Monday, June 2, 2014

First: Trinidad, Next: Korea!

Wow! I can't believe that this class is almost at its end and our trip to Korea feels so far away yet so close at the same time! Through all of our class meetings, guest speakers, and readings we have learned a little about what makes our two cultures different and similar, but I don't think it will really sink in until we are fully immersed in the country. I'm excited for more Korean food and to see their agriculture and their agricultural education classrooms in person, but I'm less excited for the language struggle that I am sure some of us will still be experiencing once we get there.

Papaya farm in the mountains in Trinidad
There are so many things left to do to prepare, but I think the best preparation I received recently was my trip to Trinidad and Tobago a few weeks ago. That trip was my first trip out of the country and I learned more on that trip than I probably even realize myself right now. I had a lot of eye-opening experiences visiting their agricultural divisions of their universities and touring farms and meeting with farmers and extension agents.

Everywhere we went I got to see how far-reaching agricultural issues are impacting everyday people, whether they realize it or not. Firsthand, I saw issues surrounding the lack of water, inputs, and labor, all things that I think we as agriculturalists all know exist but maybe we don't see it in our everyday lives, at least I don't usually. We got to hear from the principal of their university, who told us about their country's need to enhance their agricultural industry and become self-sustaining, and about their battle to engage more youth in agriculture, something I think all of us would agree is important anywhere in the world.

Sunset at the Caroni Swamp, a nature reserve
While we were traveling, we were welcomed openly, everywhere we went, and encouraged to ask questions about their culture and encouraged to learn about it ourselves - whether it was eating fresh fruit right from the tree, with names I can't even pronounce, or enjoying their music, or admiring their beautiful craftsmanship, I can't say that I have ever been that welcomed by strangers, even when traveling to new places in the U.S.

Traveling outside of the U.S. not only taught me more about Trinidad & Tobago, but it taught me more about my fellow classmates and my professors who went with me, and it taught me more about myself, but more importantly it reaffirmed how important what we want to do is - it reaffirmed how important it is to educate others about agriculture.

Waterfall in the rainforest in Tobago
One of the best memories I have from my trip is when a classmate and I were on the beach in Tobago, chatting with a person from Trinidad about how beautiful the islands were, and he asked us what brought us to his country. The smile and expression on his face when we told him we were studying agriculture is one I don't think I can forget - I don't know that I have ever met someone become that happy at the word. He was a farmer, at the island with his family for a weekend vacation, and he was overjoyed to know that our group was focusing on agriculture and he said that he was excited because "of how important it [agriculture] is and how important it is to teach others about it." This is why I think we become involved in agricultural education - to tell the story of farmers and agriculturalists whose work impacts us everyday, no matter whether they are in the northeast, the south or even in the Caribbean.

And if I learned all of this during one short week in Trinidad & Tobago, I cannot wait to see what we learn during our month in Korea!

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