On the International Trail

A Global Education

Five university groups will be conducting 19 educational seminars in 17 countries during 2017. What can they be prepared to experience and learn during their travels?

Fifteen years ago, as a bright-eyed undergraduate student at Colorado State University, I was preparing to travel to Europe to conduct educational seminars on behalf of AQHA for the first time. At the time, I could not have imagined the incredible experiences I would be exposed to during a decade and a half of travel on behalf of AQHA. While our groups were there to provide education on horsemanship and horse management to the participants, we undoubtedly learned at least as much on each trip as we were able to teach.

This year, five different teams hailing from Middle Tennessee State UniversityNorth Dakota State University, Oklahoma State University and Texas A&M University will embark on trips around the globe to bring equine education to participants in 19 seminars in 17 countries. These groups, comprised of students, industry professionals and brave faculty leaders, will have some once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

As the teams prepare for their trips, I’ve been thinking back to my early seminars and remembering some of the unique and unforgettable experiences I was fortunate to be a part of because of my involvement with AQHA. Here are just five of the countless lessons I’ve learned on my travels that I thought might help this year’s teams as they set out on their adventures:

  1. Trains Wait on No Man (or Woman) – Trains in Europe don’t operate like the trains in the movies I grew up watching, where a train whistle would blow and a kindly conductor would shout, “All aboard!” to alert passengers that the train was preparing to leave. If you are waiting for these signals in Europe, you will likely be left standing on the platform. Be prepared to board quickly, with all of your belongings in hand, so as not to be left behind!
  2. A Baseball Cap is Not Always a Baseball Cap – While the same language might be spoken in several different countries, regional differences in dialect, accent and slang can make all the difference in the world between being understood correctly and saying something you didn’t intend to. If you want more details, just ask Chance O’Neal what happened when he told the police officers in the Montevideo, Uruguay, airport that he had a box full of baseball caps in Spanish, using what turned out to be Mexican slang …
  3. Be Prepared for Kissing, and Sometimes Double Kissing Customs for saying hello and goodbye vary from country to country. You might be very comfortable with a handshake, but you might be caught off guard by an enthusiastic hug or kiss on the cheek. In many countries, a kiss on the cheek is a very normal way of greeting one another (even new acquaintances). And in Paraguay, be prepared for the double kiss!
  4. Blood Sausage Isn’t as Bad as it Sounds The opportunity to try amazing local food and drink is a fun part of traveling internationally. You’ll learn about local delicacies, traditional beverage, and social games (like Nageln in Germany). Your hosts will encourage you to try their stoutest local spirits (beware the Fernet Branca!). Some of the foods will be things you’re not accustomed to eating, and that’s the point! Keep an open mind and try new things
  5. Be Prepared to Develop Friendships That Last a Lifetime One of the great things about traveling for AQHA is that wherever you go, the people you meet all speak “horse.” We are all connected by our love of the American Quarter Horse, and it gives us a natural starting point to develop important friendships. I have friends from my very first trip to Germany in 2002 that I still am connected to, like my friend Nina who translated for us, and whom I have since been able to cheer on at several AQHA World Championship Shows (that’s her dirndl I’m wearing in the picture!). Meet people, get to know them and let the horse connect you! 

Stay tuned for updates from the teams as they travel around the globe!