International ag trips attract students, employers

Justin Petersen

Many members of ISU clubs and organizations hope for increased involvement each year, but interest in the International Ag Club has exploded, with a 500 percent jump in student participation in just three years.

“We want to be No. 1 in the country for sending students to other countries,” said David Acker, director of International Agriculture Programs. “We want Iowa State to be the place that companies think about when they look for students with international experience.”

In 1996, 40 students experienced agriculture in other countries through the International Ag Club, and in 1999, there were more than 200 students. Some of the countries that students visited include Costa Rica, Panama and China.

Currently, the ISU International Ag Club is second in the country in terms of the number of students sent abroad for agriculture-related reasons. Acker said Iowa State is pushing to get ahead of Michigan State University.

“What really made it possible is that the faculty really got excited,” Acker said. “The faculty put their money where their mouth is and gave students the support that they needed. They got students excited to have professors that were willing to help them.”

Acker said the International Ag Club gives students the chance to see what agriculture is like outside of the United States.

Besides the push from administrators to increase student numbers, scholarship money has helped make it possible for students to participate.

“Having some money to offer students helps,” Acker said. “We bring students in here who are smart and want to learn more, not because they are rich.”

Over spring break, 27 students visited farms, plantations and an agricultural college in Costa Rica.

“I have always wanted to study abroad,” said Carrie Crone, senior in agricultural business who went to Costa Rica. “It does help a lot when companies are looking at you and know that you have experienced other countries. It shows you are willing to learn.”

Crone had a job interview Monday and said her experience over spring break played a large part in the interview.

“In Iowa, we don’t always realize what agriculture is like in other countries,” said Dan Case, another student who went on the Costa Rica trip. “I know this would be a one-time opportunity to agriculture in other parts of the world.”

Case, senior in agricultural business, said that the group not only learned a lot, but members also got to enjoy themselves by spending some time on the beach.

Acker said trips are being coordinated year round; 20 students will be leaving for China on May 10.

“For students who study for the first time in another country, it not only blows their mind, but opens it,” Acker said.