Australia: Alice on an internship on a ranch!

Australia: Alice on an internship on a ranch!

Today, on the blog, we welcome Alice, 22 years old, in her 3rd year of the agricultural engineering school at INP Purpan in Toulouse. She tells us about her internship in Australia, for 3 months, in a ranch of 3300 cattle, not far from a small town in Queensland called Theodore, located exactly 3 hours from the East coast and 6 hours by car in the North West of Brisbane.

Who are you?

I have been passionate about horses since I was 8 years old and more generally about the environment and wide open spaces. Sport is also a big part of my life and I practice running, weight training and rugby on a regular basis. I have been used to going on camp trips with groups of my age since I was 14 years old, thanks to one of my parent’s company committee; therefore, travel is also a big part of my life and I love discovering new landscapes and cultures.

Alice stayed in Australia for 3 and a half months from mid-June to October, including a 2-3 week road trip!

In what context did you leave?

I left because of my studies. The INP Purpan is a school with many internships and opportunities for an experience abroad. For example, at the end of the second year, a 3-month internship in an Anglo-Saxon family is compulsory in order to take the TOEIC exam in the third year.

What did your internship consist of?

My internship consisted of discovering the functioning of an agrosystem in a foreign country in order to diversify our knowledge, try a new experience and enrich our training. My main missions were to take care of the animals (cattle and working horses: feeding, vaccination, assistance to veterinary care), to move the cattle from one paddock to another (a practice called mustering and essential to my activity). In short, I lived a unique experience that allowed me to reconcile my passion for horses, my love of the great outdoors, and Australia.

Why Australia?

Passionate about the animal world and the environment since I was a child, I have always dreamed of going to Australia for its diversity of flora and fauna, both on land and at sea. As I grew up, this desire never diminished and the wish to discover the culture and the various landscapes increased tenfold my desire to go there. So, when I saw that internships were available in Australia, I knew right away that I would go there!

What was the outcome of this stay?

The experience was extremely enriching, I progressed enormously in the English language and when I came back I could express myself freely and understand almost everything that was said to me (which was absolutely not the case at the beginning of the training course! ). I also learned how to manage because although people are very welcoming, the cowboy culture wants you to be perfectly autonomous and resistant (no need to stop working because of a muscle tear), that’s what I got from my experience in Queensland! The culture is incredible! Before this experience, I thought that these towns full of cowboys in checkered shirts, hats, belts, and smooth leather boots and cigarettes rolled to their lips, only existed in old westerns…and yet! This culture really exists and although my teachers were far from this stereotype, it was enough to go to the surrounding villages (40 minutes drive at least), to realize that such a civilization is real.

Did you go alone?

Indeed, I went alone for this internship, but on the other hand we were 54 students (among my class of 200) on the Australian territory. I joined 4 friends for a road-trip previously organized at the end of my internship which I will talk about in a future article.

First time so far? A total change of scenery?

It was my first time in Australia but not my first time so far away since I had gone to Hawaii when I was 17 years old. Although it is a “new” country, I absolutely felt disoriented, the Australian bush is like nothing I have ever seen before.

Did you encounter any difficulties?

To be completely honest, the first month was extremely difficult because the language barrier causes great difficulties in understanding the work and misunderstandings. You have to really hang in there and keep trying and that’s when the experience becomes beautiful.

Did you stay at a local’s house?

I didn’t stay in a home, strictly speaking, because I was staying in an outbuilding with 4 rooms, a common room and a bathroom with 3 other employees. But my internship masters welcomed me very well indeed!

What about the climate in Australia?

Australia being a huge country, there are actually different climates. Where I was, and during the time I was there (June to August), it was winter. It is a temperate tropical climate and the least we can say is that it is a winter that is nothing like the European winter. The first two weeks it was very cold (cold and dry) where the temperature in the morning was 0/1°C but in the afternoon it could be 12°C/13°C. The rest of the time the weather was incredible (3 days of rain in 3 months) with very mild temperatures ranging from 15 to 25°C during the day! Sometimes we even went swimming in lakes with the horses on the weekends.

What did you think of the Australians?

I found the Australians very nice although I had some difficulties integrating at the beginning because of the language barrier. During my internship, I made a real friend, Erin, with whom I am still in contact and who I dream of seeing again one day in France or at her home in Australia! They are lovely people, good-humored and relaxed, life there, whether in Cairns or Sydney is peaceful and you feel a great serenity and confidence when you walk in the streets of the big cities.

Any anecdotes to tell us?

I had a bad experience with a bull who, when I was vaccinating him, threw himself on my arm (then stuck between him and the iron fence) which then earned me emergency X-rays and a nice pain for 3 days! The experience itself with the bull was painful but the experience with the French insurances was much worse, the incident took place on July 14th and the insurances had still not taken in charge the expenses in December… Another rather nice anecdote concerns the Australian fauna, I had been told to be wary of snakes but in winter I only met a few, but I was really scared when a mygale came to stay in our toilet and suddenly disappeared! And no, the myth of the giant spiders is not a myth! As far as traditions are concerned, nothing shocking or very striking since they are pretty much the same as ours.

Do you plan to go back to Australia?

Now that I’ve gone there on a working holiday visa, my biggest dream is to go back and try to get some work experience in agronomy if the opportunity arises. It is really a country where I could see myself living and having experiences while I am young. If I were to go back I would go back to the East Coast but I would also visit the South with Melbourne and Tasmania as well as the North of Cairns.

Finally, a word to other students who are hesitating to embark on this adventure?

I would advise anyone who has the opportunity to use a working holiday visa for at least 6 months to go to Australia. It is an incredible country with unforgettable experiences and I know many people who never wanted to leave the country. The reasons that should encourage them to go are above all the taste of travel, the discovery of new culture and adventure. Also, it is more and more frequent that young people who don’t know where they stand in their studies go on a working holidays visa in Australia or New Zealand, such an experience will allow them to acquire a lot of maturity and autonomy as well as to take a step back on things. They can come back with clearer ideas from their different experiences in Australia and this kind of experience brings a real added value on a CV.