Growing up in the Atlanta suburbs, Rosemary Gay always had an interest in the outdoors, but it wasn’t until she enrolled at the University of Georgia that she discovered she had a farm girl’s heart.
During her freshman year, Rosemary – an Honors Student who plans to graduate in May 2013 with degrees in ecology, Latin America and Caribbean studies, and Romance languages – spent five months at EARTH University in Costa Rica. During that time, she got well acquainted with Mother Earth, taking courses in forestry practices, sustainable agriculture practices, and banana cultivation, among other subjects.
“In Costa Rica, I became obsessed with everything banana,” says Rosemary, who spent her pre-college summers as a camper and volunteer at Cochran Mill Nature Center in Palmetto. “It’s such a crucial fruit for Latin American economies and has a huge environmental and social impact on the region. I’m hoping to have some sort of internship in banana in Ecuador next summer.
“It wasn’t just taking classes – the EARTH philosophy is to learn by doing, so half the time you’re in the field, on the farm, in the forest, in the garden, working. We were all assigned tool lockers complete with a machete that I learned how to use a little. It still amazes me that I loved working in the field that much. The EARTH experience convinced me agriculture was what I wanted to do.”
In late May, Rosemary learned she was one of two UGA students to receive the David L. Boren Undergraduate Scholarship for international language study, and she’ll spend the fall semester at Universidade Federal do Parana in Curitiba, Brazil, studying Portuguese. And when she’s not in class, she plans to get plenty of dirt under her fingernails.
“I'll be working on a family-run organic farm in the state of Rio de Janeiro for a few weeks after classes end.”
With a career goal of working in sustainable agricultural development in Latin America, Rosemary is formulating her own course of study in agronomy. She’s been involved in a research project on nitrogen dynamics and has been picking up practical experience at UGArden, the student-run community supported agriculture (CSA) vegetable garden on campus.
“I heard about UGArden last September and wanted some way to keep going with plants. Getting free fresh veggies was definitely an added bonus,” she says of the garden, which was established by UGA’s Horticulture Department. “It's been nice to get my hands a little dirty and end up with yummy produce at the end of the workday.”
A UGA Charter Scholar and member of the Dean William Tate Honor Society, Rosemary says that while her academic focus has shifted somewhat from ecology, she’s grateful for the direction she’s received from within the Odum School of Ecology, where she says she loves to hang out.
“The School of Ecology is filled with just the nicest people, who are so encouraging of anything I want to do,” she says. “I had no intentions of doing study abroad in the summer of my first year, but my ecology advisor, insisting it was the perfect opportunity for me, really encouraged me to go for it and helped me with the application. It says a lot about UGA that they’ve been able to help me go to Costa Rica and now Brazil, and it’s cool they’re letting me do something – agronomy – that they don’t exactly offer. The university has helped me do more than I could have imagined when I first arrived on campus. UGA is a high-energy, exciting place to be.”
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