Beyond cows: Michigan dairy youth judging team earns trip to Europe; members gain experience and develop skills
During the summer of 2011, nine Michigan State University (MSU) students – all former dairy youth program members – earned the opportunity to travel to the countries of Scotland, England, Luxembourg, and France as part of an international livestock judging experience.
The invitation to travel to Europe is extended to the top three placing teams in their respective divisions (4-H, postsecondary and collegiate) at the annual World Dairy Expo dairy judging contest.
“They had a chance to visit London and Paris and see the sites. They’ll be part of the Royal Highland Show and Judging Contest in Scotland. In Luxembourg they’ll get to stay on a farm with families for three days, as well as visit different farms and agriculture settings in all the countries,” said Joe Domecq, MSU dairy youth specialist. “The participants learned about issues affecting the dairy industry on an international level, were exposed to European dairy practices and met a lot of wonderful people. In addition, they had a chance to visit historical sites, museums and other attractions.”
Two young people who made the trip were Katie Arndt, a 2012 MSU graduate (advertising), and MSU junior Sarah Michalek (professional writing major).
“Personally, it was just a really great opportunity because I’ve never been out of the United States,” Arndt said.
“I loved going to Europe because their history is so much deeper than ours,” she said. “Because, I mean, once you think about it, we’re (the United States) a relatively new country.”
Domecq said earning an invitation to participate in the trip to Europe is a well-earned and deserved accomplishment. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these students, and in some cases it might be the only opportunity that some of these students will have to travel to Europe.
“Three times in the last six years we’ve been involved in this trip, so each time I’ve learned something a little bit different, but for me personally, the part that I really enjoy is watching students and young people just see different parts of the world and realize that the world may be not as big as we think it is. The world is actually a very small place and we’re all actually very connected,” he explained.
The trip is a culmination of years of practice and developing skills that will be useful in future careers and life.
“Participating in the judging program has helped me enhance my public speaking skills and it’s just proven very valuable in learning how to manage a full schedule,” Arndt shared.
“These experiences are going to be especially helpful when we go into interviews for internships, and to interview for jobs eventually; being able to conduct ourselves with poise and have the confidence to excel at an interview will be huge,” Michalek added. “Being able to talk to a total stranger and get them to feel comfortable with you, being able to relate to them and create that interest in who you are…it’s really helpful.”
“I’ve made friends through dairy judging that I will have for the rest of my life,” Arndt said. “I’ve met people who have offered me jobs and internships, so all the connections I’ve made have been important. It’s just been one if the best experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life.”
“Dairy judging has, by far, given me the most opportunities that I have ever been able to get, as far as traveling, networking—because I not only have a crop of new friends, but I also have all of these business relationships that will help me in the future,” Michalek concluded.
Domecq said he wouldn’t be nearly the teacher he is today without his experiences in dairy judging.
“The cow part of this and what you learn about cows is secondary,” he said. “It’s about all the other life skills, the things that you can learn, see and do. That’s why it’s important and that’s why I encourage everybody to be involved in dairy judging.”