First Class Mum
Silvia Divine has managed to juggle the challenges of getting married and having a baby with her studies to gain a first-class honours degree in Horticulture.
The 29-year-old was also awarded the prestigious Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland Silver Medal and the SRUC Trust Prize for best fourth year student on her course.
Silvia, who is originally from Germany but moved to the UK at the age of 16, chose to study for a second degree at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) after completing a Philosophy and Political Science degree at the University of Edinburgh.
“I had met my (now) husband in Edinburgh and was quite settled,” she said. “My interest in food security and local, especially organic, production of food had been inspired throughout my previous degree, as well as during my time with the First Nations in Canada and while working for the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization in the Hague.
“These experiences highlighted how going through international channels – such as writing alternative reports to the UN – often fails to effect any real change in people’s lives. I decided to go back to university and focus on a subject which could have a more direct impact.
“Horticulture seemed a perfect choice, also supported by my previous interest in growing fruit and vegetables and going foraging.”
She got married in her third year and went part-time in her final year to allow her to spend time with her son Elijah.
“It has been a challenge to combine family commitments with my studies since getting married and then pregnant at the beginning of my third year,” she said.
“After the little one was born, instead of taking a year out I decided to go part-time and to split the fourth year over two years. This meant going back to my studies with a five-week-old baby, which was quite a challenge.
“I will be forever grateful for how incredibly understanding, supportive and flexible SRUC has been throughout this time.”
In addition to her studies, Silvia was able to fulfil her passion for gardening, by making use of vacant student plots over the summer holidays to grow cut flowers and vegetables.
During her first year, she also did two short work experience placements at Pentland Plants, in Loanhead, and Hyning Monastery, near Lancaster.
“My first placement showed me how taxing it is on the body and mind to stand at a conveyor belt and carry out the same movement of sticking cuttings over and over,” she said. “My second placement was much more rewarding, gaining hands-on experience of rebuilding and maintaining historical grounds and growing vegetables and fruit for the convent and guests.”
Looking to the future, she is planning to continue developing her Divine Plant Care business designing, building and maintaining office plant displays, including interior green walls. She is also looking at opportunities to work as a therapeutic gardener.
“Other than that, I’m not making any big plans for now, but instead am taking some time for reflection and to focus on family before venturing to new shores,” she said