As AEDE Undergrad Danielle Matthews Attests, a World of Opportunity Awaits You at Ohio State

Feb. 25, 2013

The College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) offers its students an active study abroad program with a year-round selection of options enabling students to learn in a host country on almost every continent for days to months at a time. In 2012, 16 students enrolled in AEDE’s Agribusiness and Applied Economics program studied abroad in programs in Australia, Brazil, Ireland and the Czech Republic.

AEDE Agribusiness and Applied Economics undergraduate student Danielle Matthews completed two study abroad trips offered through CFAES in 2012 and she recently sat down with us to chat about her experiences abroad.  Matthews spent six weeks in Brazil in January and February 2012, as well as ten days in Ireland in December 2012.

Please tell us about your experience in Brazil.

I traveled to Brazil as a member of the honorary Ohio State fraternity Alpha Zeta Partners. Freshman or sophomores are able to join the fraternity based on their GPA, an application and interview. Each year 20 members from the College are inducted and are expected to go to four seminars; Brazil is one of these seminars.

While in Brazil I took classes at the University of São Paulo, ESALQ branch, in Piracicaba, Brazil. We had access to great professors who taught economics, policy, history and culture. We were in class for about three weeks, four days per week. We went to class each day from 8:00am to 6:00pm with a two hour lunch break and several other smaller breaks throughout the day.

The other day of the week that we didn’t have classes, which was generally Wednesday, we would tour different agricultural companies or farms. We saw businesses that produced sprayers, coffee combines and sugar cane combines, as well as greenhouses, local grain cooperatives and a coffee elevator/cooperative.

On the weekends we went on trips, such as to São Paulo, the eighth largest city in the world. We danced the samba on the street in preparation for Carnival, we went to the zoo, as well as a soccer game and local farms. My favorite weekend was when we each went to stay with a host family to experience Brazilian culture firsthand. My family was a young couple, 22 years old. They took me shopping and to a traditional Brazilian barbeque with their friends. I enjoyed getting to know them and chatting with them about their thoughts on the cultural differences between life in the U.S. and Brazil.

After finishing the classes at the University we departed on a ten day trip – we headed northeast along the Brazilian coast. Over the ten days we visited many large farms, an iron ore company, a brewing company, the beach, Rio de Janeiro, a banana producer and much more. 

Finally after seeing much of the country, we finished the trip with group presentations that compared an aspect of the U.S. agricultural system to Brazil’s agricultural system. My group chose to compare Brazilian grain cooperatives to those in the U.S.

My favorite part of the experience in Brazil was how emerged we were in the culture. After being there for six weeks, it truly felt like home.

Tell us about your experience in Ireland.

The trip to Ireland was structured much differently than the trip to Brazil. In Ireland we didn’t stay in the same location for more than a day, enabling us to see a majority of the country.  This study abroad had a focus on human and animal interactions, rather than basic agriculture, which also made the programming quite different from Brazil. Most of our tours in Ireland were directly on the farm. We had a good mix of family farms, organizations and humane societies. There was a lot of sightseeing involved too; we visited many castles and historical landmarks.

My favorite part of the experience in Ireland was visiting a country that was so old. The castles were amazing and to understand how truly old they were was astounding. I also really enjoyed the interaction with the Irish people on this trip. It is amazing how similar our countries are, but at the same time how different due to the great land mass and population differences between the two nations.

Why did you want to study abroad?

I was interested in studying abroad because I had barely left the state of Ohio; actually I had never flown before going to Brazil. I knew that if I didn’t take advantage of the opportunities given to me in these four short years at Ohio State, I would regret it.

I always thought that I had an idea of what other countries were like, in regards to their lifestyles and agricultural industries. However, I realized after the first trip that I was completely wrong. It’s hard to understand what it’s like outside of the U.S. until you actually go and really immerse yourself in a country’s culture.

What did you learn about yourself while studying abroad?

I can definitely say that after these two study abroad trips I am more comfortable outside of my comfort zone than I ever was before.

These study abroad trips also opened my eyes to the big picture. I had always thought the big picture for my future was Van Wert County, Ohio, my home. However, after studying abroad I have learned that though I still want to be an agribusiness professional with close connections to home, I also want to help farmers to feed the world by 2050. There are going to be nine billion people to feed by then and if I can help five farmers make yields higher than they have before, then in turn I’m helping to feed people in another country. It may be a small difference, but many small differences can add up to one big one!

What advice do you have for future AEDE students about study abroad and other opportunities offered by the College and the department?

My main words of advice are to take advantage of all of the opportunities in front of you. The worst thing to do is to look back on college and wish you had done more. I feel like I’m taking advantage of everything. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else as Ohio State offers so many exciting opportunities.

February 25, 2013