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Meeting the World: Melissa Muñoz Agudelo from Columbia

Melissa Muñoz Agudelo, Provided

Agudelo joins in on the tradition of sharing the Clemson spirit and tradition around the world with her Tiger Rag.

The Tiger is proud to continue this series in conjunction with the Office of Global Engagement, which introduces our international community within the Clemson family.

We continue this series with a graduate student from Medellín, Colombia. Melissa Muñoz Agudelo first arrived in Clemson during the fall semester of 2016 to pursue a master’s in plant and environmental sciences. She previously received her bachelor’s degree in agronomy at La Universidad Nacional de Colombia, which translates to The National University of Colombia.

Agudelo was committed to continuing her education in the United States and was fascinated with the idea of coming to Clemson. When the opportunity arose, she applied immediately.

Despite all the draw of the United States, Agudelo was still fearful of uprooting her life and moving to a new country. 

“I must confess that I had moments of fear before coming [to Clemson]. The whole idea of moving to a new country, learning a different culture with language limitations was terrifying,” said Agudelo. “This was the first time that I [had] traveled abroad and it was the first time that I moved that far from my parents and my boyfriend, who is now my husband.” 

She credits her loved ones with giving her the strength and encouragement she needs to keep going throughout this journey. Additionally, she credits her advisors, Dr. James Faust and Dr. Guido Schnabel for their support.

After settling in, Agudelo emphasized her adoration for the campus culture and the people that make it what it is. 

“Clemson is such a wonderful place that has given me friends for life. They have taught and helped me through so much these years,” she said.

Agudelo has finished her master’s degree and is currently working towards her doctorate in plant and environmental sciences, where she is researching practices for managing plant diseases. One of which is botrytis blight, also known as ‘gray mold,’ which impacts roses, creating challenged for growers and wholesalers.

Following the completion of her program, Agudelo would like to become a researcher at a land-grant university in the United States in floriculture pathology. 

When someone arrives in a new place, the cultural exchanges they have can be eye-opening and mutually beneficial for both parties. After living in the U.S. for a few years now, Agudelo has been able to reflect on the cultural differences.

“The cultural diversity that coexists here is quite impressive,” said Agudelo in reference to the way of life here in the United States. She also finds the American celebration of Thanksgiving very interesting.

Agudelo also shared some traditions from back home in Colombia. 

“In Medellín, we have the ‘Feria de las Flores’ or Flowers Festival, which is a week-long celebration about our ‘arrieros,’ a term for hard-working ancestors and ‘silleteros,’ which are people who build and carry wooden structures called ‘silletas,” she said.

During La Feria de las Flores, growers from a nearby town prepare and design artistic floral bouquets. These structures can become very heavy and are carried for several miles. As Agudelo explains, it is symbolic of the hard-working nature of her people, economy and culture.

We asked Agudelo to share with us a phrase from her native language and its meaning in English. She chose, “arrieros somos y en el camino nos encontramos” and described it as being “about reciprocity, and the cycles of life, how you should be nice to other people because you never know the situations that life will give you, in the future, you might need the help of someone that needs your help today.”

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