From the LBK to the Land Down Under

stradbrokeisland A day trip to Stradbroke Island provided for constant views of countless marine life and perfect blue waters.

I

n the 65th row of a Boeing 747 sat a 20-year-old college student not-so patiently awaiting takeoff. This was the last time she’d be on U.S. soil for more than two months. Was this crazy? Possibly. But she knew there was an adventure before her – an experience of a lifetime she couldn’t pass up. This Texas Panhandle girl was on her way to Australia, and what a journey she had before her.

The Chance

In February of 2018, a mass email was distributed to Texas Tech agricultural communications students announcing the launch of an internship program with a Cargill Joint Venture Company, Teys Australia based in Brisbane, QLD. I read the email and immediately downloaded the application.

 I returned my completed application to the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Associate Dean for Academic and Student Programs, Cindy Akers, who was organizing the selection process. Before I knew it, my interview was complete, and I was answering a phone call from Dr. Akers who asked if I’d like to spend my summer in Australia. 

I told Dr. Akers I needed to talk with my family and pray over it for a while in order to feel confident in my decision. I hung up the phone and immediately knew there was no question about it; I needed to find out how to get a Passport. 

Akers made sure I understood the other intern and I would be spearheading this internship for CASNR, so it was going to have to take quite a bit of trust. It was so unlike me to make a decision like this, but I knew I had to jump on board. 

“We really needed students with adventurous attitudes and a willingness to be open-minded to pioneer an opportunity as new and unfamiliar as this one,” Akers said. 

Flash forward to June, and there I was packing up the two suitcases I would live out of for 10 weeks. Before I knew it, I was hugging necks and saying, ‘see y’all soon,’ to my friends and family.

I am not much of one for tears, but I couldn’t help but shed a few when I turned my back and lugged those suitcases up to security. I made my way down to my gate where I’d find the girl who I’d experience the            summer alongside. 

I looked out the window at the sun peeking over the Pacific’s horizon realizing this was my home for the next two months, and by gosh, I was ready to see what Australia threw my way.

Sitting there with her camera bag and a tear streak or two on her face was Ivie Kate Mynatt, a recent graduate of the agricultural communications program from El Dorado, Texas. We were acquaintances and had taken a class together before, so we were familiar with each other. However, there was something about the vulnerability of being each other’s only true connection to home for a while that instantaneously made this relationship something so full of trust and understanding.

“We were both excited but nervous all at the same time,” Mynatt said. “I knew we were going to have an experience of a lifetime, but we were so far away from everything we’ve ever known.”

Throughout our travels, Ivie Kate and I got to know each other. When you have 22 hours of travel time, you can find out a lot about a person. By the time we landed, it seemed as if we had known each other for a lifetime. 

The Purpose

All of those hours also provided for time to think. Because Ivie Kate and I were the first two interns selected to initiate this internship, there were many uncertainties. We knew we would be capturing content for Teys, but there were unanswered questions as well. Agricultural communications is not a discipline of study in Australia, so we were entering an untapped, yet very needed, field within Teys’ company.

In 2015, Mark Miller, Texas Tech’s meat science department chair, established the university’s relationship with Teys’ leadership team. He paved the way for meat science students to conduct research alongside Teys employees through internships in Australia. These internships continued over the years allowing for the relationship between Teys and Texas Tech to flourish. It was when Teys learned of Texas Tech’s agricultural communications program that they became interested in utilizing the skills of the program’s students due to Australia’s lack of equipped agricultural communicators.

“Communications is the biggest issue in the meat industry, and that’s why this internship was so important to establish,” Mark Miller, Texas Tech meat science department chair said.

Instead of having a stomach full of knots climbing into my throat like I had when leaving L.A., I hit the ground in Brisbane with a sense a peace. A sense of excitement. This would open my eyes to my true calling as a communicator in the industry I love. I looked out the window at the sun peeking over the Pacific’s horizon realizing this was my home for the next two months, and by gosh, I was ready to see what Australia threw my way.

The Stay

Day one on the job set the tone of the level of exposure we continuously gained while overseas. On the first day alone, we sat in on a marketing pitch made by the former general manager of eBay China.

carcasses
Carcasses are chilled for 24 hours before continuing through the harvesting process.

One of the first trips we made was to New South Wales and Victoria where we were both overcome with new sights and learning experiences. We captured videos from two feedlots which would be developed into a video series called, “A Day in the Life of a Feedlot.” In a processing plant in Wagga Wagga, we suited up in frocks and hardhats and captured the ins-and-outs of what happens in a plant in effort to convey transparency. Next, we visited a paddock which rested in the foothills of the gorgeous Snowy Mountain Range to visit with a Teys Grasslands producer.

After that first trip, Ivie Kate and I were hooked on this constant yet fulfilling opportunity to learn more about the beef industry. This adventure was running full force, so we stayed busy over the next 9 weeks. We took photos in two value-added plants showing how marinades are added to cuts to increase their value. We traveled back to Wagga Wagga to photograph the International Collegiate Meat Judging contest. We flew up to Rockhampton and captured testimonials from Teys employees who hailed from almost 30 different countries. I even completed a project at a hide processing plant which shipped their processed leather worldwide to companies including Audi and BMW. Through these work travels, we flew more than a dozen times up and down the East Coast of Australia. We covered a lot of ground, but we never complained – we were in our own slice of Heaven.

Our weekends were no drag. We spent time down in Sydney strolling next to the Sydney Harbor with constant views of the Opera House. We took a day trip to a small island which boasted perfect blue waters swimming with dolphins, whales and stingrays galore. In our free time, we walked down the street from our apartment to the Brisbane Botanical Gardens to jog through its fortresses of trees and vegetation straight from a dream.

The Takeaway

The last night of our ten-week tenure, I sat out on our apartment balcony and took in the last Brisbane sunset I’d see, at least for a while. It seemed so crazy to me – the concept of heading back to the 100-degree temps and the dry, windy days of West Texas in just a few short hours. We left with countless memories all of which I am grateful for. I have pictures holding koalas and petting kangaroos to hang on the wall, but I left with so much more than just these tangible items.

I grew through this experience. I grew in how I approach communicating the efforts of agriculture to others. I grew in my own confidence and trusting my instinct. I grew in my faith and dependence on Christ when I feel somewhat alone or afraid. It was revealed to me who I am and what I am passionate about, and I owe it all to you, Australia. Cheers, mates.

redheifers
Many cattle in Australia are strictly grass-fed due to lack of availability of grains. These cattle qualify for Teys’ Grasslands Program.