Resilience abroad inspires student to pursue career in Agriculture

25 JANUARY 2024

Resilience abroad inspires student to pursue career in Agriculture

Growing up on a property just outside the rural New South Wales town of Cobar instilled a lifelong passion for agriculture in Georgina Whiteman.

This passion is well on its way to becoming Georgina’s dream career, as she nears the completion of her fifth and final year of a Bachelor of Agriculture majoring in Livestock Management at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga.

“Agriculture runs in my blood, I fell in love with it all at a young age growing up on my family farm and ever since then, I knew it was the career for me,” she said.

Georgina was one of 13 Charles Sturt University students who travelled to the southeast Asian country of Timor-Leste as part of the Agriculture, Forestry and Livestock Education program funded by the New Columbo Plan.

“I applied for the Timor-Leste program because it seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, something I was not ever going to experience anywhere else,” she said.

“To experience rural development and agriculture in a way you wouldn’t be able to do as a tourist was incredible.”

During the two-week immersive program across August and September in 2023, students gained insights into agricultural production and sustainable living in the Asia-Pacific region by engaging with various industries and livelihood activities such as cropping, forestry, fisheries and livestock.

Georgina said witnessing how agriculture is practiced and the challenges and opportunities the sector has in Timor-Leste was eye-opening.

“Being able to visit historical sites and seeing the impact both colonisation and Indonesian occupation still have today was so impactful,” she said.

It was this history which proved most inspiring, painting a picture of incredible resilience.

“Despite all the hardships they have faced, they are still so kind, welcoming and generous,” Georgina said.

“It was awe-inspiring. I was amazed by how innovative they are, they just made do with what they had and found a way to make it work, and I think we can all learn from this.”

In fact, resilience is something Georgina has mastered in her own life.

“Throughout my life, I have suffered from mental illness which eventually affected my university studies, so I dropped down to a part-time student doing two or three subjects a semester,” she said.

“I have never given up on my dream though, and now I only have two subjects left to finish my degree.

“For anyone out there who suffers from a mental illness, you can achieve your dreams, you can attend university, you just have to persevere.”

Senior Lecturer in Human Geography in the Charles Sturt School of Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences, Dr Jennifer Bond, also attended the trip and encouraged everyone to apply for these types of opportunities.

“The Timor-Leste trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for both the students and myself as we were able to explore agriculture and rural development there in a way that no tourist can do,” Dr Bond said.

“The trip included high-level meetings in Dili and farm tours in the regions to explore agriculture at different scales.

“However, more critically, the trip included visits to key cultural and historical sites such as the Chega! Exhibition, the Timorese Resistance Archive Museum and Balibo, so that students could see the current agricultural context holistically in terms of Timor-Leste’s past.”

The experience has laid a sturdy foundation as Georgina prepares to enter her career beyond university.

“I would like to work as a livestock extension officer or in ruminant health, but I’m still trying to figure it out,” she said.

“But I do know that in the future, if given the opportunity, I would love to work in developing countries like Timor-Leste in livestock health and sustainable development.”

Charles Sturt Global programs give students an international experience as part of their degree. From a six to 12-month exchange at an overseas university, to short-term study, faculty-led programs, internships or work placements, there are overseas opportunities to suit every student. 

For more information, visit the Charles Sturt website here or find us on Instagram and Facebook @charlessturtglobal  

ENDS


Media Note:

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Jessica McLaughlin at Charles Sturt Media on 0430 510 538 or via news@csu.edu.au

PHOTO: Georgina Whiteman and her fellow Charles Sturt peers spent time with local Timorese communities.

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