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Hosting international students: What we learned from our first international intern

Theo Scholze for Progressive Dairy Published on 24 December 2019

On our farm, we try to host a university student or two every year. We find that it is a good experience for all involved. Typically, we learn from them, and hopefully they learn something from their time here.

Every year, we have received international applicants, but we were never able to meet the university requirements for the students. This last summer, however, we were able meet those specifications, so we hosted a Fulbright scholar from Pakistan. Naeem grew up on a dairy in Pakistan and is currently enrolled in a master’s degree program at Texas A&M.

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We needed some help with some cost of production worksheets, especially as we are branching beyond the dairy and building a beef herd, as well as building our own brand for direct-to-consumer beef sales. As he was in an ag business major with experience with building budgets and cost of production worksheets, he was a perfect fit for our needs.

As part of his program, he came to the farm for 10 weeks in the summer of 2019 and immediately dove in and performed beyond our expectations. The best part of the experience was learning about a new culture and about the things that are the same and different around the world. Obviously, much of the functionality of the farm is different. They milk by hand; we have a parlor. They had some buffalo in the herd as well as dairy cows, and we only have dairy cows. Until his time here, they had never ensiled feed as a storage method as they always green-chopped. Upon returning home, he worked with his family to make haylage for the first time. 

It was also very interesting to learn the things we take for granted that they don’t have, such as a stable electric grid, as well as trust in loading cattle on a trailer and sending them to market and knowing we are going to get paid for our cattle – the same with our milk. One other observation he made was that in Pakistan, those with enough money go to the supermarket for groceries, and the poor go to open-air farmers markets, while in the U.S., those with extra disposable income shop at farmers markets, and the middle class and poor go to the supermarket.

We also were able to talk some about transition planning from generation to generation. While the scale is different, the same issues come up – like what is fair and equitable for siblings, especially those who aren’t on the farm, and when is the right time for generational management change. They have some challenges we don’t, as we have more options available to protect assets of the older generation but still similar challenges.

In all, it was an absolutely great experience for us, and I don’t have the space to list all the things that I learned about their culture, the religion of Islam, life with arranged marriages, etc., but I feel I am a better person because of the experience. I have gained a lifelong friend, a new place on my bucket list to visit and a better understanding of people around the world. As a result, we will continue to try to host international students when we can, and I would encourage everybody to host student interns as it is a phenomenal experience.  end mark

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Theo Scholze
  • Theo Scholze

  • Dairy Producer
  • Humbird, Wisconsin
  • Email Theo Scholze

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