Born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Agriculture student Christine Ellsworth had no plans to move away from the place she has always called home.
With no background in farming whatsoever, Christine always had her eye on studying physiotherapy. It wasn’t until she realized her heart wasn’t in it that she began to look elsewhere, stumbling upon Dal’s Faculty of Agriculture.
“I knew nothing about farming or agriculture in general really when I came here, I had never heard of 4-H and I was pretty new to almost every experience, I milked and did barn chores for the very first time here in my first year,” Christine laughs.
Three years later, she hasn’t looked back. Now set to graduate in 2020, it was the opportunities made available to her through the Faculty of Agriculture that helped Christine to excel in a program that was otherwise foreign to her.
“Dal AC is so unique and provides amazing experiences,” Christine explains. “I believe that all starts with the very real concern that all professors and staff have for every student. Because of their caring nature, I've made a home.”
A partnership that inspires
Earlier this spring, Christine was one of 51 students to participate in the foundational year of the RBC Agricultural Internship Program.
RBC announced an investment of $250,000 as part of RBC’s Future Launch Program which aims to empower Canadian youth with the job experience, networking opportunities and skills development to enhance their chance of career success after graduation. Combined with classroom study, the 12-week internships enable students to gain the skills necessary to become knowledgeable professionals in the agricultural field.
“The internship program really allows students a chance to dip their toes into the working world,” Christine says. “It provides opportunities we wouldn’t have otherwise. The growth and experience that the internship program provides students can’t be matched by simply sitting in a classroom.”
Through RBC’s Agricultural Internship Program, Christine completed an internship in Newfoundland at Country Ribbon Inc., a company that supplies Newfoundland and Labrador with high-quality, fresh and individually fresh frozen chicken products.
“In this time of unprecedented economic and technological change in the agriculture sector, Canada’s future prosperity will depend on our young people and their ability to lead us forward," said Bruce Young, RBC vice-president, commercial Ffnancial services, Cape Breton and Eastern Nova Scotia, who graduated from what was then the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Economics and Business.
"Through this great partnership with the Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture, more than 300 youth will have the opportunity to develop the skills, knowledge and experiences necessary to drive agriculture innovation and productivity.”
As one of two interns from Dal AC, Christine was hired as a research student tasked with two projects that investigated areas in which the company could improve their practices. Not only did she conduct research to support the objectives of the company, but throughout the term Christine was presented with opportunities to work in different areas of the company.
“One of my main projects was to look at the economic and nutritive aspects of making soybean meal on site, rather than having it shipped in,” Christine says. “The second project was to look at ways to better deal with waste, such as manure and deceased birds.”
Christine explains that throughout the entire internship, she was constantly applying her classroom knowledge that she acquired through Dal AC. She also found that upon completion of her internship, she is now applying knowledge learned through her work experience to the classroom.
“This internship experience allowed me to improve, both academically and professionally,” Christine explains. “I learned how to work hard and to work towards what I want. I gained knowledge as well as experience. It allowed me to be introduced into a community I didn’t have access to previously.”
A great learning experience
While the program was a truly valuable experience, Christine certainly faced some challenges that are common amongst students working full time in their field for the first time. Being able to face these challenges though, prepares students for the workforce.
“The biggest adjustment for me was not being guided 24/7,” Christine explains. “I didn’t have someone always holding my hand and saying, ‘okay do this next.’ This was very intimidating at first but luckily, I never made any serious mistakes! The company was also helpful in that they provided guidance when needed but it certainly wasn’t a dynamic I was used to. However, I quickly adjusted and I'm grateful for this challenge because it really helped me come out of my shell.”
As Christine focuses on the last year and a half of her degree, she is forever grateful for the opportunities the Dal AC have presented her.
“The AC campus is phenomenal,” Christine smiles. “You are a face and a person to the professors and not just a number like at many other campuses. If you have a farming or agricultural background then great, but if you don’t there’s no reason to be intimidated. I was completely clueless when I got here and now it’s certainly a place I call home.”
Christine completed a video of her experience at Country Ribbon Inc.
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