Student story

Rika Vermue

Rika Vermue has a ‘grape’ new career, surrounded by vineyards in Central Otago. Her decision to pursue a career in Horticulture has been suitably productive.

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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)

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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,” says Rika.

Otago Polytechnic horticulture lecturer Rachel Petrie, who had the pleasure of watching Rika graduate with a New Zealand Certificate in Horticulture (Fruit Production, Level 4) recently, has enjoyed being part of Rika’s learning journey.

“It has been great to introduce Rika to new topics and watch her put the learning into practice.

“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.”

Rachel Petrie

Otago Polytechnic horticulture lecturer

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

It speaks volumes that Rachel made a trip to Dunedin solely to support Rika on her graduation, and was thrilled to join her on the special day.

Published on 03 Oct 2023