Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Undergraduate, Emily Urban, travels to Brazil for research

ESALQ students picking up avocados after a bad storm
“Oh…and take care. We have scorpions here in Brazil.” My eyes opened up as I continued to carefully dig through the random assortment of scrap metal and plastic pipes that we were clearing at the organic farm. I have to say I was appreciative of my Brazilian friend’s advice! By the way, offering a free day of labor on someone’s farm sure helps to make friends quickly. Little did they know how much I was dying to experience as much Brazilian culture as possible. 

What happens when an ‘ag-crazy’ undergrad Penn Stater gets a research grant to conduct her independent research in Brazil? To be honest, that was me and I didn’t have a clue what to expect. I was excited to interview Brazilian agriculture students at ESALQ, the university I was located at, for my project concerning Brazilian undergraduate perceptions of student-student and student-staff relationships in agriculture classes in the US and Brazil, but other than that, my goal was to learn as much as I could about Brazilian agriculture. 

This video shows ESALQ campus and history

Emily and Sarah, a fellow Penn Stater, standing in a city part in Rio.
One of Brazil’s wonderful cultural characteristics is its generous and sociable people, so it was not difficult to arrange experiences at an organic small-scale crop farm, receive tours of the crop and livestock testing facilities of the top agriculture university in South America, ESALQ, walk amongst banana and coffee plants, chew on raw sugarcane, collect avocadoes, and so much more. The only way one can make the most out of an experience like this is an adventurous spirit and always say “yes.” You outgrow the “Say no to strangers” parental advice and move onto a “yes” mentality, obviously with good judgment. Stepping out of your security bubble is when the opportunities and the true experiences begin to flow. The two weeks in Piracicaba were also filled with plenty of dancing, traditional music, Brazilian BBQs, trips to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and other cultural must-sees…all with the “yes” mentality!  As I am currently preparing to student teach next semester, I want to stretch students out of their confidence zones when I can. As a future educator, I would like to help students grow a “yes” mentality to new ideas and situations that they develop self-reliance and confidence that they can take with them throughout their career trajectory. 

A 16 hour solo bus journey to the capital city, Brasilia, was totally survivable! I was greeted with open arms by a wonderful host family for my final week in Brazil. The mother is the director of Brazil’s Science Without Boarders program, which is the Brazilian government’s ambitious initiative to send their students abroad.  I also had the ability to visit Embrapa, Brazil’s main agriculture research center, and spent a large portion of the time touring the crop genetics and biofuel labs and facilities. With their daughter, I visited a showjumping riding and training center with a fellow equine enthusiast.
And my point of sharing a glimpse of this experience is…?

                    1.)     I am a college student on a budget. The truth is with a little creativity and ambition, there is funding out there, even undergraduates to grasp opportunities like mine.
                    2.)    There were ups and downs in the trips. Even frightening times, but also amazing times. An independent international experience that is practically completely self-guided can be challenging, but so rewarding.
                    3.)    This trip has opened my eyes to be REALLY appreciative some of the things we take for granted in the US, including our education system and agriculture policies.
                    4.)    Finally, I want to help connect undergraduates to grants and experiences like this, because it was an unbelievable way to make international contacts, be inspired about new career ideas, and have an overall incredible experience…so contact me if you would like to hear more. Tchau!

HUB Lawn equivalent of ESALQ.

To learn more about starting on the path to having a career that makes a positive impact on the lives of students across the globe by becoming an agricultural educator, please contact the agricultural teacher education program at Follow us on Twitter at TeachAgPSU, on Facebook, or on our blog!

Emily Urban - Guest Blogger
2014 Student Teacher 
Oley Valley High School

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