Two study abroad students highly recommend international tours
by WENDY REED and JAMIE CREAMER
Derrick Robinson has never been one to pass up a great opportunity, so when the Auburn University agricultural economics master’s student received an email announcement in early 2013 from the College of Agriculture’s Office of International Agriculture about a first-ever study tour to—of all places—Russia, he immediately responded.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to take a leap and go for it,” Robinson says. “I can’t say that a trip to Russia was first on my to-do list, but when an opportunity of a lifetime presents itself, you go.”
The Russia experience, which was Robinson’s first trip abroad, was a 10-day study tour at Michurinsk State Agrarian University in Russia, located in an area where collaborative partnerships between agriculture and business are a new focus, says Joe Molnar, a College of Ag agricultural economics professor and coordinator of the college’s Office of International Agriculture.
“Michurinsk is the most agricultural place in Russia, so it is a fitting study tour destination for students in our college and focal point for possible research collaborations in the future,” Molnar says.
For Ginger Stuckey, her first chance to venture beyond this nation’s borders came in the midst of her senior year as a fisheries major at Auburn. Her destination: Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho, Vietnam. It was a two-week study tour in which Auburn fisheries associate professor William Daniels taught an accelerated, for-credit version of his 5000-level aquaculture production course to Stuckey, the other six College of Agriculture students who participated in the tour and 20 aquaculture students from Vietnam’s Can Tho, the Auburn group’s home base.
Stuckey says it was an amazing learning experience.
“It was wonderful to travel to a new place that’s so much different than the U.S., and to meet new friends and learn about their culture—and their amazing food—while also getting to see the difference between their (aquaculture) production systems and ours,” says Stuckey, who now is a graduate student in the School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences.
Both Stuckey and Robinson say their international experiences were eye-opening, transforming them and their global perspectives.
“Everything I thought about Russia got turned upside down,” Robinson says. “The people were shockingly open, and Mitsurinsk turned out to be a lot like Auburn—small, friendly, very family-focused.”
And Stuckey admits that, initially, the thought of going to Vietnam was unnerving.
“Some people even tried to talk me out of going, but Vietnam is nothing like everyone thinks it is,” Stuckey says. “It isn’t the scary, war-torn place we think of; it has definitely changed with time.
“I can’t speak for the whole country, but we were in Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho, and both were beautiful places and the people were extremely nice,” she says. “Visiting Vietnam totally changed my outlook on it.”