Lincoln University agriculture student Rachael Hoogenboom reports on life in tertiary education with the disruption of Covid-19.

My 2020 began working as a crop inspector for Asure Quality in Canterbury, a job which I absolutely loved. I spent my days driving around the beautiful Canterbury region in a company car to a variety of farms where I would walk through seed crop paddocks, searching for any contaminants and identifying weed species.

This was an amazing opportunity to meet and communicate with farmers and working professionals, often putting me in a position where I was giving them advice or direction into future actions with their crops that season. In February I was enjoying the sun in Wanaka spending time with friends and family. I even managed to make a trip back home to the Hawke’s Bay to celebrate my 21st birthday, and before returning to Canterbury spent a week being a personal tour guide to my Southland boyfriend Cameron, showing him around parts of the North Island.

By March I had settled into my new flat in Lincoln, launched myself back into the lecture theatres and was ready to tackle my final year of university.

My final year papers include a few which are very different to the ones normally seen on my timetable. A new topic for me this semester is focused towards society, culture and the environment and how these factors function together.

At the end of March we have all had rather a major curve ball thrown at us! A week before Lincoln students were supposed to be on our mid-semester holidays, New Zealand went into lockdown aimed at reducing the spread of Covid-19.

Some students saw this as an opportunity to get all their assignments completed in the first week, others raced home to get into work on the family farm. Many others going to regions where they would fill the employment gaps from international workers.

I’m not one of those, however, and chose to continue living at my flat. I was joined by my younger sister Joanna who has had a rather interrupted start to university. Joanna not being able to resist my three years of stories and fun at Lincoln, has moved down to study a Bachelor of Environmental Policy and Planning. I know this is a Country-Wide beef edition, but to be honest the only beef that I’ve had anything to do with so far during this lockdown is with Joanna, as we haven’t spent more than a week together in the same house for two years. Although I can’t complain because it’s fabulous to have another sister with me in the South Island and we do have a lot of fun.

While Christchurch provided us with some very mixed weather, Joanna and I didn’t let it confine us indoors. We have spent a lot of our time on the walking trails around Lincoln township and checking out the new subdivisions.

The kitchen was generally occupied with either of us whipping up some yummy baking goods, Joanna was lucky enough to have a few cooking lessons with me on how to cook for a flat, she’s definitely missing mum’s quality home cooking. This all sounds rather relaxing doesn’t it, but I hadn’t forgotten that I’m a student with plenty of university work to do. An interesting assignment I’m working on is a property investment, where I’m incorporating a free-range chicken farm for the production of eggs into a dairy farm system. Watch this space, the farmers on my selected property may just love this idea!

2020 definitely hasn’t quite brought the chance to get out and experience possible career pathways or the fun, relaxing final year of uni I was hoping for but as it ticks over into May, there are many more months of great opportunities to come. I am absolutely eager and excited for the job-searching process and to take my next step within the agricultural industry.

Lastly, I’d like to say a great big thumbs up to the agricultural industry and every single individual within it, for feeding, employing and supporting New Zealand at such a difficult and unprecedented time. It’s definitely a special feeling to be involved in an industry the world cannot do without.