#BigOrangeGive – The Value of Studying Abroad

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Donations Make Studying Abroad More Accessible for Students

By Mary Shelley-Snell

For Herbert College of Agriculture senior, Legna Soto-Gonzalez, studying abroad would not have been possible if she had not received scholarships through the Smith Center for International Sustainable Agriculture and the Center for Global Engagement. Soto-Gonzalez is an agricultural leadership, education and communication undergraduate who is also completing two minors in food and agribusiness and in international agriculture and natural resources. She traveled to Guatemala in March 2022 as part of the Agriculture and Natural Resource Challenges in Guatemala spring course.

“The Guatemala course was an amazing experience. The best part of that trip was how we connected the local food system by seeing how chocolate, coffee, and macadamia nuts are produced,” Soto-Gonzalez said. “I really loved the fresh fruit there, but it was even better because we were able to see how our impact as consumers who eat “exotic fruit” in the United States might change the supply of local, tropical fruit they have available in Guatemala.”

Soto-Gonzalez thinks that immersive study abroad experiences like the one she participated in are important opportunities for all University of Tennessee students. “Studying abroad is going to change your perspective and give you a new understanding of how we are connected to the world,” she said. “In Guatemala, I found out the environmental impact of consuming one cup of coffee and came home willing to change my habits. It’s those kinds of things you might not even think about. It really offers an opportunity for growth.”  

The Smith Center is positioning UTIA as the go-to organization for global engagement in the agricultural-related sciences among U.S. land-grant institutions. The center does this by cultivating greater global engagement across all faculty, staff, and students at UT, by increasing the Institute’s global collaborations through strategic partnerships, and by communicating the importance of UTIA’s global work. “The Smith Center is important because it creates opportunities to go to another country and engage with agricultural issues, and then come home and have thought-provoking conversations about potential solutions,” Soto-Gonzalez said. “I didn’t think that I would be able to study abroad because of the cost. But Smith Center faculty and staff helped me find scholarships and were happy to connect me with the resources so that I could have that global experience.” 

Big Orange Give is the university’s day of giving; a 24-hour online challenge for alumni, friends, parents, students, faculty, staff, and fans to show their support of Rocky Top. The university’s goal is to reach 10,000 gifts to support current and future Vols! Throughout the day, your donation could be matched, doubling your impact to the university. Visit to learn more about donating http://bigorangegive.utk.edu/ and https://smithcenter.tennessee.edu/ to see how your donation can help #GrowGlobal across the Institute.