FLORIDA – When Manuel Lopez Parrondo began his International Forestry Fellows Program six-month internship with the National Forests in Florida in October 2017, he had no idea that he would get to meet Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue at the Forest Supervisor’s Office in Tallahassee, Florida. The chance meeting in mid-December far exceeded Manuel’s expectations for having opportunities to engage with USDA leaders through his program. Along with his FS colleagues and mentors, Manuel learned firsthand about the Secretary’s vision for USDA and expectations for superior customer service.
Manuel, a forest engineering student at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in Spain is one of 13 international students from Germany, Spain, and Sweden selected for the IFFP, an experiential training exchange coordinated by the International Visitor Program. Initiated in 2016 as a partnership between USFS host units, universities abroad, and the International Programs office, the IFFP promotes the exchange of technical expertise, international engagement of future leaders, and broadening exposure to different perspectives and practices around the world.
As an IFFP host, the NFF Ecosystem Program is offering Manuel a broad variety of experiences while integrating him into their projects, office, and community. “We have gained an energetic, multi-skilled, and multi-talented team member for six months,” said Manuel’s host, Marcia Pfleiderer, NFF Natural Resources Officer. “Manuel has been involved with GIS, red-cockaded woodpecker monitoring, surveying, logo design for a special project, prescribed fire training, the Florida Wildlife Festival, a springs management field tour, office administration, and infamous FS potlucks. It has been a learning opportunity both for Manuel and the National Forests in Florida,” she said.
“The program is truly a mutual exchange with mutual benefits,” said Brenda Dean, International Visitor Program Coordinator. “Forest Service staff get to exchange ideas, enhance their leadership and mentoring skills, and gain lasting international friendships and professional networks. The international students gain valuable skills from their training with USFS experts, as well as a broader understanding of the United States.”
In 2018, twelve FS units will host International Forestry Fellows in 9 different states. You can reach the IFFP via email for more information about the program.