Alpha Zeta in Guatemala? You bet!

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How I spent my summer: Operation Groundswell recap

By Jillian Gordon

During my college career at Penn State, I can't really say I have any major regrets. I went through a great program, was able to make the best of friends through Alpha Zeta and graduated with a graduate assistantship waiting for me at the University of Georgia. I will be the first to call my time at Penn State a success. As I neared the end of my senior year however, I felt like something was missing.

I realized there was in fact one thing that I could go back and do over. It would be taking the opportunity to take an extended trip abroad within the field of agriculture. Lucky enough for me, even after graduation, the opportunity was there.

From May 28th through July 6th, I traveled through the highland of Guatemala studying the coffee industry, both from a grower’s as well as an economist’s perspective with an organization called Operation Groundswell. Coffee is an interesting crop and is one of the few that is grown in developing nations and shipped almost exclusively to developed nations such as the United States, Canada and Italy. Traveling with a group of 14 individuals from Canada and the US, much to my surprise, I ended up becoming the resident "agriculture expert" within the group, having conversations with my travel mates about what coffee production might look like if it was prominent within the United States.

The experience was one I will never forget. The opportunities to see the world from an agriculture standpoint are endless. My time in Guatemala will serve as a reminder for how blessed we are here in the United States as well as an inspiration to seek more opportunities while attending school at the University of Georgia.