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Cultivating connections from Italy to Canada

Posted by Stephanie Rogers on May 7, 2024 in News
Andrea Grigolon
Andrea Grigolon

By Anastasiia Merkureva

Andrea Grigolon boarded a plane from Italy to Canada in Grade 12, expecting to spend a year abroad while improving his English. A few years later he is not only fluent but excelling in the Canadian academic world.

Grigolon will soon be graduating from the Faculty of Agriculture with two degrees: a Bachelor of Agriculture in International Food Business from Dalhousie University and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Aeres University in the Netherlands. Both degrees were earned through the International Food Business program.

When Grigolon first moved from Vejano, a small Italian village, to rural Nova Scotia, he found warmth and hospitality in his host mom, who introduced him to the beauty of Canada.

“I lived with Donna Deyoung, she's 69 this year but she’s very youthful in spirit. She’s always on the go. We’d always do something active together: take a trip to Halifax, go four-wheeling, ice fishing, hunting, and much more. She's very special to me, and her grandkids call me brother now. So that tells you a lot, right?”

Atlantic hospitality, opportunities for the new generation, and nature impressed Grigolon so much he decided to stay. Soon he enrolled in the International Food Business program on the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus, which was a perfect academic fit.

“The international experience of going to the Netherlands and getting two degrees was one of the main factors for choosing this program, as well as the chance of learning about entrepreneurship, food supply chain management, and the financial classes."

His involvement with his family's organic poultry farm also played a role in shaping his career path.

“I’ve always loved farming. I love the farming lifestyle and growing up I developed a very deep interest in understanding how the supply chain and value chain of food work.”

Grigolon cherished the community fostered on campus in Truro. He loved being surrounded by individuals deeply interested in agriculture, and immersed in a network of like-minded peers.

He embraced the chance to learn something new every day and connected with experts in the food industry. One of the most impactful connections was Dr. Tasha Richard, his advanced entrepreneurship professor.

“I want to open my own business in the future, and that was the class that helped me the most to understand how to set an entrepreneurial mindset and how not to pivot at the first problem,” said Grigolon.

In his fourth year, Dr. Richard also supervised his thesis “Nova Scotia consumers’ acceptance of the Mediterranean diet.”

“As soon as you meet Andrea, you know he is someone who is determined, earnest, driven, smart, and most importantly kind,” Richard shared about her student. “He has the ability to make his fellow classmates smile, and there is nothing he wouldn’t do to help either his peers or those in the community. I always knew when Andrea was in the class there would be a lot of great discussion and debate, and we would all be that much better for it. He is a bright light within the Dalhousie community.”

Grigolon has represented his program at multiple conferences. In 2023, he spoke at the Food & Beverage Atlantic Conference, highlighting the evolution of food understanding, industry focuses, and celebrating industry achievements. In 2024, he took the stage at the ACORN conference, showing how his family's organic poultry operation in Italy addressed current agriculture challenges and provided an overview of the experiential learning opportunities at the Truro campus.

Throughout his studies, Grigolon was supported by multiple scholarships and bursaries including an entrance scholarship. In 2023 he received the Rotary Club of Truro, International student bursary which provided him “with financial support, but has also served as a tremendous source of motivation and encouragement.” He was a Dean's List honoree every year he studied in Canada.

During Convocation Grigolon will receive the University Medal in International Food Business for achieving the highest GPA in his program as well as the Dr. Gerry W. Friars Undergraduate Research Award.

Grigolon enjoyed introducing Italian culture to his Canadian friends during the year in Europe and worked in Germany and Portugal for two summers. After graduation, Grigolon plans to return home to Italy, spend some time with his family and work with his dad. After this, he is planning on working in Europe for a year or two, and then he would like to open his own business.

“Thanks to the International Food Business program, I’ve met my girlfriend in the Netherlands. She's from Portugal, and our dream is to open our business together.”

When asked for advice for new students to the program, he said: “Keep an open mind, ask lots of questions... And yeah, just be willing to put everything you have in the program, and you'll get everything back with interest. You'll definitely love it.”

Agriculture convocatoin will be held Tuesday, May 21 at 2:00 p.m. in the Langille Atheltic Centre. More details here.