flights, unusual transportation methods in Asuncion, and a lack of any sort of fluency in Spanish, but travel never is simple. It was only moments after my arrival that I felt at ease, even at home. There were certainly aspects that I was unaccustomed to like the necessity to throw away toilet paper instead of flush it, the chickens that wander everywhere or the hanging of laundry on lines. Over the next month though, I began to make some of the best friends of my life. I learned unique customs that set Paraguay apart from other countries, and of course, I advanced in both knowledge and ability through my research.

My plan before I arrived was to continue my interest of malformations in amphibians that had developed through research at school. However, due to the lack of time at the field site and limited equipment, I began to focus my attention towards other options. At first, I was disappointed with my inability to settle on one idea. I wanted to change the world, one frog at a time. My uncertainty did afford me one thing: time. I had time to see the reserve from several points of view, time to survey areas that had not yet been surveyed, and time to enjoy my temporary life here. This time was precious to me for in this time, I gained most of my experience and friends.

I ended up conducting research on the homing abilities of a rather comical animal, the Rococo Toad. So, each night I search for toads, collecting them in buckets and placing them around the reserve to see if they will come home. My hypothesis was that the home is where the light is for the toads. Those that cannot see it will not return. So far, the data seems to support that hypothesis.

Whether my data is publishable or not, the experience has changed me as a person, for the better. I cannot yet say how this change will translate upon my return, but I know now that my thought of the people and places around me will have been altered. Living in a new culture, a new life has caused me to newly appreciate others and understand them, as well as myself.  Studying abroad gave me the opportunity to meet the world and in it find opportunities of a lifetime.