Travel bug caught on trip to Montana

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Tyla Bishop has the travel bug after a recent trip to the United States.

Tyla (17) was one of six Kiwis selected for an inaugural three-week TeenAg exchange to Montana. TeenAg, the secondary school branch of New Zealand Young Farmers, chose them after they completed its Leadership Pathway Programme.

The pupils, chaperoned by Young Farmers Otago-Southland territory manager Biddy Huddleston, spent four days at the 4-H Congress at the Montana State University campus in Bozeman. They were among 350 students from around the world taking part in educational workshops, livestock judging competitions, and learning about career opportunities in primary industries.

The 4-H organisation in the United States is administered by the Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

An incident involving a disgruntled university employee added drama to the last day, when the whole campus was placed in lockdown for two hours until police apprehended him.

Each New Zealander was then billeted with a host family for nine days. Tyla, who lives on a dairy farm at Georgetown, stayed with a dairy farming family which had daughters aged 18 and 16.

She had met the elder one last year when she came to Oamaru for the first leg of the exchange.

“They were very friendly,” Tyla said.

She enjoyed hanging out with the girls and their friends and riding horses – something she has always done recreationally.

There was “a lot of difference” between the two countries, but Tyla said she overcame barriers to forge many new friendships.

There were also some striking similarities – such as the friction between rural and urban ways of life.

The state of Montana is sparsely populated, having only a million people in total.

“It’s very vast countryside. It’s like New Zealand with a lot more trees.”

The Kiwis were told to research their destination before they left, so they would know what to expect, Tyla said. Her hosts were impressed by her knowledge, and also asked her about farming practices in her home country.

“They were amazed that we milk 750 cows twice a day.”

Hereford and Red Angus cattle are prevalent in Montana.

Tyla will speak about her trip to the Five Forks Young Farmers Club, and has already made presentations to St Kevin’s College and the Rotary and Lions clubs that sponsored her.

She also earned money for the venture by working on a dairy farm in the summer holidays.

At school, she is studying agriculture, biology, chemistry, statistics and religious studies.

“I’m hoping to go shepherding, potentially in Central Otago.”

Although it was no longer unusual for females to be hired for such jobs, “you’ve got to go the extra mile to prove your worth”, she said.

Tyla has also applied for a Coleridge Downs Training Farm two-year cadetship.

The long-term goal is to own her own farm – sheep and beef, rather than dairy.

Travel is another priority, “particularly Australia and Canada”.

Meanwhile, St Kevin’s is “very, very proud” of Tyla’s achievements in being selected for the exchange and in making the most of it, agriculture teacher Paula Eatherley said.