Tasting 80 different cheeses, watching skilled craftswomen turn candles into artwork and giving horseback riding a try, 30 students will experience multiple dimensions of the Amish lifestyle this weekend.
After receiving positive feedback from previous years, Oumarou Balarabe, president of the Ohio University Fulbright Scholarship Association, said the organization’s sold-out trip to Amish Country is set to take place Saturday with a full itinerary planned.
"With a young group this year, the trip will be the first time many FSA members have met Amish and Mennonite people," Balarabe, a graduate student studying African studies, said. "Curiosity about the unfamiliar lifestyle of Amish people is what’s sparking most of the excitement among those going on the trip."
Balarabe has high hopes that the trip will broaden the student’s horizons as they get to know people in the Amish community and why their lives seem dramatically different from the majority of society.
“I personally come from Africa. I think that part of the surprise is that some people in U.S live more traditionally,” Balarabe said.
Fnu Rohmayanti, a graduate student studying linguistics, is a Fulbright Scholarship Association member attending the event and said she is mostly looking forward to meeting people who are different from her — in addition to riding a horse for the first time.
"Getting to really know and understand a new way of life involves asking many, sometimes difficult questions," Balarabe said.
“With all the technology surrounding them, why do they choose to live the way they are living now, and what is the benefit?” Balarabe said. “It’s important for people of different cultures to experience a different culture because then you can appreciate your own cultural heritage more.”
Living with all the advancements that have come in the 21st century, Rohmayanti said she does not think she could live a life completely disconnected. However, she’s open to the Amish Country changing her mind about that.
To begin the day of Amish culture, the group will watch a film about the local people and the Mennonite lifestyle. Afterward, they will depart for Hershberger Bakery and Farmers Market, where they will watch experienced craftsmen make toys, furniture, rugs and more by hand.
“I think it’s about accepting people’s differences and uniqueness,” Yanti said.
Embracing another community’s differences is only half of the experience, Balarabe said. It’s an opportunity to share your own culture with new people — to find out there may be more similarities than differences.
“I just hope that everyone enjoys the trip and learns something,” Balarabe said. “Yeah, we are so different, but we are more similar than we thought.”