Calling all ag-heads! Ready to see foreign food supply chains up close? Ready to face world hunger? Ready to learn how to sustainably grow foreign meats and be introduced to new nutrition sources? Expand your knowledge of farming practices and human impact by studying agriculture abroad. Learning to incorporate foreign farming practices, animal care, and even business tactics can help shed new light on systems that may’ve become second nature to you. Whatever hemisphere or environment you choose, studying agriculture abroad will give you a first hand opportunity to learn about world agriculture from local practitioners.
Why Study Agriculture Abroad
Studying food production abroad gives agriculture students the chance to focus on both new AND ancient farming techniques, coming away with a more complete view of agriculture’s (at times) alarmingly huge impact on societies across the globe. Students can learn from tried and true family farmers and practitioners who know the land well (think: seven generations well) and have a lot to give in the way of knowledge and experience. Understanding how farmers interact with land thousands of miles away can expand the way students approach the subject of agriculture at home.
Most agriculture study abroad programs emphasize hands-on experiences, with field research training and opportunities to work with locals who can introduce you to their traditional farming practices, conservation efforts, and land-production goals and tactics. On the more forward-thinking side of things, some agriculture study abroad programs offer the chance to work at state of the art research facilities, where companies and scientists work on creating and applying new systems and technologies. No matter if you focus on the past, present, or future, studying agriculture abroad will give you a new perspective on food production, including exposure to the challenges facing agriculturalists in other countries.
Of course, any place you choose to study agriculture abroad will have its own unique environment and agricultural practices. Are you interested in developed country food production with more of an emphasis on organic? Check out New Zealand. Do you want a firsthand look at the societies that reject American food standards? Check out Europe. Does the idea of learning about indigenous farming methods sound interesting to you? Choose a program in a developing country, such as Senegal, Ghana, or Costa Rica.
Studying agriculture abroad also means you could observe cutting-edge farming and conservation techniques and learn how ecologists are working to preserve rare ecosystems. Some elements overlap, such as locations that offer the opportunity to explore deserts or small farms as well as large universities, but for the most part it’s best to choose a specific location based on what you’re looking for in an agriculture study abroad program.
Agriculture Study Abroad Programs
For agriculture majors, the world’s a classroom. Many agriculture study abroad programs offer courses related to global warming and conservation practices, or on more specific topics, such as animal science, agriculture business, crop production and management, agricultural education, water management, and sustainable agriculture. Agriculture classes abroad may be strictly agriculture and farm-practice related, or closely related to topics such as avian wildlife, jungle ecosystems, or international development.
A few common themes emerge across agriculture study abroad programs and locations.
First, most are hands on and include site visits, data collection, and analysis. Most of agriculture study abroad programs focus on the connection between people and wildlife that are specific to the local environment, something that only an international education can offer. While field research is a heavy component of most programs, those who want to study agriculture abroad are not required to have any previous experience in the field, because all training is provided on site as part of the class. The bottom line is, if you want to study agriculture abroad, plan to get some dirt under your fingernails.
Another common theme is how humans can find sustainable solutions to global problems, such as water, waste, and public health. All of these issues are pressing to any agriculture student, since the field tends to be focused on creating a lasting relationship between humans and the land around them.
Most agriculture study abroad programs are offered throughout the academic year, during either the fall or spring semester, with a few programs offered for a shorter amount of time in the summer or Maymester. Especially for more research oriented programs, there is always something to observe or data to be collected, no matter what time of year. For the best understanding, of course, most agriculture study abroad programs suggest student’s stay for at least a semester.
Benefits & Challenges
Agriculture is a field of study that depends on a specific environment and wildlife. The chance to live and study agriculture abroad in a place that may be far different from the one you’re used to will give you a glimpse into agricultural practices around the world. Ag students should want to understand how their home country’s farming practices (such as big agriculture, factory farming, beef/fish mass production, etc.) affect the world at large, because entrepreneurs all over the world are pioneering new ways to farm, preserve plant and animal life, and contribute to the lives of both animals and humans.
As in all things, with the good comes the bad. Students will be challenged to embrace new farming techniques and ways of interacting with the land. This can upset current understandings of “norms,” or cause deep (and sometimes painful) reflections about the detriments of farm practices used in your home country. Further, if you are an ag-student drawn to a developing country, the different standards of living can prove difficult to overcome. Just be patient and delight in the eccentricities while you can.
For the agriculture student looking to understand their own back yard, the answer may be found in one far, far away, so jump at any opportunity to study agriculture abroad!