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Students ride a combine, experience the Palouse

international students at harvest

PULLMAN, Wash. – Eight international Cougs recently experienced wheat harvest firsthand with Whitman County wheat farmer Toby Nelson and his crew.

Jody White, international program specialist for WSU’s Office of International Programs (IP), facilitated the farm visit to expose international students to the local community and the main agricultural product of eastern Washington.

Learning from new experiences

“I’ve been at WSU for five years and it was time I learned what’s growing in our backyard,” said Narendra Parmar, a Ph.D student in physics from India. 

Parmar got to ride in a grain truck to the Snake River and see how the harvested wheat was transferred from elevators to barges to ports along the 400-mile Snake-Columbia river system, ultimately reaching Portland, Ore., for export to different regions – especially Asia.

The group learned about the different wheat varieties used for products such as pasta, Asian noodles and yeast breads. They learned why farmers sometimes keep wheat out of production during a regular growing season and the challenges of weather, pricing and fluctuating world demand.

“I usually don’t have a chance to see much outside of the campus,” said Odgerel Bumandalai, an M.S. student in biological systems engineering from Mongolia. “It made me realize that I need to learn more about my own country to exchange knowledge about different types of grains compared to wheat.”

Impressions of the Palouse 
Students took turns riding in a combine cutting a wheat field while overlooking a panoramic view of the Snake River.

“It was so efficient and beautiful,” said Yu Ma, a Ph.D. student in horticulture from China. “I shared all this with my roommates as soon as I got home and told them how hard farmers here work.”

The curiosity and excitement from the international students were felt by the combine operators and wheat farmers.

Andy Scholz, a combine operator, was impressed by the group’s questions as he demonstrated the combine’s maneuverability on steep sloping fields: “I will never look at my job the same way again,” he said after hearing the students’ perspectives.  

“I was amazed by how the wheat grows on such high hills. This really made my summer!” said Tosin Adelaja, an M.A. student in apparel, merchandising, design and textiles from Nigeria.

“I am more appreciative of a farmer’s contribution to society because of this trip,” added Sushan Ru, a Ph.D. student in horticulture from China.

Engaging the local community

Cheryl Hansen, director of global services at IP, had hoped that a visit to the nearby wheat fields would inspire curiosity from both sides.

“It’s great to see so much engagement about an important local economic driver from WSU’s international students,” she said. “The farm crew was also impacted by the interest shown by our international Cougs.”

The Office of International Programs strives to connect the WSU international community with the greater community beyond campus borders through a number of educational and social programs. These interactions reinforce the mission of WSU in fostering education, research and engagement. For more information, contact Abbi Delgado at IP at 509-335-8803.

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