This past week I had the opportunity to be in Regina, Saskatchewan for the Agriculture Excellence Conference and the Nuffield Canada AGM. As I was sitting listening to the presentations at the Nuffield meeting I was reflecting on the crazy journey I had taken over the last 12 months.
In November 2014 I traveled to Montreal to be introduced (initiated) into the Nuffield Canada group. A few months later I headed to France for the Contemporary Scholars Conference where I had the opportunity to meet and interact with scholars from all over the world. And then it was off on a whirlwind adventure through Scotland, England, New Zealand and Australia to research my topic of Agriculture Career Education. You can read about some of my adventures on past blog posts of this site.
I still have more travelling to do in 2016, and a report and presentation to deliver next November. Yet I have learned so much in this first year and I felt it was worth capturing. Some of the things I have learned are about agriculture, others about travel, and others about life in general.
I hope that this resonates with Nuffield Scholars past and present, and maybe inspires some of you to consider applying for this incredible opportunity. For more information on Nuffield Canada visit www.nuffield.ca
1. Make plans, not excuses...
In early 2014 when I was thinking of applying for a Nuffield Scholarship, I had a huge list of reasons why I should probably wait to apply another year. I was still early in my career, I didn't have enough experience in the ag sector, maybe my idea for a topic isn't important enough, I don't have enough money ...
While I was excited about the opportunity, I'll admit I was also scared about the challenges it presented. I threw around the idea in my head and finally asked my husband what he thought. He was in New Zealand at the time (working a wine vintage in Central Otago) and I hadn't seen him for a few weeks. He didn't even hesitate when I described the program, and encouraged me to apply.
So I sent off a few emails to Nuffield Canada alumni and had some amazing conversations with Karen Daynard and Clayton Robins. Both of them also wholeheartedly encouraged me to apply.
At that point I realized that I needed to stop making excuses and start making a plan. Too often we get overwhelmed by the logistics or the effort which will be needed to address a situation.But we can't let negativity and uncertainty rule our lives. Identify the opportunity, set an objective and make a plan.
Note: *For those of you considering applying for a Nuffield Scholarship - make sure you have a good idea and some solid rationale around why your proposed study topic is important. This is where a good plan is extremely helpful!
2. But don't over plan!
As I mentioned earlier, it was about a year ago that I was in Montreal getting introduced to the Nuffield program. When I got back home from that conference, I started to do some detailed planning around where I was going to visit and who I was going to meet. The obsessive side of me created a detailed itinerary with my meeting dates and locations so that I could make the most of my time away.
While having a plan helped in some respects, I quickly realized that being too structured actually meant that I missed out on some opportunities. There is definitely something to be said for spontaneity. In fact, while I was on my trip I accepted a last minute invitation to take in the New Zealand Young Farming Competition. While it meant that I didn't get to my next destination until 2am, I had the chance to hear 8 young farmers speak about agriculture while enjoying a gala dinner! I was certainly glad that I didn't stick to my plan that night.
I think that we can all benefit from letting go of control sometimes and just going where the wind takes us. Sometimes the lack of a plan leads to the most interesting path.
3. Keep an open mind
Perhaps one of the most important lessons I have learned so far from my Nuffield scholarship is to always keep an open mind.Travelling can do wonders to show you how much you (don't) know about a country and its people. By keeping an open mind you are able to benefit from the experiences of those around you.
As well, it is important to be ready and willing to see things from a different perspective. There are always multiple ways to approach a problem. I have heard several Nuffield Scholars share examples of things they learned in other countries which they had never considered applying in their own situations back home.
We should never shut our doors to new conversations. Albert Einstein said that "the measure of intelligence is the ability to change." During my travels I have had some intense conversations with people where our opinions clashed about a certain topic. These types of conversations happen all the time in our everyday lives and we have to view them as an opportunity to gain understanding. When opinions are challenged it can cause you to re-examine why you thought a certain way. It presents an opportunity to strengthen your resolve or adjust your thinking.
So keep an open mind, and an open door to conversation. Consider perspectives in shades of gray, not black and white. And above all, believe that there is always more to learn.
I was raised as the seventh generation on a mixed livestock farm near Guelph, Ontario. Currently I am living in the beautiful Okanagan region of BC, where my husband works for Blue Mountain Winery. I maintain my close ties to Ontario agriculture through my job with AgScape (Ontario Agri-Food Education Inc.) and hope to bring a national, and global perspective to agricultural issues.