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  • Writer's pictureJenna Stevens

Beach to Blizzard

The year 2024 came in with a loud bang! It was followed by multiple feet of snow, freezing temperatures, and below-zero wind chill. Lucky for me, I rang in the new year in 97-degree weather in the tropical climate of Panama! Over the new year, I went on a two-week study abroad focusing on tropical agricultural production, international business, and trade in Panama. We traveled across the entire country touring numerous diverse crops and operations from bananas, plantains, pineapples, coconuts, watermelons, sugar cane, rice, cocoa plantations, swine farms, dairy farms, and more. 

I also got to tour the Panama Canal and see where millions of ships, holding tons of exports and goods go through. The 50 ft canal connects the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean which saves ships over two weeks of travel. Since it opened in 1914, the canal has sent over a million ships through it. It truly is one of the man-made wonders of the world and it was incredible to see firsthand a ship actually going through it. 

However, while I was enjoying my time in the hot sun, swimming in the ocean, and eating all the fresh fruit I could get my hands on, there was a huge snowstorm happening in Iowa. This same snowstorm had me stuck in the Houston, TX airport for over nine hours on my way home. When I was finally able to get back to Iowa, I was welcomed with a freezing hello. It was back to reality. Instead of swimming in the ocean, I was scooping snow out of feed bunks in cattle yards and filling up warm water jugs to help unthaw frozen cattle waters as I finished out the last few days of Christmas vacation at home on the farm. 

I hope everyone made it through safely, the first big snowstorms of the year. I am back in Ames, gearing up for another semester at college and dreaming of the warm sun and sand of Panama rather than my reality of walking to class through the deep snow in below zero temps with windburned cheeks instead of the fresh sun-kissed tan I was getting used to. I am extremely grateful for the many study abroad travel experiences I have had while attending Iowa State and am secretly trying to squeeze in a few more before I graduate next May! I hope you all have an incredible 2024!! ~ Kesley Holdgrafer

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