CALS student studies abroad in Thailand
Logan Heflin discovered studying abroad is about much more than exploring a new country — it enables lifelong camaraderie, eliminates cultural barriers and provides people with a broadened perspective of the world around them.
A sophomore at the University of Idaho majoring in biotechnology and plant genetics in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), Heflin spent fall 2018 studying at Mahidol University in Salaya, Thailand, just west of Bangkok.
Gaining International Experience
Heflin had never been outside of North America before coming to U of I. He made the decision to take a semester abroad after participating in an Alternative Service Break with the U of I Center for Volunteerism and Social Action to Ecuador during his freshman year.
“I loved the experience, I thought about studying abroad and wanted to try being in a foreign environment and figuring it out all by myself, immersing myself in the foreign culture,” Heflin said.
Before leaving for his semester abroad, Heflin connected with a pen pal in Thailand. Heflin’s father, who works as a U.S. Air Force JROTC instructor at Clarkston High School in southeast Washington, encouraged him to reach out to an exchange student from Thailand, Yok, who attended CHS when Heflin was in the third grade. Quickly becoming friends, Yok greeted Heflin when he arrived in Thailand and stayed in touch throughout the semester, making his experience a little less daunting.
Heflin encourages all students to consider study abroad.
“Don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in a completely foreign environment — and don’t forget to plan ahead,” Heflin said.
“When you travel out of the country it makes you realize more of the things you take for granted at home,” he said. “When you’re gone for a semester, coming home to our country feels more foreign when the foreign country you’re in has started to feel like home.”
Feeding 9 Billion
Originally from Clarkston, Washington, Heflin felt U of I was the perfect atmosphere for him.
“Faculty care deeply about teaching, as well as research done here at U of I. My professors are invested in my success — U of I is the perfect size and it feels like home,” he said.
Heflin is involved in CALS ambassadors, undergraduate research, Soil Stewards, the U of I Honors Program, including service as an honors ambassador, and the Plant and Soil Science Club.
He initially planned to study food science after hearing about U of I and Washington State University’s joint School of Food Science. But he soon discovered he could make a bigger impact in the field of plant science.
“One of the reasons I joined the food science program was to feed people, feed world hunger, feeding the world of nine billion by 2050,” he said. “I felt like I could contribute more to finding a solution to the problem, how to feed 9 billion people, by being in the field of plant science.”
Heflin is considering a career as a researcher or as a director of research, as well as a career in the field of agronomy.
“I look forward to contributing to the body of knowledge and working with tangible crops that people use and eat every day,” he said.
He is now contributing to that body of knowledge and to his experience by conducting undergraduate research with plant science Associate Professor Fangming Xiao.
Heflin is investigating the relationship between pathogens and tomato plants, specifically how protein pathogens secrete and interact with resistant genes.
“I believe it’s important for plant science students to be aware that we will have to feed 9 billion, if not more, people by 2050,” he said. “We have to attack it head on and we will need to innovate agricultural systems through research and by being involved in the agricultural industry.”
He knows his study abroad experience will greatly impact his career, friendships and outlook moving forward.
“Studying abroad will help me in the future by having increased my confidence in working with international people and increasing my patience,” Heflin said. “It’s shown me to act with more humanity — when things are so different you want to cling to what’s familiar — you start to realize that there are so many things that unite us as people rather than separate us.
"Feeding people is a problem the world will have to face together. I want my career to expand beyond borders. Food security will require global collaboration.”
Article by Hannah Doumit, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Published in February 2019