Graduand thrilled to mark special journey

Rika Vermue has good reason to be thrilled about graduating from Otago Polytechnic | Te Pūkenga on Friday 15 September.

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Rika will join around 120 graduands at the Dunedin Town Hall ceremony, where she’ll graduate with a New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture (Fruit Production, Level 4).

Her relatively brief walk across the Town Hall stage will be the latest steps in a journey that has had its fair share of twists and turns.

A “mature” student who lives in Tarras, Central Otago, Rika used to be a hairdresser, operating a mobile salon from a van to service rural clientele.

However, a severe accident several years ago left her with a head injury, a wrecked van and with more than a few questions about her future direction in life.

“I had to make some important decisions,” Rika reflects.

“As well as the accident, the effects of Covid on my business played a part. I found my heart was no longer in it.

“So living in Central Otago and being surrounded by vineyards prompted me to pursue a different career – in horticulture. For me, it was an obvious choice for my future work.”

Rika Vermue

New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture (Fruit Production, Level 4)

After working in a couple of horticulture jobs, Rika decided she needed to upskill, so she enrolled in the New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture (Fruit Production, Level 4) at Otago Polytechnic’s Central Campus.

However, the last time Rika had studied was 35 years ago. Back then, she was doing so in Dutch (she is from the Netherlands). And adding to the challenge was her post-accident health, including dyslexia.

She was helped by a distance learning format that allowed her to complete the programme over two years. “And I had excellent support from my teachers at Otago Polytechnic, as well as from my workplace.”

Rika has special praise for Otago Polytechnic horticulture lecturer Rachel Petrie, who will join Rika and her husband for a day in Dunedin celebrating graduation.

And Rachel has plenty of praise for Rika.

“I’m looking forward to accompanying her in the graduation parade in Dunedin to celebrate her success.

“I have enjoyed the learning journey Rika and I have shared.  It has been great to introduce Rika to new topics and watch her put the learning to practice with two fabulous employers, Chad Douglas and his team from Estate Vineyard management in Cromwell, and her current employer Peregrine Wines. 

“Rika is thriving in her new workplace and has a great rounded understanding of the practices and principles of viticulture that she has learnt while studying and working full-time,” Rachel says.

“The mix of full-time work, day release to attend workshops and the discipline she has put into studying in her spare time has enabled her to get the most out of the learning experience.  The confidence she has gained while studying is evident, and she now has the tools and skills to teach and supervise others in her workplace.

“It has been a real privilege to witness Rika’s progress.”

It speaks volumes that Rachel is making the trip to Dunedin solely to support Rika.

“It’s going to be a special day. I’m thrilled. And I know Rika is thrilled, too.” 

Published on 14 Sep 2023