Fort Valley State University agricultural economics major Brian Cornish, (center) poses with onlookers during his trip to China summer 2015.
A Fort Valley State University student can add his name to the long list of diplomats, businesspeople and Olympic athletes that set foot in the world’s most populated country.
Brian Cornish seized an opportunity to travel to China with the Multicultural Scholars in Agricultural Economics Scholarship. A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant fund the scholarship.
Cornish, a junior agricultural economics major, hails from Warner Robins. He received information about the scholarship from his then advisor, former FVSU agricultural economics professor Dr. Erika Styles. Once he found out his scholarship provided a trip to China, he immediately started preparing for his overseas excursion by surfing the internet to help draw a picture in his head of what to expect.
Cornish knew he would be around many people due to China’s huge population of more than 1.3 billion, and learned about possible concerns with air pollution. Those facts did not dampen his excitement. “I thought it was going to be a fun experience for me. I had never been out of the country before,” Cornish said.
For three weeks in summer 2015, Cornish, along with fellow agricultural economics majors and scholarship recipients Raymee Johnson and Amber Brown, traveled around China. The trio toured cities such as Beijing, Nanjing and Shanghai. While in Nanjing, they shadowed students from Tuskegee University and Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University conducting research projects at Nanjing Forest University on insects and plants.
During their travels, the students managed to overcome the language barrier by using their tour guide who doubled as an interpreter. They also used apps on their smart phones for translation. For transportation, the group used taxis, buses and the personal taxi service Uber, which is very popular in China according to Cornish. He also experienced his first ever train ride in China on a high speed bullet train, and was simply amazed as he watched the speedometer reach 305 kilometers (more than 189 miles) per hour. “That was crazy,” Cornish exclaimed.
While visiting the cities, Cornish had an opportunity to sample authentic Chinese food and gained a fondness for dumplings and “street food”, which is various foods sold by vendors in a set-up similar to state fairs in the U.S. One of the delicacies Cornish sampled is fried squid.
“It was the first time I tried it and it was pretty good actually,” Cornish said. Cornish and his fellow agricultural economics majors also stopped at several tourist attractions including the Forbidden City, Pearl Towers, Summer Palace and Tiananmen Square.
They also visited a farm where they picked a fruit in China known as waxberries that grow on trees on the side of mountains. Cornish said he was amazed to see people in their 60s and 70s climbing the trees. “They do it for a living and make it look easy. I was over there stumbling everywhere and trying not to fall down the mountainside,” he said laughingly.
Cornish said the most interesting part of the trip was visiting the Great Wall of China, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. He said he never expected to visit it in his lifetime, and it feels good to accomplish the feat.
In describing his experience in the world’s most populated country, Cornish said it was fantastic.
“It was a great experience and cool. There were a lot of things I wasn’t used to and people wanted to come and take pictures with me. It made me feel like a celebrity,” Cornish grinned.
“From a cultural aspect, I learned to appreciate what we have in America because of the freedoms we have,” Cornish said. “You have unlimited internet access and you can get on Instagram and Facebook, which are blocked in China,” Cornish said.
The 20-year-old recommends that students take advantage of opportunities and not be intimidated to study abroad. “I would tell them to keep an open mind about things because it is going to be different and not the same as what you’re probably used to. So be willing to try and accept new things. It is a good experience to get to go to another country because you get to learn about how other people live on the other side of the world,” Cornish said.
The Warner Robins native decided to major in agricultural economics at FVSU because he wanted to work somewhere in the agricultural field. “I knew Fort Valley has a great agriculture program. I was interested in economics in high school, so I figured I would just choose agricultural economics,” Cornish said.
In addition to his studies, Cornish is a member of the FVSU Ag Economics Quiz Bowl team and is an offensive lineman on the FVSU Wildcats football team.
After graduation, Cornish said he plans to attend graduate school and earn a master’s degree in statistics, then seek a doctorate degree in environmental economics.