Welcome to International Education Week in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department at the University of Florida! We’re excited to highlight some of our exceptional international students. In this series, learn about their experiences as international students and how those experiences have shaped their approaches to academics, research, and more.
Today, we are pleased to talk with Santiago Cardenas Pinto, a second-year graduate student completing an MS in food science with a minor in horticulture. In his research, he analyzes the quality of Florida-grown hops in hopes of expanding crop options for Florida farmers.
Where have you called home?
I was born in Bogota D.C., Colombia, but I was raised in a small town about one hour away called Fusagasuga, Cundinamarca. I went back to Bogota to start my university studies when I was 16. Unfortunately, I had to leave the country with my siblings and parents and lived in Quito, Ecuador for almost a year before we finally arrived at what we now call home in Jacksonville, Florida.
Where is your favorite place in your home country?
A small town in Boyacá called “Villa de Leyva” has always had a special place in my heart. It is a very quiet little town in which there are not a lot of party bars, but there are a lot of farms and glamping sites around. I enjoyed horse riding and hiking through the area’s beautiful lakes and mountain sites.
Is there any connection between what you are studying, your plans after graduation, and your home country?
Since I was at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (2010) (National University of Colombia) studying food products such as essential oils extracted using supercritical fluids, I have always been intrigued by the art and science of making craft beer. I completed a certification in beer design from the Colombian Society of Chemical Engineering in 2013. Since then, I have devoted my research and professional career to fermented beverages, mostly focused on craft beer production.
My thesis research project is focused on the quality evaluation, through analytical chemistry and sensory science, of Florida-grown hops under controlled environment conditions. Hops are one of the essential ingredients of beer production, and almost 98% of hops harvested are solely used for beer production.
What skills have you gained by traveling, living, and studying internationally? How do you think they will help you in the future?
Having an open mind when arriving in a new place and respecting the culture has always been very helpful and has actually opened a lot of doors for me. For example, when I travel to a country where I don’t speak the language, I always try to learn very basic and routine phrases so I can show respect and interest in the culture of the country. People have always responded to this with kindness and a big smile. I believe this attitude will help me feel at home no matter how far I am from my home country.
How can international education help people on both an individual and societal level?
I have learned a great deal of different values and customs from all different places that have helped me be a better person. Similarly, people from other countries have told me that they’ve learned from something I shared about life back home. International education is a key ingredient that every student hopefully can experience. It broadens one’s perspective on education systems and methods and on the world as well.
Check out our other features on exceptional international students for International Education Week!
Thank you to FSHN Academic Specialist Chelsea Patrick for gathering student responses.