Globally grown: From Feilding to the Netherlands and back again

Friday 9 February 2024

Alex Dickson’s undergraduate degree looked a little different to most, as she spent the middle of her three years of study at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Alex with her family during graduation.

Last updated: Friday 9 February 2024

After discovering an interest in agriculture at Feilding High School, Alex enrolled in a Bachelor of Science majoring in Agricultural Science at Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University in 2015. When she was about two months into her studies, she heard about the Student Exchange Programme and immediately enquired.

“I spent the rest of that year working out how I could study abroad. Peter Kemp was the head of department at the time and when I met with him to discuss whether to go for six or 12 months, he said that if I was already considering 12 months to just do it. Massey made my transition to and from Wageningen seamless and I will be forever grateful that I was encouraged to go for a full year.”

Wageningen is a town two hours from Amsterdam by train. The university is known to be world-leading in the fields of agriculture, forestry and food and nutrition research. Massey and Wageningen share a long-standing history of collaboration, beginning in 1985.

Alex says her time at Wageningen was truly amazing.

“The university is culturally diverse, which made group projects interesting as everyone brought experience and learning from their home countries which allowed for robust discussion and the development of unique solutions.”

“I met wonderful people, studied interesting topics like aquaculture, organic agriculture and food law, and spent any spare time and money travelling around Europe. Wageningen has a building with an indoor jungle set up with tables for studying, surrounded by trees and water. It was the most relaxing place to study!”

Following her year abroad, Alex returned to Massey to complete the final year of her degree.

“Completing a Bachelor of Science meant I had a lot of flexibility in the courses I could take throughout my degree, at both institutions, which meant when I returned I was able to study immunology alongside biological evolution and soil science, which kept my studies really mixed and varied.”

Alex moved into work after finishing her BSc, securing a position at Ballance Agri-nutrients where she spent five years working in sustainable nutrient management, before moving into a Project Management role at LandWISE in Hastings 18 months ago. After working for three years, she decided to enrol in part time postgraduate study and is now working towards a Master of Environmental Management with Massey.

“I work full-time so am studying part-time by distance. I always wanted to do a master’s and I’m really glad I took some time away from study to decide what I wanted to study next. I was able to work out that I’m really interested in the complex interactions that make managing our natural environment so challenging and so important. This degree aligns nicely with my current area of work and is a perfect fit for me.”

Alex says she is thankful to have a supportive employer who sees her studies as professional development and allows her the flexibility to fit everything in.

“I am genuinely very proud of where I am right now. My partner and I purchased our first home two years ago, I have a cool job in an industry that I’m passionate about, I’m studying a topic that really interests me and I am in a position where I can do lots of cool stuff outside of work. I am feeling very excited about what my life and career will look like over the next few years.”

In her spare time, Alex is in the midst of training for the upcoming Hawke’s Bay half marathon. She also enjoys spending time walking up hills that lead to nice views and is very passionate about her garden and growing vegetables and flowers to share with friends and family.

If she could pass on one lesson she’s learnt from life so far, Alex says it would be that it’s just as important to work out what you don’t want to do as it is to work out what you do want to do. She also would advise current and prospective university students that the time they spend at university will seem so fleeting, so not to wish it away just because things seem hard at the time.

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