It’s been a while since University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) students have had the opportunity to take part in study abroad opportunities. This past spring break, though, numerous CAFNR students were able to travel overseas to partake in educational opportunities.
Students spent time in Italy, a program focused on food, agriculture and sustainability, and Holland, where students learn about the largest cut-flower producer and exporter in the world.
Holland is a traditional spring break study abroad program for CAFNR students. Italy generally takes place over winter break but was moved to a spring break program this year.
“During my freshman year, I actually wanted to go to Italy, and the day I walked in to drop off my application was the day study abroad programs were shut down,” said Sydney Baxter, a senior studying agricultural education. “This was my first opportunity to go, and, as a senior, now my only opportunity to go. I was thrilled to be able to actually participate during my last year in CAFNR.”
Baxter was part of the group that traveled to Holland, a program that gives students a unique opportunity to visit the biggest flower wholesaler on the planet and take hands-on design classes to further understand Dutch horticulture.
“I don’t work at Tiger Garden, I’m not a plant sciences major and I don’t have much of a tie to flowers – but I wanted to go because I knew I would learn something,” Baxter said. “I was nervous at first because I didn’t have the experience that many of the other students had. Many of the participants have been designing and working with flowers for years. It ended up being incredibly fun because my peers really helped me with different techniques and taught me a ton.”
Participants of the program appreciate the flower fields, botanical gardens, greenhouses, lilac growers and Holland’s famous tulips in full bloom. Holland, located on Netherlands’ western shore, offers students an opportunity to see a working windmill, fishing village, castle and cheese factory as well as tours of the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum.
“Having the opportunity to learn about a new culture was amazing, especially taking part in the learning experience immersed in that culture,” Baxter said. “The program is really all I can talk about right now. This is a piece of learning that we’ve been missing for sure.”
The Italy study abroad program gives students an opportunity to identify key principles of sustainable food systems and potential paths to enhancing food security at multiple scales. Through this, students have the chance to better understand the problem of world hunger and engage in discussions to discover solutions.
“I’m really interested in food and sustainability, so this program was the perfect fit for me,” said Ellen Phillips, a senior majoring in agriculture.
Phillips added that since the program was shortened a bit, from a winter break experience to a spring one, they met with a few individuals over Zoom before traveling overseas.
“We’re writing a paper related to the program and we chose our topics beforehand,” Phillips said. “That allowed us to ask questions directly related to our papers and gain important insights into food security issues plaguing the world.”
Students who participate in the Italy program gain knowledge on the causes, measurement and consequences of food insecurity in the world in addition to remedies proposed and actions taken to end hunger.
“My paper focuses on how we can achieve food sustainability in a changing climate,” Phillips said. “It was really interesting to talk with professionals in their field about this topic.”
In addition to the Italy study abroad program, she will travel to Austria this summer. That program includes six weeks of coursework and six weeks of an internship.
“I’m so excited to go to Austria,” Phillips said. “The internship is what really drew me in. I’ve requested an agriculture-related internship, and whether it’s related to agribusiness or simply working on a farm, I’m good with either. Having the opportunity to learn about agriculture in another country is going to be so important for my growth as a student. It’s going to be interesting to see the differences.”