Written by Luke Drachenberg, University of Wisconsin-Madison
As I slide into my seat for the final and homeward flight of my global experience with AFA, it hits me: I’ve just traveled halfway around the world and back again, lived and learned in a new culture, and formed friendships that will last a lifetime. I can picture the places our group has been, the people we met, and the food that (most of us) tried. I think over our visits, among others, to Thanathon Orchard, Pun Pun Organic Farm, Raming Tea Co., and Ichitan Group PCL that gave us a variety of perspectives on agriculture in Thailand and its importance to the economic and political systems of the country. There is no question that this has been a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
On a personal level, I appreciated the fact that this trip pushed me out of my comfort zone. I chose this destination not for its beautiful sights or wonderful food, but rather because I knew the culture I would experience would be radically different than the one I was raised in. Thailand didn’t disappoint; from day one I often felt overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and people we encountered. Everything was different and new. This challenged me in a positive way and made me take a long, hard look at the differences between Thai culture and that of the US. As Henry Rollins once said, a great way to learn about your country is to leave it. After experiencing Thailand, I couldn’t agree more.
Given the above, one question still remains: where do we go from here? The original 40 Chances program and subsequent Global Fellows trip were based on the premise that each of us has 40 years, or 40 chances, to leave a positive impact on the world. In a press release announcing the program, AFA stated the following: “As the agriculture industry is faced with feeding more people with fewer resources, this next generation of agriculture leaders has many challenges and opportunities. The program’s objective is to give this group of student leaders an edge when it comes time to graduate, equipping them to make significant contributions to agriculture and food related issues.” As we approach graduation and transition into our working careers, the step of where we go from here is clear. We now have been equipped with the skills and ideas to make a difference; it is now up to us to use these skills during our 40 “chances” to make the world a better place.