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International internship gives U.S. hort students a head start on job market

In order to gain more insight and experience, U.S. horticulture students should spend more time on individual internships abroad. After spending time in foreign countries and industries, experience is developed in a more efficient way, and those who are into building a professional network are offered a head start.

This is confirmed by Greg Lecki of The Ohio Program at The Ohio State University. On a yearly basis, about 160 national and international horticulture students join their Internship Program. "While we have a lot of interest in our inbound (to the USA) internship program, it remains difficult to convince American students to go abroad." 


Greg Lecki of OSU's Ohio Program

For this reason, The Ohio Program has developed a new program to promote individual internship opportunities in foreign countries. "While it is common for U.S. students to join study abroad programs, individual internships are less popular. Not many U.S. students are eager to travel by themselves to a country they are not familiar with. As well as this, not many US Colleges offer opportunities to do so." 

Fortunately not every U.S. student is held back by this. "We placed four interns at European horticultural companies last year. We hope to increase this number to ten next year. We need to convince them that they can learn a lot from leading companies abroad. The experience gained gives them a head start when entering the job market back home."


Ohio State University's Michael O'Keefe with international interns Carlos, Ana, Rosa and Adriana at Cultivate '17.

Two of those students who recently joined OSU's new program are Abby Wolfe and Annie Fulton. They just returned from spending 2.5 months in Europe after an internship at JMP Flowers, a state-of-the-art greenhouse in Poland.

"I always wanted to have an internship abroad and did not want to miss out on this opportunity", said Annie. “Our professors provided us with information on the company and we were amazed at how technologically advanced it was", described both of the students. 


Abby Wolfe at the greenhouse at JMP Flowers, scouting for Sciara larvae in Phalaenopsis cuttings in peat plugs.(Photo courtesy of Anna Wize of Pod Oslonami) 

Abby is a horticultural OSU student with a minor in entomology and is soon to graduate. The internship in Poland provided her with an opportunity to carry out her research in one of the most technologically advanced greenhouses on earth.

"I worked on several independent projects that included insect scouting, particularly Sciara larvae in peat plugs containing Phalaenopsis cuttings, implementing IPM strategies, preparing biological and chemical treatments, as well as research into the application of the lowest LED light level possible in the Plalaenopsis ‘Cambridge’ three weeks prior to sale. I also researched the plant growth regulator, Bonzi, in order to determine its effectiveness in the growth process of Plalaenopsis." 

For Annie, the internship allowed her to gain knowledge on the overall management of such a large commercial greenhouse operation. JMP Flowers is more than 17 hectares in size and uses the latest technological innovations to grow high end products like Phalaenopsis anthuriums and roses. 


Annie Fulton between the Phalaenopsis at JMP Flowers. 

"I would like to become a grower, and thanks to the internship I got a taste of what it is like to work in such a large operation in the most efficient way possible. I was able to learn about production and the different stages of the growth process of Phalaenopsis. I did preparations for weight standards of cuttings for growth and developmental purposes, and worked on the rotations and settings for the correct order of tables for different production phases in the greenhouse through a computer program according to their production plan. Also working on projects to reduce the Sciara populations as well as implementation of beneficial insects as part of a biological control research project. Another area I learned about was the greenhouse climate control system via HortiMaX. I gained a lot of practical knowledge on how to adjust temperatures, humidity, light levels, and much more.”

After the internship at JMP Flowers in Poland, Abby and Annie also took on the opportunity to see some other parts of Europe. "We traveled around Poland and went to see Prague in the Czech Republic."

Both students returned home with a feeling that they obtained a unique experience with their internship abroad thanks to the scale and technological advancements of the operation. As well as this, the approach to several things is different in Europe than in the United States. "It was a neat learning experience. We have made several papers and performed several important tasks prior to the ending and can conclude that we definitely gained more experience. Some of that experience could only have been obtained with an international internship."

Annie Fulton can be reached at affulton@gmail.com

Abby Wolfe can be reached at wolfe.692@buckeyemail.osu.edu


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