Why study abroad?|
Study abroad opportunities give CALS students clutural experiences to remember
story by BILL LOFTUS
MARY BARSTOW GREW UP 15 MILES FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO in Palouse, Wash. (pop. 950). She spent her fall 2007 semester in Taiwan at National Chiayi University to experience a different culture.
Akin to a cannonball dive into a swimming pool, her cultural immersion was exactly what she wanted. After graduation from the university's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) this spring, she may return to the island nation as a graduate student in international business.
Student Mary Barstow bikes in Tapei during her semester studying there.
College and university officials say experiences like Barstow's are invaluable to prepare students for careers in a changing world.
Benefits of shorter-term foreign trips for students
The reality is that not all students can spend a semester abroad, said John Foltz, CALS associate dean and director of academic programs.
Mexico, Taiwan The college launched two short-term international trips in 2007 to provide intense cultural and educational experiences for students unable to study abroad for longer periods.
The first trip took a CALS group to the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, Mexico, in March 2007. Students and professors next traveled to Taiwan and National Chiayi University in August 2007. They hope to return to Taiwan this May.
India Sandra Evenson, director of the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences, will lead a tour of students to India Dec. 27 to Jan. 11, 2009, that offers academic credit.
The tour will make many of the same visits Evenson and colleagues made during a 2006 Fulbright-sponsored tour including the cities of Delhi, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Agra, and Varanasi and tours of villages, schools, textile factories, and the Coldwater Creek Sourcing Office, among other locales.
Landing solo in Taiwan
For Barstow, landing solo in Taiwan and spending five months exploring its educational system and culture was the adventure of a lifetime. "Oh geeze, to just get out and away from everything you're familiar with was a tremendous learning experience. It was scary, and it was incredible.
"It sounds sort of cheesy, but it was really true that I learned a lot about myself. And the people were incredibly friendly."
Barstow, who double majored in crop sciences and agricultural industries management communication, also expanded her academic horizons. National Chiayi University is known internationally for its biotechnology expertise, particularly in horticulture, and as a result, it offers classes in English.
The side benefit for Barstow was exposure to one of agriculture's most techno- logically advanced disciplines: orchid breeding. It also offered a perfect respite. "If I was ever having a bad day, I went to the greenhouse, surrounded by the most beautiful Phalaenopsis orchids you've ever seen."
Group trips to Taiwan, Mexico
CALS students on shorter trips explore a Taiwan orchid lab (top) and a
Guadalajara cathedral (bottom).
Both long and short immersions can be life transforming.
The past school year hadn't yet begun when a group of seven students started
fall semester in early August in Taiwan with a CALS educational tour.
"The students really got a lot out of the trip," said Foltz. He accompanied the students to Taiwan along with Bob Haggerty, the college's director of international affairs, and Bob Tripepi, professor of horticulture.
The density of people in Taiwan impressed Shawn Campbell, an agricultural economics graduate student from Condon, Ore. So did Taiwan's approach to agriculture. "All of the farms were really small, maybe only 3 acres, but they were everywhere, and they used every bit of land."
And biotechnology was big. "With all the investment they're putting into research and laboratories, I think they will be ahead of us in research in a few years," Campbell added. He
found the Aug. 2 to 12 tour "amazing."
National Chiayi University hosts were generous, making sure their visitors were well fed and the trip provided a steady stream of experiences. Haggerty, who has accompanied several international trade missions with Idaho governors and agricultural officials, predicts the experience and understanding of other cultures will equip the students for future careers.
The earlier Guadalajara, Mexico, trip familiarized students with Mexican agriculture and culture.
Through good fortune and help from Guadalajara colleagues, Haggerty said the students also got a great deal on their spring break trip, about $500 per student.
What food, textile majors learned
Kellie Grant, a food science major, joined both tours. For a food science professional, international experience means flavors and foods that may yield new products for American consumers. "Also, understanding culinary needs of a country could give a U.S. company an edge over the competition when exporting to Asia or Latin America," Grant said.
Clothing, textiles, and design major Sarah Fuger said the tour of a high-tech textile factory in Taiwan gave her a clearer perspective on modern looms her class had seen on video.
Taiwan's Everest Clothing Co. produces 33 percent of products
sold by Nike plus things like battery-powered jackets to keep people warm. National
Chiayi University paired its students with Idaho's visitors.
"It was really cool to be with people my age and to talk about differences in
our cultures," Fuger said. Relationships and cultural under- standing are key
to international business, added Haggerty. "Hopefully they came home with a
better understanding of ways to get involved in global agriculture and consumer
Contact John Foltz at firstname.lastname@example.org and Bob Haggerty at email@example.com.