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Andy Hirneisen

Food Science Major who studied abroad in Switzerland, Italy, Costa Rica and Germany.
Universidad de Costa Rica with the Food Science course

Universidad de Costa Rica with the Food Science course

I had the opportunity to study abroad 3 times during my time at Penn State. I didn’t come to college anticipating to study abroad as some students do, but as opportunities presented themselves, I jumped on board! I traveled to Switzerland and Italy as freshman on a study tour. Initially I was attracted to this trip because I minored in German, however, this was also a great tie-in with my Food Science major as we visited cheese factories, vineyards, and even a chocolate manufacturer. There was a retired couple who sponsored our trip and coupled with other support from the College of Agricultural Sciences, so the whole trip cost me only $500!

Andy Hirneisen

Switzerland

During my sophomore year, the Food Science department hosted a study tour to Costa Rica. Before we left, we studied coffee, pineapple, and sugar processing so we would have some background when we arrived and toured those facilities. We also spent some time with the Food Technology students from the University of Costa Rica. Of course, we also spent a day at the beach! Again, there was support from the College of Agricultural Sciences and the Food Science Department, so my out of pocket cost was only $100.

Andy Hirneisen

Costa Rica

I didn’t want my German minor to delay graduation, so I knew I needed to take some extra classes over the summer and what better way to do that than by studying abroad?! I enrolled in a program at the University of Marburg in Germany. This was not a Penn State program, but when I arrived, I was happy to find 3 other Penn State students. While the focus of my classes were German language, culture, and history all to support my German minor, as a College of Agricultural Sciences student, I received a scholarship to support my study abroad experience.

Andy Hirneisen

Germany

Andy Hirneisen

Matterhorn

When I began to interview for jobs, I prepared to talk about my experiences in Food Science classes and projects I worked on and things I learned in labs. I had a small section on my resume under the heading “International Experience.” When I began speaking about my time at Penn State, the interviewers quickly dismissed that thought and wanted to talk about my time abroad. All of the other applicants had degrees in Food Science. The interviewers were interested in what differentiated me from other applicants – what additional experiences did I have? Even though the jobs I was applying for didn’t specifically require international travel or working with international colleagues, studying abroad showed potential employers that I had an understanding of other cultures and broadened awareness of diversity.

Andy portraitMy first job was working for The Hershey Company as a microbiologist. I was always interested in food safety and microbiology as a student and I even did some research for an independent study course. As I advanced in my career, I began to support Hershey’s international locations. I was very aware of language barriers and was careful in the words I used when speaking to non-native English speakers. When I was living and studying in Germany, I experienced firsthand what it felt like to be a non-native speaker. When people spoke quickly or used big, elaborate words, it made it hard for me to follow along, therefore, I tried to speak clearly and use common terminology when interacting with international colleagues. The same practice of carefully communicating with non-native English speakers is a useful skill in my current job teaching food safety for Penn State Extension. I teach a number of food safety courses and interact with a diverse group of participants. The cultural and lingual awareness I learned as a student make my current interactions easier and more impactful.