University of Delaware student Shaw Civitarese had wanted to find an internship in New Zealand for the summer but, unfortunately for him, his summer was their winter.
So instead of heading to New Zealand, Communicating for Agriculture Education Programs (CAEP), the organization through which Civitarese found his internship, suggested that he go to Germany for the summer to work on a swine and produce farm.
Civitarese agreed and was assigned to work on the Bauernhof Keller farm in Rodgau, Germany, which is a suburb of Frankfurt.
It turned out to be a great situation for the junior, who is majoring in agricultural and natural resources with a minor in food and resource economics.
Civitarese described the farm as “the story-book farm that you would imagine it would be. Everybody in the family worked on the farm. The mom did all the finances and the father and the kids did all the farming work. They mainly grew small grains but potatoes were also a big crop that they sold. And we would deliver the potatoes to lots of different restaurants and markets.”
Of his duties on the farm, Civitarese explained that his daily routine, if it wasn’t harvest time, usually involved being out in the fields at 7 a.m. followed by a long lunch around 11. He said that the German farmer’s lunch is comparable to an American dinner, and after eating and resting for about two or three hours, he would head back out in the fields from 3 p.m. to 9 or 10 p.m.
The time in the field was usually spent gathering small grains, like wheat, barley and straw, the latter of which ended up as bedding for the pigs.
Civitarese noted that this was a little unusual. “Their pig farm was actually unique — they bedded down their pigs in straw, which is kind of unheard of but I guess it’s good for the pigs’ morale.”
He said the straw is much softer than the usual bedding of concrete slabs.
If it was a harvest day, however, the schedule became more intense. “The harvesting was so tough because we would get up at daybreak, and it would be light out at 6 o’clock in the morning because you’re so far north. And we wouldn’t stop,” said Civitarese. “At one point, we were definitely in the combines harvesting for over 24 hours straight. So, it was rough but it was a great learning experience.”
After growing up on a farm in Baltimore County, Maryland, Civitarese was able to ease into the farming aspect of his internship. It was the cultural aspects of the internship that took a little while for him to grasp.
Civitarese had one big obstacle in his path right away as he made his way to Europe: he didn’t speak a word of German.
Luckily for him, Tobi Keller, the son of the farm’s owner, Robert Keller, was fluent in English and took him under his wing, helping him out whenever a language barrier stood in his way. Though he got help from Keller, who is 21 and learned English as part of his schooling, Civitarese did have trouble communicating with some of the older members of the community, specifically, his roommate.
“I lived with the grandfather because they didn’t have any extra room in the house, and the grandfather is very old school German, so he didn’t care to learn any English,” Civtarese said, joking, “He just yelled at me in German the whole time.”
Civitarese formed such a close bond with the younger Keller that he and his girlfriend flew over to America from Germany to visit Civitarese and experience their first Thanksgiving.
Civitarese also plans on heading back to Germany this summer to attend a rock festival.
Perhaps the greatest thing the internship accomplished is that it opened Civitarese up to a world of possibilities once he graduates. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but now I want to do something with a more global impact with agriculture,” he said. “I was thinking either an international job in agriculture with a marketing firm or something not specific to the U.S. I want to do something with a more global reach. The trip opened my eyes to other ways of thinking in agriculture.”
He also offered up some words of wisdom for any student planning to spend time abroad. “If you’re going by yourself, make sure you learn the local language before you go and do some background information on the place.”
He did say, however, that anybody who has a chance to study in a foreign country should jump at the opportunity. “I would definitely encourage anybody to get out there and do it because it changed the whole direction that I want to go with my degree.”
Civitarese added, “It gives you a more global perspective of what agriculture is outside of the United States, and how other countries view U.S. agriculture.”
After hours spent searching on Google trying to find an international internship that was right for him, Civitarese is forever grateful that winter in New Zealand led to an unforgettable summer in Germany.
Article by Adam Thomas
This article was originally published on UDaily