U of G student Sierra Harris greets Governor General David Johnston at the Universiti Sains Malaysia. 

Sierra Harris hadn’t known what to expect early this fall when she boarded the plane for Malaysia on her first-ever flight and her first-ever overseas sojourn. Since then, the third-year agriculture student at U of G has learned about tropical agriculture, soaked up Southeast Asian culture, and met another Sudbury-born visitor – Canadian Governor General David Johnston.

Harris met Johnston during his state visit this month to Southeast Asia. On Nov. 16, she attended his talk on education and globalization at the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and a panel discussion that included Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, and John McDougall, president of the National Research Council of Canada.

The Guelph student had been invited to the event by USM’s international office.

In an email from Malaysia, Harris said Johnston discussed the value of integrating science and arts and “the importance of university exchange programs and the role they play in sharing cross-cultural knowledge and nurturing dynamic graduates.”

She arrived in Malaysia in early September to start a semester-long exchange at USM, a research-intensive school on Penang Island in the country’s northwest.

She’s learning about differences between Canadian and tropical agriculture, an interest sparked during a course taught by Guelph plant agriculture professor Barry Micallef. Harris says comparing farming systems in Canada and Malaysia “has allowed me to discover the parallels between our countries and helped me realize the importance of sharing cross-culture knowledge. Interestingly, agriculture in itself is a cross-cultural bridge between nations.”

She says she’s also enjoying friendly people and “fusion” foods. “The thing I love the most is waking up early and watching the sun rise over the ocean while listening to the life in the jungle.”

Harris hopes to complete another exchange visit next year and pursue crop studies in food security and agricultural policy.