“The ultimate experience”, would probably be the best way to describe the 16 week semester spent at the University of Illinois.
Have you ever wondered, what it would be like to study at an American University? Minus the study, assignments and exams! As well as a passion for working, learning and livestock judging. Well look no further! This scholarship offers pretty much everything and exceeding more opportunities than you can image. And it really does not matter whether you have had experience with a tertiary education or not.
After the completion of the 2015 Angus Youth National Round Up; it was time to gear up for a 17 hour flight into Dallas and then on to Champaign- Urbana. Looking beyond the few minor hic-cups that were established along the way, I finally made it into Champaign-Urbana, a little later than expected. Staying at the 4 H house was exceptional, being included in all the house activities made transitioning into the American lifestyle a little easier.
The first couple of days consisted of tours of the historical university (which was huge) as well as signing up for lectures and establishing my bearings around the beautiful town. The university offers a large variety of subjects to students; but unlike Australia, when studying agriculture at the U of I you are able to major/minor in areas such as animal science, crop science, business, education, communication and engineering just to name a few which come under the banner of Agriculture Science. During the time I spent there, I selected all my classes to come under Animal Science, which comprised of meat animal evaluation, meat and muscle biology, sheep production as well as the livestock judging component.
Even though, I had the opportunity to experience these amazing subjects, while giving me an insight and an even better understanding about the American agricultural sector; I spent the majority of my time with the U of I livestock judging team. From the long practices to the in state and inter-state farm tours; to the late night hotel lobby practices and the early starts, in the end it was worth every moment!
Competitions where based all over the US, from Illinois, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa just to name a few. The team was made up of seven students as well as two livestock coaches as well as another two coaches when it came to the National Meat Animal Competition. As a team, not only did we train and compete together, but we were also put in charge to organising and running the FFA and 4H Illinois State judging competition, where there would have been easily over 600 youth in attendance.
The overall judging competition structure is a lot different to how judging competitions are ran in Australia, but at the end of the day, both structures teach and train the eye of the youth in selecting livestock, whether for breeding purposes or meat evaluations. Though, I found that the competitions in the states are a lot more competitive, larger in size and selection; not only were we judging cattle, but also sheep, pigs and goats.
Since returning back to Australia, I have been asked multiple times about what was the best highlight, and to be honest the whole trip was an experience in itself. If I was to identify a favourite competition it would have to be the National Meat Animal, which was based in Still Water Oklahoma in 2015. This competition went over three days and consisted of feeder cattle selection, breeding animal placings, keep/ cull classes, carcase judging and pricing as well as a communication section. For me I found this comp the most relatable and focus on both seed and commercial livestock industries as well as easily relating back to selecting livestock in Australia.
I would like to say a huge thank you to the 4 H house for hosting me throughout the semester as well as Dan Shike for organising this experience whilst based at the University of Illinois. Thanks to the livestock coaches, Parker Henley and Chris Cassady as well as Katelyn Harlow-Jones for coaching the meats section, as well for sharing and passing on their knowledge onto the team. And a massive thank you to Angus Australia and Angus Youth for supporting, running and sponsoring this scholarship!
I highly recommend this scholarship to all, as you will learn a great deal, and meet some amazing people over in the states.
2014 National Judging Competition Winner
Kate also kept a blog while she was in America. To read about her trip CLICK HERE.