Learning to LearnShare
My upcoming trip to Africa had been on my mind for months. I had prepared a list of things I needed to buy, to pack, and to finish before leaving. However, when the day came to fly out, I found myself feeling as though I had never been more unprepared in my life. Should I have imagined expectations of what this trip should be or better understood the cultural differences I would be stepping into before I left? Then, as I sat on the flight, I realized that I honestly didn’t know what I was expecting, and this epiphany caused a dissonance of excitement and nerves that set the stage for the entire trip.
I was born and raised in the suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota. When given the freedom of choosing a college, I decided to stay close to home by attending the University of Minnesota, where I study mechanical engineering. Between being raised by a single mother and shoving my nose in my textbooks for as long as I can remember, I have only had the opportunity to travel abroad once before this summer. I knew as I left the country two weeks ago that this little Minnesota bubble I’ve lived in for twenty years would appear extremely different when I returned.
I cannot stop thinking about the disparity between the way many people live in the United States and in developing countries. The first day we were in Tanzania, a family hosted us on their small subsistence farm to show us their practices and even invited us into their home for dinner. We saw how they live; their lives dependent on the weather, community and government. They toil with their land, crops, and animals for something that isn’t even guaranteed in the end. If just one thing that is entirely out of their control goes awry, they are suddenly left with stark decisions–their children’s education or food to eat. Things we view as fundamental rights in the United States are things that aren’t always accessible to many people throughout the world; even after seeing it, I cannot really understand what it would be like to live this way.
As a Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge emerging leader this year, I’ve learned the importance of understanding the intricacies of a problem before trying to help. Because when we don’t, we may end up doing more harm than good. I have learned so much about agriculture through this program, but I am a long stretch from truly understanding the challenges farmers face across the globe. I’ve learned the importance of learning.
After visiting a Land O’Lakes International Development project, I saw firsthand an organization that does a good job of understanding farmers’ needs and local realities before stepping in. I learned that our methods for providing development assistance must be well thought out and rooted in a deep understanding of local farmers’ lives. In my future, I’ll bring with me a curiosity for understanding as much as I can about the challenges others face, so that I can help in every way that I’m needed and able to contribute.
I found it so inspiring to see the love that people exhibit toward their land, animals and community. To see them work so hard for something that isn’t certain instilled a desire in me to work harder for my future. We–human beings–are inherently the same, so who am I to deserve the access I have been granted over anyone else in the world? The fact is, many of us do have privilege in the United States and I believe it’s my duty to use the privilege I have living here to help those across the developing world.