Anna Stehle wasn't ready to leave yet. It was too soon. So she picked up the phone in Argentina and called home to Denver, nearly 6,000 miles away.
"I can't come home. I need more time," she told her parents. Stehle, a student at the University of Washington, was studying abroad and had scheduled to return to the United States in a matter of days. Yet she wanted more time immersed in Argentina, improving her Spanish skills. So instead of returning to the United States, she postponed her flight for five months, moved out of her host family's home, rented an apartment with a couple of students from Buenos Aires and washed dishes at a local café to pay rent. Eventually she picked up a second job teaching English to locals.
Her mom understood because she knew her daughter - who doesn't live life, she absorbs it.
Stehle returned to the United States in January 2012, forever changed by her international experience. She applied for a teaching assistantship through the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs Fulbright Program, hoping for a chance to learn more on the international stage.
Robin Chang is associate director at the Office of Merit, Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards at the University of Washington Center for Experiential Learning and Diversity. Chang assisted Stehle with her application to the Fulbright Program.
"Students from more than 140 countries compete for one of the 1,900 annual grants provided by Fulbright," said Chang. "It's a highly competitive national selection process. Anna's demonstration of previous international experience and a strong ability in teaching and cultural exchange made her a strong applicant."
Stehle would wait almost a year to know whether or not she was accepted into the program. In the meantime, she was putting a more domestic plan into action.
A Noble Experience
Like most Americans, Stehle is only a couple of generations removed from production agriculture. Growing up, she spent weekends and summers on her grandparents' ranch in Meeker, Colo.
"For me, that's where it all got started," she said. "Agriculture has always been present in my life, and I wanted to explore it as a profession."
Stehle applied for and earned a place as a 2013 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture at Noble Research Institute in Ardmore, Okla. More than 100 applicants compete for this opportunity to spend a summer working, learning and researching alongside some of the nation's foremost agricultural experts. Each scholar is treated as a colleague, not an intern, and works closely with a mentor on individual research projects tailored to their interests.
"Being a Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture is not just another summer internship," Stehle said. "You conduct research, work in the field, assist in the consultation program. You experience it all. It will change your perspective on agriculture in profound ways."
As an economics major, Stehle worked with Noble economists on everything from marketing budgets to cost and benefit values for various agricultural operations. She also developed a strong relationship with her mentors. From Noble, Stehle was gaining knowledge and resources that would prepare her for an even greater journey.
Stehle's grandfather passed away on a sunny Monday in the spring of 2013. He was a Fulbright Scholar who had studied physics in Austria. The following morning, Stehle received the news - she had earned a coveted invitation from the Fulbright Program. She would follow in her grand-father's footsteps.
Stehle graduated from the University of Washington in June 2013, then spent the summer at the Noble Research Institute, where she met Steve Swigert, agricultural economist. Swigert, who has been traveling to Uganda to provide agricultural consultation to Watoto Childcare Ministries, offered Stehle a chance to visit the agricultural projects happening in Africa. She jumped at the chance.
Today, Stehle is preparing to spend 2014 in Brazil. Call it coincidence or just plain luck, but she believes it was family who made her next great journey possible. "My biological family has been in the wings looking out for me," she said. "Now I have the Noble family as well. I look to them for guidance as I move forward with new experiences and opportunities in Brazil and graduate school."
Everyone from agricultural consultants to Noble Research Institute President Bill Buckner assisted in preparing Stehle for her time in Brazil, including developing contacts at agricultural universities.
"The Noble Research Institute allowed Anna to make a deeper connection with Brazil," Chang said. "Noble influenced her initial thoughts and connections with the country."
In Brazil, Stehle will teach English to university level students for 20 hours a week and give presentations on American culture as an ambassador for the U.S. She will also develop a research or community involvement project. While she is unsure of her location in Brazil or what her project will be, she is determined to involve agriculture.
"Noble completed my vision for the future," Stehle said. "My reason for working with Noble and Brazil is the motivation to learn. Because of the relationships I developed at Noble, Brazil will be an even greater experience."