Two students who earned graduate degrees from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who had a chance to visit the University of Zagreb in Croatia have come up with study abroad program ideas that will introduce students studying at North Carolina State University to Croatian culture and agriculture.
One of these students is Suzanne O’Connell, who is a doctoral student in soil science and horticulture and the other is Aaron Fox, who is studying crop science and entomology. They visited Croatia in June 2012 and spent a month in the country. They paid visits to research stations, the University of Zagreb and farms in different parts of Croatia. They sought to explore the study and research exchange program opportunities available to undergraduate and graduate students. They presented what they found out from their research at a college seminar in early October.
The relationship that the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has had with the Faculty of Agriculture at University of Zagreb since 2010 is similar to that of a college and a university in the United States. Last summer, two students studying agriculture in Croatia visited North Carolina to participate in internships at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro.
Fox and O’Connell are about to complete their doctoral degrees. They both plan to graduate in the spring. Fox is planning to find a teaching and research position at a university. O’Connell on the other hand is looking for a career that combines science and policy work. They are both interested in sustainable agriculture.
As the seminar was going on, the students spoke about their positive experience in Croatia and general information about the country. They described the city of Zagreb and its university as engaging and full of activity. They stated that they received assistance from University staff, students and faculty members as they participated in agricultural teaching and research programs. They also stated that other people in the country assisted them.
Even though Fox and O’Connell spent a lot of time at Zagreb University’s Faculty of Agriculture, they also visited research stations all over Croatia and several representative Croatian farms. The University of Zagreb has research stations in Croatia just like the Agricultural Research Service stations found in North Carolina. They represent different growing regions namely mountainous, continental and Mediterranean.
Fox and O’Connell said that there is a deep connection to food and farming in Croatia. Farms in this country are usually small since they are 4.6 to 6 acres on average. Ten to thirty percent of the Croatian population depends on agriculture as a source of income. More generous estimates include the many farms owned by small families, which make up two thirds of Croatia’s farms. The major crops farmed in this country are sugar beets, potatoes, apples, grapes, wheat and corn. Croatians also farm poultry and eggs.
Even though there are scars that remind visitors of the country’s troubled past such as land mines from its war for independence in the 90’s, there has been a lot of progress. Croatia will join the European Union in July 2013 to become the twenty eighth county in the EU. Most Croatians are pleased with this.
In their proposal about studying abroad, Fox and O’Connell said that students can spend a semester, especially the spring semester at the University of Zagreb because academic calendars are comparable. English is used to teach most courses in order to attract international students. They also said that it was possible for students to participate in faculty and research exchanges.
A proposed 3 week intensive summer undergraduate crop/horticulture study program will begin at the University of Zagreb. Students participating in the program will spend the first week visiting research stations, cultural sites, farmer’s markets and nearby farms. After this, they would spend 3 days visiting agrotourism attractions and agronomic research sites in Eastern Croatia near Osijek. They will also spend time here learning about Croatia’s war for independence.
In the next three days, students will visit the coastal region that lies close to the Adriatic Islands and Split to study Mediterranean crops like vegetables, fruits and vines. The wine production industry in Croatia has a long history even though the phylloxera blight of the mid nineteenth century destroyed the country’s vineyards. Students participating in this regional tour will look at the historical epidemic responsible for destroying most vineyards in Europe and how Croatia is rebuilding its wine industry.
The group will also visit the Istrian Peninsula, which borders northern Italy and spend three days there. This peninsula is referred to as the Tuscany of Croatia. The focus of the visits made to this region would be ornamental production, olive oil, wine and marketing efforts. This tour would also include visits to the Kopački Rit and Plitvice Lakes National Parks and visits to get between regions.
Some faculty members and students of the Strossmayer University of Osijek, which is a partner institution of Zagreb University who were visiting North Carolina, also attended the student’s seminar. The group was on a 1-week exchange tour to North Carolina to learn more about the state, visit Piedmont’ farms and visit Washington D.C.