Casey kneeling next to a row of cacti

Casey’s Experience in Mexico

Casey studied on an embedded program for Agriculture in Guanajuato, Mexico in Spring 2016.


If you could give only one reason, why would you suggest other students study abroad?
The most important reason why I suggest studying abroad is that it changes your perception of the world as a human being. Prior to my experience abroad, I was very closed-minded. Interacting with natives of Mexico, my host country, showed me that people around the world aren’t so different after all. At the end of the day, people are all just trying to make it through life. The only thing that separates me and the natives of Guanajuato, Mexico is geography. Studying abroad will prove that you should not make assumptions about people of other cultures. By being open-minded you will make connections around the world, learn different ways of life than your’e accustomed to, and have a greater appreciation for global diversity.


What specific factors influenced your decision to go abroad?
I first decided to go abroad when two of my agriculture teachers at Penn State Altoona asked me to join their embedded course program. It was because I knew and trusted them that I went on my first experience abroad. Additionally, I was told told by many alums, employers, and family-friends that it would be a great opportunity. In making my decision to go abroad, I also considered the cost of this opportunity. I compared the price offered to me as a student at Penn State to what it would cost the average person to go on a similar trip. Considering all the available funding I applied for and received for my various embedded programs, there is no way that I could have passed up the once in a lifetime experience. My grandparents also played a large role in encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone and travel the world. Realizing that I had the chance to be part of something great, which would impact the rest of my life was my main reason in deciding to go abroad. Looking back now, I’m so pleased that I took advantage of this opportunity at Penn State and now I cant’ travel enough! My experiences abroad definitely provide stories that I will one day share with my grandchildren.


What was it about your program specifically that fit your personal goals over other programs?
The program I participated in over Spring Break 2016 allowed me to travel to Guanajuato, Mexico with one of my Ag teachers at Penn State Altoona and the former PA Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Sam Hayes, Jr. Before even leaving the country, it allowed me to network with other Penn State students who also have a passion for agriculture, as well as Mr. Hayes. This specific program focused on the agriculture of Guanajuato, Mexico and making comparisons to the U.S. Ag Industry. I think it’s incredibly interesting and necessary to look at agriculture as a global industry. Consumers in the United States don’t realize what it takes to stock the shelves in grocery stores. Much of our fresh produce is sourced from Mexico. In fact, I was able to have a first-hand look into many different types of farms in Guanajuato, Mexico, all of which directly impact our U.S. food system. As a young girl who grew up on a small, family dairy farm in Central Pennsylvania, I didn’t know much about agriculture around the world. What I loved about this program was the education it provided me. I now know more about food safety and international agriculture. I had no idea prickly pear (a variety of cactus) and rabbit farms existed, but I got to tour one of each through this embedded program!


What was the transition like between class in the States and your destination abroad?
Ag class posing in front of a field and mountainsMy learning experience abroad was much more hands-on than at Penn State. Every single day we were on the road, exploring the city, or touring farms in Guanajuato. Before the travel portion of the course we focused on learning what to expect and necessary background knowledge. I really enjoyed comparing what we learned about Mexico in the States to what we actually got to experience first hand in Mexico. At the end of every day we wrote blogs, which allowed us to reflect on what we learned, and uploaded them to Sites at Penn State.


What is one thing you wish you had known before participating in an embedded program?
This was not my first embedded program, so I already knew what to expect. Thinking back to my first embedded program, I wish I would have known not to be scared. Prior to my first international experience, I was very nervous and almost changed my mind about going. Let me tell you, no matter how intimidating it might seem prior to the completion of the experience, it is more than worth it in the end. I also wish I knew more about the culture and language of my first embedded experience. Even knowing simple, necessary phrases before actually landing in the foreign country would improve your initial experience of the travel portion of the embedded program.


Why would you recommend an embedded program to other students?
Casey and friends with man in sombreroI cannot stress enough how exciting, interesting, educating, and life-changing embedded programs are. So far, I have been a part of three embedded programs at Penn State. Before graduating in May 2018 I plan to squeeze one more embedded program into my academic schedule. One of my favorite parts of embedded programs is that they are short term. Typically, the travel portion of the program lasts between one and two weeks. For me, I found that this is the perfect amount of time to experience culture shock, become acclimated, and finally return home with a greater appreciation of the country you visited and have a changed perception of the world. Employers are VERY interested in students who have participated in embedded programs. To employers, it shows that you are independent, can think critically, and are able to adapt quickly to change. Although these are just a few reasons why I recommend an embedded program to other students, the list goes on and on.


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