From Spray Tans to Crop Spraying

Katie with a lambSRUC Edinburgh Campus Officer Katie Dubarry took the leap from working in the beauty industry to studying for a degree in Agriculture at SRUC. Cultivate finds out from Katie what drove her decision and what makes SRUC a great place to study.

Why did you choose to study Agriculture?

I found myself on the cusp of my 30th birthday, at the end of my maternity leave. For the last 10 years I’d been working in the beauty industry, both in France (where I trained) and the UK. But I wanted to do something new, something exciting where I could feel like I was making a difference to the world we live in. I was interested in self-sufficiency, and how the choices we make affect the planet and those around us. I also have a passion for the fibre arts, particularly working with natural fibres such as wool. So, I had this vague vision of working in harmony with the landscape and animals, helping create a more sustainable food and clothing system.

Although that seems very airy-fairy now, I also realised I had no experience with any of this and needed to learn the basics! That’s where I thought about going back to college.

What made you choose SRUC?

In the first instance it was simply the accessibility. I looked up the open days online and went along to Oatridge campus. I didn’t really know what to expect but the teaching staff I spoke to were so encouraging. When the lecturer said, ‘Don’t worry, the first week we’ll teach you how to turn a sheep!’, I was in! The fact there is a farm on site where I could learn how to do all the essential practical skills you need in farming was a big draw. Even though I wasn’t from a farming background, I had somewhere I could go and work, without having to worry if I made a mistake.

Articulating to Edinburgh was an easy choice. My eyes had been opened to the very wide world of agriculture, particularly the scientific aspects. And doing the paperwork to ‘move up’ from HNC level to the degree course was really simple thanks to the staff support.

What have been your highlights from studying at SRUC?

Seeing Prof. Temple Grandin speak at RIB, she was amazing! I am thinking about specialising into animal welfare as I go on through my studies, and to hear her speak after reading so much of her work in the area was totally inspiring! I am so grateful to have these sorts of opportunities at college.

Katie Dubarry AwardThere are some other highlights from this year too, I received the RHASS medal for best 2nd year student, and earlier this year I won the CARAS award at the LANTRA Learner of the Year ceremony. For both of these I was nominated by the teams at Edinburgh and Oatridge respectively, and it means a lot to me that they put my name forward.

What do you want to do after you complete your course/what are you doing now?

I would like to go on to postgraduate study with SRUC. I’m not fixed on a particular job role right now. I just want to keep learning and look at what opportunities open up to me in the future.

Any particular obstacles you have overcome?

It’s a constant challenge being a student parent. Juggling the demands of my course with family life is very difficult, but we seem to manage! I try to be flexible in my priorities; if it’s a quiet week in the study calendar we’ll really make the most of it by slotting in lots of quality family time. That way, it helps balance out the times where there’s lots of coursework to do and I can’t give everything the same attention!

How was life on campus? How did you find the facilities at SRUC?

One of the best things about studying here is the variety of guest speakers that visit us. This is great because we’re being taught parts of our degree by absolute experts in their field, lots of these people are internationally renowned! It’s the advantage of SRUC, combining the three wings of education, research, and consulting. It’s not just visitors, but the permanent teaching staff as well, they have so many accolades to their name that I’d need a page just to tell you about the Agriculture department, never mind the other courses.

Katie Dubarry in capI love studying at King’s Buildings, there’s such a buzz around the place. The University of Edinburgh have various food and drink places here, so you can always get something from a quick bite to a full pub lunch. Of course, being so close to the centre of Edinburgh is brilliant. Whatever you like, you will find it here! Whether that’s nightlife, food, free museum and gallery visits, music, indoor or outdoor sports, stuff to do with kids… it’s all on the doorstep.

Advice or words of wisdom to prospective SRUC students

Come along to an open day and have a chat with some of the staff. Everyone is really friendly and it’s the best way to decide if it’s right for you. Also, be curious about everything. People love talking about what they do, and you can enhance your learning so much more by just asking a few questions.

Anything else you would like to add:

I also couldn’t talk about my experience without mentioning the student association, SRUCSA. I’ve been involved since my 1st year of study, helping to represent students within SRUC and externally, to groups like NUS Scotland. Getting involved with the SA is great as it can help you develop other areas, the ‘soft skills’ that employers are looking for these days. It also gives you great opportunities to take part in events outside of your course. Some of the things I’ve done include: going to NUS Scotland Women’s conference & events, being invited to the Young Farmer’s Agri-Affairs Conference, being invited to speak at the SRUC Women’s Day event, organising party nights & Fresher’s Week events, and many more.

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