Thanksgiving abroad: Food science embedded course explores India

The food science embedded class at Golconda Fort, a medieval-era landmark several miles west of Hyderabad. Credit: Dr. Swamy AnantheswaranAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Students enrolled in a food science embedded course got a taste of something different for Thanksgiving this year. Over a week during the holiday break, participants in "Global perspectives on agricultural and food science in India" traveled to the city of Hyderabad to explore the food system in India while learning about the role that agriculture plays in the country's booming economy.

Upon arrival, the Penn State students were greeted by representatives from the nonprofit Council on International Educational Exchange, which helped to facilitate the trip. After a day of rest and orientation, they explored some of the markets in Hyderabad where local handicrafts are sold.

To observe the interaction of different elements of the country's food and fiber systems, students traveled to large and small-scale farms and food production, distribution and processing facilities such as a supermarket, Vijaya dairy and packaged foods manufacturer ITC Foods, as well as academic organizations, including the University of Hyderabad, Ayurveda College and the Telangana Forest Academy.

Amy King, a senior food science major who plans to begin a career in product development with Mondelez International after graduation, said that the experience allowed her to better understand what it will be like to work for a global company.

"We were able to learn about an agricultural industry that is so different from what you find in the U.S.," she explained. "Being able to speak with agriculturalists about the current issues their country is facing and how they are going to solve them was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And having the chance to visit large corporations as well as small farms was a really enlightening experience for me and definitely got me thinking about the importance of looking at current issues facing the world of agriculture from multiple perspectives."

The group also visited or met with representatives from several nongovernmental organizations, including the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics; Deccan Development Society, which provides crop improvement programs and activities benefiting farmers; the Society for Energy, Environment and Development; and Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad, a women's cooperative involved in the manufacture of various fast-moving consumer goods.

In addition to food-science-related activities, the students were given opportunities to sight-see, shop, develop their language skills and sample southern Indian cuisine. During a guided city tour, they saw famous architecture, museums and temples.

"The College of Ag Sciences does such an incredible job of creating these opportunities to see another culture up close," said Kara Loyd, a graduate student in applied youth, family and community education and one of the class's teaching assistants. "This type of experience is so important for widening our own world view and developing our understanding of what it means to be a global citizen. The trip opened my mind, and I believe many of the other students' minds, to a completely different lifestyle and way of thinking that only can improve how we interact with people from around the world in the future."

Senior Jaye Aster Broder learns how to roll papadum bread at Lijjat, a women’s NGO in southern India. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated February 27, 2018