Editor’s note: Faustine Sonon earned a bachelor’s degree in food science at the University of Georgia. Following is a Q&A with the Oconee County High graduate about his experiences at UGA.

Describe a particularly impactful learning experience that you’ve had at UGA.

“It was definitely my international internship in Thailand during the summer of 2014. As an International Agriculture Certificate student, I had to fulfill an internship abroad as a requirement. I had always wanted to visit Thailand and luckily for me, a spot opened just in time as I was planning for a trip.

“In all honesty, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I stepped foot onto the airplane. I had never traveled by myself abroad, much less lived in another country that didn’t speak my native tongue for two months.

“Little did I know, my lack of knowledge would prove to be extremely beneficial. I learned how to communicate on a more basic level since the language barrier proved to be quite challenging. I learned how to be patient and understand people who had vastly different opinions and upbringings from my own. This was something that no textbook or classroom course could have ever taught me. This was simply learning by human interaction.”

 How did that experience change you or clarify your future plans?

“Prior to my internship abroad, I was very set on finding a position in the local food industry in which I could settle and work in for several years. While that is still very much part of my plan, I plan on doing some extensive traveling before I settle down and find a permanent position in the industry. If I’m lucky enough, I may be able to find a job that will allow me to travel.

“Though my Thailand experience was great, and I learned a great deal about different cultures, I know it was only a small glimpse of what else could be seen and heard from the rest of the world.”

 Who had a big impact on your time at UGA?

“I have worked for the department of food science and technology as a lab assistant under Assistant Professor Anand Mohan. My research focuses on raw chicken pasteurization through radiofrequency heating. Prior to working under Mohan, I had never even heard of radiofrequency heating and the complexity of food safety in the food industry. His guidance through my project has been great and will benefit me in the future as I may one day have a job in the food safety business.

“Outside of the technical aspects of working in the laboratory, Mohan has taught me many valuable lessons that apply to both the workplace and everyday life. One particular lesson has been ingrained in me since I’ve started working for him—to be true to my word. Whether it is a promise to turn in a report by a certain due date or a promise to help a friend move out of an apartment, I should follow through to the best of my ability. I’ve tried to apply this idea to as much of my life as I can and will continue to do so, thanks to Mohan.”

Who are you most grateful to for helping you succeed and reach your goal of graduating? “I am very grateful for my parents for many things, but their support through college surpasses everything thus far. My parents have done everything possible to help me succeed not only academically but also as a person. In my opinion, my parents are the image of kind, smart and caring people. They are the example of the moral character I want to uphold in everyday life.

“Coming from very humble beginnings in the Philippines, they overcame impossible odds and became successful in their respective professions. I aspire to have the same perseverance and boldness in whatever direction life takes me.

“Overall, my parents’ unconditional love and encouragement have been my driving forces through my college career. They have always been there for me, and I know they always will be.”

 What are your plans after graduation?

“I plan to work in the food industry to gain some work experience and then return for graduate school.”