February 28, 2001 | By: Haven Miller

The Eiffel Tower and the Great Wall aren't so far away anymore. In a shrinking world where new technology and a globalized economy are connecting people and industries around the planet, foreign cities and cultures don't seem so distant.

That's why the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture encourages its students and faculty to gain international experience through foreign visits and exchanges.

"Many of our students are headed for careers in agribusiness where they will actively compete in the arena of importing and exporting goods to other countries," said Mike Reed, director of international programs for the College. "The more students understand about other countries the more successful they're going to be."

UK supports several international opportunities for agriculture students. Foreign destinations include places in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

"Our longest running international program is the China trip," said Reed. "For less than 2000 dollars students get a three-week tour of Chinese cities and agricultural sites through our arrangement with Shandong Agricultural University. It's an eye-opening opportunity for them to see agricultural production in another place and experience a different culture."

In addition to China, the College also has educational agreements with universities in France and Israel.

"For our Israel program two students are selected each year for donor-supported, six- week internships at Hebrew University in Jerusalem," said Reed. "Our France program features either a two-week student visit, or a four-week on- farm internship depending on what the student wants. We have an agreement with Dijon University in the Burgundy region of France, and hope to expand the program in the future to include research projects."

Reed said he is also working on a program he hopes will place agriculture students from Nepal on Kentucky farms to learn about new technologies and the U.S. farming system.

The College of Agriculture also supports faculty participation in international projects.

"We have two of our Cooperative Extension personnel in Armenia right now helping that country develop its agricultural information and outreach programs," said Curtis Absher, assistant director of Cooperative Extension for agriculture and natural resources. "One of our former administrators was a key player in developing ag programs in Poland, and I worked on an agricultural project in Romania a few years ago. Several of our faculty and Extension professional staff have been invited as fellows to the prestigious Salzburg Seminar in Austria."

The College also has an arrangement with Thailand's ministry of agriculture whereby mid-level professionals from that country are placed at UK and other university ag programs around the United States.

"We have a number of ag alumni in Thailand, and we're looking into future possibilities for our Kentucky students perhaps traveling to Bangkok for a semester of study there," said Reed. He said when U.S. students visit other countries it not only enhances their knowledge of agriculture, but also their understanding of customs and traditions different from their own.

"It's helped me in my career insofar as it's made me aware of differences involved when working with people from other countries," said Joe Goggin, a 1984 UK agriculture graduate who went on the China trip and now is a branch manager for Central Kentucky Ag Credit in Danville. "The trip to China gave us a chance to see things the average tourist wouldn't get to see, and the trip also encouraged me to make ag visits to other countries, such as Brazil and Mexico."

"These international experiences are important because we're not living in a vacuum, and globalization is really a part of almost everything we do," said Absher. "Whether we're talking about ag production or rural development or value-added enterprises, to be successful nowadays we've got to plan our strategies in the context of a global community."


Mike Reed, 859-257-7259