Student learns work, culture abroad
By Julie Glaser
The first time Katy Green stepped into the French vineyard she felt overwhelmed.
Photo provided by Katy Green
Katy Green, a sophomore horticulture production and marketing major from Springboro, Ohio, at the vineyard in France where she worked during her study abroad program last summer.
She was far from home and the sophomore horticulture production and marketing major was set to live and work with strangers with whom she could barely communicate. "The workers didn't know any English, so if I wanted to talk to them I had to speak French, but they spoke with a lot of slang," she said, which made it difficult to comprehend the language.
But by the end of her study abroad experience, Green - originally from Springboro, Ohio - felt comfortable with her co-workers and the French family with whom she lived. She could communicate with them and joke around. Today, she wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
This is because Green spent last summer studying abroad in Toulouse and Bordeaux, France, on a program sponsored by International Programs in Agriculture at Purdue University. Green studied agriculture at a French university, then lived with a French family and worked in their vineyard. "What I did ranged every day from bottling and labeling, to turning the till over using tractors, to mowing grass and doing lawn maintenance," she said.
"Working in the vineyard taught me a lot about waking up every morning and going to my job five days a week, eight hours a day." That kind of experience is exactly what more employers are looking for, said Linda Vallade, program leader for International Programs in Agriculture. Employers want independent, capable and flexible employees, and foreign study develops all those qualities, she said. She also said more agriculture students every year are taking advantage of study abroad opportunities.
International Programs in Agriculture offers students 31 study abroad and internship opportunities involving 25 institutions in 21 countries. Vallade said more than 17 percent of the Purdue students studying abroad are agriculture students, and during the past year, International Programs in Agriculture sent 180 students abroad to 17 countries.
"The thing with study abroad is that you gain so many things that are unexpected," Vallade said. "You gain a new perspective of your home country and your cross-cultural competencies. One student I spoke with recently mentioned how resourceful she's become and how much confidence she gained through her experience."
Green agreed that the unexpected things, like the beautiful artwork she was able to see when she traveled to Barcelona, Spain, for a weekend, were some of the best things about her experience. "There is art by the artist (Antonio) Gaudi all around the city on all these different buildings," she said. "It's really cool. You're just walking down the street and you look over and see these beautiful architecturally built buildings by a great artist."
Green said her experience taught her a lot about independence and knowing herself. "Agriculture is more of a worldwide thing than just an American thing, so to get a real feel for agriculture, you have to see what it is like in other countries and experience different cultures. And you build yourself as a person.