International graduate brings fresh perspective to fresh food sector
Kazi Talaska knew from an early age that she would leave her home in Indonesia and study overseas. She just wasn’t quite sure what or where.
Thankfully, she ended up deciding to study horticulture in New Zealand and is now a passionate young advocate for one of our most important industries.
Horticulture is an export star performer, contributing about $6 billion a year to the New Zealand economy. The strong reputation New Zealand has offshore for its systems of food production and quality of exports was a key factor in Kazi’s decision to study here.
Her first exposure to the world of horticulture came with a high school internship at a nursery near her home in the city of Bogor, not far from the capital Jakarta. It sowed the seed of a career in agribusiness.
Studying in New Zealand right decision from the start
“I decided then that I wanted to study in the ag-hort sector and I knew New Zealand did that pretty well. I thought if I was going to learn anywhere, this would be a good place to start.”
So, in July 2018, when many of her friends moved to the US or UK, Kazi left Bogor for Palmerston North to study a Bachelor of Horticultural Science at Massey University. She admits coming to New Zealand was a big call and, like many international students, says there were challenges she had to overcome.
“You have to adjust to a new education system, cultural differences, and coping with unfamiliar situations on your own.”
But despite the hurdles, there was never any doubt it was the right decision.
“I was sitting in my first lecture, and we were talking about agribusiness and marketing, where the food goes and why it is important to understand the supply chain. I thought it was all really interesting and I knew that I’d made the right choice.”
As well focusing on her studies, Kazi threw herself into extra-curricular activities, becoming an active member of Massey University’s Horticulture Society, the Indonesian Student Association, and Caretakers of the Environment International, a global organisation that educates young people on responsible food production as a sustainable development goal. She was also selected for a research trip to study apple production in South Korea and secured a research-based internship in the avocado sector.
International student experience helps in new role
Kazi now works for Horticulture New Zealand as their Tertiary Co-ordinator. She is excited to have secured a role in such a dynamic industry and wants to attract other young people into horticulture.
Her work is wide-ranging, catering to university students across a breadth of disciplines including engineers, scientists, and food technologists, helping them find roles in horticulture and developing the infrastructure required to support future labour demands in the industry.
The richness of her experience as an international student in New Zealand brings an extra dimension to her role.
"I can better connect with students and their issues, especially if they are international students. It also places me in a good position to create programmes where we take students overseas. I understand the value of offshore experience and I’m well placed to facilitate that learning.”
Kazi also runs workshops and events which teach students soft skills such as leadership and communication, insights into how the industry works, what it means to be global-facing, and how that can influence the work we do.
“They are the kind of skills which can’t easily be taught in the classroom, but which I’ve experienced through international travel and study overseas.”
An open and accessible environment for students
New Zealand offers a fantastic level of accessibility and collaboration for students, Kazi says.
“I’ve been able to put myself in front of influential people and showcase my skills and abilities. People are interested in talking to you and that makes you feel valued.”
She says she can easily see a future for herself working in New Zealand but would be equally comfortable working anywhere else in the world.
“I’ve gained confidence and resilience through being an international student. That’s not only reflected in my personal growth but also in how committed I am to my career because I’ve worked so hard to get to this point. It’s been quite a journey and when I look back, I appreciate how far I’ve come.
“Going to lectures is just the start. You test your knowledge by talking to people and getting validation. It’s a very unselfish way to live, when you go to another country to learn, understand their culture, and take in their perspective.”
“To bring in fresh thinking is also important. You can get set in your ways in your own culture but when you study overseas your thinking can get turned on its head. What you thought was important may not be, and the way some people think is not the way everyone thinks. It really gives you an understanding of your place in the world.”