Study abroad allows student to discover Brazilian agriculture
By Michelle Betz
Most classes involve sitting in classrooms and listening to lectures, but for one junior in the College of Agriculture, her coursework involved tropical agriculture and dancing the summer night away in Brazil.
Photo provided by Becki Francis
One of Brazil’s national treasures is the Foz do Iguaçu, the world's largest waterfalls. Becki Francis, a junior in agricultural communication and animal sciences, faced the falls when she and fellow students rode a boat to their base.
Becki Francis, an agricultural communication and animal sciences double major from Noblesville, Ind., spent four weeks studying abroad in a country she never wanted to leave. The University of Viçosa, one of the top agriculture universities in Brazil, generated many of her favorite experiences. There, she met students who introduced her to their culture. "I went to church with some University of Viçosa students, even though the service was in Portuguese," Francis said. "I thought it would be neat to see how their church services were."
Francis also got to enjoy the sites while experiencing Brazilian culture. When tourists come to the United States, they might visit the Niagara Falls. In Brazil, a stop must be the Foz do Iguaçu, the world's largest waterfalls. Francis and fellow Purdue students visited these falls, and some even met the waterfalls face to face. "We saw people in boats down by the waterfalls, so we decided to take a boat tour as well," Francis said. "We were bouncing all over the place getting soaked. They decided to take us right up to the falls. We were absolutely drenched."
Francis didn't just tour the country; she also learned about Brazilian agriculture. Francis and fellow students spent the first two weeks learning about corn, soybean, coffee and sugar cane production. Students had classroom instruction in the morning and visited facilities in the afternoon that illustrated what they had just learned. "We went there to learn the differences in Brazilian agriculture, but we also discovered many similarities," Francis said. "They have the same equipment like tract combines but not global positioning systems (GPS) as of yet."
She spent the last two weeks touring the country, encountering waterfalls, visiting a leather tanning factory, meeting lifetime friends and learning the newest dance craze, the Forro Dance. Francis was one of the 151 agriculture students who studied abroad this past year.
Michael Stitsworth, associate director of International Programs in Agriculture, said students like Francis have a great advantage over those who do not have international experience. "Because of the increasingly global nature of agriculture, it is imperative that students have knowledge of the world outside of the United States," Stitsworth said. "Employers and universities want students with international competence."
Francis wants to compete an internship in Brazil and acquire a minor in international agriculture to help her in the job market. In the meantime, she continues to practice the Forro Dance and her Portuguese in anticipation of visiting Brazil again.