Traveling to another country can be intimidating for some individuals, but Fort Valley State University agricultural economics junior LaShombria Ellerbee overcame her fear by going to Honduras and now views it as an unforgettable learning experience.
First time traveling internationally, Ellerbee, 21, a native of Albany, along with six FVSU and three Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (AAMU) students, traveled to Honduras during summer 2017. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) funded the trip.
Dr. Brou Kouakou, FVSU director of international agriculture and principal investigator of the grant along with Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim, an FVSU associate professor of agricultural economics, wanted to introduce students majoring in agricultural economics, plant science and animal science to global experiences and expose them to international career opportunities.
While in Honduras, Ellerbee visited various production facilities and learned the agricultural practices of Honduras in comparison to the United States.
“They’re so much more hands-on,” she said. “They eat everything that they grow. Their economy is based off of agriculture, and they start their children young. It’s family oriented.”
In addition to learning about agriculture, Ellerbee also enjoyed the food. She said it’s somewhat similar to American food. She and the students also used bottled water to brush their teeth daily. Ellerbee said this made her appreciate her country more.
During the trip, she and the other students toured the Talgua Caves, Valley of Angels and the walk to the cross. They got a chance to see the Honduran culture up close during the Valley of Angels tour.
“We saw many souvenirs and cultural items that Honduras is known for, like their soccer jerseys, handmade wallets made of animal skin and colorful jewelry,” Ellerbee said. “It was an honor to be in Honduras visiting locations we had never seen or imagined seeing before.”
She described touring the Talgua Caves as a unique experience. “I had never been near or inside a cave before,” Ellerbee said. “It was just an amazing site to see nature and the natural crystals inside the cave shine brightly.” She and the students also toured the Universidad Nacional de Agricultura (UNA) in Catacamas and participated in fieldwork. Some of their work included planting seeds, painting walls and cutting grass with machetes.
Ellerbee said her visit to Honduras has opened more doors for her career and she would definitely consider going back. She is now planning to study Spanish. While in Honduras, she had to adjust to the language barrier. Ellerbee said most people in Honduras speak Spanish and very little English. Although she can speak some Spanish, she said the people were sometimes difficult to understand. Ellerbee’s advice to students interested in traveling internationally is to “just do it.” For those who may be somewhat apprehensive, she encourages them to do their research beforehand.
Ellerbee attributes her early interest in agriculture to FVSU’s TEAM Success summer program, which exposes high school students to careers in agriculture, family and consumer sciences and related areas. That’s when she made the decision to attend FVSU and major in agricultural economics.
With this being her junior year, Ellerbee said her goal after graduation is to work for the USDA or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).