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A non-traditional career path

This testimonial by Ramona Cibotaru is part of YPARD's showcase on young people and the Sustainable Development Goals.

My career path in agriculture is unusual. 

Initially, I wasn’t going to pursue a career in agriculture. By the time I got to college, I’d considered the military, voluntary work and medicine. I even gave a thought to traveling the world for a while.

I started agriculture simply because I wanted to make a career and I sensed that this is the future. At the time I didn’t know it would turn into something I would be so passionate about! Today, I am an agricultural engineer specialized in plant protection and I like to think that my role is to contribute to a better future in agriculture by becoming a farmer.  

Upon my graduation from the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Iaşi (Romania), I felt confident, thinking that I knew enough, so I started to work. Three months as a scientific research assistant at “Stejarul” Biological Research Center in Romania gave me great satisfaction and an important chance to talk to people working in science and science-related jobs. The environment allowed me to understand the importance of continuous learning, so I quit my job and enrolled in the Master of Integrated Pest Management at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari in Italy.

The two years of studies were challenging, but they made me stronger, better and once again proved that diversity is beautiful. For me, this was the best international experience I’ve ever had. 

At the moment I decided to shift around a little and get different perspectives in a more practical way. Therefore, starting from now until next year I will be working as a trainee in the European Food Safety Authority.

Because of this circuitous route, I am realizing that in the future I want to carry on my studies. My heart is set on obtaining a Ph.D. degree and owning a farm. There’s no other thing in the world that will make me happier and this helps me to enjoy the day-to-day grind more than most people I know. 

Learn to know and to do

SDG 4 intersected with my career at different points and it always raised a question mark: is this what you really want to do or just the social pressure? I won’t lie to you; sometimes it was hard to trust my feelings, sometimes I just wished someone else could decide for me, but I never lowered my standards. I am for quality rather than quantity.

For those out there who think that it may be too late and they missed their chance, or that they are not good enough, stop the fear net. Don’t let it reach your heart. Maybe your mind will tell you no way, but your heart will say just try. Good things never come easy, so trust yourself and go for it.

I think it's really healthy to have diversity in learning and pursuing your objectives throughout life. I strongly support and I believe in an inclusive and equitable quality education together with lifelong learning opportunities for all. It is very important that we start to facilitate more flexible career paths in science if we want to encourage diversity and creativity. So, it is fine to take some extra time to decide what you really love to do and what will make you happy.

Being a lifelong learner is a value of sustainable self-development. It opens the door to life-changing, rewarding, fulfilling and continuous growth. What I value the most is feeling that I’m being taught well, that I’m developing an in-depth, fundamental understanding of scientific processes and I know to apply them in different scenarios. 

Learn to live with others

Participating in different international trainings, workshops and being an Erasmus student twice has made me realize that being exposed to different countries and cultures has really helped me to understand the value of working in a more diverse environment where there is a variety of ideas and perspectives. It is interesting and fun to discover and interact with other people and their cultures as well as your individual competence and social inclusion.

Agriculture brings people from all over the world together in a way that not many other things do with less focus on the differences between us and more on who got the best idea and who can help that idea blossom.

Learn to be

The lack of self-confidence is one of the main problems of the Romanian young professionals. There is always a constant thought that others are better, but you will never know how good you are unless you try. I was in that spot and my biggest challenge has been learning to find confidence in my own judgment – when to listen and when to speak up, and when to do what you’re told and when to disregard what you’re told. You just need to find the balance between following the guidance of your mentors and listening to yourself. 

In Romania, the young professionals are not encouraged to overcome the personal and economic barriers. There is a high potential that is being lost due to lack of guidance.  When you decide it’s time to learn a new subject or change career direction, your choice of a continuing education provider may not matter as much as your passion for pursuing your career aspirations and professional goals. In a continuing education program, your objective is to engage your mind in the pursuit of practical knowledge. Dare to wish for more and give yourself a better chance.

Learning keeps you young!

Photo courtesy: Ramona Ciubotaru