Travel can have profound effect
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[NOV. 3, 2004]
URBANA -- In the summer of 1979, 37
college students from six major universities, including the
University of Illinois, traveled together as they toured 16 European
countries. One of those students was Garry Herzog, current owner of
Prairieland Feeds in Savoy. Today, 25 years later, what difference
did that trip make to him?
"Initially, I wasn't sure if I wanted to even go on the trip," said
Herzog. "I wanted to work over the summer and save money, not spend
it. But that trip had the most profound effect on my life. We
visited 16 different countries. This was when Brezhnev was in power
in the Soviet Union. Getting behind the Iron Curtain was an
eye-opener. The students on the trip had no idea, no clue about the
dynamics of what's going on overseas until going there, and then you
Herzog was a student in the College of Agricultural,
Consumer and Environmental Sciences the year he went on the trip to
Europe. "We strongly encourage students to take advantage of the
opportunity to do a study-abroad program for a semester or even for
just a few weeks during their years here in college," said Steve
Pueppke, associate dean for research and director of the ACES Global
Connect program. "International travel typically has a profound
effect on students."
Herzog said that the students on the trip were upper middle class
and higher and that seeing how other people live made them grateful
for what they have in the United States. "We are living fat-happy in
this country," he said. "In these other countries they were looking
for how to put food on the table. People were barely living. We take
for granted having soap and deodorant. To them deodorant was a
The students toured collective farms that were state-owned.
Herzog observed the lack of a feeling of ownership that affected how
the crops were cared for. "It didn't matter if it was going to rain
that evening. When it was five o'clock, everyone went home."
Herzog said that the key thing that happened to this group of
students was that they became "supersensitive" to the issues of
other cultures and countries. "It's hard to have compassion and
empathy for others if you haven't had any exposure."
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When Herzog returned from the trip, he decided to add foreign
language studies to his program at the U of I. "I decided to
double major in ag econ and German," he said. Herzog also took a
year of French as well as some Korean and Serbo-Croatian. "Many
Americans expect everyone to speak English because they don't speak
another language themselves."
The trip also gave Herzog a strong desire to travel. "I knew I
wanted to have a job that allowed me to travel, so I became a
commercial pilot, flying a 767 to Paris and London for many years,
and I've gone back to Europe for vacations five or six times."
The adult sponsors-chaperones on the trip, including Professor
Upson Garrigus and his wife, Olive, were another influence on
Herzog. "Up and Olive were a team," Herzog recalled. "They prepared
us for the trip, having us over to their home several times prior to
leaving. They showed us slides and taught us to be sensitive to
these other countries."
Upson Garrigus died in the spring of 2004, but Herzog remembers
him as defining the term "international ambassador."
"Upson taught us to say please and thank you," Herzog said. "He
said, 'You will see other Americans on the trip and you will be
embarrassed at the way they behave.' When countries rear their heads
and say to America, 'How dare you?' Americans just don't understand
how we look to them."
Herzog said that he believes there would be "no wars if we had
more Garriguses in the world being international ambassadors."
And, to potential student travelers Herzog gave this piece of
advice, "At this stage in your life, you have no dogs, no spouse, no
mortgage, no job -- so go. It will be the biggest mistake of your
life not to do it."
[University of Illinois news release]