Southeast Ag Students Cultivate Knowledge in Ireland

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Jan. 29, 2016 – Over winter break, 24 students, faculty and alumni from Southeast Missouri State University’s Department of Agriculture spent a two-week study abroad trip in Ireland, where they explored European farming practices, cattle and other agricultural sectors.

The mission of the trip was for the students to learn about Irish agrarian concepts and expand their global cultural awareness. Students earned a class credit and were partially graded on their submissions to the department’s blog.

The group visited 12 agricultural locations, including a pony stud farm, beef farm, dairy farm, grain farm, tree nursery and a meet-and-greet with the Irish Farmers’ Association.

“I thought Ireland would be more progressive like America, but I’d also get to see if and how different they do things,” said Ben Seiler, an agribusiness major with an agriculture industry option from Leopold, Missouri.

One of the students’ favorite stops was to the Hynes Sheep Farm near the city of Galway. The students received one of the warmest welcomes of their entire trip, with multiple generations of the Hynes family, neighbors and the local parish priest greeting them.

“The whole family was out to see and welcome us,” said Ellen Graham, a pre-veterinary major from Cape Girardeau, Missouri. “It was so cool they did that.”

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Ellen Graham and Josh Harlan at the Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin.

The students were shown how the Hynes family keeps, feeds and takes care of nearly 250 sheep of five different breeds.

“We got to see how the whole family is a part of their farm,” said Seiler.

The trip also consisted of learning about Irish culture and history, visiting cathedrals, castles and Trinity College in Dublin. Students also spent a couple of days in England and France.

“Every place we went to we always had tea and scones afterwards,” said Shelby Walker, an agribusiness major with an option in animal science from Albion, Illinois.

After two weeks Walker found she missed the afternoon drink.

“I had to buy some when I got home,” she said.

“It’s good to know how things are done here but also globally,” said Graham. “You get to talk and interact with people besides just sitting with your friends in a classroom.”

Any study abroad trip is meant to redefine your view and comfort zone, said Dr. Julie Weathers, Southeast associate professor of agriculture.

“I hope this trip gives them a different viewpoint than what they grew up with,” said Weathers. “It’s about getting out of your own comfort zone, your own farm and seeing how people do things.”

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Southeast Ag students visit the O’Leary Dairy Farm near Dublin.

Weathers worries that often procedures and methods are done in the agricultural field because that’s how they’ve been done for years or generation after generation.

“You’re not just in southeast Missouri, or just the Midwest or even just America,” said Seiler, who thinks more students should consider a study abroad opportunity if they can. “It helps you grasp the understanding of your global impact and contribution.”

What her students see and experience could introduce and change those concepts, but it could also reaffirm their confidence in already doing the right thing, said Weathers.

“I’m still questing some of the things I saw done,” agreed Katie Baldwin, a graduate student pursuing a Master of Natural Sciences in biology from Fredericktown, Missouri.

Additionally, the experiences these students gained can have an impact on their future educational and employment opportunities, said Samantha Lowman, instructor in Southeast’s Agriculture Department.

“It’s a gold star on a resume, whether it’s for an internship or a job,” said Lowman.

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Southeast Ag students on a boat cruise on the Seine River in Paris, France.

Weathers and Lowman said their students have already expressed their interest in future study abroad options through Southeast as well as their own trips to further expand their personal growth and education.

“I’m honestly considering looking at doctoral programs in Ireland,” said Baldwin. “I never would have considered that before.”

To read more about Southeast’s Department of Agriculture’s trip to Ireland, visit https://semoagdept.wordpress.com.