From Escargots to Grits
by Aimee D. Heald
In 1990, Steve Riggins, agricultural economist for the UK College of Agriculture, became a catalyst.
Recognizing a growing need for internationalizing agriculture, Riggins provided a key impetus to set up an international student exchange.
By 1992, students from UK and Etablissement National d'enseignement Superieur Agronomique de Dijon, a technical school in Dijon , France , were traveling across oceans to experience agriculture and life in each other's countries. The students from ENESAD are fulfilling part of the requirements for a five-year technical-based study program. They are required to have three internships during this five-year period; at least one must be in a laboratory and one on some type of farm.
Twelve ENESAD students arrived on the UK campus June 21, 1999 and stayed seven to eight weeks; three more students arrived in August. The first week was spent touring Lexington and Kentucky attractions, including farms, historical landmarks, and the state capitol. On the other side of the exchange, six UK students went to France with two working on farms and four in labs. Six other UK students participated in an agricultural study tour for two weeks, also during the summer.
“The French students are good workers,” said Mike Reed, director for international programs for the UK College of Agriculture. “They are part of lab teams with our students. They bring their perspective on everything. The three August students were valuable to horse farms preparing for the September yearling sales.”
With any international exchange, a language barrier does exist.
“Most of the UK students are not proficient in French,” said Joe Davis, associate dean for instruction for the UK College of Agriculture. “They can't take full advantage of their experience. On the other hand, the French students are fairly proficient in English, which allows them a broader integration into our system.”
The paid internships provide students from both countries a chance to experience a different culture. Agriculture in the U.S. and Europe is very different. The students learn the worldwide nature of agriculture and see how the world is interrelated.
“We hope to expand this program in the future,” Davis said. “It's important for students to get international internships and experience a different culture. I wish all our students could do it.”