Program of Study: Forest Operations
Country of Exchange: Stellenbosch, South Africa
Where did you do your internship?
I was employed in Stellenbosch, South Africa by the Department of Forest and Wood Science at Stellenbosch University. I am enrolled in the co-op program at UBC and obtained the job through their listings.
The hiring procedure involved a group of student applicants which was whittled down to make a short list, out of which two students were selected to compete in an interview process. Although both of us were very qualified, I had the advantage in industry experience which was the deciding factor in my employer’s decision.
What did your job entail?
My main job was being a research assistant, although I also performed as a personal assistant as well. There are two major research projects I was working on:
1. The applicability of a terrain classification standard for South African forestry by using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) to examine the productivity and efficiency of rubber tired skidders, both cable and grapple.
2. The evaluation of a road quality classification standard for South African forestry by examining GIS data from logging trucks.
What was the highlight of your international experience?
The highlight was living in and learning a new culture. The best thing about international internships is that you are not a tourist; you are a semi-permanent resident, allowing you the ability to learn the intricacies of the culture which a tourist might not have time to notice. In South Africa I learned to enjoy watching rugby, grown an appreciation for their braai (their version of barbecue), and have seen the complex relationships between people identifying themselves as black, coloured, Afrikaans or English.
The reverse is also true, experience abroad makes you appreciate all the luxuries you took for granted in Canada, whether it be little things like being able to watch a hockey game or more serious matters like security and equality.
Aspirations after graduation
I am currently undecided about what I will do after graduation. I feel it would be prudent to go straight into the BC forest industry for a number of years and obtain my designation as either a professional forester or engineer. However, I am also temped to travel before settling into a career, especially to Japan to teach English. Another appealing option is to find work abroad in the forest industry, particularly in South America.