“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 

Buckeye in Mexico

thumbnail_Carley Snider Blog Picture

By: Carley Snider, Agriscience Education | Felicity, OH

Growing up involved in programs such as 4-H and FFA, I’ve always valued the way youth can be developed through agricultural experiences. So, when I had the opportunity to be involved in a similar program working to develop youth in Mexico, I had no hesitation in saying “yes!”

I spent my summer living in Magdelena de Kino, Mexico as an intern for The Fatted Calf organization. My main duty as an intern was to oversee the children participating in a 4-H-like event known as “Expo Esperanza,” or “Hope Expo.” “Expo Esperanza” is an event held for the children living at Casa Vida y Esperanza, an orphanage in Magdelena. I served as, essentially, the “4-H advisor” of the children participating in beef cattle, sheep, and chicken projects. Additionally, I taught two summer school classes focused on cooking and electricity.

Throughout the summer, I used my experiences in showing livestock and completing 4-H/FFA projects to help the children gain new skills, learn new knowledge and develop new perspectives.

At Expo Esperanza, I was able to watch, like a proud teacher would, as my students showcased their projects. 16 students participated in beef showmanship, 15 participated in sheep showmanship, 8 participated in sheep production, and 25 participated in chicken showmanship and production. Seeing the pride each child held as they presented their projects was an unmatchable experience. I’m thankful that I was able to use the skills and knowledge I gained through youth programs in Ohio to be a part of developing youth in Mexico through similar programs.

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!”

ASM GEAPS Trip 2016


By: Grant Cory, Agricultural Systems Management | Frankfort, OH

My name is Grant Cory. I’m currently a sophomore studying Agricultural Systems Management at The Ohio State University. In late February and early March, a small group of about 18 students from Ohio State’s Agricultural Systems Management (ASM) Club, along with our club’s advisor Dewey Mann, had the great privilege to travel to Texas to take part in the 2016 GEAPS Exchange. GEAPS stands for Grain Elevator And Processing Society. The annual exchange that GEAPS holds every year is a 5-6 events where companies associated with the grain industry come from around the country to show off their new products, technology, and services. It is essentially a place for the exchange of ideas where people in the grain industry and people interested in the grain industry can come to learn just how the grain industry in the United States actually works, and how it’s constantly growing and innovating.

The Agricultural Systems Management (ASM) Club usually attends this conference/exchange/expo every year, and every year it’s held in a new location. This year’s exchange was being held in Austin, TX. I felt very privileged to be a part of the group of ASM Club students that attended this year’s exchange because it was such a fun and educational trip that allowed me to learn about one of the most important industries in agriculture, and it gave me the opportunity to become closer to some of my fellow ASM students, something I feel like I haven’t been able to do during my time at Ohio State because of my busy college life.

Those of us going on the trip were mostly ASM students, but a few were actually Agribusiness students. Despite not majoring in ASM, they told us that they wanted to be involved in the club because they saw how its members were such a tight-knit agriculture community that constantly sought knowledge about the agricultural industry, and they wanted to be able to learn more about the industry alongside us. Continue reading

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.


Diversified Farming in California


By: Gary Klopfenstein, Sustainable Plant Systems (Agronomy)  |  Haviland, OH

During my Spring break this year I went on an enrichment trip to California to learn more about California’s agricultural industry and issues the state faces. Traveling with my fellow college ambassadors and two advisors the 16 of us was able to see and learn about the strengths and weaknesses of California’s agriculture industry.

During our eight day stay in California, there was one particular tour we went on that really stuck with me. Terranova Ranch, it was a farming operation that farmed over 7,000 acres and produced more than 40 different crops. When Don Cameron the General Manager introduced himself and shared that statistic I was astonished by the complexity of the operation. There are large farmers in Ohio but I have never visited one that grew more than ten different crops at that size. Terranova Ranch grew a wide range of crops from olives, wine grapes, almonds, tomatoes, walnuts, pistachios, to alfalfa. Some were conventional grown but there was also a fare share of acres set aside for organic crops.

Mr. Cameron gave us a tour of his operation and of course we ask him about the water issues. He explained to us about a project he is involved in, and how this project will be able to trap rainwater from the nearby river. His farming operation alone has 52 wells that supply water for his crops. The best way they manage the water is through drip irrigation lines that are 4-6 inches below the soil surface. These lines have increased yield and lowered the amount of water used per acre. Visiting the Terranova Ranch and speaking with Mr. Cameron was fascinating to hear how he is working to conserve water and still produce a quality crop for consumers.

Visiting and touring California was an amazing experience and I love talking to classmates, friends and family about my experience and the knowledge I gain from my trip. After visiting Terranova Ranch and seeing the complexity of managing 40 different crops, and the different management practices between conventional and organic crops. I gained a new appreciation for where my food comes from.


Thank you to the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University for making this trip possible.