As part of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD), senior Virgilio Roi Adaptar has spent the past semester at McNeese State University exploring how to use chemistry and microbiology to fight food insecurity as visiting food technology student.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by World Learning, Global UGRAD was founded in 2008 to bring students to the U.S. to experience higher education, develop professional skills and learn about American culture and values.
From Davao City, Philippines, Adaptar is a student at the University of the Philippines, where he says he was inspired to apply for the program by a professor who received a Fulbright scholarship to LSU.
“Back then, I felt a bit lost and didn’t know how I should be making the most out of college,” he says. “So, I decided to give this a shot and worked on my application and eventually I hit the submit button. I’m so grateful I found the courage to apply.”
Once Adaptar learned he would be coming to Lake Charles, he says that he was excited to experience southern hospitality and cuisine firsthand.
“I already knew that every region and every state in the U.S. has its own distinct traditions, characteristics and offerings. People have been as warm and charming as the sun down here and I’m so glad I’ve had a taste of authentic gumbo,” he says.
Adaptar says that McNeese’s degree program in food technology appealed to him because it incorporates many of his interests. “Food technology is focused on solving issues we’re all concerned with, such as food insecurity, food safety and even malnutrition,” he says, “Especially in the Philippines, there are several communities that still struggle with food insecurity and malnutrition. Ultimately, it’s my goal as a food scientist to find the means to feed a growing population, do so sustainably and help combat misconceptions about food and nutrition.”
While there are strong similarities between studying in the U.S. and the Philippines, Adaptar has appreciated the course content differences and the amount of flexibility in scheduling he’s had while at McNeese.
“Back home, you strictly follow the suggestions of the department or the college, while here, I have more freedom to choose what classes I want to take,” he says. “I’m very much interested in microbiology. I’ve taken a class before in the Philippines but it focused more on food microbiology and my class here deals mostly with immunology.
“I’m also taking a nutrition class and a food production class, which have given me perspectives in food and its role in human life, which the curriculum in my home university doesn’t delve much into,” he adds. “Assistant professor of agricultural sciences Geneva Breaux has been very proactive and supportive since my first day of class. She goes the extra mile to ask us how we’re doing and I can really see how passionate she is about teaching and making sure that no one is left behind.”
While at McNeese, he’s also had the chance to participate in the Student Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, as well as help with research projects overseen by associate professor of nutrition and food science Dr. Wannee Tangkham, specifically those dealing with probiotics, which is the focus of Adaptar’s undergraduate thesis.
He’s also enjoyed the community at McNeese and beyond, including the LSU vs. McNeese football game. Though he says he doesn’t really understand all the technicalities of American football, the hype and energy of the crowd were an unmissable spectacle.
Adaptar also connected with the Filipino community in Lake Charles, which, he says, “welcomed me as their own son, brother and nephew.”
Now, as he makes his plans to return to the Philippines to finish his degree, he says that he hopes to work in the food industry in research and development to put his knowledge into practice. But, he adds, he fully intends on applying for a Fulbright scholarship and following in his professor’s footsteps by earning a master’s degree in the U.S.
“Whatever university I am placed at, I’ll always remember McNeese as my first home away from home in America,” he says. “The tight-knit community at McNeese has played a huge part in shaping me as a person, as a future scientist and as a global citizen. I hope that I can manifest McNeese’s mission of ‘changing lives through excellence with a personal touch’ both in my career and in everything I do.”