Student Stories: Education takes student to faraway lands

June 15, 2009

It's a big world out there, and Jessica Rivera has seen a lot of it. Thanks to her animal bioscience major, combined with minors in Japanese and equine science, she's already had the opportunity to explore everything from the peaks of Mount Fuji to the land down under.

"The great thing about Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences is not only that it funds students to study abroad, but that it works just as hard to provide an education with a global perspective," Rivera, a 2007 graduate, said. "When you're abroad, you quickly realize that the College of Agricultural Sciences is really an international college."
Rivera, of West New York, N.J., is currently attending veterinary school at the University of Florida. "As a Penn State student, I took courses in Japanese because I had a strong interest in martial arts, but I found that it was something I could apply to my major. Not many students get the chance to experience how veterinarians outside of the United States handle and work with animals," she said. "So, looking to immerse myself in the familiar from a completely different perspective, I decided to utilize my language courses and study abroad in Japan."
While in Japan, Rivera lived with her host family in Makuhari-hongou and worked in a no-kill, nonprofit animal shelter in Takayanagi, about an hour from Tokyo.
"One of the most exciting things about Japan was discovering the aspects of the culture that are hidden behind what we traditionally think of," said Rivera. "Everyone was incredibly polite, and the host family I stayed with was absolutely amazing."
When Rivera was not working with animals in Takayanagi, she spent time traveling and experiencing the unique aspects of Japan. And after staying in Japan for four months, Rivera traveled to New Zealand, Thailand and Australia, where she took classes at the University of Adelaide.
She climbed Mt. Fuji, attended a sumo wrestling match, and went skydiving, bungi jumping and snorkeling. "Penn State really strives to help you achieve your goals, whether abroad or stateside," she said. "Traveling helped me to grow as a person and allowed me to actively realize what I could become. It's something you just can't find sitting in a classroom."
  • Jess Rivera atop Japan's Mt. Fuji

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated November 18, 2010