As I am on the verge of leaving the country for the first time, I’m a bit apprehensive. I am not worried about flying or leaving the United States. Rather, I’m worried about the project in which I’m participating with a student from Wroclaw University of Environment and Life Sciences.

I have never had to face such a project and it will be the hardest assignment I’ve had in my college career. The project is about animal welfare and, more specifically, the welfare of swine in confinement operations. Although it is not troubling for me to discuss or research what we do here in terms of U.S. swine production compared to how it is done in Poland/European Union. I am most concerned with my partner and our ability to work together.

My partner is from Poland and is majoring in animal husbandry at WUELS. I know very little about her, which does not help my concern. She is a vegetarian and works for a non-government organization (NGO). An NGO would be like an organization that is non-profit and an animal rights activist group. Her views are very different from mine when it comes to animal agriculture. I knew that when I chose her as my partner, and I picked her because I knew it would be a challenge.

 My hope is that we can recognize that we both have different views and that we can educate each other on why we have those views. I have never discussed this topic with someone whose views are the polar opposite of mine, so this will be interesting.

I have talked to many people in the industry on how to approach the situation. They’ve told me to be passionate about what myself and the industry, and how pork production fits in a world perspective, without being excessive or overbearing.

Without a doubt, this will be the most interesting and controversial thing I have done in my life. Do you have some suggestions that might help me communicate with my partner in this project?