Meet 4th year Horticulture & Business Management student Yuri! In this interview with https://www.goingdutch.it he tells all about studying in Holland and the study programme. Please check the website of Going Dutch for the Italian version of this article.
Coming from an Istituto Technico in Varese, I was in doubt about what to do after graduating. I did not want to start working yet but I felt that going to a classical University in Italy would not be my cup of tea. I like technical topics but most of all I like to learn in a more practical way, for example working on real cases and projects in a lab.
I found out that the Dutch Applied Science University system is perfect for students like me. Applied Sciences Universities offer bachelor’s degrees, so after graduating have a 'Laurea Triennale', but the way of studying and the topics are much more practical. It was exactly what I was looking for!
I followed the electronical track at my Istituto Tecnico. Although that might seem strange: to go from Electronical Engineering to Horticulture but there is a connection. In my last year at high school I had to do a graduation project and I created a fully automated growbox for crops. Humidity, light, all was automated. This project made me realise I was much more interested in plants and how they work then only in the electronics of the growbox. But in a way this is also 'technology', the way plants work. And my knowledge about electronical engineering turns out to be really useful for the more technical part of creating and working with greenhouses.
I also realised - after an internship during high school - that when I would choose to study electronical engineering, I would probably be spending most my working life in an office on electronical systems. That did not spark my enthusiasm. So, I decided to go in the direction of horticulture! Plant management with a pinch of technology.
Of course, I also looked for a course in Italy in horticulture / agribusiness. There were some options but very very theoretical. The only practical part where a few fieldtrips and the amount of lab-work is also limited.
In the basis it focusses on greenhouse cultivation of flowers, fruits and vegetables. The course provides a mix of topics like genetics, biology, plant sciences, business & management, marketing, finances etc.
My typical week is a mix of lectures, lab work, group projects and my own greenhouse project. In the first year at HAS I already had 2 internships in the program of each 1 month, so I immediately gained some working experience. Also useful are the courses that focus more on skills like how to use certain programmes to manage your greenhouse, presentation skills, how to write a report etc.
The program also gives students the freedom to choose a direction that fits their interest. For an internship in my third year for example I went to Costa Rica where I worked with coffee plantations set up as agroforestry systems. Also, in the third year, all students get to choose a minor (abroad) of 3 to 6 months. I decided to study Forest Management at the University of Bologna. It made me realise that this is the topic that I like most!
Despite biking through the rain ;) I had to get used to the groupwork. In the first year we started with a course that taught us how to solve problems in a group. After that we started working on real cases together. I did not like it at all in the beginning, I preferred working individually. In the group I was shy, had difficulty speaking up and I did not always participate actively. But it was very useful to learn how to work well in a group and now I'm handling it much better.
Another challenge was to study in English. I choose to go to Dublin for a year before I started my studies and it helped me a lot.
Well, also during my minor at the University of Bologna I noticed that we were put in bigger groups, there was less interaction and there was much less group work. I had 1 project during the 6-month course. At HAS it feels more like a high school experience in the sense that the groups are smaller (25 students), you actually know the teacher and the classes are interactive.
I've started my last year, so it depends a bit how that turns out. I will either do a master or start my own business. I'm now following the program within HAS that supports you working on your business plan and idea. If after that I feel confident enough about it, I will go for that! If not, I will probably go for a master.
When you come from an Istituto Tecnico: look into the option of applied sciences in the Netherlands! It is really a very good fit for those that want to continue studying but are in doubt about the theoretical way of learning at a research University. Applied Sciences at a University level is not something that does exist in Italy sadly.