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My First International Experience: Taylor Maslanik, Agricultural Science

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Posted: November 16, 2014

After this trip I realized that it is vital for me to continue my education and learn a second language.
A view of of the bajio from a distance

A view of of the bajio from a distance

When I learned that there was an opportunity to travel to Mexico with former Secretary of Agriculture, Sam Hayes Jr. and a group of Penn State Altoona students I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I had never been more than a few states away from home at a time and definitely had never flown internationally. I wanted to gain some international experience and increase my knowledge about other countries agriculture.  This trip was a great experience and I will never forget the things I experienced while in Guanajuato.

Before I could enjoy the beautiful city of Guanajuato and learn all about their agriculture and people I had to fly internationally. This was an experience in itself; having never flown in my life I was a little anxious about boarding, my luggage, and customs.  I quickly learned that your passport is your best friend and should never leave your side.  My management skills along with my patience where put to the test while going through luggage checks and customs, I learned to keep on my toes and to pay close attention.  Once on the plane, I actually really enjoyed the flying experience. It was a great opportunity to gain some experience in flying internationally which I hope to do again. 

One of the main components of the trip was working with students from the University of Guanajuato. It was a challenge at first to understand some of the students from the University but as the week progressed their English got better and our ability to understand them increased.  While I took Spanish in High school I only remember a few things and most of them were not relevant to what we were doing.  After this trip I realized that it is vital for me to continue my education and learn a second language preferably Spanish. I really enjoyed working with the students and getting to share the experience with them.  They were really eager to learn as well as us and helped translate for us when we couldn’t hear or didn’t quite understand. 

I really enjoyed, as crazy as it sounds, the charter bus rides to and from our events. 

There we got to know the students of Guanajuato and it was a great learning experience for both sides.  The bus rides also gave us the opportunity to see the different landscapes of Guanajuato. We went from the center of the city in the mornings to the center of the bajio and the surrounding areas.  As we traveled from area to area we got to see first-hand how water is such an important factor everywhere. Sam Hayes Jr. told me a quote that stuck with me throughout the rest of the week, he said “Water in the 21st Century is like Silver was in the 17th Century”.  He couldn’t have said it any better water is a problem in Mexico and will continue to be that it is why it is so heavily governed. Silver in the 17th Century was so valuable it was being mined regularly and was the way of life for the people of Guanajuato. While the mines still produce some silver it is not as plentiful as it used to be just like water is now scarce and hard to come by.

We also got to see some good farming techniques like drip irrigation and we also got to see the bad like burned and littered fields. Another thing that was really interesting was seeing how the people of Guanajuato drive! Their traffic laws and regulations are very different from PA and it was quite the adventure getting to be in the middle of it all.

Since I obtained a summer internship this summer I am sure that they are going to ask me all about my experience.  I can tell them that it really opened up my eyes and made me want to improve myself and keep learning all that I can.  I learned a lot while in Guanajuato and it only fueled my fire to pursue a career in Agriculture. Getting to work closely with a group of students that speak a different language was a challenge but we all made it work and never gave up and by the end of the week we could all understand one another. I can only imagine what we could have accomplished with a little more time together.

I am very grateful that I was able to attend this trip during spring break.  It was an awesome learning experience and I hope to only build upon it. 
The skills and knowledge I learned from not only the instructors but students from the University of Guanajuato will remain with me and help me pursue my dreams here at Penn State.