Sept. 25 2020 10:00 AM

Experiencing another culture firsthand was an essential part of an unforgettable adventure.

In a world of pandemic conditions and political discussions, it seems like there’s a new thing to worry about every day. This week, I want to look back on a simpler time and talk about an experience that I had earlier this year that changed my world view.

It was January 2020, and the air was crisp and cold, when my friends and I boarded a bus to take from Ithaca to the JFK airport. Later the next day we would take two more planes and a bus to Beijing, China, with the Cornell University Dairy Fellows program.

Looking back, it was a crazy time to be traveling abroad, let alone in China, but it was an experience I wouldn’t have traded for the world.

This trip was academic in nature — yes — we even received credit for participating and reflecting on our experiences, but this blog is not about the academic competition we participated in or even the amazing historical sites we visited. It’s about the culture we learned about and the relationships we built that we never would have had if we had stayed home.

The unique thing about the China trip was that we were actually collaborating with students from China Agriculture University (CAU) throughout every aspect of the journey. We were split into teams with some CAU students and some Cornell students. It was incredible to see how people from two very different cultures could find so much in common through a simple love and appreciation for dairy.

One of the most interesting activities that we participated in was called “cultural communications,” where the CAU students taught us about their culture. There were several demonstrations from students, including a Chinese Opera exhibition and an interactive nunchuck demonstration.

The final portion of our time was spent working hand-in-hand with all the CAU students as they taught us to write our names and various phrases in traditional Chinese characters. At this point in the trip, we had spent a great deal of time with our CAU peers, and because we had gotten to know each other so well, they were able to give us Chinese names that reflected our characteristics. We were taught to write them in the traditional characters and brought them home with us as mementos of our time in China.

Four years ago, when I was a senior in high school, the idea of international experiences wasn’t even on my list of college considerations. As I reflect on my college experience now, it would not have been the same without it.

If you want to read more about how international experiences can change your world view, check out the Young Dairyman article in the September 25, 2020, issue of Hoard's Dairyman.

Abbie Cox
Abbie Cox grew up in Cato, N.Y. on a first-generation dairy farm and currently attends Cornell University as a member of the class of 2021, majoring in animal science with a minor in education and a focus in dairy. On campus, she is involved with the Cornell University Dairy Science Club, Sigma Alpha, Collegiate Farm Bureau, and is a Peer Adviser with CALS Student Services. Cox has interned with the MILC group, the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and was the 2020 Hoard’s Dairyman summer editorial intern.